When I was little, there was this one house that always made an incredible haunted house in their garage, and it never failed to elicit screams of terror and delight from the neighborhood kids. It was amazing, and it's the thing I remember most about the haunting holiday.
But over the past few years I've noticed fewer and fewer people are making the effort to scare the little ghouls and goblins that run amok every October 31. It's almost like people go out of their way not to scare kids. Well, it's time to bring creepy back!
So here's a foolproof, step-by-step guide to creating a terrifying haunted house that will be the talk of the schoolyard on November 1st.
Before you start, you'll need to line up the talent: You're going to need a few friends to help out on the big day to make it effective (four people is the minimum).
Clear a Path
Take your car out of the garage and use space dividers, boxes, boards, and dark sheets--or all the junk in your garage--to create a maze-like path to the back of the garage.
A straight path is fine, so long as you create a few hidden recesses where people can hide and jump out from at unsuspecting trick-or-treaters. But a path with a few twists and turns and some dark corners where people can hide are always more suspenseful.
Hellish Mood Lighting
Atmosphere is key. If you have red floodlights for Christmas, get them out! Position the lights in the space to cast mood lighting, making sure the lights shine away from corners--dark corners are very effective. If you don't have floodlights, you can achieve a similar effect by replacing the light bulb in your garage with a red one and bringing in a few lamps with red and black light bulbs, or you can hang some red Christmas lights behind a thin sheet.
A Skin-Crawling Soundtrack
Sound also plays an important role. Find a few tracks with creaking doors, haunting moans, and bangs and thunks to make a tape or create a playlist on your iPod that you can loop all evening.
People to Jump Out of the Shadows
You'll need at least two people to dress up in terrifying costumes and jump out of the shadows, and there's nothing better than the tried and true chainsaw-murderer and demonic vampire. If you've amassed a large cast for your production, a few dead bodies strewn around are also a nice touch.
For the chainsaw murderer, a real chainsaw smeared with "blood" (red food coloring) is a must. (Be sure to empty the saw's gas tank earlier in the day so it can't be accidentally turned on.) Upcycle ripped or paint-splattered clothes as the costume, and splatter them with more red food coloring for a bloody effect.
For the vampire, let your imagination run wild. Start with the requisite vampire teeth and more food-coloring blood trickling form the mouth, and use baby powder on the skin and black or grey eye shadow smudged around the eyes for a demonic look. A cape might be traditional, but it's not necessary--black clothing will do the trick.
The Zombie Holds the Candy
At the end of the path, post a green-faced zombie to hand out candy. A successful zombie is all about character. Be a dead cheerleader who toppled off a pyramid and broke her neck or leg. Or play a dead delivery guy who crashed his truck and was pierced by a shard of windshield glass (a.k.a. Plexiglas). Whatever character you transform yourself into, make sure to paint your skin greenish, and draw on stitches with black eyeliner and create oozing wounds with mashed-up red lipstick.
An Alternative for the Little Ones
Post a wicked witch outside the garage to direct kids inside and to give treats to the really little ones who are too afraid to enter ... because there's nothing worse than making a four-year-old cry on Halloween.
Cara Smusiak writes on behalf of Naturally Savvy.com about how to live a more natural, organic and green lifestyle.