6 Tips for creating the perfect haunted house
Transform your apartment into a haunted house for the holiday.
Some people throw Halloween parties. Even more creative cats host Dia de los Muertos parties. But few renters have the cajones to host their own haunted house. That’s largely because it’s hard to do it well on a budget but it is entirely possible.
1. Timing is everything: Timing is the most crucial factor in creating the perfect haunted house experience. From the moment that they get out of the car, your guests should be excited and a tad bit anxious. Have fiends meet them at the car and escort them to the apartment? Perhaps even toss in a few surprises on their way to the threshold.
Of course, once the haunted tour begins the quality of your timing matters even more. The least expected frights are the best ones, so aim to distract guests with one activity or exhibit while your cast of actors and booby traps operate in the background. It’s vital to have a few dress rehearsals when working with actors. Haunted houses do not work well on the fly. Use key words, marks on the floor, and other definitive markers to coordinate the timing of surprises.
2. Confine your guests: Erect boundaries. If you’ve got some hip apartment with an open floor plan, you’ve got no room to scare anyone. Create temporary walls using Asian-inspired partitions covered in bed sheets, or simply create frames using 2x4s. For the best effect, alternate wall materials so that you have a few spaces where surprises can pop out of what seems to be a solid surface.
By creating temporary boundaries, you instantly ignite your guests’ sense of fear (at least curiosity) in the unknown. With senses heightened, it’s easier to get everyone in on the haunt.
3. Save on your electric bill: It goes without saying that your haunted home should be dark, right? Darkness is a sensory boundary that pulls us into the unknown. It acts as a shroud for your actors and the rigging of your props as well. To achieve complete darkness, invest in a few blackout curtains for your apartment. Or really freak people out by boarding up the windows with a few recycled, raunchy looking ply boards (though this poses a fire hazard, if that matters to you. It might add to the fear factor).
4. Splurge on Makeup: Go for it on a makeup artist. Good makeup can cover the flaws of the worst Hey,-I’ll-pay-you-in-pizza-actor you can find. Good timing + excellent visuals= definite screams from guests. There is little room for error with where the actor is concerned. The makeup artist is also better than any Party City mask since she or he can work with the natural contours of each actors’ face for a more realistic effect. Help your artist by finding photos online that convey the sort of character you’re looking for.
5. Distorted reality is scarier than fiction: Think about it: the scariest villains in movies are the ones with human characteristics but…something is off. When creating characters for your haunted attraction, keep that in mind. Avoid the masks that look like funky goblins and opt for those that seem human and somehow unearthly. You may be able to avoid buying full-face masks all together if you splurge on a makeup artist.
6. Spooky tunes: Lastly, don’t forget the soundtrack. Your background music is at its best when choreographed in sync with your shocks and surprises. If you don’t have the resources for that much planning, at least do yourself the favor of having a steady loop of creep-tastic music. I don’t recommend using distinguishable soundtracks (like Halloween’s Theme, for example) because it will influence what your guests expect. Keep the music dark, ominous, and foreboding.
+1 Extra credit: Pay your neighbor’s kid with Kit Kats and ask them to paint their face white, keep their hair long and just sit in the corner staring at everyone who walks by. That will do that trick.