2013 Haunted House

halloweenTaking on a new challenge this year as we end September and look forward to October, which brings Halloween. While I have worked on a haunted house the last 2 years at my son’s elementary school, this will be the first year I have designed and built the haunted house. I am not alone on the project, thankfully I have a friend, who’s got 2 kids at the school and like me, serves on the PTA Board and spends a lot of time helping out at the school. Between the two of us, we should put together a fantastic haunt. At least that is our hope.

Unfortunately we are only 33 days away from Halloween and just 28 days from the school’s Harvest Carnival. I should have been working on many of the props and ideas much earlier in the year. As it happens, I only started designing a layout last week, but finally put the finishing touches to the updated version yesterday. Hopefully between now and the start of the carnival we will be able to enlist the help of a few people to help with the haunt. Right now, the task is a daunting one, especially as I look at October 3 quickly approaching, knowing I will be down and out for at least a week and won’t have the use of my left arm due to shoulder surgery.

hauntedhouse2013_v3Our haunt will be laid out on the auditorium stage, which is 24′ x 45′ with doors at opposite corners and an emergency exit (not that we expect to use it). Not sure if there is anything “typical” about a haunted house layout. I have spent more time looking at Halloween floor plans, layout, themes and ideas this year than I think I have spent in 42 previous years. So it’s no surprise there is not set way to host a successful haunt. We also need to take into consideration the kids who will predominately be walking through the haunt. Don’t want to make it too scary, but want to get some good scares out of the kids.

As of today there are 6 features in our haunted house (see above). They include the Hall of Faces, Inkblot Room, Dot Room, Labyrinth, Graveyard and the Spider’s Lair. Original plans called for a very large maze, but after reevaluating the layout the decision was made to decrease the overall size of the maze as well as the entire layout. Looking at the latest version, I really like how it flows, hopefully it will provide 4 good years of haunting as I assume Mark and I will be called upon the next few years to organize the haunted house.

Budget seems to be a sticking point, which I placed my personal investment at $200, most of which would end up being turned over to PTA when my son graduates. Unfortunately none of the PVC or black plastic was saved from last year, so that’s already an initial investment just to get basic black walls erected. Thanks to our PTA president, her husband was able to get us up and running with nearly 400′ of Visqueen! I have priced out the PVC pipes and fittings and thankfully THAT falls just at the limit of my $200 budget. I do have some other hardware items to purchase, such as black lights and possibly a second fog machine.

Starting Monday, with any luck we will be able to have the PVC layout built and some of the Visqueen hung. The only room requiring immediate attention will be the Dot Room, which requires 1″ circles to be drawn and then painted with 3 different colors of florescent paint. Of course the fun doesn’t stop here, I have order some 72 white masks to be spray painted and placed in the Hall of Faces. The catch to start this haunt is to have scarers randomly placed, behind the plastic or in a mask that will jump out at people.

From there, people will transition to the Dot Room, a 10’x10′ room that is painted with dots on the walls highlighted by a black light. There will be a person dressed in all black with dots over their clothes that will move along the walls once people enter the room. From there it’s another transition to the Inkblot Room.

I wish I saved the link about this room when I first found it, but I seemed to have misplaced it. It’s another dark room with Rorschach inkblots hanging from the ceilings at varying levels with a strobe light blinking. The original idea was to have an actor shackled to a chair in the middle of the room. Nothing would be said until people entered the room and then he would look up and start talking about the dots. Not sure if I will have time to build a wooden chair or not, but I love these plans for a simple electric chair, which I would expand on next year. Even found some simple PVC made shackles!

As you exit the the Inkblot Room, you follow a narrow, dimly lit hallway and turn the corner to see a hanging head before entering the Labyrinth. This original idea saw the complexity of the design much larger and I figured it would have been too costly to implement. So when I redesigned the layout I didn’t want to remove the labyrinth, so it was reduced to a 12’x12′ area. It looks great, now hopefully we can pull it off and have enough scares in the labyrinth. I had also planned to be dressed up as Jason Vorhees from Friday the 13th and be running around in the labyrinth. That would allow me easy access through most of the haunt, through some openings I will have disguised in the walls.

As you exit the labyrinth you end the Graveyard/Crypt. I want Mark to handle this room, but it will include much of the basic graveyard motif, tombstones, a dead tree, fence, a coffin a few ghost and some scares. In fact I found some very cool and cheap cheesecloth ghosts! I had hoped we would have time to make a mockup of a crypt entrance that you would exit through into the Spiders Lair., the final room in the haunt before the exit. This is a 2’x12′ corridor that will be filled with spider webs and an array of spiders, as well as a dummy in a cocoon. I also found an idea to hang black string of mono filament from the ceiling so they rub against unsuspecting people as they move through the corridor.

With any luck we will be able to pull off this haunt and have a majority of the work done before the 25th of October. Between now and then there is a lot of work to be accomplished, as we begin building on Monday. Many of our scarers will be 5th graders, who will also act as guides through the haunt. Hopefully from the next 3 years we can improve on this haunt. In fact I am looking at decorating my house with some of the material I have bought for the 6 days leading up to Halloween. I will post pictures and videos as we move forward with our project.