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I used to make a small haunted house in our garage a few years ago, but quit when we moved. My sister just let me know they wanted my help in making a haunted trail in the woods for a Halloween party they're having around October 19. Do you have any ideas for outdoor props or scenes that would work in the woods? Battery powered props would be good, but we will have some generators so there will be some electrical power available. I have plenty of corpses left over we could use, but I wanted more variety than just corpses laying around. I think we'll go for a cannibal theme but are open to anything, spiders etc...
Thanks!
 

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Typical Ghoul Next Door
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Movie monsters...

Samara in the well. Can make a well, have a few battery op lights weakly lighting it. Actor dressed as Samara either nearby or rising out of the well.

Signposts for "Camp Crystal Lake" with 1-2 bloody teen counselors screaming and running towards the trail, or across it right in front of the groups yelling Jason's coming. Figure of Jason hidden in darkness and lead with BRIGHT flashlight "finds" him standing nearby.

Halloween - LOTS of candles and Jack o Lanterns (flicker lights) lighting up the tombstone of Judith Meyers. Michael can be another static figure, or an actor that comes out from behind a tree and moves slowly towards group.

Leatherface (if you have access to a chainsaw*): walk around to an area where LOTS of bloody body parts are hanging from a tree... let the group look around and get a bit freaked out and then Leatherface cranks up the chainsaw and takes a few steps towards the trail...

IT: single red balloon and distant circus music (leader should have a small MP3 recorder play music as they approach. If you have enough actors, then have them whispering "you'll float down here" or have that layered over distant circus music. DO NOT HAVE A PENNYWISE OR OTHER ACTOR showing. This is a bluff display - the group will be freaking out wondering where the clown is going to show up but he doesn't and that hightens the tension/fear. :D

Lots of other ideas there, but these should be easy to do with minimum of actors and props.


*Adding in HauntedWyo's reminder: remove the chain! Or use a prop one (they made a nice toy/Halloween version that runs on batteries with the sound effect a few years ago)
 

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low lying fog through a deserted old cemetery with skeletons holding dimly lit candles (tea lights, could get a pack of 100 on amazon for like $15.00), One tree with several hanging bodies. hidden bluetooth speakers hidden in the trees with horror music and random screams playing. I saw a tutorial on ghost swamp lanterns, could randomly hang those throughout the trees as well........and these ideas are just a few.
 

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I would love to do a haunted trail!

This is a really easy way to have a single soundtrack playing all over your yard/haunt/trail: broadcast MP3 files via FM radio. The range for this setup is about 100m so you could really cover an area much bigger than that. I've done this for the past 2 years in my yard and it's worked great. Ambient sound & music really adds to the scene.
It's based off of the raspberry pi minicomputer which you can get off Amazon for about $80 (complete kit with computer board, power supply, memory card and case). No soldering or anything like that.
  • Set up Raspberry PIrate radio and load your soundtrack, sound effects, whatever. A little tech knowledge is good but no programming skills needed.
  • Buy a few boom boxes at local thrift stores. I've found them locally for anywhere from $6-$10. Maybe you already have some around the house. We had 2 & I bought 2 more cheap.
  • Plug in the Pi indoors and use batteries in your boomboxes for the wireless experience. Then just set the boomboxes throughout your trail!
Make sure to configure your broadcast frequency for something that doesn't conflict with existing radio stations. (Follow warnings about FCC bands at link above & stick to broadcast frequencies.)

Good luck!
 

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I've mentioned this in previous years but one of THE best scares for a haunted trail is a giant headlight and a train horn. Set it up about 20 feet perpendicular to the trail with some type of sensor for the trigger. Guaranteed to scare the h*** out of people. 🎃
 

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Just as a warning, if you do use a chainsaw anywhere on the haunted trail be sure to remove the chain from the saw. Don't need any accidents.

Watch some segments of the Blair Witch Project. You might get a few ideas from that.

Have an actor dressed in a white or light colored nightgown wearing a long dark wig with darkened circles around their eyes and looking rather gauntly sitting in a dimly lit area and eating on body parts either human or animal. Gown smeared with blood, blood around mouth. Have actor hiss at those going through and start grabbing up their feast like they don't want anyone touching it.

Strobe lights lighting up some scarecrows standing back off the trail a bit. Cages with skellies both human and animal hanging in trees. Hangman's nooses hanging hear and there.
 

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Lighting will be very important. Use real candles if you can do it safely or led “flame” bulbs. Hang some swamp lanterns from trees. I think characters far enough away into the darkness that you can just barely make out what they are create the biggest creep factor. This could be live actors or a skelly nailed to a tree or maybe a grim reaper.
 

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It's pronounced "Fronkensteen."
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I used to help run a haunted trail at our local scout camp. It was a 3-5 Mike hike through the woods at night. It would go screen to scene, with a few surprise scares along the way. Lighting was done mostly with torches and campfires.


Scenes included:
Grave yard with reaper and ghost lady.
Toxic dump with mutant zombies
Hillbilly shack with cannibals and caged victims (including shotgun blast)
Tight cabin maze with live ghouls.
Scary funhouse circus maze
"Bloodbath" shower house
Witches lair and couldron
Chainsaw madman in woods
Scarecrow path with popup and live scarecrows
Spider tunnel.
 

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Hmmm... themes... a storyline...

The visitors can feel as if they just stumbled into "something: they weren't supposed to see. Even go so far as to suggest there is another path they were suppose to take, but block it off with brush and downed branches. Or, you could line the initial path with jackolanterns and then have them disappear, like some sinister agents are deliberately removing the trail markers. People really get freaked out at the idea of getting lost in the woods, so play on that.

Give them weak $1.00 flashlights, covered in red lens or colored film, to navigate by.

Start in the not-woods with a very legit-looking historical marker by suggesting this once was a village, now abadoned for hundreds of years, plagued by generations if witches that lived in the woods. Children wandered in to the woods never be seen, lured in by strange lights and mysterious laughter. Adults that saw the strange orbs of lights in the woods often fell sick and nearly died.

After much misery and misfortune, the surviving townsfolk formed a posse led by professional witch hunters to go in and kill off the whole proported witch family. Follow the trailmarkers to see the old village church cemetary (at mile marker whatever) and further up the trail the Witches' House and family burial plot at mile marker whatever with additional historical markers. Further up, the site where the witch family was summarily executed without trial.

Visitors enter the well-marked trail. As they venture in, the trail markers gets more obscured or vandalized. Eventually, they'll be attracted to some work lamps off in the distance. What will they see?

I'd start with an abandoned, overgrown village graveyard that is (being) disturbed by graverobbers. So, you can stage corspses, broken ancient caskets, and digging equipment/wheel barrows to look very recently abandoned. The visitors can feel as if they just stumbled into something they weren't supposed to see.

Who's buried there, being exhumed? How about an entire village of witchcraft victims? Like, a lot of headstones or grave markers. So and so was turned into a badger, entire families falling sick and dying due to mysterious illness, horrible farming accidents, animal /werewolf attacks, etc. There can be a central monument erected by surviving villagers and witch-hunters dedicated to the victims. If you can suggest the ruins of a chruch, or hallowed ground, with your props even better.

What happened to the church? Add another modern historical marker: this is where the so and so church once stood, erected in whatever year. After the last witch was caught and burned at the stake, the church inexplicably burned down on the anniversary of the witch's death and terrified villagers abandoned the site.

And then, further up the trail, you stumble into the quite seperate (and equally exhumed), graveyard (or mass grave?) for the extended family executed for witchcraft, accused of heinous acts against the townsfolk? (Then, after describing the deeds committed by the witches on the headstones or another modern historical marker, have the actors re-inact the heinous acts against the visitors: maybe the buried family cannibalized people, tricked them into getting stuck on railroad tracks (such a great idea!), drowned, attacked by wildlife, etc. Maybe they were executed by hanging, burned, drowned, etc. More on that later.)

Then, what did these grave-robbing people want with all these exhumed bodies? Continue up the path, and stumble into a supernatural "chopshop"- a necromancer's camp- a "zombie factory" of sorts: Cauldons, chopped up body parts, rock-stacked ritual circles lined with runes and candles, altars, other ritual objects... you could stage something that looks like the ruins of an old house? Make it seem like there is a cult of people or witches trying to ritually resurrect the dead.

Then, along the trail? You might be persued by either the cultists or their recently crafted zombies? Oh, and here's an idea: have some successfully resurrected supernatural witches running around stalking the trail.

You can use low lighting, battery candles, lanterns, etc and not have to really bother with disguising or dressing up remote equipment like generators and lights, because the actors (cultist / graverobbers) would be needing that equipment in the remote woods anyway.

And, if you have some electric available, I would totally go for rear-projection effects. Set them back in the woods just off the trail and it will be very, very creepy.

You could wire up speakers to suggest that the cultists are still chanting off in the woods somewhere, break brush and snap twigs, cackling laughter, weird flashes of light, lots of fog machines, zombie groans, screams, werewolf howls, etc.

Then, to get off the trail? Yep! There's that last historical marker where all of the witches were brought to be executed by the townsfolk. You have to get through a tighter maze of all the ways the family was executed- lots of opportunities for jumpscares. You could install hundreds of nooses from trees, make big brush piles with a central stake to suggest an execution pyre, add blue SFX lighting to suggest drowning, etc. It could be a bizarre collage of execution-related imagery in the props.

But, this resurrected family is out for revenge! Have them trying to catch up with visitors and throw them in chains, etc. to execute the visitors.

Maybe, the witch family unleashes a horde of former villager zombies after you (rear-projection time). You could be stalked by their werewolf the whole time on the trail. Have the obvious trail appear and disappear at key moments.

You could really have fun with some really low-tech stuff, just drumming up the "I might be lost in the woods and I think I saw/heard something" paranoia. Any place you don't want visitors to go, just block off with stakes and some black nylon rope, maybe build the ruins of fences? It would be like allowing the trail to widen (become less marked or obvious) and narrow to fit the key plot or scare points.

I think it could be doable for the time you have for prep, if you just use ply cut outs in the distance for the majority of headstones. It'll be dark and dim, just add details where they will actually be visible.

As far as looped audio tracks go, the deeper in the woods the sounds seem to eminate from, the better.

With a few historical markers suggesting supernatural and gruesome events, you can let visitors fill in the blanks with their imagination and wouldn't need too many live actors.

Hope this helps! Happy Haunting!
 

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Ok, I looked all over the internet for a still shot and can't find it, but wanted to share: the idea of using blue special effects and strobe lighting and suspending bodies from the tree canopy to suggest drowning came from a movie released in 2000 called "The Gift", directed by Sam Raimi. SPOILER ALERT The main character Annie, a smalltown psychic, is trying to help police find a missing person. She goes outside on a storming night, looks up into a grand southern oak tree and sees a sudden flash of a female body, wrapped in heavy chains, "floating" and bobbing in the canopy. It visually looked like she was seeing a reflection of a tree in the tree. Very striking and incredibly creepy. If you added splashing sounds, I think people would "get" the suggestion of water.

And, as a personal observation: IMHO, the trees are worthy of showcasing in a haunted trail and incorporating more into the special effects and story environment. I just feel the "vertical visuals" of a forest get under-utilized. And, if you're drawing people's attention up into the tree canopy, they're not paying attention to their on-the-ground surroundings, which presents a lot of fun scare opportunities.

Also, another low-tech scare for in the woods: modify the Disney fire-fly prop into reflective eyeshine props using reflective safety tape and matte black poster board. Cut out eye shapes, mount on one side of the board, both sides painted matte black. Hang from a black string. A small battery powered fan should be enough to get them to bob, sway, "blink" and spin.

And, eyeshine looking back at you in the woods is scary no matter what time of year it is.
 

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You have gotten a lot of great ideas here. You have a good number of corpses already, can you dress them in camping/hiking clothes so they look like last year's group met untimely ends? I would hit Goodwill or similar for stuff if you need beat up clothes.

If there are any big trees, see if you can make it look like people carved stuff in them like pentagrams, "GET OUT", or "GO HOME". Please don't actually carve the trees, of course, but you can use caulk on parchment paper to create your letters and then carefully affix them to the trunks. Caulk letters will bend around irregular surfaces. Black caulk is useful for trees with light bark, clear silicone caulk can be dusted with glow in the dark powder that fluouresces under black light (like from an LED flood lamp or even a flashlight placed strategically).
 

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One of those Jumping spiders in the woods would be pretty awesome. Web up an area and spread a strand of orange lights around it so they know something is there. There has to be enough light to see it come out at them though. I had it out one year and nobody knew what it was because it was in an area that was too dark. It resets by itself so if the guests go out in groups they'd all get a look/scare.

I think if you had some rope and a pulley and a volunteer (wearing black) dropping an object (maybe a small hay bale?) off the path next to people it would make a good surprise scare. Especially if it fell into branches and brush. Everyone would look in one direction to see what the noise was and then you could have someone with a chainsaw or something jump out from the other direction.
Then repeat for the next group.

Lit pumpkins (plastic or real doesn't matter) look great out in the woods no matter what. Maybe use them as directions markers? Tell the guests that it shows the location of the next scare?

Scary music would make it great too. I like Nox Arcana stuff myself. WhackyChimp posted a way that I've never tried (I'm a simple caveman) My haunt is small enough to get away with one Bluetooth speaker so I can't help you there.

I love Witches. Have a free standing one far enough off the path that the guests can't get close to. One small spotlight on her. Maybe have 2 static displays that guests have to pass and have the 3rd as a real person dressed as a witch that does a jump scare thing.

Dig a hole in the ground near the path deep enough for a person to stand in up to the waist. Have them bent on the ground looking like a zombie or something staying still until a guests walk by and he/she comes alive and tries to grab them.

Smoke machines I never have any luck with but they would be a great effect in the woods too.
 

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There's a helium balloon in my house with a fishing line string hanging beneath. A couple minutes ago, I walked under it and the fishing line brushed my face. Very unexpected, creepy sensation. Maybe you could have a section of trail with multiple fishing line strings hanging down.
 

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Hi there - I live in the hills with lots of oaks and pines, so I have done this before. You have a lot of good ideas, but one I haven't seen mentioned is to set up thunder and lightening - basically, get a good thunder and lightening sound track and hook it up to a camera flash (or other very bright light) and one of those Christmas light boxes that makes the lights flash in time to the music. Easy way to do this and very effective - we set it up so it was flashing on the trees above the house on the hill - drew people from quite a long ways.

Another idea is to have actors dress up as a cryptid (goat monster, Bigfoot, thunderbird, etc.) and follow people on the trail, just out of site and making small sounds and throwing things near them. Guaranteed to make people very nervous.
 

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Perfect storm box on amazon. here is the box you could use. Under $50.
721796

I have one of these and it does work great.
this one may be the regular box...?
Mine is the Perfect Storm 2.0 - which is the same but also has a 1/8 jack so you can plug your phone etc. into it direct or use internal microphone. Comes with a cd of storm sounds....
 

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Perfect storm box on amazon. here is the box you could use. Under $50.
View attachment 721796
I have one of these and it does work great.
this one may be the regular box...?
Mine is the Perfect Storm 2.0 - which is the same but also has a 1/8 jack so you can plug your phone etc. into it direct or use internal microphone. Comes with a cd of storm sounds....
I just bought mine on eBay for 41. Turns out the seller drop shipped it from Walmart.com for 37.98. Definitely the cheapest price I've found. But can attest to how awesome they are.
 

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We have done a few haunted trails. We were scaring middle school to high schoolers so we didn't need to tame it down for youngsters. What made ours "not lame" by teen standards was the actors (we had 18 - 20), lighting, fog, sound and darkness. Some great ideas already presented are some simple things like the fishing line hanging down brushing their faces, jingling chains from trailside. I had bluetooth speakers w/ mp3 player on loop playing short scary sounds and animal noises....humpback whales & squealing pigs are creepier than you may think in dark woods!
Some other ideas that worked for us...
We had a narrow single file 'bridge' about 2' off the ground that we used the fog and some green lighting, Actors freelanced in this area.
I have about 5 old wooden doors and leaned a few against trees with strobe lights and fastened one to a tree where the trail was narrow so they had to open the door to continue on the walk, an actor freelanced here.
I made a tunnel by draping black plastic over 3/4" poly water pipe hoops that were over fence posts. An actor with an airhorn worked this area.

If you can run extension cords and air hose to various spots you can do pneumatic or electric props. We triggered an electric chair prop with a remote control outlet and i had battery powered solenoids actors would trip with a push button that activated different pneumatics like a jumping spider, pop up skulls, zombie baby in a carriage. Ours grew over the years to what i think is now maxed out for the number of actors we get for the night. The actors are mostly parents of the group of kids that attend. I think they have at least as much fun as the kids since we still get parents to help whose kids have outgrown attending.
 
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