Haunt 101: How-To
So you’ve finally decided to want to set up a haunt for Halloween! I’ll be filling this page up with Tips, Instructions, and Basic How-To’s to get you started! Best of luck!
- Build Your Own Decorations: Buying pre-built decorations and props are a major time saver, but they will also lighten your wallet. Building your own decor and props will be worthwhile, as you will be able to customize it to your liking, as well as saving money. Be creative! If you do decide to buy decor – which we all do – one of the best stores to do so is Spirit Halloween. By signing up to their newsletter, you will receive tons of coupons and benefits that others do not receive. I would highly suggest signing up.
- Lighting is a Must: You have your decor, but it just doesn’t look right under that white flood light. Switch those lights out with red, green, or blue flood lights instead! It will set the scene almost immediately. Personally, I use green and blue lights for cemeteries, graveyards, and the like. I use red with decor or props that I want people to notice. A blue flood light will give off the least amount of light. Red will give out the most. Remember this when you go to buy your lighting. Black lights are very useful when trying to give something a ghostly glow. Strobe lights create a great effect as well. Last, but not least, flickering lights (i.e. flickering candles) create a very eerie effect on the surrounding area. I would suggest building some fake candles, so that you do not chance catching anything on fire. Remember, though, that you are trying to create a creepy, eerie feeling – so don’t go overboard on with lighting!
- A Note About Black Lights: Black lights give a very cool effect to your haunt. However, you need to use them safely. Black lights should not be placed where guests, or fellow haunters, will have to look at the light for lengthy periods of time. The same effect occurs when looking directly into the sun for a while; you will go blind. Also, make sure you purchase a good, real fluorescent UV black light. Many companies sell “black lights” that do not perform well, heat up extremely quickly, and usually end up burning things around them (e.g. cobweb, props, etc.). While the standard incandescent black light may be cheap, you may want to invest and purchase a CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lightbulb) Black Light. These will produce more light, creating more effect for your haunt. Also note that the long Black light fluorescent tubes will produce more light than the CFL black light. Keep this in consideration when determining what you want to glow and not glow. Now, you may be wondering what exactly will glow under a black light. A lot of things will, in fact! As a short list, the following will glow under a black light: Paper (post-1950’s), Tonic water, Club soda, Tooth whitener, Anti-freeze, Vaseline, Chlorophyll, any “glow in the dark” products/items (including cobweb), types of paint, and laundry detergents. Use these to your advantage when planning your Haunt! Be creative, and have fun!
- Don’t Forget Audio: A good haunt invades upon your guests every sense. What else will capture your guests within your haunt than sound? You can find many audio files for haunts online or in-store, whether you are setting up a creepy carnival, a pirate facade, a cemetery, or whatever you are doing! Sounds of people screaming, creaking doors, scratching sounds, and more will entangle your guests into a Haunted House you’ve set up, while the sound of a moaning wind, bells, growling, and more will capture your guests into your cemetery. Make sure you choose the correct sounds for your haunt!
- Fog Effects: Fog is another great way to add to your haunt. It helps “cloud” your haunt, making it harder to see. This can be useful when trying to scare your guests. You can purchase or build a Fog Chiller that will cool the fog down, so it lays closer to the ground instead of floating around in the air. Low-laying fog can be a great effect for Halloween parties or a cemetery/graveyard. A timer would be useful to purchase so that you don’t have to constantly be hitting the button on your fog machine to release fog. With a timer, you can set it to whatever time you want (Every 5 minutes, 10 minutes, etc.) and leave it, allowing you to focus on other things. Remember that any wind, no matter how slight, will project your fog in different directions – usually not the way you want your fog to travel. Make sure you plan for the possibility of this.
- The Small Details: The small details are also very important. Stop cutting and raking your grass if you’re planning on setting up a cemetery. Leave the leaves! Tie some scare-crows onto your tree’s or house. Cobweb your bushes, “board up” your windows, or glue moss onto your fences or tombstones. You can even add more detail by placing lanterns or lit pumpkins in different places. The more in-depth you can be with your haunt, the better.
- Tell a Story: Some of the best Haunts tell a story about that particular haunt. Setting up a Haunt is great in itself – but telling a story with the haunt really pulls your guests in. Some people introduce this story by explaining it as guests walk in. Others decorate their Haunt as the story itself. While a story is not necessary, it is always a nice addition for those who want a more in-depth haunt.
- Safety First: Make sure you continue to keep you and those around you safe during the build and execution of your Haunt. Hold a test walk-through of your Haunt prior to guests arriving, to make sure there is nothing someone can get hurt by or from. The last thing you need is a lawsuit – or missing body parts.
- Advertise: Let your friends and neighbors know you’re setting up a Haunt! You can do this by simply telling them over the phone, sending out invitations via mail – or internet, and more. You can set a sign out in front of your yard, letting people know you’ll be having a Haunt there as well. Nothing too detailed though – you don’t want to give your Haunt away! If you are very into it, you can always contact your local newspaper. Make sure people know to come over, so they can enjoy all the time and effort you put into scaring them!
- The Golden Rule: If there is any one specific rule all Haunters follow, it is this one: Don’t touch your guests! Haunters should not touch, poke, grab,etc. your guests. This may end up with some grisly results. Many Haunters have leniency when following this rule in regards to family and friends. Usually, if you know the person, he/she probably won’t mind. Otherwise, refrain from touching your guests.
- Plan for the Weather: Make sure that your decorations and props are weather-resistant. October, and Fall in general, is a very wind, rain, and, in some places, a snow ridden time of the year. Make sure any props that will fall over due to any wind are secured to the ground, fence, house, etc. Make sure any props using motors or electricity are covered appropriately for snow, wind, or rain. Chasing your decorations down the road is not a fun thing to do! Also be aware that any slight wind will most likely make any fog you produce not move how you want it to, so plan accordingly.
- Live Actors are Great: All the props, lighting, and audio are great, but what else could you add to your Haunt? Something less predictable, something that doesn’t follow a set pattern – Live actors! Called Scare-actors by some, these are your friends and family who wish to help scare people in your Haunt. Have them dress accordingly for your Haunt, and explain to them what you wish for them to do. Live actors are one of the best additions to a Haunt because they’re (generally) free and won’t break down mid-way through your Haunt! There is a sense of unpredictability, and can react to certain people differently. Make sure that your actors follow your instructions, and just aren’t running around though. More often than not, they will probably already know what you want them to do. Make sure you have some complimentary dinner – or something – for thanking them for their time and effort as well!
- Charge, Or Not to Charge: That is the question! If you’re setting up your Haunt at a location that you’re renting, I’d say charging a small fee would be alright. Otherwise, I would suggest not charging – especially if it is a home haunt. Remember, not only are you setting this haunt up for others, but yourself as well. For a large majority of Haunters, this is not only a hobby, but a passion. If you’re looking to ask for a little something in return, I would suggest setting out some sort of donation box or jar for people to donate a couple dollars. If you are interested in charity work, you could request folks to bring cans/jars of food, clothes, etc. that you will later donate to a local charity to help those in need. It’s a great way to make a positive impact in more than one way at your Haunt – giving people something they will remember for years with your Haunt, and helping the community out!
- Ruined Fun: Do be aware that there, usually, are other people living around you. Many Haunters who set up haunts weeks in advance come to find stolen props, tombstones, and decorations. Make sure you tag your decorations accordingly (eg. Dremeling your name into your prop at a specific location) so that if it is stolen, you can identify it more easily. You can also use flood lights on a motion sensor to detect if someone is in your yard – usually to steal your hard work. While most people will not even think of stealing your decor, there always is that one person who finds it necessary to do so. Many Haunters, including myself, set out most of the decorations on Halloween day, and take it down that night after the TOTers have come through. This minimizes the chance that someone will snatch your work. Take caution, and protect your decor!
Most of all, Have Fun, and have a Happy Halloween!
More to come!
Thank you to those who contributed to this page: