Ready to upgrade your home from a stop on the trick or treat trail to a Halloween destination? Forget the pumpkin in the window, and transform your house—or maybe just your basement—into a scary holiday attraction for the entire neighborhood to enjoy. Timothy Haskell, creator of New York City's most popular haunted house—dubbed by many as the scariest in town—offers up some tricks of the trade.
Do Your Research
In order for your haunted house to be scary, it's important to know what frightens people. So, poll your neighbors. "We ask questions like 'what do you fear the most?' or 'have you had any personal paranormal experiences?'" Haskell says. Do your research; there might be a frightening legend or story about your hometown that you can use to theme your haunted house.
Haskell's Five Must-Have Haunted House Features
1. Lots of twists and turns: People always should fear what lurks around the corner.
2. Darkly lit rooms: Everything is scarier in the dark.
3. Tons of strobe lights: Everything is more distorted, and thus more menacing, when you can't get a clean look at it because the strobe lights are skewing your vision.
4. Clowns: For some reason, everyone is terrified of these guys. Stick them in a room with some twisted circus music and no one wants to go in.
5. Sensory stimulation: Don't just assault the eyes; explore ways for people to hear, smell, feel and even taste the experience. If you put someone in a dark room with the sound of scurrying rats, the smell of a damp basement, and some wiry little tails stuck to the walls at ankle length to simulate what feels like a rat, as far as they are concerned there is a rat in there with them.
Haskell's Easy Ideas for Special Effects
1. Put on an all black outfit and place yourself against a black backdrop.
2. Decorate the back of your outfit with something big and colorful that could be sitting on a table, like a flower display or place setting; make sure it covers the back of your arms as well.
3. Lie your face down on the coffee table so that it looks like table decorations.
4. When people pass by you lift up and scare them good.
1. Take a piece of plywood and affix plunger heads to it (suction facing down) all the way up and down the bottom of it.
2. Make this a path in your home. It becomes a squishy, wobbly easy effect.
1. Paint your face completely black and video-tape yourself against a black background.
2. Do interesting things with your eyes and mouth.
3. Put it in a tree across the street—or ask your neighbor across the street to let you use an upstairs room and point the projector out the window.
4. Project the video onto your house, lining up your eyes with the upstairs windows and your mouth with the door. It will make it seem like your house has come to life!
Haskell's Things to Avoid
Trip hazards. Make sure that anything that could be tripped over is either smoothed over, or protected by a ramp covering.
Fire. Certainly no open flames, but also nothing that generates a lot of heat that could also catch something else on fire.
Hidden exits. It might ruin your ambiance, but it is not worth it to not make exits clear and accessible.