Haunted houses are a staple of Halloween celebrations. They pop up all over the place from elaborate shows put on by civic groups to the ones families make right in their own homes. Many people decide to build a haunted house for Halloween or other scary events. Here are a few of the many things you can do to create a great haunted house.
- Check out the venue. Before you start thinking about haunted house ideas, consider the venue. You'll need the perfect place to build a haunted house. Certainly there will be a difference in the space the local Rotary Club or high school will be decorating and what a mom might set up for her grade-schooler's Halloween party. Before you start picking out the details, check out the venue where your haunted house will be setting up. Once you know the space you can use, including square footage, number of rooms, electrical outlets, emergency exits, staircases, all that kind of thing, you can start to make your plans.
- Know your budget(s). Some groups have thousands of bucks to spend on their haunted house for a whole month or more. Other people are just looking to put together a fun diversion for an afternoon in their own home. Before you get into the details, figure out how much you can (or want to) spend on your haunted house.
Also consider your time budget: how much time you have for setting up and managing the house, and how long you plan to keep it up. These things will factor into your financial budget. And don't forget also to budget your human resources: If you're thinking of building an elaborate haunted house, make sure you have enough man, woman, and child power to build and run it.
- Find your theme. There are as many different haunted houses as there are haunted house creators. A cohesive theme or several "theme rooms" can enhance the haunted house experience. Is your haunted house going to be silly and funny? Is it going to be scary and thrilling? Discerning your theme may involve many considerations include the age group(s) you expect to entertain and your personal taste. Also, elaborate or specific themes like "Monster movies through the years" might require a bigger budget than some other themes, so keep in mind what you can handle. Knowing your theme will help you pick out haunted house decorations.
- Consider the classics - and make them your own. Whether you're doing a funny house, a creepy house, a house for kids, teens or adults, don't overlook the value of going with classic haunted house staples. These include things like people jumping out from behind doors or furniture, rooms where various classic monsters like Frankenstein and The Mummy can be found, lots of cobwebs, gravestones, interactive displays where people can feel fabricated "brains" or "eyeballs" and special effects both audio and visual. There's a reason why some things are classics!
A lot of these things are relatively easy to find. Sound effects, for instance, can be found on a variety of Halloween themed CDs. So, no need to tape yourself screaming. Peel grapes for "eyeballs." Food coloring (red, of course) added to a head of cauliflower or a large bowl full of balled up wet paper towels can make a pretty nice brain (don't count on it to do much thinking). One word of warning: Store-bought cobwebs can be great if used correctly, but if they're just clumped around and not stretched out enough, it's just sort of messy. Experiment a little before the house opens up.
Once you have decided on some classic haunted elements, give them your own twist depending on your theme and audience. For instance, if you're in Boston, you may want to dress some skeletons as Yankees fans. If you're entertaining little girls, you could have a room where Barbies are displayed in Halloween outfits or ask the girls to dress up as princesses as you bring them through the castle. As Disney has proven, gravestones can be used to amuse haunted house guests for years. Adding familiar pop culture or politically-tinged names to your house's gravestones is one way to go if your house is meant to be funny. You could reinvent the wheel if you want to, but why not use the tried-and-true basics and add your own specific touches?
- Create a floor plan. Keep in mind the old adage "Prior planning prevents poor performance - in haunted house-building." Once you know what you want in your house and have an idea what kind of space, time, and money you're dealing with, sit down and map out where you want all the different elements to go. This will save time and avoid confusion.
If you'd prefer not to come up with a totally original floor plan, you may want to check out some that have gone before. There's actually a company that sells such things. You can find them at: HauntIdeaKit. I've never used these myself, so I can't vouch for what they include, but you might want to check them out.
- Let the haunting begin. Once you are sure you know how you want the house to look, and have followed your budget for buying the pieces (or improvising them from home) and have all the pieces ready to go, then build that house and bring in the haunt-ees. They're sure to have a more memorable Halloween with the tricks and treats you've got waiting for them.