Building Up A Scare: In The Beginning

It’s September, and Halloween is just around the corner.

If your reaction to that statement wasn’t “That’s still, like, two months away”, then congratulations. You’re a Haunter.  And if you aren’t– read on. Maybe by Oct 31st, you will be.

There’s plenty of information out there about haunting, but it mainly focus on what a haunt is, why people haunt, and how to build props / do effects. Our goal with Building Up A Scare is to showcase HOW to plan, create and execute a home haunt by exploring the entire process. If you want to run a home haunt, but don’t even know where to begin– or if you’d like to refine your existing process– or if you just want some insight into what running a home haunt entails– this series is for you.

The Home Haunt

Either you have “that house” in your neighbourhood– or it is your house. The one decorated for Halloween. And I don’t just mean a pumpkin on the porch, a scarecrow on the lawn and a spider in the front window. It isn’t just a house decorated for Halloween. It is a Halloween House. Depending on where you grew up, it’s a home haunt, or a haunted yard, or a dark house, or a dark ride.  It’s a place of horrors to gaze upon, or walk through.  It’s an attraction.

We are the ones behind the horrors. We are Haunters.

I’m Lorne Kates, and along with my wife Heather, her father Rand and my friend Andrew, we run the Houghton Haunt in Newmarket (Ontario, Canada, L6E1W8).  It started as some scary decorations in the front yard, and has since grown into an over 200′ long walk-through “dark ride” that takes up both front lawns, a side yard, the garage and the front porch.

We’re often asked two things. “Why do you do this”, which is simple to answer. For the same reason as any other hobby. It’s fun. It’s creative. It centres around a theme I love– Halloween. It lets us flex a wide range of muscles– set building, costuming, makeup, sound design, project management, painting, carving, storytelling, and so much more. The why is simple enough to answer. Because it’s fun and rewarding.

The much more interesting question is “how”.  To the outside observer, one day there’s a perfectly normal house, the next it’s a demon-infested den of horror.  The entire process in-between happens almost entirely behind the scenes. Even the neighbours only get brief glimpses of projects worked on on the driveway, or set pieces being dragged back and forth. So we get asked “how”. How do you get the house ready? How long does it take? How do you decide what to build?

Building Up A Scare: The Series

The Internet is filled with lots of instructions and howtos on prop building and set design, but there isn’t really a comprehensive guide on how to run a haunted house.

And that’s why we’ve started Building Up A Scare. We’ll take you behind the scenes of a home haunt, and show you how the entire project runs. Our goal is to teach you everything you need to know to run a haunted house project– from the moment you decide ‘this looks like fun’ all the way through the Big Night on the 31st (and even beyond!).

No matter if you’re brand new at this, or a novice seeking tips, or even a veteran haunter who wants to see how other haunters do it, Building Up A Scare will be your guide.  We’ll have regular updates, videos and resource links throughout the month of October.

Coming up first:  the four major decisions you must make that will determine EVERYTHING about your haunt.

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