Atmosphere. Mood. These are the things I feel
are key to any successful haunted house. Ive attended many
in my day and Ive put a few haunts on myself with mixed
The bad haunts slammed lots of loud music at me
with a couple of actors hiding in corners with cans
full of coins to scare me. This is getting to be the norm at many
haunts and I wish the people putting these things on would be
a little more inventive. Dont get me wrong - there is a
place for this jump and boo stuff. Just not at every
The good haunts dont always have to try and
scare me. Great effects, sound and lighting will always make me
appreciate the time that went into the haunted house, and great
actors will just be icing on the cake.
At the end of it all you should ask yourself this: Did I get my
moneys worth? Am I satisfied with the presentation? Did
they set the proper mood?
Without setting the proper mood, youre selling
your audience short. What do I mean by mood? Ill give you
my two-cents worth.
Lighting. From my film
and television background, I know that lighting is key to setting
the proper mood in your attraction. Dont just
turn on a couple of black lights and think youre finished.
What type of room are you lighting? Color will set different tones
in your haunted house. I think that lighting seems to be the last
thing on peoples minds when setting up a haunt. Dont
just throw dim light on it and leave it. Think carefully about
how it looks with the house lights off. Think about it this way.
You have a fairly nice room set up with a mummy theme. What color(s)
would set the proper mood. Do you want a desert setting with warm
colors or a dark and dank feeling?
Set Design. You dont
have to have elaborate and expensive sets to get your message
across, but a couple of pro looking props will make
your haunt seem more professional and less slapped together.
Beg or borrow (but dont steal) anything you can get your
hands on that will add to the tone of your haunt. If youre
limited on props, highlight with lighting and sound.
Sound FX. This includes
atmospheric sound effects and maybe music (not of the ear-piercing
heavy metal variety Im bombarded with at bad haunts). Pick
sound elements that arent in your face unless they are a
part of your scare. They should be subtle. Sound properly utilized
will always add to the creep factor in your haunt.
Computers make it easy now to create - mix - and burn sound FX
CD's for your haunt. Repeating cassette tapes can also help if
you want to record a few seconds of a sound and have it play endlessly
on a tape player.
Actors. Deciding to
use real actors or mechanical effects in your haunt is just a
matter of preference (as well as expense). Dont just put
a mask on your neighbors kid and expect an Oscar-winning
performance. Know who your actors are. Interview them if you can.
Good actors will really sell your haunt and bad ones will leave
your customers feeling ripped off. If you have the time and resources
to create mechanical effects, I would certainly recommend this,
especially if people are on short supply.
These are some of the things that Ive found
to create a great haunt in my 20-plus years of experience in the
world of haunted attractions. Ive been to some great haunted
house experiences and Ive been to bad ones. With a little
planning, you should be able to produce a fun haunt that will
have your customers coming back for more.
This article was originally printed in the book
"How to Haunt Your House - Volume 1". The book was distributed
by Hauntorama.org but is no longer available.
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