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Detail, detail, and detail

September 11, 2013 - Haunted House
As a haunted house set designer, I’ve learned a lot about how to scare people. Actors that scare from different heights, variations in the soundtrack, flashlights that emit the perfect amount and size of light, and the list goes on. There are four main essential ingredients to a haunted house: sets, lighting, music, and actors. In order to put on a successful show, none of these can be lacking.
However, the thing that I’ve recently come to appreciate is just how much detail matters. Customers come to haunted houses to be scared. The easiest way for someone to avoid being scared in a haunted house is to not buy into it. We all know that none of it is real, but if you can somehow trick your customer into believing that it is, that’s how you can inflict real fear. So, how do you make everything seem real? It all starts with set detail. Sure, your haunt will be good if you paint the walls, throw in some props and dirty them up. But, if you want a truly realistic set, you have to go the extra mile. Paint over every screw, pull an all-nighter to get your fabric textures just right, and hide rebar in places that nobody will ever see. Any glitch in your sets that shows the customer that your haunt isn’t, in fact, haunted, will break the illusion and seriously detract from your show. Real life is detailed, and your haunt should be too.