Ok, trying to analyze the specific challenges of my house in terms of the haunt setup. Especially in comparison to haunts like Hollowed Haunting Grounds and House of Restless Spirits.
HHG was more of a front yard walkthrough. I don't know its history beyond what is on the site and how they operated in terms of ToTs. From what I gather it was strictly a haunt and not a ToT stop for candy. The front door was not approachable by patrons. You came, you saw, you left.
HRS looks to have been mostly the same except it was a walk-around - you encircled the house. Generally the same idea - you came, you saw, you left. I don't see any means for ToTs to pick up candy.
Maybe someone here that's been to either or can correct me.
My haunt, like most haunters here, has always been both. You came, you saw, you got treats, you left. ToTs have always been my primary target audience so treats are a must. I've always had the most fun being out in the yard handing out treats personally. So I always try to take that into account when working on the yard design.
With the exception of this year, ToT's would get their treats inside the garage which I had decorated. This year we didn't do the garage at all. The setup has always been in the front side of the house.
2010 the yard to the right HAD a huge oak tree and was lined with trees along the right dividing the house from the side road. I had the graveyard setup in that area. The front yard was a witch hollow. And the garage was a dungeon lab with a cauldron creep. ToTs went to the garage for treats and the yard was for viewing.
2011 was a bust due to the freak snow storm.
2012 saw the graveyard moved to the front as the landlord removed all the trees on the right after the storm. We had a witch hollow between the front door and the graveyard with cornstalks lining the walkway. The garage was SUPPOSED to had gotten setup like a temple.
Sandy reared her ugly head and we pulled everything down. Last minute we decided to run small and setup the cornstalks and witch hollow in the garage. ToTs came to the garage for treats.
2013 Front yard was primarily a graveyard and the garage was a crypt entrance with UV lighting. ToTs came into the garage and approached me and Slenderman to get their treats.
2014 Setup harkened back to the 2012 layout. Graveyard in the frontyard this time with the cemetary gates open and a pumpkin lighted path leading up through the lawn to the front porch. The porch and walkway area was enclosed in cornstalks and ghouls reminiscent of Pumpkinrot's Corn Witch setup from 2009. I decided to stay inside this year to partake in the yearly family gathering for a change. The plan was for the ToTs to come up the lighted walkway and exit through the cornstalk lined walkway leading to the driveway area. I can't confirm it since I wasn't outside, but I believe everyone properly entered but exited out the same way they came in. I don't think very many ToT's came up or exited through the path to the driveway.
Based on this I'm positive I'll need to be outside to regulate ToT traffic. So lets move on to the basic layout of my yard.
The red lines represent property boundaries. We're on a corner so the street is to the right and below. The grey/blue lines at the top mark off an area where a shallow brook USED to run but still occasionally fills with water with heavy rains. During lighter rains it just leaves the area very muddy. Maybe with a stretch of dry days it'd be fine. But if the last 4 years are anything to go by, why risk it. So that area is pretty much off limits. I included it for completeness.
Now I COULD utilize the deck in some way. I mean, there is a ramp on the left. But the steps on the right pose a potential ToT trip hazard - especially in low light conditions. The little circles to the right of the deck are stone slabs. They get incredibly slippery when damp or wet - so again, another hazard it we get any sort of rain. So why not go around? See my note above about the old shallow brook. Maybe with a stretch of dry days it'd be fine. But if the last 4 years are anything to go by, why risk it. So yeah - using the backside to traverse from the left side to the right is not really a good idea.
I'm leaning towards using the left side as the 2015+ graveyard area. And also considering creating a wooden fence to go around at least one or two edges. As noted in the beginning, I used the right side for the graveyard in 2010. But since the landlord remove all the trees on that side it's kinda plain looking and wide open. I like simple - less is more - letting nature fill in the gaps. The left side has trees still and is pretty dark.
Still not sure what to do with the garage or how to direct traffic in a manner that's conducive to viewing the graveyard yet stopping at the garage last to pick up treats. ToTs have a tendency to grab treats and get the hell out to hit the next house. They don't linger to look at all the neat details like the adults do. So whatever I do in the front will be heavily dictated by how I decide to route and enforce ToT traffic.
So that's my current challenge...