How to Build a Haunted Maze for Halloween
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.
Whether you use pallets, cardboard, sheets, or other materials to construct your maze walls, always make sure they either have a high flash point or are coated with fire retardant. Check with your local fire department to get help with testing and safety.
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.
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 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. best-selling fog machine on Amazon
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).
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.