101+ Ideas to Create a Scary Haunted House
Make Yours the Best One Around
Do you want to create a haunted house for Halloween? Make it a fun and scary experience for all who enter its creaky doors and brush past the sticky spider webs.
Most of these ideas can be used to turn your home into a mini-haunted house or transform one room into a terrifying experience. You could even set up a porch to scare the heck out of the trick-or-treaters.
Here's a wealth of ideas. Planning, mapping, safety issues, making it scary, getting props and costumes, making up the characters... you're guaranteed to find some good tips here.
Photos of Haunted HousesClick thumbnail to view full-size
22 Concept Ideas to Make It Really Scary!
Scary Rooms and Scenarios to Design for Your Haunted House
- Autopsy room
- Hell's kitchen
- Potions cellar
- Graveyard or tomb
- Operation room or medical experimentation chamber
- Insane asylum
- Murder scene or chamber
- Witches' coven
- Cage, prison, or dungeon
- A creature's hole or den
- Nuclear disaster zone
- Evil scientist's laboratory
- Crooked hospital
- Deserted orphanage
- Haunted motel
- School of the depraved
- Ritual of human sacrifice
- A zoo for people
- Giant spider's web or nest
- Medieval torturing chamber
- A house where every member of the family went insane for different reasons
- Ghost or demon child found torturing their stuffed animals
- Circus of the demented
- Crazy butcher
14 Ideas and Tips for Your Design
- Something unexpected is always scarier than something you saw coming, so keep that in mind when you design your haunted house. Things might pop out, jump, or fall. A well-timed scream will amplify the terror!
- Don't forget to appeal to all the senses: sight, smell, touch, sound, and taste.
- Having a mixture of automated (battery-run) devices and real humans playing roles adds to the fear factor, since your guests won't know which is which.
- If you're planning on having a tour guide walking guests through, spend some time writing a really great script for the guide. A scary story can make the props even more horrifying!
- Remember that tension, distraction, empathy, story, suspense, threat, and familiarity all add to the terror of a situation.
- Remember: Clowns, dolls, and loud noises are always scary!
- Something else to consider: For very young guests, some kinds of scary might be just too much. Have a plan for downplaying the terror for the young ones. You might even design an emergency exit just in case your house is too haunted for the littlest visitors!
Here are a few good tips from Fast CoDesign about designing awesome haunted houses:
- Play off of the building's features. If you're doing it at your home, maybe turn it into an orphanage that was shut down by the government because of cruelty, or a place where a family member went crazy and murdered everyone
- Employ different types of scares. Draw people's attention towards some element, and then scare them from the opposite direction. Or, draw them in towards something and then have something pop out of it that scares them. You could also have three separate scares in a row.
- Narrative can help improve the experience by giving context for people's enjoyment
- Try to construct the path so that it's difficult for people to see the scares that are coming — curves, walls, and fog can all help with that mission
- Use the stuff-in-face-effect, where people have to push things out of their face in order to move through
- Think about where people will jump when they're scared. You should always try to scare them forward, not back, or into a wall or something that could hurt them.
- There are a few things that professional scarers use that generally evoke fear: people moving from a large open space to a small space, areas where visibility is limited (such as from darkness or fog), and flickering lights, which gives the impression that something is wrong
Build a Backyard Haunted House Cheaply
46 Haunted House Prop Ideas
- Anything cute and friendly that has turned terrifying and creepy, like a baby doll with its eyes cut out, or a teddy bear that's being tortured
- Faces coming out of places, like walls, mirrors, or watching in the windows. You could make it look like a face is pressing up against the backside of a wall trying to get out.
- Spray painted messages of doom, death, or insanity
- Gravestones, coffins, or crypts
- Flickering lighting
- Red lighting
- Make glowing eyes, put eyes on the walls, or make your windwos look like eyes are peering through them
- Make your house cluttered and maze-like
- Bloody limbs, torsos with missing limbs, bloody hair, eyes, and teeth,
- Jars full of bloody teeth and what looks like fingernail clippings
- Flies taped to the walls or doors, or floating in pools of water
- Dead animal or corpse floating in a pool of water
- Jars of glowing or chemical substances
- Cheesecloth, spiderwebbing, or just old, dirty sheets hanging down from the ceiling
- Piles of skulls
- Hands poking out of unexpected places
- Dolls that have been tortured or have their eyes sewn shut (video tutorials for this)
- Hands pressing on windows trying to escape
- Gas masks or hazmat suits
- People bound and gagged or corpses who were bound and gagged
- Chainsaws, knives, bent forks, sharpened spoons or bloody toothbrushes
- Cages with children's toys in them
- Black out the eyes of your photographs
- Spellbooks (or make your books look like spellbooks)
- Blood-spattered votive jars
- Spiders hanging from the wall
- Heads in a jar
- Blood spattered walls
- Scary red eyes on adorable animals
- Bloody rags or bandages
- Bloody baby clothes
- Crime scene tape
- Bloody tools
- Evil pumpkins
- Haunted portraits
Add Some Spooky Looking Dolls
19 Creepy Things to Write on the Walls
Or on the door, underside of the toilet seat, or anywhere else that might catch a haunted-house comer's eye
- Death to all who enter here.
- HELP US!!!
- (Scratches on the wall)
- Don't lose your head . . . . .
- darkness comes
- bad sad bad sad bad sad bad sad bad sad bad sad
- help me.
- please, God, please, let me live
- There is no God here
- hope doesn't help
- Forget hope.
- Don't close your eyes
- why me why me why me?
- I need blood, lots of blood
- It will be back
Using Dry Ice for That Creepy-Looking Fog
Spooky Sound Effects
Don't forget to have a terrifying soundtrack for the evening. Eerie noises include . . .
- Screams, moans, laughter
- Banging (footsteps, hammers, pots and pans)
- Children's songs (sung slowly or whispered)
- Dripping, echoes, heavy breathing
- The sound of metal against metal or nails on a chalkboard
- Sirens or alarms
- Wind and thunder
- An out-of-tune instrument
- Creepy carnival music
- Classical music (Saint-Saëns' Danse Macabre, Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain)
Make your own noises or buy a CD. Mix and match to get just the right sound for your party or haunted house.
Make a Halloween Corpse for the Haunted House
Other Scary Prop Ideas
You'll need prop people, too: How about a butler standing by the door holding a tray of disgusting "treats"? Or a devil emerging from the ground, a zombie-like mom sitting in a rocker with a ghostly baby, or a adult-sized baby trapped in a cage? How about a portrait where the face changes? You can't go wrong with a severed head or a mad scientist in his lab.
If you don't have many actors, you might consider making or buying stand-ins. Get something that's animated to really creep people out. Another animated prop to up your horror factor is a figure that lunges at visitors.
Have a bowl full of overcooked spaghetti, peeled grapes, boiled tapioca, hardboiled eggs, tofu, jelly, or other gooey stuff— blindfold your guests and have them stick their hand in the bowl and guess what they're touching.
Character Roles for Your Haunted House
Scary Characters and Performers
These are just some of the roles that might need filling:
- Scary-looking people and creatures to greet visitors
- Guides to walk guests through
- Mad scientists, murderers, ghosts, and other scary characters to pop out at people along the way
- Someone (or two or three) may be needed to make realistic sound effects (screaming, moaning, banging pots and pans together, etc.)
- Someone (or more) to stand behind the scenes to work the props
- Hide someone with a mask on in the woods and scare people as they're coming up to the house
James explains how he prepares (with equipment and practice) for being a "slider" at an event. Dressed as a werewolf, he would make a dramatic entrance sliding in and leaping up to scare the heck out of visitors. Watch the video below to see how it looks!
My husband worked for a haunted house attraction one year. He wore his black cloak and spoke Shakespeare in a loud, creepy voice as the guests entered. He loved it.— Granny Sage
Sliding Techniques and Creepy Characters for Your Spooktacular
What Kind of Haunted House Are You Planning?
Vote in the poll
Ideas for Scaring People
Scary and Funny Ideas for the Yard
Take a Tour Through a Scary Haunted House
Some Helpful Links for Your Spook Fest
How to Plan for Your Haunted House
Planning is super-important. To put on a top-notch event, as soon as you finish this year's creep-fest, you should start planning for the next one. What worked and what didn't? Build on your strengths, invest in some good quality props, and next year will be your best haunted house yet.
Here's a proposed timeline to get you started.
Several Weeks Before the Big Day
Choose the space you will use and begin to brainstorm ideas. Involve the kids as much as possible! Begin going through the closets and garage to see what props and materials you already have. Ask to borrow items you don't have from friends and neighbors. If there are items you'll need to buy, you should do that as far ahead of time as possible. Note: Sometimes store-bought props are cheaper than the time and materials it would take to make the prop yourself, so shop around before you decide.
A Couple of Weeks Before the Day
Begin to enlist help and assign roles. Make a list of all the things you still need to do and then assign each job. If you are making certain items, start now so you'll have plenty of time to finish. Make sure to get the word out, too—either put up some posters, send out emails, or invite your friends!
A Week Before the Big Day
Clear out the space you'll be using. For example, if you will be using only the porch of your house, then clear it of all unnecessary items of furniture and other clutter.
Several Days Ahead of Time
Begin setting up the decorations. Plan a flow chart or a map of how visitors to your haunted house will move through it.
A Couple Days Before
Do a dress rehearsal to make sure the costumes and props work and everyone knows what to do. This is your opportunity to do a test run to make sure the flow chart will make sense to your visitors and they won't get lost. It's also your last chance to make sure the route is free of tripping, fire, or other safety hazards. Note: It's good to make some house rules ahead of time. For example, a no-touching rule is often a good policy!
On the Big Day
Arrive early. If the haunting will last for several hours, make sure you have a plan for relieving actors so they can take a break.
Don't forget to make assignments for cleaning up and returning any items you borrowed. You'll definitely need some help with this.
© 2010 Virginia Allain