How to Choose Actors for a Haunted House

When choosing an acting squad, it is imperative to choose a varied group of individuals. It is best to choose some people who are athletic, some who are good actors, and some who just look the part. Once the actors have been chosen, tailor the costumes specifically to their body types. Use rain suits, hospital gowns, burlap and chains to create incredibly detailed costumes for your actors. These items are easily attainable, and far cheaper than buying prefabricated costumes. Splatter blood on everything, and your acting squad will be looking top notch. Plastic weapons tend to cheapen the experience, and are actually dangerous. High quality rubberized props may be a good addition, however they tend to be expensive, and do not last long. Actors do not need these things anyway. Have them hide in the darkness, leap from furniture, and focus on being theatrical, rather than on cheap scares.

Strategies for Making a Horror Event Scarier

Many haunted house producers like to design haunted houses with fantastical themes that are not realistic at all. These can be fun for both the producer and the patron, but they are simply not as scary as more realistic haunted houses. At Scream Park California, we focus on creating real life scares that could really exist. For instance, vampires are simply not very scary. We all know that they don’t exist, and whenever we see them we are reminded of the fact that we are viewing a fictional character. It creates a barrier between the customer and the scare, greatly decreasing the scare value of the scare. Is the idea of a vampire frightening? Yes. The idea of shadowy creatures that feast on the blood of humans is horrifying. But the simple fact that it is well-known that there is no such thing as vampires ruins the scare value.
A haunted house that focuses on creating ultra-realistic situations will find far more success in scaring its patrons. For instance, a haunted house themed after a serial killer could be horrifying. It is important to choose a theme carefully, and brand the haunted house accordingly. A carnival theme is realistic, but could easily go badly if it is branded as a demonic carnival, or a ghost carnival, etc. A simple abandoned carnival grounds with terrifying characters in it will do just fine. People have walked through carnival grounds before. They can easily picture themselves at a carnival, and so when they walk through the haunted house, they will not be able to use a “this isn’t real” blanket to shield themselves from the scares. Realism is highly important, but the public’s standards of what is realistic are constantly changing. It is important to keep attractions updated, using themes that are relevant and nixing aspects of the show that are no longer scary.

Prop Making

When opening a haunted house you’re bound to run into props you deem necessary in your haunt but cant seem to get your hands on. There are plenty of things like washing machines, sinks, or even beds that you may not want to spend the money on but still want. This is when design and construction becomes your friend. Using everyday materials with wood and joinery supplies you are more than capable of creating convincing props.
Begin with a drawing of whatever you want to create. This will help you create what is called an armature (framework for whatever you’re building).
Imagine seeing through the prop you want to design, what does the skeleton look like basically? What parts go where and how is it all supported? Draw the base structure out clearly so you know what each individual piece will look like and how they fit together in relation. Plan how you will attach your pieces together and how it will all ultimately take the shape of your desired prop.
Choosing your measurements comes next. It can be helpful to do some research and get the actual measurements on the object you are trying to re-create. This makes the object you’re creating read a lot more clearly to the audience. It would not make sense to have a washing machine that is two feet wide, 1 foot deep, and 6 feet tall because you never see them in those dimensions. Choose your measurements, make your cuts, and then assemble your design.
Finally comes detailing, right now you have a very primitive form of your final product. It may vaguely resemble what its supposed to or not at all but the important part is that you now have your foundation. A good detailing job is what turns a wooden box with a hole in it into a washing machine. Using assorted pieces of metal, nobs, and tubing will really make the transformation possible.

Shellac: A Set Designer’s Dream

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.

Pros and Cons of Concealed Exits

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.

To Roof or not to Roof A Haunted House

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?

How to transform a store bought halloween prop

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.

Creating a believable haunted house

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.

How to make your own burlap mask

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.

Choose a Theme for your haunted house

When designing your haunted house, the first thing you need to decide on is your theme. Get creative with your theme; anyone can put some gravestones up and call it a day, but how are you going to genuinely scare and surprise your return customers? Once you pick your theme, make sure you stick with it, don’t have clowns in your insane asylum or witches in your amusement park.
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.
Fear Overload is CLOSED Today Sunday 24th due to heavy rain effecting the mall. We will back open tomorrow after roof repairs. Anyone who has tickets for tonight they will be valid any other day this season no need to do anything.