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Ditch those namby-pamby clichés like skeleton decals and peeled-grape eyeballs. This year, give your guests a real scare.
Pregnant women, people with heart conditions, and those who are photosensitive to flashing lights, like some epileptics, should not visit haunted houses.
Step 1: Build on a theme
Base your design on a theme. Classics like "insane asylum" or "serial killer-plagued campground" will give you lots of material to play with.
The more thorough and specific your details, the scarier your haunted house will be.
Step 2: Pick a scary location
Consider holding your event at or near a scary location, like an old graveyard.
Make sure it's a safe — and legal — location. Things will be less scary if the cops shut you down halfway through the night.
Step 3: Work in live-action stunts
Liven up your haunted house with live-action stunts. Enlist a few costumed friends, and have them grab onto guests, create eerie effects, and make stationary tableaus come to life.
Step 4: Incorporate different textures
Incorporate different unidentifiable textures. Create sudden mists using spray bottles and force guests to walk through black thread or clingy cotton webbing, which is available at craft or convenience stores around Halloween.
Step 5: Tailor your sound effects
Instead of the same old cackling witches and clanking chains, tailor sound effects to your theme. Give each room a different soundtrack, and work in a few unexpected noise triggers.
Use silence to your advantage. A lack of sound can help to build suspense.
Step 6: Create a mist
Use a fog machine, which you can rent or buy at a stage or lighting store, to create a ghoulish creeping mist.
Step 7: Set up strobe lights
Use strobe lights to disorient your guests. Set the lights to make the action seem to take place in an eerie slow motion.
Step 8: Use blindfolds
Consider blindfolding your guests and having them feel their way through parts of the house. Alternately, keep things dark, and make your guests find their way with flashlights.
Step 9: Provide one way out
Let guests know at the start that there's only one way out -- the exit at the end of the tour. This single-exit strategy will help to ratchet up the excitement and tension, and keep your guests eagerly pushing forward through your house of horrors.
Did You Know?
In 2005, a four-story haunted house named Erebus in Pontiac, Michigan, was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest walk-through haunted attraction.