After detailing our haunted house set, I can safely say that it wouldn’t have been nearly as successful without shellac. In case you aren’t familiar, check out liquid shellac online http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shellac. It’s a pretty expensive material that I could only find (in stores) in small quantities. However, it made our haunts so much more detailed.
Shellac is alcohol-based, which means that it resists water-based paints. This means that any time paint and shellac are mixed funky things tend to happen. For example, here’s one trick I used to achieve a nasty, dripping mold look. Fill one empty spray bottle with watered down white paint and a second one with shellac. Spray a little bit of the diluted white paint onto a wall until it starts to drip. Then, spray shellac over it. The two liquids will react together to make a gross, curdled-like texture. If that’s not dramatic enough, add another layer of diluted white paint over it. You can also throw in some diluted black, gray or dark green to get the exact look you’re wanting.
Shellac’s second magical property is its tendency to take on different opacities. Dip a paintbrush in a can of shellac and smash it onto a wall. The shellac will run and pool in some places more than others. The places where more shellac tends to settle takes on a darker shade of brown, which adds another dimension of realism to your detailing. This property was especially useful while detailing the trim on household doors. The ridges in the trim allowed the shellac to pool and create darker areas while the flatparts of the door remained relatively light.
Shellac is a material definitely worth investing in. Pick some up from your local hardware store and experiment with it. You never know what else it could be good for.
Most haunted houses are labyrinths full of twists, turns, and dark corners. This is done so to make the experience creepier and longer. However, concealing the exit route for a room or hallway adds a whole new dimension to a haunt. Customers experience the terror of being trapped in a place with someone or something that’s out to get them. I’m personally the type to run away when I’m scared, so this type of haunt is my worst nightmare. Generally the people who remain calm and rational are the ones who manage to find the exits for the rest of the group. This sort of “survival haunted house” has been an emerging theme in the haunt world.
There are, however, certain downsides to concealing exits in survival type haunts. First, it all needs to comply with fire and building codes. In the event of an emergency, these exits must be easily visible and accessible to all. Second, delaying customers can be extremely disruptive to the flow of the line. On busier nights, this can mean delays, frustration, and a loss of customers. However, compromises can be made to find the right balance between wait time and quality of the show. One solution is to prop some or all of the exits open. You’d be surprised about how hard it is for people to find exits that are only partially concealed. The customers still need to search for the exit, but it generally won’t take them as long to find it. Another solution is to instruct the actors to hint at where the exits are. Chasing the customers towards the right area is also a good solution. However, I wouldn’t recommend that the actors ever break character to bluntly show them the way out. There are always more creative solutions to getting a group through than completely breaking character. Overall, survival-type haunts have been extremely successful recently as long as the right safety and practical measures are taken.
Fear Overload Scream Park is proud to have some of the best online reviews of all nearby haunted houses. As of September 2018, Fear Overload is reviewed at 4.7 stars on Shopper Approved, 4.1 stars on Facebook, and 4.1 on Google.
One of the biggest questions a prospective haunt owner faces is whether to create an indoor or outdoor venue. In California, October weather generally permits outside haunts to be the perfect climate. I still haven’t come to a conclusion about which choice is “better,” so I’ll just discuss the pros and cons of each option.
Outside haunts, in my opinion, immediately create a great atmosphere for a spooky Halloween event. Those brisk October nights and dark skies are both plusses. Also, outdoor areas are generally less expensive to rent or buy. However, bolting your haunt walls to the ground can be a bit tricky since the ground has to be the right firmness. At an outside haunt, your business and your customers are constantly at the liberty of the weather. That being said, everything that you use has to be weatherproof, which can take a toll on the budget. Lastly, installing fire sprinklers into an outside haunt can be incredibly expensive. You’d need to hook up to a nearby water line and get overhead sprinklers installed that are completely up to code. Not sure if all of these additional costs would make up for the money saved on acquiring the property, but at least you don’t have to worry about ceilings!
Owning an inside haunt is a completely different beast in itself. Assuming that you are renting a space, you constantly have to think about not damaging the carpets, walls, and ceilings. Detailing a haunt is messy business, and the mess isn’t always easy to contain. Obviously, you can avoid the whole weather deal and most, if not all, of the hassle of the sprinkler system. One downside to having a roof over your head is that the standard white-tile ceiling is hardly spooky. Indoor haunts face the challenge of covering the ceilings without blocking the emergency lights and sprinklers. In my opinion, the biggest con for indoor haunts is achieving the desired atmosphere. Blaring lights, white walls, and tile ceilings can subconsciously detract from the customer’s experience, so indoor haunt owners need to think of creative ways to mask them. Then, he or she can use the walls and ceilings for something spectacular… perhaps a lightshow?
If you’re like me, you’ve probably ordered a cool Halloween prop you found in a magazine or on the Internet to receive it in the mail and be sorely disappointed. Store bought props never look as good in your hands as they do in the store. That’s why you need to learn how to make your own custom props and improve upon the ones you already own. Let’s say you just bought a skeleton online and now you don’t have any idea what do with it, it looks way too clean and new. There are a few different methods you can use to grime it up, but hands down my favorite material to use is high quality liquid latex, this stuff is magic. If you pour it on a mirror or other flat surface and wait for it to dry, once you peel the stuff off you can work wonders on your prop with it. You can attach sheets of latex to your skeleton and rip them up to look like skin or crumple up strips of latex to be intestines or tendons for your skeleton.
Other ways to achieve a similar effect are using toilet paper and brushing later over it on the skeleton or cover areas of your skeleton in saran wrap and melt holes in it using a heat gun to look like decomposing skin. Once you have your base layer, you just need to add some color to make it look real. Use a combination of fake blood, shellac, and black spray paint and you’ll have the grisliest looking prop that you would spend ten times the money on if you bought it in a store.
What is a scream park, you may be wondering. Well a scream park is basically a Halloween themed theme park. At one, you’ll find a huge range of activities to do including haunted houses. What sets a scream park apart from normal haunted houses is the variety of entertainment you can find at the park. There will often be live music or DJs, a lightshow, fortune telling, and actors wandering the grounds scaring customers. Finally, like every other theme park, you’ll often find concession stands, picture booths, and gift shops.
As a scream park, you need to have the correct balance of quantity vs. quality for your haunted houses. Scream parks are known for having a variety of Halloween themed attractions, not just haunted houses, but you need to make sure each attraction is something people will actually enjoy and want to go through. For example, don’t just have a spinning vortex that people will walk through and feel cheated after or wonder why they just paid money to go through that. Also, you can’t charge customers $25 for them to solely come through your 2 minute long, highly quality maze and hope for them to be satisfied.
When deciding on how much money and time to put into each attraction, realize that on one hand customers are going through your haunts in the dark so each one doesn’t need to be perfectly detailed or look like a piece of art, but at the same time, if they don’t really feel immersed in your environment, don’t expect any positive reviews from them. A great way to get feedback on your set is to get unbiased volunteers to see your show before you open; you’ve obviously been desensitized to horror by now and since it’s your own show, you can’t correctly judge how it will feel to a customer. Make sure you have enough to see at your event so the customer feels like the money they spent is justified, but don’t feel the need to throw a bunch of random, cheaply made attractions at them in hopes of bettering their experience.
One of the most important aspects in creating a great haunted house is its authenticity. People will come to your haunt to immerse themselves in a new, alien environment that feels real. The most terrified a customer will feel is when he believes he is actually in danger, not just walking through an entertaining set with actors. The first thing you can do to create a truly fantastic experience is to make sure your set doesn’t feel like a set. Things like having cables hanging down where they shouldn’t or ceilings being visible that don’t fit the theme can take away from the realism you’re trying to create. If you are lucky enough to base your haunted house around an old, creepy, pre-existing structure, most of this is already taken care for you due to the amazing detail already existing in the building and customers will be able to feel that. But if you are building your haunt from scratch, paying attention to detail is a huge factor. Simple additions like attaching dark netting over your ceilings so customers don’t see white tile or adding some extra blood and grime to your props so they don’t look like they were purchased at a costume store will make a huge difference.
The next step to creating a believable haunted house is making sure your actors are professional. The worst thing to see in a haunted house is a couple zombies chatting or laughing about the last group they scared. Along with your actors staying in role, spend some money on making sure their costumes look real. Seeing an actor with some cheap makeup on can completely take away from the experience of being scared to death by the creature hiding in the dark. If you follow these steps you’ll have people lining up out the door to see your haunt.
Can’t think of anything to be this Halloween? Tired of the same old ghost, vampire, and zombie costumes? Well here’s a tutorial on how to make your very own burlap mask for just pocket change and a few hours of your time. Materials you’ll need include: burlap(of course), stain or black spray paint, scissors, a hot glue gun, and any old metal pieces, buttons, etc. you have lying around to decorate your mask.
To start off, you’ll need to make the structure of your mask. If your burlap came in sack form, you’re almost there; you just need to glue down the corners of the sack to make it rounded to fit your head. (Caution: keep mask off your head while gluing, hot glue is very hot!) If you have burlap strips, you’ll need to wrap it around a head similar to a mummy wrapping until you have the right form and then glue it down. The next step is to cut holes for the eyes and, if desired, the mouth. I recommend you use a model for placement of your holes, otherwise you might have a lopsided mask. After you have your mask, now you need to detail it up, think scarecrow from Batman Begins, or find another image on the Internet you can use to get ideas. To make the mask look old and weathered you can use stain or shellac around the edges, eyes, and a light coating all over. The final step is making the mask look creepy. This can be accomplished a multitude of ways, but my favorite are sewing up the eyes or mouth with thread, dabbing some blood(not real please) around any “injuries” your mask has suffered, and creatively gluing your metal pieces on the mask. For example, maybe he has a tire chain running diagonally down his face, or a metal grate or buttons instead of eyes. Just make sure you can see out of your mask, monsters that walk into walls aren’t that scary, and enjoy your creation.
One of our favorite horror movies here at Fear Overload is Cabin in the Woods. The best part of this movie is how original it is in scaring you, but also making you feel a whole roller-coaster of emotions. I was confused, scared, and kept laughing all throughout the movie. The plot of this movie is ingenious; a group of wealthy men and women bet on the different ways a group of teens will be killed in their own horror survival game. Cabin in the Woods makes you think you know where the movie is going one moment and then completely surprises you the next.
Fear Overload has adopted techniques found in this movie to take our Scream Park to a new level. Here, we don’t just have a haunted house where you can walk through it and get over; we don’t do things that way. You’re forced to survive and find your own way through our labyrinths. Given only one dim flashlight and a twisting maze full of fake doors, dead ends, and horrifying surprises at every turn, you’ll be screaming ’til the very end. We feel that is the best way to build a haunted house.