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We all probably have things that didn't happen or didn't work in our haunt this year, but I'm curious to hear from you and learn what made your haunt really successful this year. I'm feeling the pressure as I think about selecting a theme for 2016 and not sure how to make it just as good if not better than this year's. Is there something specific you can point to that helped elevate your haunt with the ToTers?

Here's what we did...:
Our haunt (Frank N Stein MD Brain Research Center) wasn't that big (space wise) and didn't have a lot of props, but I felt turned out to be very successful. I had signage, some lighting, and 3 static props and one animated prop (2 connected Electroshock hats). I think I did a nice job creating the feel of a doctor's office with arrangment of furniture incorporating 3 areas of distinctive settings--surgery, waiting room, and Experimental Research. My orig plans however included more lab shelving with specimen jars, microscope, other samples, some additional prop patients and nurse for the waiting area and even another John Doe body prop. In retrospect I don't think it was important or that anyone would have really noticed more. Hubby donned a doctor's jacket and I did wear a bloody head bandage which I think added to the playfulness of the Center.

...and what I think made the big difference for us:
A kind of last minute change--letting ToTers BE the second Experiment patient--I think made all the difference in turning the haunt from good to great. Could have been a flop if no one wanted to wear the second electroshock hat and sit through a few seconds of lights and sound. A number of kids (and parents who wondered what kind of Brain experiments we might be performing on their kids) were initially hesitant to walk into the lab. Some asked if it was scary or if something was going to jump out at them. We assured them it wasn't the case and thanked them for coming to the lab. Invited them in to the clinic to look around and get their candy, then before heading out asked them if they wanted to be part of the Experiment. Kids were I think surprised by that. We also announced that there was a Free extra lollipop to anyone brave enough to sit down and let us transfer their brain waves into our gorilla patient. When we had a group of small kids and a parent come in and the kids were too timid, we managed to coax the parent many times to sit with the hat and subsequently many times the kids then wanted to do it. Other kids lined up to volunteer when someone in their group went first. Kind of surprising that the line of volunteers kept growing dispite nothing happening to them other than flashing lights and sound. No vibrating seat cushion. They even stuck around to wear the hat if they were at the end of the line and their friends had left. That really amazed me. They wanted to be part of the experience and then ran to catch up with their friends. That situation happened 3 or 4 times. While we had a number of little tots (3-6 yrs old), I'd say most of our kids were 1st grade through pre-teen so really understood there was no brain waves getting transferred.

The kids could have been off gathering more candy elsewhere after getting our regular candy but they actually stuck around for this. It really was fun for them and for hubby and I. I really want to come up with something different this year but just as fun so please share your successful moments for inspiration.
 

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We in the U.K. still have shedloads to learn from your guys in the states and participation is one thing i should have included more in my builds , due to ill health i wont be able to do my halloween setup next year , but i would recommend and try to think up some more cool ways to help other forum members especially in the U.K. to try to integrate the kids more so its not just a dash up to get the sweets and back out again as they miss so much of the detail which so many of us put into our haunts no matter how big or small they are , great thread Ghost of Spookie , extremely thought provoking and i am sure a hell of a debating point , i will remind some of the other U.K. Haunters if they miss this thread to have a look and chip in , cheers and i hope you get some great ideas , most of my visitors preferred the more comical and fun side of the theme i did , i didnt dwell to much on really scary or overly blood thirsty as some years before , i was pleasantly pleased with this , i did get loads of kids ask me about a home made electric chair prop from 2 years ago when i got some kids to trigger the prop , again back to the participation thing again and it goes to show how powerful that particular halloween memory had made a mark .
 

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Our house and street has earned a popular reputation for Halloween. We have been getting 500-600 TOTS the last 5 years now.
I was out walking my dogs in my yard during the summer, a lady walked by and said "We can't wait for Halloween, you have the best house"
I said thanks, be sure to come back. Alot of us on the street decorate and hand out candy. It is a fun tradition. 2016 will be even better as
im working on a bunch of props.
 

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My ToTs were freaked out by my second black and white haunt. There are a number of factors to consider. 1) I again used a webcomic as inspiration, so the forms and style were recognizable, but not the characters themselves. 2) There was a clear and intentional disconnect between the cuter celebrating cartoon characters and the scary sequence at the center of the yard. A yard of smiling or silly characters was split down the middle by one character clearing running away screaming while being chased by emotionless monsters emerging from the distance. 3) While more people than ever in the neighborhood decorated this year, I had the only house that aimed for creepy, not just festive. 4) A walk through a cemetery is always going to make ToTs nervous.
 

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I attribute my success to just doing something, anything, lol. A darker neighborhood for decorations you will not find. People just don't do a thing. Such a shame. I always think the more that light up, the better. But, I'm an oasis in a sea of darkness and they're drawn to me like flies to a light bulb. I do it for them, honestly. I had my best haunt in 2013. I'm the type that when I nail it, when my dream is realized, I kinda don't need to keep repeating doing it. I move onto other interests and challenges to conquer. Even though I do have fun, it's a ton of work on only me doing it all. So really I do it mostly for the visitors now, to keep the tradition alive and give them a memory that they'll likely remember through their whole lives- maybe even be inspired to do the same when they grow up. That's how it was for me. When you are fully outdoors, it's hard to have a plan because you're at the mercy of the weather. The only plan I have now is to wait until three days before and see what the weather will allow me to do. I have so much stuff now, I can mix and match and set up how ever I want, on the fly.
 

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We had about the same as in most years but much more than last year...for some reason last year we only had 5 ToTers...? But usually it's right around the same amount, 25-30. This year it picked back up to I think 30 and what I attribute it to is BETTER LIGHTING. Thank goodness for all the help here on HF because I was so clueless and never really did have my lighting down. This time I made sure my lighting was visible from well down the street, which meant making sure one side of my house that wasn't decorated was lit. It didn't look odd, in fact it just looked spooky and cool. I also took advice from some on here and had one main portion spot-lighted.
 

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For mine, I thinks it's because I've been putting more automatic scare props in the walk through. Normally I only have 2 helpers so in order to get more ToT's, I've been doing more automatic scares by laser, ir's, & motion detectors. I've been busy packing up this years haunt still but when I get time, i'll post some pictures.
 
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