How to Build a Halloween Haunted Maze
Build a Frightening Maze or Haunted House for Halloween Fun and Thrills!
Building your own haunted maze for Halloween doesn't mean you have to plow your backyard for a field of corn or hire a stone mason to build your maze walls. You can build a Halloween maze out of simple materials, such as 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. Sometimes one of your local garden centers or farmers' markets will go ahead and plant an entire field of corn and cut a maze through it, or they'll make one out of straw bales or other readily available materials.
Or maybe you like to visit haunted houses during the Halloween season. Many of these are set up in a maze design: There's one entrance and one exit, and in between, you have 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 along the way. Strobe lights are flashing, ghosts and monsters jump out to scare you, and spooky music plays in the background, adding to the creepiness.
Three Important Things to Keep in Mind While Planning
First things first: Safety. Think fire retardant and fire suppression. You'll need to coat your covering materials in a fire retardant spray or use materials that have a high flash point. 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.
Secondly, it's important to remember to build a maze that's age-appropriate, and you'll find some tips to help you with that further down the page.
Finally, the other thing you really need to think about is 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.
DIY: Build a Haunted Maze in Your Home or Backyard
So without further ado, let's talk about maze building!
To construct your maze, you will need to:
- Decide what materials you will use for the walls
- Sketch your plan
- Create the walls
- Add scary effects
Decide What Materials You Will Use to Make Your 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 which took our guests on a path outside, onto our large back deck. We turned a part of that into a total blackout maze that we built with donated wood skids/pallets. Next, we covered the pallets in heavy cardboard and then thick black plastic trash bags. Please note: We had these coverings flame tested in order to meet local fire codes.
For 2015, we went full commercial as Hagan's House of Horrors. We created a 16,000+ sq ft haunted house in leased space, which included two complete total blackout mazes that were constructed the same way. If it works, why change it? For 2016, we built our own post frame building on our property that contained our haunt and we had a total blackout maze that was be constructed the same way.
However, you don't need to go all out by building a maze out of wooden pallets. The maze will be dark, and people won't notice what they're made of as long as the maze is scary! Here are three easy materials you can use to construct the walls of your maze:
- Cardboard Boxes
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—open side down, against the floor.
After you've designed your layout, paint and decorate the insides of the boxes. Poke small holes in some of the boxes and place a flashlight or strobe light outside of the box, 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.
- Old Sheets
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 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. If you're inside, we'd advise you to spray these with something to make them fire retardant.
For our commercial haunt in 2015, we cleaned 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 and 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!
Sketch Your Plan
Materials You'll Need for Planning:
- Graph paper and a pencil
- 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. Also, include some false walls for your monsters to hide in, so they can jump out and scare your guests.
Note: For children, keep your maze simple and be sure to include at least two exits that they can easily find.
Create the Walls
- Following your sketched layout, rope off your maze or lay out your boxes.
Note: 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:
Add Scary Effects
Once you have your walls up, it's time to start adding your scary effects. Strobe lights are the eeriest lighting for your maze, and you'll want to have plenty of spider webs, creepy bugs, and snakes.
If you have the room, get one of your friends to dress up as a serial killer and jump out at people as they work their way through your maze.
Stumbling around in the dark, fog laced with occasional bursts of light, cobwebs brushing your face, and a monster lurking at every turn makes for a really frightening experience.
1. Set the Stage with a Fog Machine and Strobe Lights
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, 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.
Below is the best-selling fog machine on Amazon. We used it 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, and it kept pretty good coverage inside, though it dissipated a lot faster outside. When you buy a fog machine, keep in mind: 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 (the stuff on Amazone is about $8 a pint and $15-30 a gallon, depending on the brand).
Halloween Fog Machine
The second part of the "Maze Math" equation is strobe lights.
"It was a dark and stormy night!" That's how the scariest horror stories start out. And then the lights start flashing!
Make your Halloween maze scarier than a B-movie with strobe lighting flashing, illuminating all kinds of creepy, crawly creatures.
LED Strobe Light
2. Provide Enough Lighting to Find the Exit
Yes, it's ookier and 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 primarily going to be used by children, you'll want to have plenty of lighting, while a maze built for adults can be just as dark and gloomy as you like.
3. Always Plan for Safety
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 the maze. If you want, you can buy props of each of these weapons, including chainsaws that make convincing noises made especially for Halloween scares.
4. 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.
5. If You Can't Fit a Whole Monster, Use Part of One
If you don't have room to hide a whole, living "monster," use prosthetic hands, feet, and organs to make your haunted maze more frightening.
6. 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.
7. Play a Soundtrack
Sound effects are the icing on the cake. Get a couple of those 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 2015 Haunt & Kickstarter Intro for Our 2016 Haunt
Haunted Maze Ideas Courtesy of YouTube
To Maze, or Not to Maze...
Are you building a haunted maze this year?
We'd love to hear all about your maze! Please feel free to share with all of us ghouls and goblins...
Questions & Answers
We're making a maze for this October, starting now in August. Would you suggest building a maze from black sheets?
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.Helpful 1
How can you hang black sheets in your garage?
You can hang them along ropes or wires by either clipping them to the line or by threading the line through the doubled over 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.