How to Create a popular Haunted House
I have a "haunted house" every year. It started when I was in third grade, and had to stay home at Halloween because I had pneumonia. My mom wanted to decorate so I would have something "Halloweeny", too, so she put up a clothesline inside the house, stretching down the front hallway, then stapled paper strips over it and turned on a fan. The rustling, flapping paper was a great decoration, and showed when the door opened as well. Each year after that, we added at least one thing. One year when I was at college, my mom didn't decorate. That Halloween night, a family stopped in the middle of the street, and she could hear, "I know it was around here! Where is it?" They were looking for the haunted house! She promised them that she wouldn't miss another year. Now that I have my own house, I continue the tradition.
Music creates the "haunted" atmosphere better than any other single element of decorating. Get one of those scary Halloween mixes, or a fun dance song mix, or both. Wrap a cd player in a black plastic garbage bag and hide it in some bushes or behind one of the other decorations, and turn it on loud. If you live in a close neighborhood, be sure to get permission from your neighbors, but most people don't mind for one night. I use the "Fright Night Delight" cd.
You want to encourage people to come up to your house, even if it looks all scary. There are a few ways you can dress up the sidewalk. Line the edges with orange lights (or black lights), make directional signs, buy "monster feet" (plastic glow-in-the-dark footprints), or make your own designs with glow-in-the-dark sidewalk chalk. Another neat option if you have a wide enough sidewalk is luminaries. You want to make sure you use bags specifically designed for luminaries, then cut out shapes of ghosts, jack o'lanterns, etc. in the bags and put tea lights in the bottom. You can also make luminaries out of tin cans. Put water in the cans and freeze them, then hammer a nail into the sides to make holes for the light to shine out of. Put a tea light in them and set them out.
There are a lot of premade yard decorations now, but the best ones are still handmade. Plastic bags of all colors, sizes, and shapes, stuffed and tied with string or rubber bands, make great ghosts for trees and porches. Cardboard can be cut for handmade signs and gravestones. Painted sheets make good backdrops for scenes. Cotton or premade spiderweb silk in the trees is fun, but gets messy to take down. A rocking chair on the porch or sidewalk can have a scarecrow in it, or you can assign a real person in costume to scare your visitors. Halloween lights, colored or white Christmas lights, and party lights can add to the fun. I put candy corn party lights on the porch railing. Of course, you'll want a jack o'lantern or two (or more) as well, and maybe even a cornstalk or hay bale.
Decorating the inside of your house is just as important as decorating the outside. When your visitors get up to the door, they expect some sort of an atmosphere inside as well. If you have windows facing the yard, turn most of the lights off and put candles in the window. Black, orange, green, and white candles are the best. You can also put Halloween decorations on the window or on the wall opposite the window so they can be seen from outside.
Have a small table or chair by the door, covered in dark fabric or a Halloween print. Put your candy bowl (I use a cauldron) on the table, along with a tall candle or two. Cover anything in the hallway with sheets and/or Halloween fabric, add a broom, and Halloween wall decorations.
Don't forget your own costume! Trick or treaters love when the people answering the door are dressed up, too, and they'll expect a monster to open the door with the house so decorated. Stay away from masks that cover your face, as they are very scary to little kids. Be fun and light-hearted. If someone is too scared to come up, you can go out to them and hand them a treat, or set the bowl out for them to come up on their own.
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