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Discussion Starter #1
hello everyone! I am new to halloweenforum as I am new to the whole haunt world! I have always loved halloween and this year I have finally decided to put together my first yard haunt :D ! I am extremely excited but I am faced with the challenge of choosing a theme. I don't want to a cemetery theme as I have put together small graveyards in my front yard before. I was thinking dark carnival/circus, creepy bayou or an overgrown harvest/salem/witch theme! I am open to any advice/suggestions and am wondering from you more experienced haunters what you think a relatively easy and cheap theme would be for me to start with (either from my 3 I mentioned or your own experience). thanks! :)
 

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Human Candy Shovel
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You're new to the art, so think small. Don't go for a showcase covering the entire yard, go with a spotlight on a single scene.

I'd go with the creepy bayou, because you can get a crapload of scene dressing for effort instead of money. Vines are invasive species most places. Many states have volunteer programs to eradicate them, so you can volunteer to tear out vines and bring them home. Just put up some PVC pipe for posts with rope running along the tops and throw the vines over the rope so the dangle and form a short semi-enclosed corridor. Throw in some skulls, a few spiders, witch lanterns, warning signs, maybe a creepy overgrown skeleton or scarecrow and you've got the makings of an impressive haunt scene for your first year.

And did you know you can coil vine like rope and store it in a cool dry place for several years of reuse? Then the next year you can improve the scene by adding some pressure triggers under a layer of fallen leaves, and hook the triggers up to things like talking skulls or some other sort of noise making device. Meanwhile make the corridor longer with more vine collected over the course of the year.

Finally, you want to pick a theme and stick with it for a four or five years, expanding it as you go, learning new tricks and skills. After a couple of themes like that, you should finally have the collection of skills and tools needed to be able to change to a new theme every year or two. An note you can easily have one theme lead into another as well. For example, the creepy bayou naturally leads to a witch theme, so potentially over the course of several years, your haunt could naturally evolve from one to the other.
 

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Welcome to the site.

I think the first thing you're going to need is an imagination.... a really vivid one. :) To the more experienced haunters, there is no such thing as junk, scrap, garbage, or debris. As my son said as we cut the feet off a mannequin to make our werewolf..."remember to keep those feet! Never throw out a body part!" :) Where "normal" people see scrap fence posts that have been dug out and replaced, haunters see mounts for scarecrows. Where normal people see stacks of old pallets, haunters see free lumber for walls, stands, cages, guillotines, pirate ships, you name it. Where normal people see old wire spools in the dumpster, haunters see gears for a giant saw machine or body sections for a huge snake. Haunters tend to look at everything not as it is, but what it could be with a little imagination, lots of Great Stuff foam, and some elbow grease. :)

The second thing to keep in mind is that most props are shapes and not machines. Most of them only have to have the right shape, and don't have to work mechanically. For example, take a tall round wastebasket, cut three panels about 4" wide at the bottom, 3" wide at the top, and 18" tall. What do you have? You can have three pieces of vinyl wastebasket, or turn them around, connect them on the long edges, and you a have a perfect base with concave sides for a Lombardi Super Bowl trophy prop. Find an old reptile cage that someone is junking and turn it into a cage for an escaped monster. Find an old woman's shoe mannequin, put some sculpy clay around it, shape it a bit and you have a monster's foot. Take an old football helmet and a bunch of old towels, place them in the shape of a body, wrap them in an old sheet, and you've got a dead body. You'll find lots of folks on here who take lots of things you would never think would work as a prop, and when they're used in the right way... they look amazing.

I'm like a twisted version of the Grinch. I realized Halloween doesn't come from the store, and the best haunts I see are all fabricated from junk that others would just as soon throw away but someone had the heart, imagination, and drive to turn it into something awesome, and for me heart, imagination, and drive trump money any day when it comes to great haunts. You can plan out what you want to do, but keep your eyes open all the time for stuff that's getting tossed and ask yourself "what would that be good for as part of a haunt?" I guarantee you your lawn will fill up much faster than you can imagine. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #4
bruzilla, thank you very much for the warm welcome and advice! I truly appreciate the knowledge you have passed onto me and will definitely take it into consideration as halloween draws nearer. one thing I am sure of is that I do have a haunters mind as I see halloween potential in almost everything (its gotten to the point where I judge the front yards of houses for haunt-ability as I walk my dog!) :eek: thank you again for the advice, you have given me some great ideas. I truly appreciate it! :D
 

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Discussion Starter #5
blarghity, thank you soo much for your advice! great minds think alike clearly as I was leaning towards the whole bayou theme myself. I will definitely take into consideration and follow through with some of your ideas when executing my haunt this year so thank you for them ;) I really love the whole corridor idea as I was thinking of it myself so your advice to do it has only assured me more! thanks for the great ideas, truly appreciate you taking the time to respond :D
 

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I have to agree with Blarghity... start small and build up. And stick with the same theme. That's how we started with Pirate's Cove. We made the mistake of trying to change the theme and it was an epic fail. So, we stick with the pirate theme now! And we've just added things here and there over the last 10 years and have finally gotten to the point where we can cover the entire front yard and do a complete walk-through garage haunt now. I think you will be amazed at the ideas you'll come up with once you get started. Frankly, we come up with TOO MANY ideas now and storage is becoming the biggest limiting factor!
But don't be afraid to start small and make mistakes. That's how we have all learned to improve our haunts. And make sure to check to see if someone has done it before. I love Halloween Forum for that! There's a TON of talent in here, and everyone is always willing to help out and point you in the right direction.
Oh... and WELCOME! :)
 

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I guess I'll be the contrarian and say I don't like themes for haunts. I've found themes to be very limiting, and can be as hurtful as beneficial. For example, I know creepy carnivals are a popular theme, but have you been to a real carnival lately? They're creepier than a lot of the haunts. :) But seriously, there are some people who get really creeped out by that theme, but there are lots more who look at it and say "what's so scary about this?" Another popular theme is pirates, but after years of over-saturation of pirate stuff thanks to Disney that doesn't have the punch it used to either. So bottom line, when you use themes, you're sort of limiting yourself to appealing to a segment of your visitors while leaving the rest less than interested, and that's never a good thing.

My logic is if it's scary, it's in. There's nothing I like more than hearing a visitor see one item and say "there's nothing scary about that!" then seconds later they're screaming like a baby because the next prop is something that terrifies them. :) To me, that diversity of effects is what make the best haunts.
 

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I am new to this forum, but have enjoyed listening to others input and ideas. I would say whatever your passion is for a theme then I would go with it. Go small and build up as you go every year. Buy new props the day after Halloween to save money if you aren't building the props yourself. It's surprising to find out how many people are creeped out by clowns.
 

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There are a lot of them, but not as many as those who aren't. :) I was just down at the Spooky Empire Mayhem event, and spent an hour or so just sitting in a hallway watching all the folks walking by. There were three guys in nightmare clown costumes in the hallway trying to scare people, and there weren't very many people showing much reaction to them. I don't know if it was because there just aren't that many people with clown issues, or that clowns have been so over done lately, but they just weren't generating much interest. A zombie Batman got loads more attention, but I have to admit I didn't get that one either. :)

I just think themes are awesome for parties because folks are going there to have fun. Haunts are for scaring people, so I've just never found themes to work very well.
 

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I normally only did themes for our Halloween parties such as: famous dead people, Saturday night live, 80's theme, super Heroes and villains, ect. As far as the clowns being scary it is darkness and the lighting effects that help create the mood. Maybe a little creepy music or sound effects.
 

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Human Candy Shovel
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A zombie Batman got loads more attention, but I have to admit I didn't get that one either. :)
At one point in the last decade, Marvel did a comic book series called "Marvel Zombies" where eventually the entire marvel universe got zombified. Being a superhero makes you little more than a speed bump in a zombie apocalypse. :D

Someone obviously read that and had a batman costume kicking around.
 

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Our theme used to be varied characters from movies, such as, vampires, were wolves, mummies, witches, one eyed one horned flying purple people eater, Frankenstein, bride of Frankenstein,ghouls, etc. they were life sized and home made. That's what made them so cool! But one Halloween most were stolen out of our yard a couple days before Halloween! While being outraged and heartbroken, I took this opportunity to go in a new direction. So we are now adding yearly to pirate and spider themed yard and house. Any suggestions on keeping things from getting stolen from your yard? What tricks do you have up your sleeve? We have so much time and money put into our props that I don't know if I would have the heart to get so involved in building props again if these current ones were stolen.
 

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Always keep in mind storage space when building props. My attic is full and my garage now only has room for one car because of so many props. But it's so much fun coming up with new ideas and bringing them to life! Your spooks will be looking to see new additions also. It's a blast seeing their excitement!
 

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So sorry to hear about the theft of your props, DeppMaster. We have been rather lucky in that regard.

We change the theme each year, but only have a small area in which to make a display - limited to a side patio, front porch and small garden area out front. And indoors, of course. Originally, the plan was to rotate four different themes. That has changed partly due to space, and partly because I don't want to get bored. So, while I will still use the majority of my props in rotating among three main themes, I plan to tweak the theme just a bit. Like from Pirates to Freaky Tiki Luau. From Medieval to Medieval Scary Tales. These are still just in the idea stage. I love my Evil Carnival props from last year, and will be thinking about changes to that set-up too. I plan to save very little from this year's Western theme, because of the issue with storage space. We are maxed out.
 

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I would also recommend staying away from a certain theme unless you are so well off that you can afford to do a new theme justice every Halloween when you change it. I would recommend starting small but doing something that can be expanded upon every season and then before you know it you'll have your whole yard full and probably your garage. I started small with 3 tombstones, some fence and a grim reaper. Over the years I've added a little bit every season to the point that I have entrance pillars, gallows, 15 or so headstones of various sizes and several other props. The cemetery is the base of the haunt but really I can add just about anything I want each year. I've had a haunted garage with electric chairs, pumpkin patches and this last year I added two drop panels in the entrance of the garage and had a insane asylum. I figured a nuthouse would have it's own graveyard so as far as I'm concerned it fits. If you want to do a theme than more power to you, haunts like that can be (and usually are) great but IMO just have your theme be "best yard haunt in the neighborhood" and build on it every year. Have fun.
 

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We have a policy called the 111 rule, which is our way of identifying the first day of November. Every prop we make has to be "111 compliant" meaning we have someplace to put it after Halloween. It either has to be able to broken down and stowable or have a place to go in the offseason. For example our Creature From The Black Lagoon has a reserved spot in our man cave, and my youngest son has cleared out a spot in his room for our Dog Soldiers werewolf. I've always wanted to do a Headless Horseman, but to me a horseman without a horse is just a headless guy. :) My problem is I can't find a horse figure that's 111 compliant, meaning I could take it apart and store it or have a place to store it.

As for securing your props, the best method I've found yet is to use Doberman Ultra-Slim window alarms. These are about the size of a Pringles can lid (2.75" in diameter and .35" high) and are made for people who spend a lot of time in hotels and want a small, portable, alarm to put on windows and doors. They work on a battery and emit a very loud 95db alarm that goes off if the alarm is disturbed. The alarm goes off for about 60 seconds and then resets automatically. They're so small I turn them on, slide them into the feet of my props, and put them out. I leave them on year round, and the ones I've had in the longest, which are in my Creature, still go off after being active for three years! They are sold at Lowes, Home Depot, and other Home Centers and only cost about $10 a piece, which is very cheap insurance for an expensive prop. The funniest thing was when our lawn guy tried to move our Creature to cut the grass around it and set the alarms off. Scared the crap out of him and all our neighbors came out to see what all the racket was. :) Small, thin, cheap, long-lasting, and effective... the perfect solution. You can get more info on these here: http://www.homedepot.com/p/Doberman-Security-Ultra-Slim-Window-Alarm-SE-0106/202020096
 

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Hey Crypt Keeper Chris, very glad to have you join the forum. This is a really great place to get help or suggestions on how your props are looking. I agree with CreepyCreations and other members who suggest to start small and not get too caught up in doing everything at once. I have seen examples on this forum of small haunts that are really neat. Everyone has their own idea of what works best for their haunt. Some haunters go with a theme for their haunt and change it every year. Others have a themed haunt but do the same theme every year and simply add to their collections of props and accessories. And both of these approaches produce great results. In our case my wife and I have absolutely no theme at all for the Haunted Forest....other than it is a haunted forest of course. :D Since I have really never had an original idea enter my little head in my life I simply have lots of different scares (actually more startling than scary) in our haunt. I have a section for pirates, a section for witches, a section that has werewolves, a section that has a fortune teller shack and singing pumpkins, a section that is mostly funny with a talking skeleton who tells terrible jokes and a singing - dancing skeleton that does an Elvis impersonation and of course I have a large area dedicated to the haunted graveyard and several other type of props throughout the forest that are not connected to any particular thing at all. And of course I have a section that is for the really little kids that is really not scary at all but is mostly plywood static props of cartoonish Halloween characters like Scooby Doo, the Tazmanian Devil, a mummy, a pirate, vampires and other characters. My wife and I have made a conscious effort for our haunt to not be ghoulish like decapitated bodies, or bodies on meat hooks and things like that or lots of bloody props. Ours is a haunt for family and friends so we keep it mildly scary with ghosts, vampires, skeletons (lots and lots of skeletons) , coffins, zombies including animated props both homemade and purchased and some props that jump out at you. But we want it to be more of a really fun thing and not a really nightmarish type of haunt. That is just our personal preference. And everyone who comes has a really good time. Also, we never, ever, ever discard any props or throw anything out. We keep adding year after year to our collection of homemade and purchased props and they all find their way into the haunted forest each year. I will usually make one or two new props each year (usually relying on lots of advice and help from forum members) and maybe purchase one or two others. Luckily we have 10 acres of woods that we use for our haunt so there is room to put everything out each year. And yes as others have mentioned storage after Halloween has become a problem but we seem to overcome it each year by finding room in our barn for new arrivals. Anyway, the point is I would suggest that you start small with whatever type of Halloween haunt you feel most comfortable with and your haunt will find a natural progression and will turn out great. Of course....I could be wrong.:eek:
 

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Mad Monster Maker
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Let me start by saying welcome to the Halloween Forum.

I am extremely excited but I am faced with the challenge of choosing a theme. I don't want to a cemetery theme as I have put together small graveyards in my front yard before.
Why not use your cemetery as a starting point, but step it up a notch or two. Here are some easy projects that could really up your game:

>You could build some nice, detailed styrofoam tombstones to supplement what you already have. Maybe even do a cross.
>You could build a simple (but effective) cemetery prop like a grave grabber, breathing grave, or tombstone peeper.
>You could get a fog machine and build a fog chiller. Ground fog really adds a lot of spooky ambiance to a cemetery.
>Make a small mound of fresh dirt in front of one of your tombstones. Leave an old rusty shovel stuck in the ground next to it, and an old kerosene-type lantern with an LED candle inside it on the ground next to the shovel ( to give the appearance of a freshly-dug grave ).
 

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Discussion Starter #19
thank you for the welcome CreepyCreations! :D I really appreciate the advice you have given me, I now have alot to consider when working on my haunt and planning for the future. my indecisiveness leaves me still struggling with choosing a theme though! I'd love to know how you chose the pirate theme?
 

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Discussion Starter #20
sorry to hear about your props DeppMaster, I hope it didn't set you back to far! it sounds like you had quite the impressive collection though! regarding how to secure your props I don't have much advice for you unfortunately (yet) but hope to in the future. I also hope you find some advice from some of the other talented haunters on here so you can take care of your theft issue for this year!
 
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