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We reached out to a few of our customers that do yard/home haunts and decorating, and asked them for some of their top tips! We want to thank them for their generosity and for taking the time. We at Distortions learned something and we hope you do also! Home and yard haunters and decorators make up a big park of our customers and we always love when they share their creativity with us!
1. Try to stick to a theme, it gives you a chance to create a backstory for your haunt. A few theme ideas include Gothic, Graveyard, Possessed House, Creepy Kids Playground, Classic Monsters, Horror Movie, Zombies, Asylum, Ghosts, Horror, Alien Invasion, Evil Forest, Classic Halloween, Creepy Clowns, Apocalypse, Humor and many more.
Thornhill Woods Yard Haunt
2. Don’t be afraid to start small and grow year to year.
3. Stay Safe. Use lights designed for outdoor use. Make sure there are not trip hazards for your guests. Use proper safety equipment when setting it up. If you need to hang things use a sturdy ladder. Make sure you use safety equipment when setting up or making props.
4. Do a test run before going live! Make sure lighting, sound and props are correct and that everything is operational.
Stone Masker Gargoyle in Doorway
5. If you are using electricity, make sure not to over draw the circuit breaker and that the extension cords can handle amperage being consumed. (Amazon sells a plug in Voltage/Amperage measuring device for $20-$30. It plugs into your outlet and then you plug the extension cord into it.) If you use electronic props write the name of the prop on the power supply. Props use different voltages and amps. If the power supply gets separated from the prop there's a good chance the wrong power supply will be reattached.
6. Consider LED lights. LED lights use less power. LED flood lights draw way less power than a traditional flood light.
7. Consider running your electric and power cords underground or under something to prevent tripping. Or you can cordon off the area so children don’t trip on cords.
8. Have a less scary area that little children can go through or go through to get candy without getting overly scared!
Cute "less scary" scene perfect for smaller kids
9. Remember people love selfies! So, provide some areas meant for this. Set up scenes that are to the side or out of the way where people can go a snap away. Some haunters have a 10 X 10 photo background with a Halloween scene. Distortions has a number of 3D photo-ops for this as well. If you are wanting to promote something you can also have a banner or sign next to the photo op and use the power of social media to promote your haunt as people share it.
10. Use both moving and static props. Too much movement everywhere for some can be distracting.
11. Have animatronics and scenes going off at different times around the haunt. Give people a reason to stay for a bit and take it all in.
12. Consider the durability of the props and animatronics you use. Will they last all season long without many issues? Will they last for multiple seasons? Durable props sometimes cost more but can last longer and cause less problems across multiple seasons.
13. Use pneumatic, electric, and static props throughout the haunt. It will give you the WOW factor especially when you add actors. Mixing movement with static adds diversity.
Kreepy Kids playground scene with moving and static props
14. Know your space. Decorating under a covered porch can protect props. Decorating the second floor or hanging props out of reach on the house or trees can protect them from theft. Remember when hanging props care must be taken to properly secure them and safety must be considered when using a ladder. Safety first!
Dead Weight Tomb Distortions Prop at Thornhill Woods
15. When decorating and placing props. If you have a tombstone, lean it at at an angle to make it look old and use metal rebar to stake it into ground. Add fresh soil or leaves around tombstones and zombies to give it the freshly dug up look. Use techniques to make things look like they have been there a long time and not just set on the ground.
16. Don’t forget to add spooky music and creepy light for that creepiness factor! Lighting is such a big part of decorating and music can add to the scene.
Randy Skalos Yard Haunt Using Creepy Lighting
17. Consider the weather and ways to weatherproof your scenes. Some haunters cover their pneumatic props with tarps and garbage bags. Others use marine fabric made into giant pillow cases to cover and protect props. Sun and water can degrade latex over time and affect electrical components. Some people actually bring their props in at the end of each day to keep them safe from weather and theft. Others leave their latex pieces outside for a couple of weeks with little problem of degradation. Use plastic food containers and cut slots for the 12 v convertor boxes to protect them.
18. Consider Security and theft prevention. Consider placing pieces behind a fence for protection. Incorporate the fence into your spooky scene. Aged rot iron could work. Some haunters add security cameras along with signs that let people know there are cameras protecting the props. If you have large crowds on Halloween night you could also have someone dressed as a security guard. Some haunters secure the expensive props with cables and locks. For the really expensive ones they bring them in each night and leave the lower priced decorations out.
19. Have a checklist you use each night (Are all the props there, fog juice in fogger, music is on, props on, etc.)
20. There are a number of DIY tutorial videos available to make your own decorations and props. Mix these DIY props with the pro props to add dimension and diversity.
21. Keep a log of what worked and what did not each year. That way you can constantly improve. Keep a diagram of the lay out year to year.
22. You may change the location of props year to year to make people think they are new and that the haunt has a fresh look. Each year you can switch it around and people will think that you have new props.
Haunters dressed up to scare at Thornhill Woods
23. Consider having family and friends dress-up in costumes as characters related to the theme of your haunt.
24. Some haunters build a website for their home haunts with a back story, especially if you want to promote it.
Amazing Spooky Scene
25. Some people support a good cause or charity with their home haunt.
26. Others actually advertise in local papers, online, or the radio.
27. Join communities. There are various online haunter and home haunt communities you can join and participate in, learning along the way. There are also trade shows and conventions where home haunters can go, get ideas and buy props and decorations. In addition, there are groups for DIY Halloween prop making and decorating.
28. Take photos and videos of your haunt each year. These can be used to remember what worked, for inspiration and for promotion.
Castle Gargoyles on moonlit night
29. Prepare a little throughout the year so that you don’t have to stress in October!
30. Remember have fun! Don’t get overly stressed out! It is supposed to be fun for YOU as well.
Thank you to all the haunters that inspired and helped with this. Chris Ainsworth, Randy Skalos, Robert Boardman, and those that contributed anonymously. Randy Skalos Chris Ainsworth #yardhaunt #haunt #haunters #homehaunt #halloween2020 #halloweendecoration #distortionsunlimited