DOCKSIDE JOURNAL ENTRY / October 10, 2018
How to Build the Perfect Haunted House
Nothing says October more than a spooky haunted house! Not only is it a fun fall staple, but an imaginative ghostly manse also can be a great way to promote your business or treat your employees and their families.
At SHW, we love working with our clients to design and produce creative and interactive haunted houses, appropriate for all ages. You can check out one of our favorite haunted houses from last year in a behind-the-scenes video below. Want to get started on your own? Here are a few expert tips to create the perfect haunted house this season:
Ghosts or Goblins? Know your audience
Blood and gore? Or funny surprises? It’s important to determine your target audience when choosing themes of a haunted house. If the event is for families, be sure to make everything age-appropriate. For example, gore and headless ghosts might terrify young kids, but be the perfect solution for the young adult crowd who love a good freakout.
To appeal to a broader audience, consider two separate routes, with different fear levels. Intuitive (mind-reading?) actors can guide people based on their behavior. Or post clever directional signs: “To the pumpkin patch!” vs. “To the deepest, darkest, scariest place in the forest.”
Pro tip: If you’re planning a public event, knowing the audience you’re marketing to is a good place to start. Some quick research can help determine the best ticket price, and you can you can use that info to work backwards and build your budget.
Special effects (SPFX in theater speak – did you learn something new?) can be inexpensive but effective to set the scene. Simple pipe and drape, dim uplighting, creepy background noises, and fog turns any room into a spooky locale. For low budget sound effects, you can find spooky sounds on a loop through Spotify for almost any Halloween theme. Fog machines are cheap to rent, or use a tub of dried ice and a fan.
Pro tip: when we run low, we run out to the grocery store to buy dry ice from the butcher counter.
Also, check out our recent blog post to learn more about how lighting can transform an audience experience.
People are creepier than things
As event planners, we believe in the power of meeting face-to-face. Especially at a haunted house.
For a not-so-scary scene, happy fun characters helping with activities or passing out candy is a good way to engage the little ones. Want to freak them out? Nothing beats a serious scare from behind a hidden door.
The key is to know what is expected, then do the opposite.
Not only does using actors make a haunted house more exciting and realistic, it’s a good way to keep the flow of guests moving along. Using actors to create an interactive experience helps also engage guests to feel like they’re a part of the story.
Which brings us to…
Tell a story
Your haunted house will be most impactful if you’re thoughtful about the journey that builds throughout the route.
The best spooky houses guide guests through a series of vignettes that support an overall theme. For example, a haunted school house might have a hell’s kitchen in the cafeteria, quicksand on the playground, and a torture chamber in the library. Turning the mundane into something macabre is your best bet.
Once you’ve settled on a theme, set the tone before they even step foot inside. Are they walking their way through a haunted mansion, each room more spooky than the last? Are they on a journey through classic fables? Introduce them to the idea upfront to keep them in suspense!
Extend the experience
Don’t forget about before and after! You can build excitement for your event through creative invites or announcements.
Who says waiting in lines isn’t fun? Once they’re there, use basic décor or character actors to entertain attendees in your line space.
Also make sure to provide a transition space once guests leave the final vignette. Activities like a photo booth or craft station give guests a chance to socialize and decompress together – and keep everyone talking long after they’ve left.
Some quick Haunted House tips:
Use all the senses – sight, sound, touch (slime is good), smell, taste.
Clowns are scary.
Stuff in the face makes people uncomfortable. Think spider webs, chains, netting.
Red eyes. Ew.
Fog, fog, and more fog.
Want to learn more about how SHW can help create a haunted house this year? You can reach us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through our online RFP tool.