Seated on a miniature locomotive, the crackle of electricity draws my attention. A large Tesla coil shoots bolts of lightning from its center, and a monster comes to life. It’s alive! Frankenstein’s monster lurches forward but remains restrained on a metal table. The small ghost train continues forward, past the monster, and toward a greenhouse. Grandma’s Pottering Shed, the sign reads. But it also has a warning underneath in all caps: DON’T FEED PLANTS. I think it’s already too late. Numerous potted plants all sing in unison. The child in me squeals in delight as I yell, “Feed me, Seymour!”
Now in its 18th year, The Ghost Train, presented by the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum in Griffith Park, is undeniably the best family-friendly experience during the Halloween season — and it is also one of the best attractions period. For those unacquainted, guests straddle a 1/8th scale model train as they take a 23-minute ride through a barrage of whimsically delightful and perfectly themed Halloween scenes. These range from slightly spooky to nostalgically fun.
Each scene The Ghost Train travels through is perfectly curated to a given theme – each brims with Halloween charm. Guests can expect to enter a seaside saloon filled with swashbuckling pirates, the DNA lab and park for Dinoland Adventures (an homage to Jurassic Park), a dead man’s party complete with neon skeletons playing this Oingo Boingo classic, a contaminated and neon Radiation Springs, and, new to this year: a beautiful view of Boney Island, the famous family-friendly and equally enchanting haunted display, which occupies the space directly next to The Ghost Train.
These scenes are accompanied by sounds and music to boost the emotional impact of each display. A skeleton perched upon a toilet is perfectly enhanced by loud farts, forcing even the most mature adults to laugh. The Nightmare Before Christmas’ classic song, “This Is Halloween,” has guests gleefully singing along as the train moves through an eerie Christmas-decorated home. The spark of a Tesla coil, the howl of the wind against a ragged ship sail, and the foreboding pipe organ music playing outside a macabre mausoleum all do wonders to further immerse audiences. It’s these small but impressive details that elevate The Ghost Train above that of a dark ride or yard display.
Furthermore, the projections, lighting, and effects are world-class. Even in the distance, spooky scenes are well-lit and inform guests where to direct their eyes. Tunnels provide spectacles of thousands of twinkling red and green lights, allowing audiences to feel as if they are on an intimate Space Mountain built just for them. And dinosaurs move in and out of frame of the projection in Dinoland Adventure, allowing guests to marvel at these prehistoric beasts. The visuals do not disappoint in the slightest.
As mentioned above, this attraction provides a feast for the eyes without any of the typical jump-scares from a haunted house. In fact, there are no live actors in the experience at all. Instead, each scene is gorgeously designed and produced to let kids look on with wonder, and nostalgia to wash over the adults. These scenes are humorous, exciting, and spooky — but never scary.
A tip for your visit: Arrive early or bring good company. As The Ghost Train continues to grow in popularity, the lines can stretch well beyond the gates. Guests might have to wait a few hours on weekends to enter, but it’s well worth it. Just make sure you’re in line before the gates close, and you’ll be guaranteed access.
If you love Halloween, have young ones you want to introduce to a classic, or just want to rekindle that child-like sense of whimsy and wonder, The Ghost Train is the perfect family-friendly experience for you. It’s a flawless blend of nostalgia, spooky fun, and world-class design. So, buy your ticket for The Ghost Train. All-aboard!