Nestled in the dark recesses of a partially abandoned mall in Laguna Hills lies the most heartfelt Haunted House we have ever visited.  The Empty Grave haunted house opened its doors last night for the 2015 Halloween season and did not disappoint.  The brainchild of Creative Director Mike Talorico, Empty Grave has been delivering its particular brand of homespun scares to Southern California for 11 years, each year improved upon itself.



Now it its second year at the Laguna Hills Mall, The Empty Grave is situated in the former Sears Appliance Center.  Taking advantage of the multiple industrial rooms, office settings, and outdoor areas, Talorico has again fashioned a blurry narrative that seems taylor made for the spot.  After purchasing your ticket, you will tour the outdoor courtyard.  Here is The Empty Grave Hearst lit up with bright colors and surrounded in fog.



We reach the entrance and the story is set up.  We are the new employees at a factory.  What is the factory making?  Not important.  The point is it’s the graveyard shift and we are running late for our first night on the job.  Escorted into a pre show area we must trigger a recorded message by making two bare wires touch.  Eeesh!   The brilliant recorded message gives us the instructions for the haunted house; Don’t touch the actors, Keep moving, Don’t be a jerk, etc.  The message ends and we are thrust into the darkness and prodded along by cantankerous workers.



Along the way we are asked to complete certain tasks and hand items off to monsters further down the line.  This is a first for Empty Grave and shows a definite aim by Talorico to tap into the more linear, interactive storylines of other haunted houses.  Of course, this is the Empty Grave so things are kept light, brisk, and moving at a rapid pace.  There is hardly anything too involved but what is there is a lot of fun.


Wandering deeper into the factory we encounter monster after monster, all bothered by the presence of a new employee.  We get lost, wander into a nest of dangling wires, survive the janitor’s closet, and somehow, just barely, make it out alive.  None of it makes too much sense, but logic is always secondary  when you are terrified.  That is pretty much the logic that Talorico and his brilliant cast of actors convey night after night.


A word on the actors and staff; You will not find a more heartfelt cast and crew anywhere in southern California.  A true project of love for all involved, The Empty Grave is about the love of Halloween and the love of the scare.  Mike and his wife Adrienne spend their spare time, which is not much, crafting and developing a haunted house that nearly everyone can experience and enjoy.  These are scares from the heart of a pair of haunt lovers that want nothing more than to say “Happy Halloween”.


You must experience The Empty Grave this season.


As a side note, there is also a very charing pumpkin patch and carnival directly next to the more frightening Empty Grave.  Here at Pumpkin City’s Pumpkin Farm, the younger set can have a field day on the miniature carnival rides and fall activities.  There are animals, pony rides, panning for gold, crafts, and pumpkins everywhere.  What’s more, entry to the patch is free!








If you have little ones that would probably not be interested in The Empty Grave, this is the spot to go.  It is also the perfect place to keep the kiddies occupied while the parents trade off and go through the nearby haunted house.

If you are interested in experiencing the best that Orange County has to offer, join us for a special event on Sunday, October 18th.

Introducing the first annual
Orange County Death March.


The Empty Grave

STOP #1 (5:45pm)

We start the night off at Laguna Hills Mall and The Empty Grave.  Mike Talorico has a lovely haunted house set up just waiting for you.  The expansive 5,000 square foot maze is choc full of the homespun scares that have made the Grave a must-do during the Halloween season.

Here we will also be treated to a meet and greet with Mike and a lights-on walkthrough of the maze.

From there we will hop in our cars and meet up at the Tustin Market Place for quick bite at a restaurant in the area as we get ready for the next destination.

The 17th Door

STOP #2 (8:00pm)

Next up we will tour Irvine’s The 17th Door.  Again with priority access, we delve into the sickening mind of a young girl and journey with her down a path of destruction.  One of the most anticipated haunt experiences of 2015, The 17th Door will immerse guests in a terrifying succession of scenarios as we try to survive the dangers that lie within.

Sinister Pointe’s Trust Challenge

STOP #3 (10:00pm)

We end our march with a trip to Sinister Pointe’s Trust Challenge in Brea.  A terrifyingly unique experience, where you along with a single guest will encounter a nearly 30-minute fear challenge that will require complete trust from your partner. Upon entering the dimly lit facility, you are escorted upstairs. One at a time you will each enter completely blacked out quarters. Depending on the fear you have chosen, you may encounter evil clowns, the possessed or the living dead!

You will spend an agonizing 10-minutes in this realm attempting to navigate through it in total darkness … alone!

but, there is hope! Your partner will be just outside in a control booth watching your every move on a monitor using infrared cameras located within the world that you inhabit. They will see your every move and everything else possibly lurking beside you. Your goal will be to use your partner’s eyes as they navigate you to collect survival coins. Upon successful survival, the game is then reversed. Your partner will then enter a completely different realm, and you will be responsible for navigating them through the terror.

imagine the ability to see what is about to unfold right in front of your partner’s eyes, yet they have absolutely no awareness of the evil before them. Will you guide them to victory? Or will you use this opportunity to seek revenge? You decide!!!

This is a low-capacity attraction so the majority of us will park ourselves a block away at Branagan’s Irish Pub and head over in shifts.


The ticket buys you priority access to all three haunted attractions for the small price of $50


If you are on the fence about what haunts to do and when, why not join us for three of the best haunts on Orange County?  One price, three haunts, endless screams.

See you in the fog!

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About the Author

Norm(an) Gidney is a nearly lifelong horror fan. Beginning his love for the scare at the age of 5 by watching John Carpenter's Halloween, he set out on a quest to share his passion for all things spooky with the rest of the world.
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