How to Make a Haunted House
I have extremely fond memories growing up where my friends and I would shuffle through haunted houses at our local amusement park in Pittsburgh during Halloween time. We would constantly push each other to the front of the line to try and avoid a jump scare, simultaneously screaming and laughing. To this day, I still love a good scare; so, I wanted to share my plan for how to make a haunted house.
I once worked as the producer on this reality show where the crew had to create a haunted house for our talent. It was fun to finally be on the other side, but it took a lot of planning. From that, I learned a bunch about how to make the perfect haunted house.
Below I’ll break down the steps for you to how to make a haunted house:
Location, location, location
Every good haunted house starts with the perfect location. It can be in a creepy basement or made in your garage.
When we were filming this reality show, our talent had an old barn on their property. It was the perfect location with multiple rooms to move through and it came with built in cobwebs. To top it off, it had a couple live rats that lived there as well.
Hot Tip: The better the location, with twists and turns and a creepy vibe, the less work you have to do to decorate.
Map out path
Once you know where you are going to set up your haunted house, it is best to map out the path that your “victims” are going to be taking.
We had a sort of theme to each section or room of the haunted house. For example, we knew that the kids would enter by crawling into the haunted house. Then, they would then make their way through a room of spiders and down a hallway where we planned some jump scares.
Mapping out your path helps you plan where you will need decorations and how to maximize your space. If you have one big open room, you can make walls by stacking up cardboard boxes or hanging dark sheets to create a maze.
Pick a theme
If you go to any major amusement park that hosts a haunted night, then you will recognize that all of their haunted houses have a theme to them. Having a theme helps dictate things like decorations, sounds, and costumes.
Common theme ideas include zombie apocalypse, mad scientist lab, vampires, or spooky clowns. You can also theme your haunted house based on popular television shows like Stranger Things or classic slasher films.
Haunted house props
Decorations help give off a spooky vibe and give your haunted house character. From cobwebs to big scary monsters, the details help complete your haunted house and can help take your theme to the next level.
An easy way to stock up on decorations is to shop in the off season or at your local dollar store. Halloween supplies go on super sale the day after Halloween.
Another way to gather props is to take the DIY approach and make your own. On set, we bought plastic drop cloths and used paint to make bloody handprints.
DIY n Crafts has a lot of good ideas on how to make your own gruesome haunted house props.
Set the mood in your haunted house by having low lighting and turning off all overhead lighting. You want to keep it dark, but give your guests enough light so they can see and avoid any tripping hazards.
You can use black lights, string lights, or strobe lights to change the environment. Also, consider using large mirrors as a way to reflect light.
Just like in movies, the background music and sounds are what really create a terrifying experience. Try watching the movie Jaws without the sound; it just isn’t the same.
Do the same for your haunted house and create a creepy soundtrack with eery sounds like wind blowing, werewolves howling, or piercing screams. You can find a number of different options on Spotify like the one below:
A fog machine can be a great way to take your haunted house up a notch. It can help create a hazy, spooky atmosphere that instantly puts people on edge.
I caution you against using a fog machine in small spaces though as you obviously want to make sure your guests can breathe. Try turning on the fog machine to fill the space, but then turning it off as guests walk through.
Let’s be real; the best part of any haunted house are the jump scares. Nowadays, there are many Halloween props you can buy that are activated by motion sensor to jump out as your guests walk by.
The best jump scare is one that distracts people with something else so they don’t expect it. Therefore, when mapping out your haunted house path, find places where your guests can be looking at one prop before something else jumps out at them.
Use live actors
Make jump scares even more scary by using live actors to surprise your guests. Have them in costumes related to your haunted house theme with gruesome make-up.
There are two different ways actors can be placed within a haunted house. They can either hide and jump out as people walk by or be hidden in plain sight. Sometimes the scariest actors are the ones who just slowly walk towards someone making them extremely uncomfortable.
If you want to take the scare factor to the max, then have one of your actors use a chainsaw without the chain. The sound alone will have people running for the exit.
If you are making a haunted house on a smaller scale, try to make your haunted house interactive for your guests. Perhaps they need to crawl through a smaller space or walk through a room with spiderwebs.
Hot Tip: Fishing line hanging from the ceiling can feel like guests are walking through spiderwebs. It is guaranteed to get some frightening reactions.
My favorite type of activity for any haunted house or Halloween party is blindly sticking your hand in jars to feel certain “body parts”. For example, dried apricots feel like ears or grapes with the skin removed feel like eyeballs.
Adding an interactive element can help your guests feel more involved as an active participant, thus creating a more memorable experience.
Best haunted house props
With a little imagination, a haunted house can come together pretty quickly. Some basic props that can help enhance your haunted house include spider webs, skeletons, and motion activated characters.
Projections also are a great way to fill the space easily. In our haunted house for television, we used a projection of zombie hands on a white sheet. It was a good way to distract our talent before someone jumped out at them.
Finally, fake blood is a must for keeping things spooky in your haunted house. Bloody handprints and body parts can easily make your guests uneasy.
The best part of haunted house is the anticipation of something happening, so just remember to have fun with it. Even if you can’t afford the most elaborate props, low lighting and spooky atmospheric music will do a lot of the heavy lifting for you.
Show me your haunted house on Instagram! Remember to tag me @makeaplanblog so I can see it.