September 29, 2009

Create Your Own Haunted House

As the weeks wind toward Halloween, perhaps your family would like to make its own spooky house this season. It could beckon the trick-or-treaters to take a tour before they receive their treats (or tricks?), or you could use it to spook up some holiday fun the weekend before the big night in the neighborhood.

Whatever your motivation, here are a few tips to bring the haunts alive:

  • Decide on the space you want to use. This could be your yard, your home, or just one area of your house, such as the basement.
  • Plan your entrance and exit, and decide what types of spooks and scares you want to include.
  • Get help—not only to transform the house, but to participate in spooking it as well.
  • Don’t forget to add eerie lighting, scary sounds, and darkness. Throw dark sheets or black garbage bags over the windows so no light comes through.
  • Replace your outside bulbs with orange bulbs. Also, you could replace your porch light with a black light bulb and hang some glow-in-the-dark decorations close by.
  • If you have some leftover tiki torches from your summer parties, use them to light the path to the front door of your haunted house. 
  • Alternatively, string clear or orange holiday lights, or try these cute spider lights.
  • Hang spider web netting throughout the house to entangle your guests!
  • Hang a “dead guy” in the front entrance: stuff a pair of jeans and a shirt with newspaper, and use an old bleach container to create a face. Top with an old hat.
  • Decorate your doors to look like coffins, using butcher paper and paint.
  • Using large appliance boxes, make coffins, fake walls, crypt chambers, etc.
  • Set up a spooky dinner table, and serve a Jell-O brain mold, finger food, or a severed hand or head on a silver platter. Set a monster dummy or a real person at the table about to eat the feast. Creepy!
  • Hang wet yarn from the ceiling for your guests to walk through.
  • Have bloody hands lying around. Fill surgical gloves with sand, and tie them off with a rubber band. Add the effect of blood with red paint.
  • Spritz cold water on the guests as they enter the haunted house.
  • Use dry ice to make a boiling cauldron or a foggy effect, but be very careful to not let anyone touch the dry ice! Another option is a fog machine; it is a bit pricey, but you may be able to rent it out to others throughout the year!

Some helpful tips:

  • Small children may be afraid or may not be able to handle going through the scary house. You can always alert your actors to be “gentle” and take off their masks and hand out treats to make the spooky house a friendlier one. You can also set an age limit for entrance. Although it will be dark, make sure you have enough light for people to see their way through. Again, clear holiday lights placed strategically will work well if you are on a budget.
  • Don’t let anyone touch the dry ice! It can cause serious injury. Do not use candles or other flames—they are too much of a safety hazard. Try battery-operated candles or glow sticks instead.
  • Make sure that the actors don’t touch anyone as they make their way through the haunted house; they should just play their role (i.e., looking creepy, playing dead, etc.).
  • Make sure your space has adequate ventilation.
  • Make sure you have enough help!

Happy haunting!

--Lisa Kothari, Peppers and Pollywogs


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