by Redbeacon’s haunted-house specialist, Gregg Hanano
Halloween is that magical time of the year where it’s okay to eat all the candy you want, dress up like someone else, and, best of all, scare people you don’t know. What other holiday celebrates with the return of candy corn? Easy: NO OTHER HOLIDAYS.
Trick-or-treating is great, but if you’re more into the trick than the treat, you’ll want to create your own haunted house. It’s a great way to bring a community together, scare your neighbors and friends, and finally have a reason to not clean out the cobwebs. But making a haunted house isn’t something that’s thrown together overnight. As long as you include these five essential scare tactics into your homemade haunted house, you’ll be the talk of the (ghostly) town!
1. Fog and Mirrors: Fog and mirrors are some of the most basic needs for any great haunted house. They can cause disorientation, confusion, and best of all, they give you a place to hide. Fog blurs your sense of sight, taking any feeling of safety with it. With consideration to mirrors, have you ever heard of Bloody Mary? The story where you turn off the lights and scream “Bloody Mary” three times so she’ll appear in the mirror? The best way to use fog and mirrors together is to cause your customers to follow their way into the foggy bathroom where they’ll encounter a blood-written message of “GO BACK.” When they turn around, Bloody Mary will be there to greet them. Whoa… chills. Did you feel that?
2. Spooky Children with Long Black Hair: If there’s one thing I’ve learned from horror movies, it’s that children are creepy. But what is it about children that freak us out? You know you could successfully take on a haunted youngster if one attacked you, but if one crawls out of the TV? Game over. This is where the costumes of your co-conspirators play a huge role. Get a girl with long black hair (or use a wig) and put her in a corner where she can be barely seen. When customers walk up and spot her, tell her to not move anything but her head. And then when they don’t know what to do, slowly reach out and follow them.
3. Element of Surprise: What’s the best part of any horror movie? Probably that suspenseful moment when you think something is going to happen but then never does. Set up an obvious situation to scare someone, like a fully closed body bag that says “Open Me.” Your patrons will think that someone is going to pop out as soon as they unzip it. They’ll contemplate for a bit and try to convince each other to open it. (You can enjoy the entertaining dialogue from the safety of another room.) When they finally do and nothing happens, they’ll be relieved. And that’s when you jump out from behind.
4. Lighting: Now, you might be asking, “Why lighting? Shouldn’t it be pitch black?” Yes, it should. But don’t make the mistake of giving your customers a regular ol’ flashlight to use as they travel through your haunted maze. Instead, hand over a strobe light. Have you ever freaked out when you thought you saw something out of the corner of your eye but you’re not sure? Picture that every time the strobe light flashes. The constant change of light to dark will cause your eyes and your brain to go on the fritz. Combine it with the fog, and you have a recipe for madness.
5. Timing: Nothing kills a haunted house experience like seeing other customers. It takes away that sense of being alone and having no one to hear them scream. We’d recommend having only groups of two go through your house, and, depending on the amount of customers you have, make the groups go one at a time. That way, you can provide all the care and attention needed to really scare the bejeezus out of someone.
With all of these scare tactics, your homemade haunted house is sure to be a bang! But always be sure to keep it safe and just have fun. And don’t forget to give them one last scare as they exit the house!
Need some help gathering the materials for your haunted house? You can enter to win a $500 gift card from The Home Depot!