A Brief Walking Tour of Burbank’s Horror Row
Unbeknownst to most fans of the horror genre, there is a two block stretch of Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank, California that serves as “Horror Row.” What follows is a brief walking tour for those wishing to experience it.
We start at 3512 West Magnolia Boulevard, the current address of Dark Delicacies. In business since 1994, Dark Delicacies—operated by Del and Sue Howison—sells horror novels, horror non-fiction, horror vinyl, horror movies, horror toys, and horror-themed clothing and accessories. It’s a popular hang-out and social spot for Los Angeles-based horror professionals, many of whom a visitor might happen to spot browsing the shelves. Dark Delicacies hosts in-store signings with authors, actors, directors, and musicians on a weekly basis. Their book selection in unbeatable—used mass-market paperbacks, new trade paperbacks, signed limited edition hardcovers, and offerings from both the mainstream and the small press. They are also a New York Times bestseller list reporting store, meaning strong sales there can boost a horror novel’s success. More importantly, Del and Sue make sure that every visitor to the store feels welcomed and special.
Sticking to that side of the street, we next come to the Museum of Mystical Wonders, located at 3204 West Magnolia Boulevard. The Museum of Mystical Wonders is an art gallery, museum and gift shop for those with a macabre inclination. Among the items on display are historical artifacts from fortunetelling, spirit or Ouija boards, carnival sideshows, psychic phenomena, magic, and more. Well worth a look, but be warned—time does strange things in the museum. You’ll wander the displays, peering and staring, and swear that you’ve only been there twenty minutes when in fact, an hour has passed you by.
Continuing down the street, we come to the Motion Picture F/X Company, a full service special makeup effects supply house located at 2920 West Magnolia Boulevard. Think of it as a general store for special effects companies, the aisles filled with silicones, stones, clays, resins, polyfoams, make-up, and more. Of interest to those not employed in the movie industry, however, are the props on display to the public, running the gamut from a bust of H.P. Lovecraft to actor Gary Oldman’s full head cast from Dracula. Stop in to look at those, but be polite and buy some fake vampire blood while you’re there. The staff are enthusiastic, welcoming, and friendly, and happy to talk shop.
Our last stop on this side of the street is Creature Features, a two-thousand-plus square foot emporium with an impressive storefront located at 2904 West Magnolia Boulevard. Selling books, movies, a massive soundtrack collection, toys, and hosting the occasional signing, the store is, at first glance, similar to Dark Delicacies. However, the interior layout is more like a flea market, swap meet, or antique mall, and the merchandise firmly skews toward the more science-fiction end
of horror than Dark Delicacies does. Based upon my initial visit, the store also lacks the personality and helpfulness of Dark Delicacies. During the twenty minutes I spent inside, the staff ignored me, even when (in my opinion) I made it very clear that I wanted to spend money. Not a “Hello” when I entered. Not a “Goodbye” when I left. But maybe that was just my experience. Certainly worth a stop, especially since you’re going to cross the street right outside their store.
There’s a gas station on the corner if you need a bathroom break. No? You’re good? Okay, take my hand and let’s cross the road. Carefully, now. Remember what I said in the last column. Los Angeles is a city that runs on automobiles.
So, now we’re on the opposite side of the street. The first thing we’ll encounter is not one, but three Halloween Town stores. Halloween Town is like a year-long celebration of our favorite holiday, selling costumes, masks, wigs, props, and more. They even dabble in books and DVDs. Their presence on this side of the street cannot be ignored. They pretty much dominate the entire block. Their first store, located at 3013 West Magnolia Boulevard, sells costumes and accessories for children and pets. Their second location, at 3021 West Magnolia, focuses on costumes and accessories for adults. Their third location, at 2921 West Magnolia, features clothing, props, accessories, and the like. Definitely worth a look, though be advised—they do not allow photography of any kind. Keep your smart phone stowed and just enjoy the visuals.
Next up is Bearded Lady Vintage and Oddities, located at 3005 West Magnolia. This is the sister store to the Museum of Mystical Wonders, and it is absolutely worth the stop. The staff were friendly and gregarious, and eager to talk all things genre related. More impressively, they also made sure to mention some of the block’s other horror attractions, which I thought was pretty classy. Bearded Lady cannot be easily described. It’s part store, part museum, and all cool. They sell “vintage oddities and collectibles” which means you can find Ouija boards, mint condition comic books, dried tarantulas, pig’s eyes floating in jars, t-shirts, a book on magic tricks, and various sorts of other strange ephemera all in one store. I’m told that the production staff for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter buy some of their props from the store, because it’s cheaper than manufacturing them.
Our final stop on the walking tour is Blast From the Past, located at 3117 West Magnolia Boulevard. Blast From the Past is a massive comic book store. Why am I including it on our walking tour? Because a lot of their merchandise will appeal to fans of the genre. They have one of the biggest in-store selections of horror movie action figures and toys I have ever seen. When I left on this book-signing tour, my eight-year-old had one request—bring him back a Friday the 13th action figure (no, I don’t let him watch the movies, but to kids of his generation, Jason, Freddy, and the rest are akin to the Universal Monsters). I found him a Jason action figure at Blast From the Past. I also found action figures for Scream, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, ALIEN, Predator, and Terminator to go along with it. Blast From the Past also hosts a horror trivia night (which Dark Delicacies’ Del Howison sometimes participates in). And the staff are friendly, helpful, and very aware of just what a cool place they work in.
That ends our walking tour of Burbank’s horror row. I hope that you enjoyed it, and that it will prove useful when you plan a trip to Southern California. I’ll see you back here for next week’s column, in which Kasey Lansdale and myself wreak havoc in a tea room.
Brian Keene writes novels, comic books, short fiction, and occasional journalism for money. He is the author of over forty books, including the recently released Pressure and The Complex. The father of two sons, Keene lives in rural Pennsylvania.