The haunters handbook


After nearly 20 years of doing haunted houses I wanted to give something back. I set out a few years ago to wright a beginners haunt how too book. I decided I wanted a chance to leave a legacy of my work for future haunters . Thank you for reading this I hope you take away a few valuable tips.Please check back as I will be adding updates regularly.

Thank you Patrick Matthews

Memoirs of the chainsaw man

Some people say I’m a monster others hail me to be a genius. Am I mad? Is this art? What’s wrong with me? Am I insane? Why do the voices keep screaming in my head? Why do they make me do these things? Don’t pass judgment onto me yet. Please walk with me through the dark recesses of my fevered mind. I’m a man, flesh and blood not unlike you reading this book. I work. I have a home, a car and a family Just the same as most of you. For all you know I could be living right next door to you. Our kids could go to the same school. You wouldn’t even know what I am until it was too late!! You must understand there’s a dark side to me!! An insatiable hunger lies with in me that will never die!! Theses voice they direct me in my work. They make me do it, creating masterful art from useless discarded objects and bits and pieces of the dead virtual dead that is. I have a building where I conduct my work. My building is my sanctuary if you will. I have constructed my masterpiece its virtual labyrinth where I must go to hunt them. They love the torment why else would they come? Why won’t these people let me be? They come in droves of hundreds no the thousands. I certainly don’t have the time to count them. My displays they have come to see my displays .They want to see me and my beautiful displays. I must not keep them waiting. Its show time!! I will give them what they want. They came to see the carnage, my festival of flesh!!! There’s no end to the madness now!!! They never leave but soon they will all become mine, my puppets .The people keep coming. They want to see the freak. My brain is searing now. I have no other way out. I must give them what they want. Where is it? The almighty chainsaw where is it? It’s truly amazing what one can get away with these days. Over the past 20 years I have brutally attacked thousands no hundreds of thousands of people with this saw and have never spent a single day in jail for my crimes. They’ll never catch me for I am the chainsaw man!!! By now you have probably called the FBI to turn me in for my crimes or you have deduced I am a professional haunted attraction owner, operator and designer. It’s safe to say you can breathe easy and hang up the phone. You may continue reading as we are about start your haunted adventure. THE CHAINSAW MAN.

The art of haunting a house:

Within in these pages many of the heavily guarded secrets and techniques of professionally haunting a house are revealed. I hope this book brings its readers new found skills in creating their new haunts or by helping to expand on an existing haunted attraction. Most people will never realize the tremendous amount of work and dedication a serious professional haunter puts into their art. A good haunted House is not unlike an amazing magical illusion. In fact many magic illusions are implemented into most modern haunted attractions. As any magician will tell you the magic is in the dedication to the art. The same holds true to your haunted attraction. The amazing thing about a haunted attraction is the life it takes on. Each haunted house has a living soul which reflects its creator or creators own unique personalities. You should consider your haunted attraction as a living extension of you its creator. To fully breathe life into your attraction you must first believe in the magic. How will you convince your guests if don’t believe in the magic yourself? Over the past few years I have met many people who lost sight of the haunt as art or as a form of expression. They either simply lost the magic or never had it to begin with. Just as in the magic theater the haunt creator takes control over his audience and their emotions. A good haunter can make them feel how he wants them to feel and can make them do what ever he wants them to do. Just like any great magician for a brief time you have control over their emotions and reactions. In this wonderful world of haunted illusion you can briefly subject the public to life in your world. For a very fleeting moment you are a God. With all the great power comes tremendous responsibility. As haunters no matter how big or small your show we owe the patron a safe, fun and exciting show. As a haunt artist you must strive to perform to your highest ability at all times. If you take care of your customers and show them you care over time they in return will take care of you. Let’s briefly discuss a shows quality. Have you ever been into a haunted house and felt the people who were behind the production were not into what they were doing? You probably felt unfulfilled and maybe even felt cheated. We all know the feeling of hearing about a new haunted house and when you get there you see a bunch of kids wearing smeared make up sitting behind a dark building drinking water and goofing around. You think to yourself that’s ok its going to get better. It can only get better. Yeah right what were you thinking you soon find it’s even worse on the inside. This is something that could have been easily avoided. If the haunter had more passion and pride in his work his event could have become a really great show bringing in thousands of happy guests wanting to be scared. From this point in the book you must consider yourself an artist. Think and feel as an artist thinks and feels. Be proud and let your artistic pride shine through in your efforts. A great haunted attraction need not cost $100,000 or be 50,000 sq ft as long as the people who produce it keep it alive and give it spirit through their passion. In a modern haunted attraction it matters not if you’re simply a painter, carpenter, actor or produce everyone has a job to do. Please remember that your success or the success of your haunted attraction is not based completely on numbers. High attendance and money is great but realistically if the show was safe, fun and you were able to pay off your expenses it was a great success. Building a pro haunted house takes a lot of time and patience. After all the lights go out and the haunting season draws to a close you’ll see its all worth the extra effort. If its worth doing its worth doing right take the time to enjoy your new haunting venture and all the precious new friends you will find along the way.

Getting started:

Ok let’s start at the beginning. The first thing we need to do is to come up with a name and a theme for your haunted attraction. I suggest doing some research on other local haunted houses in your area. The Internet is an excellent place to start your haunt research. Take a season to tour as many other haunts as possible. No one wants 10 haunted houses in the same market with the same name and theme. Try to be original and creative remember you’re an artist now so let’s start acting like one. Ok now we have a cool name and original theme its now time to get a DBA (doing business as permit). This permit gives you exclusive right to use the name you chose and keeps others in your area from making unlawful use of your new name. After you have your name and DBA its time for you to devise a business plan. The business plan is very important and can save you a lot of grief and money in the long run.You should plan on when you intend on opening your attraction and where. I suggest you give yourself at least 2 years to get started this gives you more time to prepare. Ah yes money is the root of all evil but also very important to your venture so you must plan on how much you need and where to get it. I suggest you start small only invest a small amount each year over several years paying yourself back each year. Example $5,000 a year is easily recovered however over 10 years you now have $50,000 invested with minimal risk. Set up goals to be reached and meet these goals by setting a timeline for your self. It is now time to start looking for a location. Keep in mind most haunters never quit looking for new hallowed grounds to haunt. Always keep an eye out for good real estate. When seeking your new haunt location your first stop should be the City Planners Office. Depending on local codes and state laws you may need to abide by building and fire codes always seek advice from the Fire Marshal and Building departments before signing any lease. With your DBA secured a sound business plan drawn and the discovery of building codes we can move onto more creative ventures. Let’s take a look at theme and attraction design. Start creating characters and room designs by putting you ideas to paper. As time progresses you ideas and story boards will flourish and your characters will come to life. Its never too early to start finding props and materials. Every haunter is a dumpster diver by nature. There is no shame we all do it. Get ready to sift trash my friends there’s valuable stuff in people’s garbage. Old books, lamps and furniture are all needed for most haunted mansion style themes. All can easily found be on trash day for free so go claim your prize. If your attraction is a space ship or hospital old computers, desks and beds are always easily found come trash day. Be creative in your efforts to find the ultimate prop you never know where it may be found. Another gold mine for haunters is the local thrift store many a costume or prop can be had for just pennies on the dollar at local thrift stores. Haunting can become very expensive you must cut material costs any way you can. I have found an excellent source for good rustic lumber is the use of old fence panels. Every spring and summer hundreds of old fence panels are thrown away why let them go to waste? Broken down the fence boards make great siding or trim board or you can use entire panels to build a huge out door maze. New haunted houses open in every market every season only a few survive what’s the secret? One major factor for a new haunt is over head I cannot stress enough the importance of slashing the over head by either finding or making as many props and items as possible. Try and use as many authentic salvage items as you can attach a replacement value to the items and see how much money you saved. Ok so now you have found an ideal location, checked with the local code enforcement and have a few props and costumes now what??? If you have followed your plans by now you should have gotten to the point where you start designing rooms and maze layouts. After several years of producing haunted attractions this gets a little easier so don’t be discouraged or overwhelmed in the beginning. A designer must always keep safety and codes in mind while designing. The best floor plans and designs are worth less if code enforcement shuts you down. A few important points to keep in mind are. Always design with safety in mind. Design with the assistance of your Fire Marshal. Design Hallways with no less than 3ft of walkway clearance. Some cities may require you to build 4 ft walkways. Wider halls easily accommodate a heavy traffic flow. Never forget wheel chairs and fire evacuation when designing rooms and halls. Remember to keep the flow constantly moving forward. Try and eliminate anything that might needlessly cut into the thru put time. Keep in mind all props and animations are a very important part of any show. Design props and animations into spots where they are easily seen so the entire group may enjoy the whole effect together. Design using a forced perspective where the customer only sees what you want and never sees what you want to keep hidden. Place sets and props in a way in which it’s unavoidably seen. I always try and place as many sets as possible where the props are directly in the patron’s line of sight so the entire set must be seen as the patron enters a room. Creating a set is much like painting a picture through the proper use of colors textures and proper lighting a haunt scene transforms into a master piece. Never be afraid to explore with you room designs. Learning is made possible through trial and error. You will never know your full potential as a haunt designer until you try things. This may sound odd I design my sets using my own mental image of what I want the room to be. I envision it and then build based on what I see. Along the way I may find lighting colors or accent pieces that add to the vision. I keep adding layer up on layer of detail until the precise moment when the room reaches completion. As with other great artists the haunter knows when he has completed his masterpiece the piece reaches out to you and lets you know. I have known a few haunters who have had great success in building a set in their yard or driveway to get a preview of what to expect from the room they are designing. Mock building a set may save a lot of time and money later on in production Mock builds help to avoid troublesome sets that may not work as planned. Mock Building sets my be very beneficial if you want to stay active building props and sets but have no haunt location to build them in. Building a haunt is a long and never ending journey. It is very important to take steps every day towards reaching your goal. I can not stress the importance of setting goals for your haunt enough. Always try and achieve one goal a day to get you closer to making your dreams come true. Build, build, build you can never have to much stuff in your haunt. Some where down the line you will need it so never stop acquiring new and unique props and antiques to adorn your haunted attraction. Let’s now briefly cover maze layout design. So what is a maze and why lay it out? A maze isn’t exactly a maze however if your attraction calls for one a real maze most certainly may be added. A haunt maze is a series of disorienting hallways which obscure the patrons view giving them the sense of the unknown and insecurity. Each Hallway connects several scenes or scares to one another. Maze layout and design depends on so many different variables such as pre existing building design, offices, walls, load bearing poles, exit locations, power locations and city codes. All of these variables must be taken into consideration when designing your maze to insure a properly designed attraction. Start at the beginning you will need a ticket/box office and a queue area. The box office should be easily seen and well lit. Your box office may be the first thing patrons see upon arrival and should be well lit and properly staffed with courteous personnel. Most attractions try and dress the box office staff in neutral costumes such as maids, butlers or wait staff. Keeping the box office and queue staff properly costumed helps patrons ease their way from the real world and into your fantasy world. Keep in mind having a bloody flesh eating zombie as a ticket booth attendant may seem like a good idea for a haunt but it might adversely affect your ticket sales. The ticket and queue areas should be very professional keep it clean and well lit with a lot of themeing and detail. I advise putting some very detailed props, sets or even an animated figure in the queue areas. Themed and detailed queue areas help sell tickets and keep patrons entertained. Take a look a carnival dark ride show next time a local carnival comes to town. As we know from past experience most dark rides have very little to offer once a person is inside the show trailer. 95% of all the detail in a dark ride is in its front facade. Early on in the days of traveling shows showmen learned that flash is what sells. A good facade sells the show every time. Unlike the traveling carnival We need something to offer our patrons beyond the flashy facades. A queue area is a common area for your customers to wait to be broken into their groups. If you have ever been to a haunted house or an amusement park you have been in a queue line. Disney has made an art of hiding their queue lines using elaborate pre shows to entertain customers as they wait. A pre show is a great way to keep the customer from becoming bored as they wait. A pre show can be as simple as a few detailed sets they pass by in line or live actors who work the groups in line with frights or laughs. Another example of a good pre show could be an animated figure telling the story behind the show. A good crowd pleaser is a Museum either full of posters and movie props or maybe torture equipment and shrunken heads. You are now an artist and an entertainer put your own imagination to the test to see what types of pre shows you can come up with. We now have a ticket booth and a pretty good queue now what? Let’s put your talents and imagination to the test. Let’s try building the maze and sets. A good haunted house attraction should be modeled after the idea behind a massive roller coaster. Your attraction should build up the customer’s anticipation and deliver thrills by using a peaks and valley system just like a roller coaster. Start them out with a small fright to build anticipation. You then start building them up from a low point and then hold them at the high peak until the precise moment when they least expect it deliver the drop. Keep doing this through the whole attraction. Continue to build the anticipation through out your attraction always building them up until you reach a grand finale. People love to be scared that’s what they are paying for. A good showman can scare and entertain alike. Always make sure your shows are as scary as they are entertaining .If they don’t leave screaming they’ll leave laughing at those who are screaming. An important factor in any good haunted attraction is the pay off in each set or scene and especially the finale must have some sort of emotional pay off. Even if you are not aware of it for the brief time when they encounter your world you have total control of the feelings of your customers. You can send powerful messages through the scenes you depict so beware. With great power comes tremendous responsibility. A few examples of this control would be using a morgue or autopsy display to set in on the fear of death and sharp objects. A good use of both fear and entertainment would be to have a lab with a Dr. Working on a dead body. As the unsuspecting group approaches the good Dr. and throws the switch. To every ones surprise nothing happens. The Dr. quickly checks the monsters pulse only to find it’s still dead. At this point the actor playing the Dr. says something funny like oh well better luck next time and leaves. Suddenly when the group least expects it another monster on a table behind them jumps to life and screams. This type of set uses entertainment and misdirection to deliver the horror effectively using several of the patron’s feelings all at once. Another fine example is the use of a very attractive but tastefully dressed vampire. She will surely invoke lustful feelings in rather healthy male patrons. A scene depicting an abandoned pirate treasure may take hold over your patron’s feelings of greed and desire. These are perfect examples of expressing feelings through the use of sets and images. Now let’s take the time to discuss a few possibly irresponsible uses. A terrorist attempting to destroy a school bus full of crying children would be clearly wrong. In the aftermath of 911 these types of scenes or displays took on a whole new meaning and are frowned upon. This scene has the potential to insult a person based on his own personal religious or political views. This scene may generate unexpected poor press and unhappy customers. A horrible idea which I have had the misfortune of seeing in use is a simulated beating and rape scene of a very scantily clad teenage girl. She is seen in her bedroom as she is abused and brutally raped by a serial killer on a filthy bloody bed. This is not only an irresponsible scene to be used in a haunt but is also in extreme poor taste. There are so many other tried and true effective haunt room ideas that could have been used in its place. Remember people were doing the haunt to produce magic and not porn!!!

Wall systems:

This is where we start getting into the really hard work of building a wall system. Haunt walls are one of the biggest topics for discussion and concern to every haunter big and small. Haunt walls and lumber are the greatest expense any new haunter encounters. There are several different types of walls and designs available lets discuss a few. The most commonly used wall system is the 90 degree method. Most new haunters start out using this system until they have the experience and feel more comfortable in their design skills. The 90 degree method is based on typical construction were rooms and halls are square just like in your home. This system is the easiest to start out using because we have all been exposed to it in traditional architecture our entire lives. Look at just about any home or building and you will see examples of the 90 degree method in use. Since real turn of the century homes and buildings are already based on this method designing a Victorian haunted mansion style show just seems more real and more natural in 90 degrees. Another very good however much less used haunt wall system is the 60 degree method. This method is based on triangles rather than squares creating a much more disorienting and confusing environment than its 90 degree counterpart. The use of the 60 degree method allows the designer to make a lot better use of a buildings square footage. Several modular shows which need to make every inch of their building space count swear by this method. An alien space ship unlike the gothic mansion or castle looks and feels more real in the 60 degree method. Over the last few years we have seen more modern building designs that use the 60 degree method. I however have used both methods over my years of haunt design and building. There are a great many benefits to using each system. I have found that by using a little of both in my designs it opens up greater design possibilities. Practice makes perfect. Take sometime now and draw a few designs on paper using both styles separately and then design a maze using them together. A very powerful haunt design tool is graph paper. Anyone with ambition and imagination armed with a few pencils a ruler and some graph paper can make incredible haunt designs. Go ahead and try your hand with a few designs don’t worry I’ll wait I’m not going any where. So how did it go? Have you got a better feel now for basic haunt designs? With practice you will gain experience and confidence. If you have your cities haunt planner guide try and draw a few haunt designs using the codes you will be expected to follow. Keep it simple at first you have time to grow and become a master haunter don’t rush the process. Enjoy these learning years. Later on when it gets more complicated you’ll look back fondly at your easier early years in haunting. Are we ready to build walls yet? I think its now time to start thinking about wall panel construction. The suggestions I’m about to make are just that suggestions. The systems we will discuss about basic wall designs which may vary in materials or designs from your city’s standards. Traditional haunt walls are built from 4x8 ft sheets of plywood using a 2x4 frame attached around the edge to reinforce the plywood. Typically you want to try and use materials they will reduce splinters and jagged edges. Most plywood used is between ¼ in and ½ inches thick. Due to recent market demands a lot of haunters have decided to use 5/8” osb plywood due to its thickness and low cost. Here is an important money saving tip. It’s much easier and less expensive to shop for lumber in The Fall and winter. Beware buying lumber in hurricane season. Even if you live 1000 miles from the coast a single hurricane can triple lumber costs. Most pro haunters create single panels which consist of one sheet of plywood with a 2x4 frame. Some haunters with bigger budgets do double sided walls which sandwich two sheets of plywood with a 2x4 frame inside. Double panels add greater strength and look more finished however add more expense, labor and weight. Let’s keep it simple for now and work with a basic single wall panel design. Keep in mind everything in a haunt is temporary and may need to be removed or altered in a seconds notice. Never use nails for wall panels use sheet rock screws. Screws are cheap, strong and very reliable. I personally use 1” 5/8ths and 3” coarse screws in most of my construction. I have seen that coarse screws will not strip out lumber and pull out of plywood as easy as fine screws. Never buy any lumber or start building a wall system until you have checked with your city. It is not unheard of to have a city require sheet rock walls with steel studs for a haunt. You should better be safe and not sorry. Always check before investing thousands of dollars into materials that may be worthless to your haunt. All lumber will need to be fire treated find out the requirements of your fire marshal. It’s easy to fire proof your walls you can either spray them or add a fire retardant to your paint.


Are you having fun yet? Haunting can be a lot of hard work but it is also very rewarding and a lot of fun. Don’t let a lot of hard work keep you from obtaining your dreams. If you are terrified of hard work and not willing to try and make some sacrifices to make your dreams come true its probably a good time now to stop reading and step away from this book. I knew you had it in you let’s move on to finishing our walls. We will now discuss painting. Depending on themes you can paint walls to look like rock, cinder block, wood or Victorian wallpaper. For now let’s keep it simple and go with simple cheap flat black interior paint. Walls can be either rolled or spray painted with an air sprayer. To save time and labor I suggest spraying your walls. After the walls are dry unless you already added fire retardant to your paint you should now apply your retardant to the walls. It’s very important to follow all instructions and safety data sheets. Most fire marshals will require you keep the receipts, safety data sheets and empty containers from all fire retardants used in your haunt. We will cover more fire retardant topics in greater detain in the safety section of this book. Ok I think you’re ready to start pricing lumber and maybe buy some materials to build a wall panel or two. If you feel comfortable to proceed you will need three 2x4s one sheet of 4x8 plywood and some dry wall screws. To save time and money buy the precut 92” 2x4framing studs for the sides of your walls and 8ft for top and bottom. Buying precut keeps you from making several cuts saving time and materials. Alright safely cut two 4ft 2x4s for the top and bottom. Screw the two 4ft boards across the top and bottom. Now the two 92” boards should fit snugly on both Use 3 inch long screws to attach the 2x4s together. You will now use 1” 5/8 screws to attach the plywood to the frame. You should now have your first completed wall panel congratulations!!! After you have all the walls built its time to design your maze lay out. It’s impossible for me to offer a complete maze design for you in this book. Considering the many concerns you must face considering emergency exits and such .You will see each design is unique and one of a kind. I suggest you first get plans to the proposed space and draw out the maze design using such plans. Submit your proposed plans to your local haunt inspectors and fire Chief to get their approval. The most important thing any haunter can do is get input and approval from the city inspectors first before any construction begins. Keep in mind when designing the maze you want to have lots of emergency access doors. Properly designed halls and exits help exit people quickly from the haunt. I always Design around existing exits and fixtures using them as a base to start off. Haunt walls can be easily stood in place and screwed together. I use four or five 3” coarse dry wall screws to screw thru the side 2x4s attaching them together. I suggest in the beginning you work in a team having help to hold the walls up for you to secure. I have found using two 4” plastic hand clamps to clamp the wood together works well if you’re working alone. For your first basic design we need to design in the entry, exits, sets, actor spots, actor dressing room and a utility/tech room. Connect all these areas with Halls and you got a haunt maze. Designing a haunt maze can be a lot of fun. It’s hard to do at first but with practice it gets easier. After you have a grasp of the basics and local codes the maze will practically build its self. Keeping safety and thru put in mind always try and test your self and try new designs. You might be amazed at how creative you really are. When designing and building your haunt maze try and be entertaining. Try and look at it through the customer’s eyes. You don’t want a design that’s too confusing and makes no sense. You certainly don’t want a design that is boring or gives away too many upcoming scares. I suggest if it’s possible to mark the floor where walls are going to be placed. I found using 1inch masking tape works well and is not going to be permanent. If you’re out side or own the building you can use white spray paint to mark the ground or floor. It helps tremendously to work out design kinks by doing a walk through and seeing a virtual maze before walls go up. Marking the floor also helps if you have multiple crews working on walls. They have a blueprint on the floor to follow thus saving the designer valuable time not answering hundreds of questions. I suggest you brace walls across the tops to secure them and make the maze much stronger. You will screw boards across the tops of walls and hallways. I suggest using 1x4 boards for bracing as they are lighter and will not severely injure or kill some one if they break free and fall. Walk the maze and push on walls if they are wavy or bow brace them. You now know the basics of a wall system and maze design. As long as you keep safety, codes and thru put in mind you should do fine. My advice in the beginning, keep it simple and have fun. Enjoy your work while you can. Once you master the basics you will have yrs to learn advanced designs. All haunters including myself can make mistakes in design

Set design:

This is where the magic begins!! Now your walls are up and braced you need to make this maze haunted. We will start with painting the maze. As I mentioned earlier the walls must have fire retardant applied to the finished surface or added to the paint. Walk your completed maze and visualize the rooms. Each room or hall you create will need to be unique and stimulating. Keep in mind a good paint job can make a crappy haunt a great haunt. Obviously you want your haunt to stand out and you know black walls alone will not cut it. You will want to keep your paint schemes close to your theme. You want customers to recognize you theme and have the sets tell a story. A few basic paint schemes are as follows. A castle has gray blocks or bricks. A hospital has light green or white walls. A mansion is burgundy. A lab can be either a castle or hospital themed. A dark hall or out doors is black I’m sure you get the idea and see how this works. Some haunts with better funding use a 4x8 vacu formed wall panel. These panels look very good and take your haunt to another level but are very expensive and may be cost prohibitive. This type of panel is screwed over a plywood wall to give greater detail and texture. You might like to use vacu formed walls in the future but for now we will keep it simple and explain painting. It is now time to paint your rooms. If this is new construction I suggest using a sprayer. If you’re repainting a room in an existing haunt you might wish to use a roller. Using a roller takes more time but will save the existing sets and props from getting over spray on them. There are several advanced techniques used to detail paint a haunt. You may wish to stick with the basics the first yr and then research videos and books on detailing. You will find paint and supplies are very expensive. At the time this book was written an average 5 gals of paint cost about $75. Painting a haunt can cost a haunter thousands of dollars but is certainly necessary. The following tip will save more than you paid for this book. This will save you thousands of dollars$$$.

Most people are not aware of this little known money saving secret I’m about to share. What if I told you depending on where you live you could paint your haunt for free? Did I get your attention? Yes for free!! Most major cities have drop-off or recycling centers for house hold chemicals. Paint is a household chemical routinely taken at these centers. Most centers take in thousands of gallons of good usable unwanted paint every day. This costs the city thousands of dollars to contain and destroy. Most cities with this program will gladly give this paint away for free. They would prefer you recycle it than pay to dispose of it. You can have an unlimited supply of free paint and help the city save money at the same time. Check you local city’s Environmental mgt program for more details. You may have the burden of driving to the next city over but you will save thousands of dollars $$ Props:

This is my favorite part of a haunt as I love props and figures. I admit I use a lot of life size props and figures to tell my haunts stories. Different haunters have their own prop preferences. I absolutely love using life size figures!!! There are hundreds of studios producing really nice haunt props, figures and animations. If you have the money and wish to buy props good for you. If you are on a budget you will find making props yourself maybe a good start. You will have thousands of dollars $$$ making your own props. Unless you have an art degree you may find the first yr or so your props may look measly compared to expensive professionally produced counter parts. Do not let this get you down you have many years to hone your craft. Remember right now its all about being safe and having fun!! The best way to get props is to attend the day after Halloween sale at huge seasonal retailers. I have seen many sales offer prices lower than wholesale. All haunters big and small attend these sales. I advise after you have a theme do your homework and research props and costumes online. Once you have an idea of what you need replicate it. Make anything you can that will work for your haunt and budget. I do not advise trying animatronics the first yr. There is no question animated figures are very cool and bring production value. Animatonics as they are called are expensive, time consuming and can be potentially dangerous!! Let us just stick to basic static figures for now. Everyone at one time has made a dummy by stuffing clothes. I would like to go over a few basic body forms you may encounter in a haunt. #1mannequins if you have them use them they are awesome!! Used mannequins may be found at garage sales and online. Mannequin forms look the best but can be costly and hard to find. #2 pvc pipe bodies are a very easy, inexpensive resource to acquire. Explore the plumbing section of any home center and you will see using ¾ pipe and fittings is the way to go. After you make a stick figure from pipe you add a styro foam head and flesh it out. I found using egg crate foam or batting to cover the pip works very well. Wig heads and bed foam are easily found on trash day. If you have the skills and wish to try it a body can be made from a wire frame and paper Mache or plaster. For the more experienced fabricators you may wish to make a mold of a body and use rigid or soft foam. I have also found you can make cool torsos from carving sofa cushions. Once the body is done you will need to dress it.

Using old clothes, costumes, hands and a mask you can make a very realistic monster for your haunt. Being self sufficient is a huge advantage in haunting. Just a few yrs ago haunters homemade just about everything from scratch. Making realistic bodies of various sizes and shapes is something most haunters can do in their sleep. Research online and you will find many informative sites dedicated to prop and figure making. Your haunt will need more than just figures you will need furniture, lighting and wall props. Attend garage sales, thrift stores and dumpsters to fill in the void. You now have learned the basics for haunt design, walls and props. Are you ready to start putting it together? By now you have the skills to create the basic haunt. I will briefly discuss lighting and sound. Lighting is important its how you set the mood. I think of lighting as painting the picture with light. Obviously you know black lights, flicker bulbs and strobes as they are haunt light staples. I advise you use these lights but also get creative and explore. At the time I wrote this book haunt lighting was changing to led lighting. You may enjoy led lights but shouldn’t limit yourself. I have always preferred using old lamps and fixtures when ever possible to add realism. My favorite thing to use and I can see seasoned haunters cringe now is clip lights. Clip lights and colored bulbs are easily and cheaply found at any local home center. I place my lighting behind the customers view up high on the wall so they can’t be touched or blocked. Lighting gets very Hot!!! Keep all lighting up high so no customers or fabric may come in contact with it. I recently have enjoyed the use of green and blue cfl bulbs they produce an eerie glow unlike other bulbs. Lights can cause a fire !!! I advise using surge strips and not brown extension cords. You will find cheap brown cords (zip cords) will not pass code in a haunt when used to replace surge strips. Never forget safety!! If you are unfamiliar with electricity and electrical loads find some one who is and ask them to help.

Honestly in my opinion I think having a few more lights is safer as it’s a much greater risk to have thousands of people stumbling around in the dark. When you need an extension cord use a surge strip or a ul rated heavy duty extension cord. I suggest you use surge strips when ever you need multiple plugs or an extension cord. Every good haunt needs foggers. In an effort to keep down excessive wattage never plug multiple foggers into the same outlet. I suggest only using 2 or 3 foggers on separate breakers spaced apart for proper coverage. There is a thing as too much fog. You want customers to be able to properly breathe and see. I suggest buying a timer switch for all foggers and adjust the fog to the proper levels to insure a safe enjoyable haunt. Foggers can easily be found at most Halloween and party stores and have become very reasonably priced.

Foggers are HOT !!! foggers Set off alarms!!!

keep in mind any fogger will set off any smoke detector !!! Check with your fire Marshal or building maintenance to see if you have a smoke detection system or a heat detector. foggers will not set off heat but will set off smoke detectors every time !!! Your Firemarshal will not be happy if you set fals alarms due to foggers !!! Most fire marshals will allow you to hire a fire watch if you have no detecton system or if you wish to pay the added expense to have foggers in use. Never place a fogger where a person or curtain may come into contact with it. A fogger gets very hot and can burn a person of set fire to fabrics. Foggers may also cause a slip hazard so beware tile or wood floors collecting fog reside. Always use automated timers!!! I suggest checking fog levels during a dry run before the haunt opens each night . Always keep an eye out for sales on fog juice. You can never have too much juice or enough foggers . (FOGGERS ALWAYS BREAK 10 MINS BEFORE OPEN !!) NEVER add anything to fog juice. Believe it or not fog juice is a very precise and pure pharmaceutical chemical. NEVER mix your own fog juice!!! Never sacrifice safety to save a few bucks. Be aware foggers will set of certain smoke alarms. I advise you check with your fire marshal before you set a false alarm. Heat detectors used with sprinkler systems are usually ok around foggers. I know this is a lot to take in and understand but it is essential. Recently haunts have started using tv and projection effects to produce live ghost effects. For the price of an old used tv and dvd player you can create many cool illusions in your haunt. You can create videos to run on a dvd player to simulate a peppers ghost or news footage. There is no limit to the possibilities when using a tv or projector in your haunt.


Every haunted attraction needs costumes. I suggest you start with the basic haunt costume which is a black rob and comfortable mask. As your grow your costuming shills will grow as well. I always advise haunters to use light weight comfortable robes . Always use robes that are not going to be too hot,too heavy or pose a trip hazard. You can always accentuate any common robe with cheesecloth or a nice cape. there are as many ways to do haunt costuming as there are haunts as long as its save, scary and comfortable there is no wrong way of doing this. Now you have cool robes you will need masks !!! I suggest trying zagonne studios. I have used their masks for over 20 years and love them !! Zagonne masks are very detailed , comfortable, cost effective and easy to wear. I suggest adding either brown gloves or rubber monster hands to finish off the basic haunt costume. Zaggone also has an awesome line of fabric/ latex monster gloves that work very well. Some people will want to use makeup and appliances which is fine . You should consider the time it takes to makeup 20 plus actors each night. For your first haunt I strongly suggest using nice masks over the make up as its cost and time friendly.


I know , I know we already covered fire and safety !!! I have here a standard version of haunt fire safety codes for TX. You might find your area may be different so use this as a basis until you contact your local Fire Dept and find out for sure from them .

MCKINNEY FIRE DEPARTMENT FIRE MARSHAL’S OFFICE McKinney Fire Department • Fire Marshal’s Office Special Amusement Occupancies 2200 Taylor Burk • McKinney, TX 75071 Page 1 of 5 SPECIAL AMUSEMENT OCCUPANCIES HAUNTED HOUSE, SCARE HOUSE OR MAZE Effective Date : 10/01/2007 Revised : June 2014 Summary : Fire Department requirements for the Permit issuance and safe operation of a Temporary Special Amusement Occupancy. PURPOSE To establish minimum fire and life safety guidelines for the use and operation of a temporary Special Amusement Occupancy for the use of a facility or outside space for a “Haunted Houses, Sc are House or Haunted Maze” within the City of McKinney. SCOPE These guidelines are intended to apply to “Haunted Houses, Scare Houses or Haunted Mazes” which typically operate during the Halloween season at special community, school or local fund raising events. They may also apply to similar commercial activities such as carnivals and other seasonal amusement activities. These guidelines are necessarily general in scope and should be applied with appropriate professional judgment and common sense in consideration of the overall fire and life safety situation. This guide does not replace, nor supersede any adopted codes and/or ordinances adopted by the City of McKinney, or determinations and positions of the Fire Chief or Fire Marshal. DEFINITION SPECIAL AMUSEMENT BUILDING . A building that is temporary, permanent or mobile that contains a device or system that conveys passengers or provides a walkway along, around or over a course in any direction as a form of amusement arranged so that the egress path is not readily apparent due to visual or audio distractions or an intentionally confounded egress path, or is not readily available because of the mode of conveyance through the building or structure.


Located at the site now occupied by the Autobahn bumper cars and the picnic grounds, Haunted Castle at Six Flags Great Adventure was the original fun house attraction of Six Flags. At the opening day (1979), it was called "Haunted Castle Across the Moat", because to access it, one would have to cross a drawbridge. Inside the attraction, people were spooked by various props and sequences, along with live actors. The attraction was a set of trailer mazes linked up to create a walk - through ride. The facade of the attraction featured turret s, a demon sticking out of the built - in sign, and various other oddities intended to create a scary atmosphere. On May 11, 1984, one room's lights burned out. A 14 - year old boy, who happened to have a cigarette lighter with him, took it out and lit a flam e to guide his way through the dark room. He accidentally hit the rubber padding on the wall which lit it on fire. The flames quickly spread throughout the attraction because of highly flammable building material and outside air conditioners that fanned t he fire. Only a handful of people escaped the burning building through the main entrance. Seven people were treated for smoke inhalation. However, one group wasn't so lucky. A group consisting of nine teenagers was caught in the fire with no way out. Out o f the nine teenagers SPECIAL AMUSEMENT OCCUPANCIES HAUNTER HOUSE, SCARE HOUSE OR MAZE McKinney Fire Department • Fire Marshal’s Office Special Amusement Occupancies 2200 Taylor Burk • McKinney, TX 75071 Page 2 of 5 only one survived the fire the rest were burned to death. More information can be found at gs_Great_Adventure . In general, such facilities shall comply with the provisions of both the 20 12 International Fire Code and the 20 12 International Building Code, and shall be classified as a “Special Amusement Building” as defined in Section 202. Fire And Life Safety Guidelines By nature, many of these types of facilities are unique; thus, the fire safety concerns are unique and must be evaluated accordingly. Special attention should be given to overall exit arrangement, exit travel distance, exit and emergency lighting, use of flammable liquids and combustible interior finish and construction materials, use and operational condition of fire detection, alarm and extinguishing equipment, use of special effects, adequate trained and supervised staff , established emergency procedures, and readily available means to notify local fire, police and emergency medical services. For added safety, it may be necessary to limit occupant load, add additional emergency exits or establish other special precaution s to minimize a potential risk due to some unique circumstance. In any event, every effort should be made to provide an enjoyable but fire safe environment as determined by the local fire inspection authority. MATERIALS AND CONSTRUCTION 1. Highly flammable materials such as cotton batting, straw, dried plant material, certain plastics, etc. shall not be used for decorations or construction. 2. Avoid use of combustible material in displays. If used, combustibles must be treated with an approved commercial flame - retardant treatment. Samples of all such materials must be submitted to this office for flame tests prior to use. 3. Construction of interior partitions, cubicles, mazes and the like shall be of non - combustible materials such as gypsum wallboard on wood or metal studs, brick, concrete block, plaster, etc. Under no circumstances shall the extensive use of exposed plywood, wood paneling or wood frame partitions be allowed where such material would substantially contribute to the ignition, spread or intensity of a fire. Use of fire retardant treated materials shall be restricted since may such products tend to produce unacceptably high levels of smoke when exposed to fire. In any case, interior construction materials shall be consistent with the general type of construction of the building. 4. Extension cords, multiplug adapters, and non - fused power strips are not permitted. Only UL Approved circuit breaker strips or NEC approved wiring methods are permitted. 5. The interior finish shall be Class A in accordance with Section 803.1. Flame Spread 0 - 25; Smoke Developed 0 - 450. Combustible material shall be flame resistant. Foam plastics shall not be used other than trim. 6. Use of draperies, cardboard and flammable vinyl materials for use as interior finish or display purposes shall not be used unless they are inherently flame resistive, self - extinguishing or otherwise fire retardant treated in an approved manner as per NFPA 701. 7. Under no circumstances shall the use of exposed urethane foam, foam rubber or similarly h ighly combustible “cushion” or “molded” material be allowed, unless such material is covered or otherwise protected by gypsum wallboard, plaster or other non - combustible covering providing at least a 15 minute fire resistance rating. 8. All wiring and electrical appliances must comply with the National Electrical Code, NFPA 70. A licensed electrician shall install all wiring. Special attention should be given to assure adequate clearance is provided between electrical appliances subject to heated surfaces and nearby combustible materials. All electrical wiring and electrical appliances shall be subject to inspection by an approved electrical inspection agency. 9. Smoking and the use of pyrotechnic devices (fireworks) or open flame devices such as cigarette lighters, candles, canisters, kerosene lamps, kerosene heaters, flash powder, shall be strictly prohibited inside or around the outside of special amusement buildings or display areas. Signs shall be conspicuously posted for this purpose. SPECIAL AMUSEMENT OCCUPANCIES HAUNTER HOUSE, SCARE HOUSE OR MAZE McKinney Fire Department • Fire Marshal’s Office Special Amusement Occupancies 2200 Taylor Burk • McKinney, TX 75071 Page 3 of 5 10. The use of flame effects and/or pyrotechnics will be evaluated on a case - by - case basis and shall be permitted only if performed and supervised by a licensed technician. Separate Pyrotechnics Permit shall be required. FIRE PROTECTION SYSTEMS 11. Automatic fire detection. Special amusement buildings shall be equipped with an automatic fire detection system in accordance with Section 907 of the IFC. a. In areas where ambient conditions will cause a smoke detection system to alarm, an approved alternate type of automatic detector shall be installed. 12. Alarm. Activation of any single smoke detector, the automatic sprinkler system or any other automatic fire detection device shall immediately sound an alarm at the building at a constantly attended location from which emergency action can be initiated, including the capability of manual initiation of requirements in Section 907.2.11.2. a. Cause illumination in the means of egress. b. Stop any conflicting or confusing sounds and visuals. c. (Note: As an alternative to the above, consideration may be given to use of a master lighting switch under the direct control of an attendant at a constantly attended location which would illuminate the area in the event of emergency. This shall be limited to small or temporary facilities.) 13. Automatic Sprinklers: Special amusement buildings shall be equipped throughout with an automatic sprinkler system in accordance with NFPA 13. Where the special amusement building is temporary, the sprinkler water supply shall be of an approved temporary means. 14. Emergency Voice/Alarm Communication System: An emergency voice/alarm communication system, which is also allowed to serve as a public address system, shall be installed in accordance with NFPA 72, and shall be audible throughout the entire special amusement building. 15. Fire Extinguishers: An adequate number and type of portable fire extinguishers shall be provided on the premises for use by the staff. At least one 2A:10BC (10 - lb. multi - purpose) rated fire extinguisher shall be provided within 75 ft. travel distance to all areas. Extinguishers shall be properly mounted and located near an exit. All staff shall be familiar with the location and use of such fire extinguishers. 16. Exit Markings: Exit signs shall be installed throughout amusement buildings. Such markings shall become visible in an emergency. The directional exit marking shall be activated by the automatic fire detection system and the automatic sprinkler system in accordance with system response outlined in paragraph above. Exit signs shall have a battery back - up system. Additional approved directional exit markings shall also be provided when required by the code or deemed necessary. Where mirrors, mazes or other designs are utilized that disguise the path of egress travel such that they are not apparent, approved low - level exit signs and directional path markings shall be provided and located not more than 8 inches above the walking surface and on or near the path of egress travel. 17. Maintain all exits clear of obstructions and in usable condition. 18. Exit doors shall be maintained in proper working order and unlocked at all times when the building is occupied. 19. Exits shall be identified by approved self - luminous or electrically illuminated exit signs, permanently or temporarily wired in a satisfactory manner. Exit signs may be externally illuminated by a reliable power source. The size of the letters in the word “Exit” shall be large enough to be seen but not less than 6 - inches high and ¾ - inches wide. The exit sign shall be of a distinctive color on a contrasting background (eg: red or green letters on a white background or vice - versa) and shall be readily apparent with respect to nearby decorations, interior finish, or other signs. 20. If necessary, low level exit signs located at or near floor level shall be provided. Consideration may also be given to special floor proximity egress path marking such as special internally illuminated wiring, reflective tape or other acceptable product. 21. Emergency lighting is required along all means of egress and in all assembly areas. Battery packs are acceptable as well as emergency generators if the building is to be occupied on a temporary basis. SPECIAL AMUSEMENT OCCUPANCIES HAUNTER HOUSE, SCARE HOUSE OR MAZE McKinney Fire Department • Fire Marshal’s Office Special Amusement Occupancies 2200 Taylor Burk • McKinney, TX 75071 Page 4 of 5 Consideration may be given to the use of flash lights or other portable battery operated hand lights under certain circumstances provided an adequate number of such devices and assigned supervisory personnel are available as directed by the fire official. 22. Each occupied floor shall be provided with at least two (2) approved means of egress, located as remote as possible from each other. Each exit and the access to reach it shall be clearly indicated and marked by directional exit signs as necessary so that every occupant can readily see the direction of escape from any point. 23. Any doorway or passageway that is not an exit or a way to reach an exit, but may be mistaken as an exit, shall be identified with a “No Exit” sign to prevent occupant confusion with designated exits. Every effort shall be made to prevent occupants mistakenly traveling into dead - end spaces in a fire emergency. 24. No decorations, furnishings or equipment shall be allowed to obstruct, impair or otherwise detract attention from the visibility or use of an exit. Under no circumstances shall an exit be part of a mirrored wall. 25. Where mazes, mirrors or other layouts are designed to confound the egress path, approved directional exit marking that will become apparent to the occupant in an emergency shall be provided. 26. Approved “Fire Lanes” and emergency access to the premises shall be provided. 27. All staff shall be trained and drilled in the duties they are to perform in case of fire, panic or other emergency to effect orderly exiting. This shall include personnel specifically assigned to notify the fire department and other appropriate emergency services. Staff shall be specifically instructed to devote their immediate attention to the safe evacuation of occupants and notification of the fire department before attempting to fight a fire, in order to prevent possible injury or delayed alarm. 28. For added safety, the Fire Marsha l may limit the occupant load to a small group of people at a time to be “ushered” through a display with proper supervision. Also, the general public shall be restricted to only those floors or areas which are provided with adequate exits. To expedite the plan review and inspection processes, please refer to the information listed below. PERMITTING REQUIREMENTS 29. Provide a written description of the operations for the “Haunted House, Scare House or Haunted Maze”. 30. Plan drawings of the installation location and layout, to include; including. a. Floor plan layout. b. Location of all exits and emergency lights. c. Location of all fire extinguishers. 31. Listing of all materials to be used and the fire rated classification of each. NOTE. Only Class A interior finish is permitted. 32. Locations of any mirror walls, laser lights or other mechanism to confuse occupants. 33. Indicate the locations and use of any smoke or dry - ice machines. NOTE: Smoke machines may not be permitted and may cause alarms in a building with smoke detection installed. 34. Drawings shall be submitted for review and approval, PRIOR to installation. 35. The submittal package must include all above requirements. 36. No Haunted Houses, Scare Houses or Mazes shall be constructed, located or otherwise used until a Special Amusement Permit has been issued by the Fire Department . This is to include the operation of these facilities within an R - 3 single family residential home in which persons other than direct family members, general public or admission is required f or entry. Any use of a structure or outside location as a special amusement PRIOR TO issuance of this permit may result in a citation being issued for violation of Section 113.3 of the 2012 International Fire Code. 37. Separate review and/or permit will be required by the Building Inspections Department . SPECIAL AMUSEMENT OCCUPANCIES HAUNTER HOUSE, SCARE HOUSE OR MAZE McKinney Fire Department • Fire Marshal’s Office Special Amusement Occupancies 2200 Taylor Burk • McKinney, TX 75071 Page 5 of 5 GENERAL SUBMITTAL REQUIREMENTS 38. Each submittal shall have a completed McKinney Fire Department Plan Review Permit Application. 39. Plans approved by the Fire Marshal’s Office give authorization for installation . Final approvals are subject to field verification. Any approval issued by the Fire Marshal’s Office does not release the contractor or property owner from the responsibility of full compliance with all applicable codes and ordinances. 40. All fire department inspection forms and permits shall be kept on site the duration of the planned use. 41. All installations shall comply with the approved plans. Any deviation from the approved plans requires a re - submittal to the Fire Marshal’s Office. All special amusement occupancies for the purposes of this guideline and any other guidelines or requirements of the Fire Department shall conform to the 20 12 International Fire Code, as adopted and amended by City of McKinney . This guide does not replace, nor supersede any codes and/or ordinances adopted by the City of McKinney, or determinations and positions of the Fire Chief or Fire Marshal

Samples of Nightmare Studios past haunts:


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