The Empty Grave Haunted attraction is an annual Southern California staple that MiceChat has been following for years. Designer Mike Talorico’s creations have become known for their inventive layout and homespun charm while still maintaining a high standard of professionalism and production value. However, when Empty Grave announced that they were not returning to Anaheim Gardenwalk for the 2014 Halloween season, fans were worried that the popular haunted house might not find a home in time to celebrate its 10 year anniversary.
We were relieved to get a call from Mike inviting us to come out to look at a new space that he had just secured for The Empty Grave 2014. The new space really lends itself to the story Mike would like to tell this year.
The new Empty Grave location is an old Sears Appliance and Garden Center at the Laguna Hills Mall. We spoke to Mike to find out what he has planned and whether he thinks his fans will follow him from the Anaheim Garden Walk (where he was located last year) to the distant Laguna Hills Mall.
Pulling into the parking lot at about 7pm, the magic hour was well underway, The long shadows had faded from the horizon and leaving the landscape to cool tones of blue. The parking lot was near empty, save for a group of teenagers who were hanging out near their car, doors open, shooting the breeze.
I pulled up to what used to be the Sears Garden and Appliance center. Mike stood smiling ear to ear, anxious to give me a tour of the new digs. He unlocked the large department store doors and we entered the building. “Just let me go find the breaker and turn on the electricity and we will have some light in here,” Mike said, wandering into the dark recesses of the building. I followed him and we came to an area cordoned off by chain link, filled with remnants of The Empty Grave’s most recognizable props. Mike pulled a metal panel open and began flipping breaker switches. Section by section, the fluorescent lighting popped on and we were then ready to tour.
Mike led me back to where we had first entered and began the tour. “This will be the new box office.” he explained, spreading his arms to the expanse. He continued, “We’ll have a wall here dividing this area as part of this space will be a part of the maze.” Mike then led me back out the front door and along the side of the building. “After guests buy their tickets they will line up here, along the path leading out to this outdoor area.”
Mike then led me to what was once the outdoor patio, an open air area enclosed with white painted cinder blocks typical of the 70’s architecture that the mall hailed from. Parked inside this area was the Empty Grave Hearse. “This is where we will have our photo ops and a winding queue that will lead into the building.” Mike said.
He walked me through what would soon be a maze of plywood sets and meandering passageways, explaining the storyline as it would unfold. “Back in the day, this was a thriving factory for textiles and garments.” Mike espoused. “But one crazed man had the high hopes of one day becoming the owner of this factory. The problem is that he was, well, insane. Soon he took over the plant and began making garments and designs from his victims. We now wander through his fiendish factory of death to learn the diabolical secrets behind his madness” Mike didn’t want to say too much more than that. Suffice it to say the new location is practically designed for this idea. Low-ceiling office spaces and cavernous storage areas, create a maze of eerie, industrial madness.
I then asked why they decided to move to the Laguna Hills Mall. “Honestly, it was a really tough decision to leave Gardenwalk.” Mike explained. “The management there were great to us and we never felt any lack of love there. But, as you know, there are some big changes coming to that mall. The spaces that we used before are getting more tenants. That’s great for them, but it limited where we could create our haunt.”
In contrast to last year, when Empty Grave opened in mid-August, Mike had yet to find a new home until recently. “So we started looking around.” Mike explained. “Initially we were getting a little scared. With the haunt season coming up so quickly we were seriously concerned that we might not have a home for our 10 year anniversary. Then out of the blue, this space showed up.”
But what is a haunted house without actors? The Empty Grave is known for its amazing cast that goes above and beyond the normal haunt scare. They have a certain unhinged, frenetic, even passionate quality that carries throughout the cast. They are one of the biggest reasons not to miss this haunt. Would Mike’s trusted ensemble of ghosts, ghouls, and demons be willing to commute down to Laguna Hills in order to feast on the blood of the living? “I sent out a message to the entire cast, letting them know of the move. All but one cast member will be returning.” Mike said, “The one that isn’t returning is actually moving out of state. Otherwise she would be onboard too. I continue to be fortunate to have the best, most dedicated actors. I am so grateful for them and their dedication to the scare.”
Another plus side to this particular location are the fall festivities that take over in the parking lot. Mike explained that, while it has been pretty quiet so far at the mall, the new owners have begun to turn things around. “We are, again extremely fortunate to have found a home where we are not only wanted, but fit right in.” The mall, which has great visibility along the 5 freeway, is known for it’s annual pumpkin patch and festival that fills the usually vacant lot. On top of that, mere steps away from the Empty Grave will be a seasonal Halloween Superstore. “It’s going to be this great trifecta of Halloween when we get things up and running. I’m really excited for this year.” Mike exclaimed.
Considered a “haunter’s haunt” The Empty Grave continues to grow and evolve. From its humble beginnings 10 years ago, they have transitioned from a amateur scare house, to one of the big players in the highly competitive independent haunt market here in Southern California. We can’t wait to share further developments from this haunt which has become one of our annual favorites.
When and Where
The Empty Grave is now located at 24300, Laguna Hills Mall, Laguna Hills, CA 92653
Tickets are on sale now and the dates are as follows
The Empty Grave continues to grow and evolve. We will keep you posted here on MiceChat as more info and secrets are reveled from beyond The Empty Grave. See you in the fog!