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This spooky driving tour of L.A. ‘witch’ houses lets you celebrate Halloween safely

Hobbit House and apartments in Culver City
Lawrence Joseph designed the Storybook Hobbit House and apartments, a historical-cultural monument in Culver City.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

In honor of Halloween, the preservation group Friends of Residential Treasures: LA has unveiled a self-guided tour of five classic examples of the kind of Storybook-style houses that conjure images of witches’ lairs, warlocks, hobbits and more.

Every month FORT: LA invites a local personality to create an architectural tour focusing on a particular style. This month, the homes have been selected by actress Amber Benson, best known for her portrayal of Tara Maclay on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and author of “The Echo Park Coven” trilogy.

“Having written about magic and witchcraft in a series of novels set in Los Angeles, I’ve spent a lot of time searching out the city’s hidden paths, secret byways, and spooky architecture to use as texture for my stories,” Benson said in a statement. “This trail gives you a taste of just how much magic and fantasy there is in Los Angeles.”

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The self-guided tour aims to not only offer a new appreciation for L.A.’s historically significant residential architecture but to create a socially distanced sense of fun during the coronavirus pandemic.

Keep in mind that these homes are privately owned, so appreciate them from the street in a socially distant fashion. Unobstructed views are not guaranteed as “the journey is the destination.”

The scavenger hunt begins in Culver City and ends in Burbank. On its website, FORT: LA has posted a 69-page PDF that includes interesting facts about the five homes, including dark secrets, photos, oral histories, music suggestions such as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You” and a detailed map.

With crooked timbers, cockeyed chimneys and details that range from medieval to mirthful, Storybook Style houses seem less like actual homes than Hollywood sets.

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The trail makes stops at the Lawrence and Martha Joseph residence and apartments in Culver City, assembled by Walt Disney Co. artist Lawrence Joseph from 1946 to 1970; the Hlaffer–Courcier house, inspired by art director Harry Oliver’s Tam O’Shanter restaurant; the Egasse-Braasch house in Eagle Rock, where renters Ben Affleck and Matt Damon wrote their Oscar-winning screenplay for “Good Will Hunting”; Humphrey Bogart’s onetime home in Beachwood Canyon (Bogart was living in the house when his friend and neighbor Peg Entwistle committed suicide in 1932 by throwing herself off the Hollywood sign); and the four Columbia Ranch dwarf houses along Hollywood Way in Burbank.

To view this month’s trail, go to fortla.org and enter your email address for free access.


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