For several years I made a home haunt at my parents’ house, then in 2006 and 2008 I was in charge of a non-profit haunted house, and now I do my own home haunt again. Some of these ideas are more practical for home haunts than others. Personally I like a scare that requires the fewest actors as possible, especially for my home haunt when I may only have 1 or 2 willing friends or family members who can help out.
A few tips on getting the best scares:
1. Distract the guests. Get them to focus on one thing or in one direction, then come at them with your scare from some other place.
2. Vary the height of your scares. Come from the floor or above their heads, not always at face level.
3. The "let down" method. Present your guests with a wimpy scare first. When they think the scare is over for the scene, bring on the real scare.
4. Don’t always scare the first person. Scare the middle or the end of the line too.
I’m always looking for new ideas and variations on old ideas. Send Me Your Ideas
THE SLAM DOWN
The idea of the slam down is that someone pops out from an unexpected location, slamming something (typically a wooden panel) down onto the floor to create a loud noise. It could be the lid of a coffin on its side, a cabinet door that flips down instead of opening sideways, or the side of any object that doesn’t normally open. Be careful not to place your guests directly in the path of the panel to prevent injuries.
Make 2 fake statues on top of short stands. Make a 3rd stand for an actor to stand on, dressed in a statue costume. You have a couple of options here. The actor dressed as the statue can be the scare. Sometimes the most obvious scares work the best. Your guests will be expecting it, they just don’t know which statue is real, and that increases the tension. Another option is to incorporate the slam down, using your actor/statue as the distraction or the let down method.
THE DOT ROOM
The Dot Room is an oldie but goodie. The basic method is to paint a room flat black, or hang black fabric to cover all the walls. Place a few black lights in the room. Cover the walls with small dots of white or neon fabric or neon paint. Dress an actor in a black out suit that’s covered with the same dots of fabric or paint so they blend into the walls. When the guests enter the room, they can’t see the actor until he/she starts to move toward the guests. More than one actor wearing dot suits coming from both sides of the room can help scare more of the group.
The first year I did this I used the traditional white dots. Very effective, but predictable. The second year I did this I made little 3 foot tall puppets out of PVC and painted them with neon spray paint. The actor in the black out suit attached the head of one of the puppets to their waist, and the heals of the puppet to the tip of their shoes. They held 2 sticks that attached to the elbows on the puppet. When the actor shuffled across the room, it looked like the puppet was alive.
This year the theme of my home haunt is "The Toy Box". I am covering the walls of my dot room with dolls and the actor will have a few attached to their black out suit and one on each hand.
I think this idea came from wanting to use my Big Baby costume that I made back in 2004. It isn’t a scary costume, but it is strange and very distracting. We set up the room to look like a child’s bedroom with oversized toy blocks spelling the word "DIE". On the bed was a giant pile of stuffed animals which was actually a person in costume who would pop up as the scare. We took an old jump suit and stitched stuffed animals all over it. One especially large teddy bear was used for the head of the actor.
THE BOTTOMLESS PIT
I was told about this one, but haven’t attempted to build it yet. The idea is that mirrors placed on the floor will create the illusion of a deep or bottomless pit. A board is placed across the mirror and hand rails can be placed on the walls. Painting the walls to look like brick helps the illusion by reflecting the pattern down into the pit. I was told that some people actually refuse to go across and complain to the management about how unsafe it is to have people walk across a pit like that. Most guests would cling to the rails as they cross.
The biggest obstacle to pulling this off is of course finding a mirror large enough and strong enough to survive whatever your guests might do. I guess there are shatterproof or plastic mirros out there that would be best to use. You could use 2 thinner mirrors placed on either side of the board if a single large mirror is too expensive. My plan was to make the pit about 3 feet wide by 4 feet long, although a nice 8 foot long pit would hopefully prevent people from trying to jump across.
I am not endorsing the use of these mirrors as I have never bought any of them, but a search for "shatterproof mirror" on google led me to this site: http://www.allbutgrownups.com/index.php?cat=c190_Mirrors.html
THE LASER VORTEX FOG TUNNEL
This is one of my favorite effects. Guests on the inside of the laser tunnel can’t see through to the outside of the tunnel, but the actors on the outside of the tunnel can see inside just fine. You can reach in through the edge of the tunnel with a giant prop claw, or simply lean into the tunnel so the guests see your profile.
IN THE SHADOWS
If you have a space with a nice high ceiling this is an awesome effect. First, hang a single bulb as high as you can in the middle of your space. It should be on a dimmer switch so you can bring the brightness way down to almost nothing. Don’t use any kind of reflective rim like you find on utility lights. A plain bulb in a socket works best. Next, build a long hallway out of thin sheets of plywood or luan so the walls are 8 feet high with no ceiling. It should be at least 16 feet long and about 3 or 4 feet wide. There needs to be space on the outside of the walls for your actors to hide.
Now randomly place boards across the top of the hallway so they cross each other between the 2 walls. Make sure the only light is coming from the single bulb hanging above the middle of the hallway. With the light turned all the way up, adjust the ceiling boards so they cast interesting shadows on the walls. You may need to double up a few boards to cast a wider shadow near the middle of each wall, preferably across from each other. These 2 shadows need to be wide enough for a person to fit through.
Trace the edges of all the shadows. Cut out the wider shadow on each wall. Paint all the other shadows with flat black paint. You will need to drape black fabric behind the holes to create a pocket for your actors to hide.
When the light is turned way down so it is barely glowing, it creates the illusion of casting the deep black shadows. Your actors can hide in the holes and jump out when guests pass by.
This is a Bald Brain original. We wanted something like an elevator, but different. Think of this as a spinning 8 sided room with 4 doors and 4 walls. You need to build a circular base with a pivot point in the middle, and a circular platform on wheels that rotates on top of the base.
(4) sheets of thick 4×8 plywood, at least 1/2" thick, but thicker is better.
(12) 8 foot lengths of 2×10.
(1) big box of 2" drywall screws.
(1) 1.5"OD pipe flange.
(1) 3"L x 1.5"OD threaded pipe.
(1) 1"OD pipe flange.
(1) 3"L x 1"OD threaded pipe.
(8) 1.5" lag screws to attach the flanges.
(12) 3" rigid rubber wheels (fixed inline, non-swivel)
First, cut all 4 sheets of plywood into a half circle so that 2 placed side by side would form an 8 foot diameter circle.
Building the base: Place 2 half circles of plywood side by side to form an 8 foot diameter circle. Draw a circle about 6 inches in from the outer edge, and a second inner circle with a 3.5 foot diameter. Join the 2 halves of plywood together with a 2×10 board down the seam and attaching with drywall screws. Cut pieces of 2×10 boards to form two fairly solid rings that cover the 2 circles. These rings will provide an even support for the wheels on the top layer. With the 2×10 boards against the floor and the plywood facing up, attach the 1.5" flange in the center of the circle using the lag screws. Screw in the 1.5" pipe. Tighten it with a pipe wrench.
Building the top layer: The top layer starts off the same as the bottom layer. Connect the 2 half circles with a 2×10 down the seam and add 2 rings of 2x10s just like the bottom layer. Attach the 1" OD pipe flange in the center on the bottom side instead. Now attach the 12 rubber wheels on the bottom side, evenly around the 2 circles, 8 oaround the outher circle and 4 around the inner circle. Position them so they are inline with a circular path.
Now flip the top layer over and place it on top of the bottom layer so the pipe from the top layer fits inside the pipe of the bottom layer. The top layer should now rotate easily around the center axis.
Lastly, build a room on top of the platform. I made mine with 8 sides, consisting of 4 doors and 4 walls. Only 1 door actually worked, so they entered and exited through the same door. I made the 4 walls look like the plaster was chipping away exposing the wooden slats. I used 4 large men dressed in any scary costume to stand on the outside and rotate the room. They could easily spin it with up to 8 guests inside. They could reach in between the slats in the walls and scare the guests into the center of the room.