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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A haunted house is similar to a story in that it should have an introduction, climax, and ending. In the first room or two, you need to set the mood and really impress on the customers whatever theme you’re trying to create. Throughout the haunt, your scares should increase in intensity so you can save the best for last. Customers will often be so scared they’ll only remember the first room and the last room, so make sure they remember the best you have to offer. One more thing to keep in mind when implementing your theme is to make sure it is not too complex. Customers will often be way too frightened when going through to notice any intricate details or concentrate on any storyline you have created. But having a simple theme that progresses throughout the maze will be innately understood and add a nice touch to your haunt.
I’m sure if you have been inside someone else’s haunted house before you’ve wished you could walk through with all the lights on so you can see what the set actually looks like and all the tactics actors use to scare you. Well you now have the perfect opportunity to make people’s dreams come true with a lights-on tour. One or more afternoons in your season, open up the haunted house to guided tours where an actor will take a group of customers through the maze and show them all the details and secret spots where actors can hide to perform scares. In addition, for all the scaredy-cats who are too afraid to come through your terrifying haunted house with all the lights off and creatures present, this is their chance to see what this haunted house business is all about.
More ideas to improve your haunted house are possible plans for your haunt in the off-season. You have 11 months of the year in which your awesome set sits there, just wishing to be put to use. You can keep it profitable all year long by turning your maze into a laser tag arena or miniature golf course. Both of these are fun businesses that would fit in great in a haunted house!