Michelle and her family are Halloween buffs who have constructed haunted mazes and trails for family parties and for-profit ventures.
Building your own haunted maze for Halloween doesn't necessarily mean plowing your backyard for a field of corn or hiring a stonemason to construct walls on your property. You can build a Halloween maze out of simple materials like cardboard boxes or sheets. It's not about what your maze is made out of—it's about how scary you make it!
You've probably been in or at least seen a Halloween maze. Perhaps you've explored a corn maze at a local farm or a hay bale labyrinth at garden center. Maybe you've visited commercial haunted houses during the Halloween season. Many of these are set up like a maze: there's one entrance and one exit, and in between, there are lots of twists, turns, and dead-ends to throw you off course. While you're trying to find your way out, all sorts of scary things happen. Strobe lights flash, ghosts and monsters jump out, and spooky music plays in the background.
Planning Your Haunted Maze
There are three important things to keep in mind when planning to set up your own haunted maze this Halloween. Consider each of these carefully when determining how your project will work.
- Safety: Fire is the most significant safety risk you'll encounter when building your own maze. You'll need to coat your covering materials in a fire retardant spray or use materials that have a high flashpoint. Check with your local fire department for recommendations and state and local ordinance requirements. Many will do a flame test for you on your materials.
- Age of Visitors: It's important to remember to build a maze that's age-appropriate. You'll find some tips to help you with that further down the page.
- Space: Don't worry, you can build a maze in a space as small as your living room, garage, or basement. Watch the video below to see just how much you can fit into a two-car garage. Or, if the weather's nice enough in your area, you can build a really scary haunted Halloween maze right in your backyard.
The Maze Building Process
Now that you've thought about your maze's location and size as well as its safety and age considerations, it's time to get into specifics. There are four major steps to creating your own haunted Halloween maze:
- Decide what materials you will use for the walls
- Sketch your plan
- Create the walls
- Add scary effects
1. Select a Material for Your Maze's Walls
In 2014, we actually turned a part of our home into a haunted house to support a local fundraising cause. Because the size of our house didn't allow us to create lots of twists and turns and rooms—we still had to live there, after all—we did as much as we could inside the lower floor of the home, then extended the maze outside onto our large back deck.
We turned a part of the deck into a total blackout maze that by creating walls with donated wood skids/pallets. Next, we covered the pallets in heavy cardboard and then thick, black, plastic trash bags. To ensure the safety of our guests, we had these coverings flame tested in order to meet local fire codes.
A year later, we went commercial as Hagan's House of Horrors. We created a 16,000+ square foot haunted house in a leased space. It included two complete blackout mazes that were constructed in the same fashion as our previous year's maze. If something works, why change it? In 2016, we built our own post-frame building on our property to contain our haunt and created yet another maze in the same way.
While pallets have always worked great for us, there are other cheap and free materials with which you can construct your own haunt. The maze will be dark, and people won't notice what the walls are made out of as long as it's scary.
If you're building a maze for young children, large cardboard boxes make really great building blocks. Just cut holes large enough for the children to crawl through in the ends of each box and line the boxes up in a maze pattern on the floor of your basement or garage. Place the boxes open-side-down against the floor.
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After you've designed your layout, paint and decorate the insides of the boxes. Poke small holes in some of them and place a flashlight or strobe light outside so it makes a light pattern inside the maze. Use glow-in-the-dark stars and moons to make it creepier. Hang rubber spiders and webbing from the "ceilings" of the boxes to tickle the kids as they crawl through.
To create walls using old sheets, you will use ropes to create "clotheslines" where you want your walls to be. If you're working outside, anchor the rope to trees, porch railings, or any other fixed object at the correct height. You can also plant tent poles or dowels firmly into the ground and use those as anchors. Then, simply hang sheets over the lines to make the walls of your maze. Always spray sheets with fire retardant.
For our commercial haunt in 2015, we cleaned a Walmart in our area out of queen and king-sized black sheets. They made great backdrops for a wide variety of sets!
Drop Cloths and Tarps
If you don't have that many extra sheets lying around, get sheets of black painter's plastic, drop cloths, old tarps, or even old curtains or shower curtains. Again, it's going to be dark, and people aren't really going to be looking at what your maze is made of as long as it's scary!
2. Sketch a Plan for Your Maze
Once you've decided what to build your walls out of, you can begin sketching your maze's layout.
Materials You'll Need for Planning
- Graph paper
- Measuring tape
How to Plan the Layout of Your Maze
- Measure the length of each wall along the perimeter of the space you'll be using for your Halloween maze. Then sketch a scaled version of the space on your graph paper. Use one square on your paper to represent every foot.
- Plot your maze on the graph paper. Be sure to include at least one long passageway where you can work in plenty of scary details like fog or a pulsing light show.
- Include some false walls for your monsters to hide behind so they can jump out and scare your guests.
Note: If children will be visiting your haunt, keep your maze simple and be sure to include at least two exits that can be found easily from inside.
3. Construct Your Maze's Walls
Once your materials are acquired and your plans are sketched, you can begin the construction process. This is where your haunt will really start coming together.
- Following your sketched layout, rope off your maze or lay out your boxes.
- If you're building your maze with tent poles or dowels, you'll only need to place them wherever a wall begins or ends unless you're making some really long maze segments. If you're using boxes, don't tack them down until you've decorated the insides.
- Once you have your tent poles or dowels in place, run a rope from pole to pole, up near the top. This will create a sort of clothesline.
- Drape your sheets, tarps, or painter's plastic over the "clotheslines" to create the walls of your maze.
In the video below, you can see how plastic can be used to turn a small space into several rooms.
4. Add Some Scary Effects to Your Maze
Once you have your walls up, it's time to start adding some frightening decorations. Ideally, your visitors should be stumbling around in the dark through fog laced with occasional bursts of light. Cobwebs should brush their faces, and a monster should lurk in the shadows and jump out at them at every turn.
In the past, we've had success using the following techniques in our mazes. Use some or all of these ideas to give your haunted maze an authentically spooky feel.
Every horror movie has at least one foggy scene, and your maze will only be scarier if there's an eerie mist rolling in! Remember this simple "maze math" equation: strobe lights + fog = disorientation.
Dry ice will work in a pinch, of course, but it's just plain messy and you need to be careful because it can seriously burn your skin. Never touch it with your bare hands—always wear leather gloves or an oven mitt.
We used the best-selling fog machine on Amazon for our haunted maze in 2014, and it was fine for inside the house. We purchased three and ran them for about a minute every quarter-hour. It kept pretty good coverage inside, though it dissipated a lot faster outside.
When you buy a fog machine, keep in mind that a pint of the fog solution won't go far if you're running the machine for more than a few hours. You won't need a gallon if you're only using the machine for an evening, but buy an extra pint or two so that you're covered just in case (the stuff on Amazon is about $8 a pint and $15-30 a gallon, depending on the brand).
The second part of the "Maze Math" equation is strobe lights. All the best horror stories start with "It was a dark and stormy night." Make your Halloween maze scarier than a B-movie by using strobe lighting to illuminate all of your creepy, crawly creatures and decorations.
Yes, it's spookier if your Halloween haunted maze is dark and foggy, but make sure you have enough lighting for people to be able to safely navigate from the entrance to the exit. Remember, if you're building a maze that's going to be used primarily by children, you'll want to have plenty of lighting. A maze built for adults can be just as dark and gloomy as you like.
No matter what age group is going to be touring your haunted maze, always plan for safety. Don't have your monsters wielding real weapons: no knives, no hatchets, and definitely no chainsaws.
You really have no way of knowing how anyone is going to react when they're in your haunted maze, so it's critical that you keep sharp and dangerous instruments out of it. If you want, you can buy props of weapons designed especially for realistic Halloween scares.
Ceiling and Floor
Don't rig anything that might catch around a guest's neck or feet, and make sure the floor of your maze is free of clutter so people can easily walk or crawl.
If you can't fit a whole monster, use part of one. Use prosthetic hands, feet, and organs to make your haunted maze more frightening.
Coffins make for great decoration. Stand a cardboard coffin in one of the corners. Even if it's closed, people will wonder if there's something inside. It's just one more creepy reason your guests will love your haunted maze.
Music and Sounds
Play a soundtrack. Sound effects are the icing on the cake. Get a couple scary Halloween CDs and have a combination of creepy music and sound effects going on in the background. The noises will increase the tension inside the maze and make your guests even more terrified.
Our Haunted Maze From 2015
Videos of Other Haunted Mazes
- Canada's Wonderland Haunted Maze
- Haunted Halloween Maze
- Slaughterhouse Haunted Maze
- Knott's Scary Farm Haunted Maze
Questions & Answers
Question: My mom has already 30 pallets laying around and I was wondering if this would be enough to make the whole maze ?
Answer: To make our walls high enough to accommodate full-sized adults we used a pallet and a half by splitting some of them with a Sawzall and then connecting the two pieces with braces and wood screws. You might be able to do a small one as a blackout maze like the one in the photograph that we did the first year on our deck. Those deck squares are 16x16 and we left room down one side for a bypass and at the exit before the next step down so our maze was approximately 14x14.
Question: We're making a maze for this October, starting now in August, would you suggest building a maze from black sheets?
Answer: We would only suggest using black sheets under two conditions: 1. You can obtain them relatively inexpensively. They can be costly, and you might need many. 2. Most importantly, no matter the type of haunt you're doing - home, charity, or commercial - the safety of your guests is paramount. If you use sheets, you must spray them with something that is flame retardant that has the approval of your local and state fire laws. In our area, we used black plastic sheeting with a high flashpoint for such a material to cover our original pallet structure, and then we had a flame test done by the local fire department.
Most materials you're going to be using for construction will burn. You want to look for things that give you and your crew time to react and handle a situation, should one arise. Make sure you have plenty of fire extinguishers on hand, your actors know where the closest one is to their area and they know how to use them as well. If you cover those two basics; fire retardant/high flashpoint and readily available extinguishers, you can use any darkening material.
Question: How can you hang black sheets in your garage?
Answer: You can hang them along ropes or wires by either clipping them to the line or by threading the line through the doubled over the top part of the sheet after snipping both ends open. Please be careful to hang them high enough that they go over the heads of even your tallest guests to prevent choking hazards and so they don't trail the floor and present a tripping hazard in the dark. Finally, remember for safety to spray them liberally with a fire retardant spray like 'No Burn,' 'Flame Shield,' 'Force Field Fire Guard,' or something similar.
Noah on February 21, 2020:
Can you tell me how to make a maze easy one for whatever I want to do mazes!
Mike Olson on August 15, 2018:
If your going to build out of flammable materials, make sure to apply a fire retardant spray like Flamex PF-2. We use this product every year on our haunted house for extra protection
Msmithok3 on September 27, 2017:
I am going to build a Maze out of 2 by 8 ft resin pieces in a Walmart parking lot. We are having a fall festival and I thought it would be fun to create something unique. The ideas above are great. I would love any tips you can think of to help me in this. It will only be 2 feet tall and during the day, so the path is going to need to be interesting.
George clingerman on September 27, 2017:
I am going to build a haunted maze in my backyard with a circus theme and the backstory is that the clowns went crazy and took over everything my rooms are going to be made out of wood for the walls with black tarps on them and old sheets for the hallways. My question is what kind of wood should I use for the walls that won't break me financially and will be stable?
MARY BALKWILL/ BEARS DEN on September 19, 2017:
OUR CHEERLEARDS DO A MAZE EVERY YEAR, THANKS FOR THEE SUGGESTIONS
Michelle on August 28, 2017:
I think next year I'll add a small maze to my backyard. I already have a fire pit that I can add to the affect. Just need to put a gate on the other side of my yard so there is an exit. Super excited to do this next year!
StingrayH2O on July 23, 2017:
We are planning an outdoor maze to incorporate some of the animations we got last year. We are going to have that lead into the entrance of an old cinder block pig barn in which we are going to have more animated items ( jumping rabid dog, lunging werewolf, scarecrow swing, lunging pumpkin girl, etc) along with human interactions which will be in association with the animations. And of course zombies and clowns once they leave the building.
Ruby Mitchell on September 16, 2016:
im going to add heaps of really scary jump scars!!!
ladyGrail on September 03, 2016:
Plan to make a 4 year old friendly haunted house in my back yard with sheet walls and cardboard maze
Joshua on August 15, 2016:
My idea is my entire house will be used, excluding bathrooms and the attic, I will even use the backyard, and each room will be a common phobia people have. For example, the basement/playroom will be the doll room, for people who have a fear of dolls. The backyard will be the entrance and there will also be a serial killer with a chainsaw chasing the guests into the house.
Michelle (author) from Central Ohio, USA on June 24, 2015:
Check back here for Halloween 2015. Our plan is to go full commercial with a building our town is acquiring!
Tris on September 28, 2014:
My family hosts a haunted maze every year, we live near the woods, so rather than building an elaborate maze, we have people walk through trails in the woods. Fog machines are great, and so are strobe lights, but make sure you don't put in too many, people would just get headaches. What's really fun is if you have water balloons and blow them up rather then filling them with water, people will step on the creating loud noises and adding to the fun! Another great idea is glow in the dark spiderwebs. We use these every year, and they look perfectly realistic
anonymous on June 20, 2013:
We are working on a Killer Klowns From Outer Space themed haunt this year but we didn't know how to build a maze and this helped so much thanks to all you guys
mattcut on March 30, 2013:
Awesome ! (and spooky!) LOVE IT ! Thanks dearly !
anonymous on October 29, 2012:
Me and my friends are building a Zombie Maze in my garden in Kelowna, Canada. Should be good and was just looking for some tips how to finish it all off, this is great. We are going to have a little bit of a story with ours too, mad scientist finds a way to bring people back from the dead, and then all hell breaks loose ... thanks for the tips!
anonymous on October 14, 2012:
im doing it for a party with my friend shes not fully convinced but i am
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on October 10, 2012:
This is worth a try this Halloween.
cgbroome on October 03, 2012:
It's been years since I've been to a maze. Being empty nesters, we don't get to do things like this anymore - at least not until our grandkids get a little older. Something to look forward to.
Jemecan on October 01, 2012:
Would like to see someone else's first.
Brandi from Maryland on September 28, 2012:
I would love to do this...maybe I'll come up with a maze for our unfinished basement for the kids. Won't be scary or "haunted", more fun and cute because my kids are little, but they will love it! Thanks for the super ideas!
anonymous on September 26, 2012:
I am doing a maze partially based off of the scary new game "Slender". We plan on doing it in a school where the maze is basically already set out with a few rooms the guests will have to enter. I'm excited for this and would love to hear some ideas from anyone with them.
Elyn MacInnis from Shanghai, China on September 21, 2012:
I love the sound of corn mazes when there is a breeze. What a beautiful sound it is... Blessings!
Charlene Delfin from Manila on September 21, 2012:
A totally unique Lens! Thank you for the tips, because I've been thinking of creating my own maze! I'd would love to create something similar to the maze in the movie, "The Shining" (but, of course, not as huge).
ajiswitchy on September 16, 2012:
every year we have a holloween party for our kids this is an awesome idea, seeing as my kids asked to decorate the upstairs to, so the playroom/attic will be a great place to do this. thanx for the idea.
KimGiancaterino on September 14, 2012:
Boo-lessed! Happy Halloween 2012!
Scanabella on September 14, 2012:
this is really cool! Unique and Extraordinary!
games_rush on September 05, 2012:
Tea Pixie on September 05, 2012:
I live in an apartment. I would have to make a maze from the front door to the bathroom! ;) But, honestly? I absolutely love Halloween and loads of people in the houses around here decorate, but no one does mazes. I may just have to influence someone to do a sheet maze. This is such an awesome, totally cool idea!!!
halloweenprops on September 01, 2012:
Never heard of a haunted maze before. Sounds like fun!
Ardyn25 on August 28, 2012:
This is such an awesome idea. Great video, too!
Jogalog on August 28, 2012:
I love the idea of making a maze for a children's party, Halloween or otherwise. I'd never thought of doing it before.
Melissa Miotke from Arizona on August 28, 2012:
I will definitely do this in a couple of years when my kids are old enough to enjoy and not be totally terrified. I love haunted houses and a maze just adds a great new twist. Blessed:)
Michelle (author) from Central Ohio, USA on August 24, 2012:
@Mamaboo LM: You would be surprised how simple it really is! Thank you for the blessing!
Mamaboo LM on August 24, 2012:
This is so totally cool. I have no ability to do this, but am always amazed at people who do...thanks and be blessed!
dandy3 on August 19, 2012:
Cool video :) great lens!
anonymous on August 10, 2012:
What fun! Maybe zombies . . .