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Discussion Starter #1
Part of series: Seven Layers of Scare: http://www.halloweenforum.com/blogs/terra/528-seven-layers-scare.html

Detailed look at layer seven of Seven Layers of Scare....

Touch and Smell

Saved the best for last. The layer that you can really surprise them with. Touch they fear the most and Smell is unexpected. The Seventh Layer is the ultimate trick up a haunter's sleeve.

You remember touch in a haunt. Once I was going through a haunt room where a crazed inmate was cutting a captive's arm off with a giant miter saw. "OK", I'm thinking, "A typical torture room." Rounded the corner to pass and I got blasted with warm blood spray. YIKES!!!!! Screamed like a two year-old. Did NOT expect that. In the dark you can't tell it's just water. It was blood I tell you... BLOOD!

The smell of barbecue, popcorn, burning wood, cut grass, cinnamon rolls.... All are powerful and pleasant smells. Mildew, urine, dirty ashtrays, pig sty, old fish, sewage. All of these are powerful and unpleasant smells.

Now go back and re-read the previous paragraph and pay attention to the emotions or memories you are feeling. Isn't it surprising how connected they are to smells? There's reasons for that and ways you can use it to your haunting advantage.


Touch can be used not only to scare but also to unnerve. But we can't touch, right? Of all the scares in a your haunt, ToTs are terrified of being touched. I mean, look at how they tuck in their arms and crouch as they go through. They don't want to have any part of their body extended that can be touched. Now the older kids know that you can't touch them (they think). But, we are haunters! There's more than one way to skin a cat. Let me list them....

Pass-throughs: Make the ToTs touch things they don't want to touch. heh. Put things in their path that they have no alternative but to touch them. Pass-throughs can made up of anything... plastic strip curtains (which you can glue cockroaches or other grisly items to), dark plastic tarps, hanging dirty underwear, body bags, shredded tents, body parts, alien eggs. Think of things that either obstruct vision and/or gross them out. You know, like blood on a plastic shower curtain:

Water sprays: In the dark, water is toxic ooze or blood or acid, barf, urine, toilet water...anything that's wet. Ripley's has a mad doctor that suddenly throws a heart against a chain-link fence. It splatters over everyone. It's just a heart-shaped sponge held in a bucket of water. Neat trick

Touching Walls: A claustrophobia wall is very effective at touching. The only way to get through it is to literally squeeze your body past it. Another way to have walls touch ToTs is to make the hallways so narrow that they must touch them as they pass through. Be sure to have yucky things mounted on those walls (bodies, giant veins, shiny blood). Ahh, I just get giddy thinking of all the fun possibilities.

Shock Mats: These are harmless but when someone is finding their way through a dark corridor and touch one of these. YIP!

Dark: Speaking of dark....Just having a section of your haunt completely dark where they have to reach out and feel their way out is verrrry scary.

Make Them Move: Have them go down a short slide or crawl under an obstacle or swing over a log. When they have to move their body differently from their preferred defensive position and have to touch the obstacle....that is unnerving. You can also make them change speed quickly... ahhh, the power of chainsaws.

Blast of Air: Air cannons, pop blasters, ghost breath (Airzooka)...these are great fun toys for you when you control the trigger. I saw something new this year that combined tiny air cannons in a sewer wall with trickling water running down. As the cannons went off it sprayed that water onto you. Yuck!

Oh, and I don't care who you are...if you were in front of this...heart attack time:


There was a wonderful scent I remember about my grandmother who died when I was seven. I learned later it was the scent of the moisturizer she wore: Jergens. I finally discovered it when I sniffing new lotions to buy. Sniff...Grandma! The sense of smell is the only sense we have that is directly connected to our brain. Not just any part of our brain...the part where our memories and emotions are stored. The scent molecules waifing through the air touch special tiny hairs in our nasal cavity. These are connected directly to our brain. In many ways, it's our quickest and most powerful sense. We can use that sinister knowledge to our advantage. Coincidently, there's a company that markets this...and it's called Sinister Scents. Go figure. Imagine going through a haunt and you notice that it smells like a graveyard. Bet you'd be surprised and also a bit more alarmed. "This place is serious and I'm in for it! AHHHHH....."

Back to Sinister Scents. I ordered four of their scents to give it a Terra test. Purchased Haunted House, Campfire, Earth, and Burning Electrical.

Haunted House: Smells like mildew, wet wood, stinky perfume and a bit musty. Think of what this house would smell like and you've got it:

Campfire: Exactly the descriptive word for this smell.

Earth: Strong smell of rotting wet leaves, hint of cedar, dirt, and an elusive smell that I would guess would be what an old corpse would smell like. Perfect for a graveyard.

Burning Electrical: It's got a strange sweet smell, smoke, ozone and what that magic blue smoke smells like when you fry your amplifier...

There's many more smells they list and I picked out a few that sounded interesting. Haven't smelled them but the four I have smelled were right on with their title. I've also included suggestions on where they could be used:

Bubble Gum: Toy room
Burnt Flesh: Hell scene, Torture
Cotton Candy: Carnival
Popcorn: Carnival, Movie theater
Decay/Compost: Zombie
Forest: Werewolf, Deep forest
Hawaiian Breeze: Tiki, Cannibal
Just Bad: Super gory scene
Mildew: Zombie, Graveyard, Basement, Vampire
Rotting Decay: Dead bodies, Zombie, Death
Urine: Hospital, Asylum
Boiler Room: Freddy!, Apocalyptic
City Alley: Urban scene, Apocalyptic, Zombie
Gothic FrankenGrave: Classic monsters
Gun Shot: War scene
Hell: Fire, Hell, Demons
Leather: Slaughterhouse, Ghost town
Marine: POTC, Ghost ship
Pumpkin: Younger audience, Whimsical area
Rum: Pirates
Smoke: Witches, Cannibal, Fire
Swamp: Witches, Swamp monster, Deliverance
Stale Beer: Dead dorm, Hillbillies
Wine Cellar: Vampires, Haunted mansion​

Summary of the Seven Layers of Scare

One: Art Direction and/or Theme
Two: Walls, Ceilings and Floors
Three: Main Scare (and it's sound)
Four: Accents
Five: Lighting
Six: Atmosphere
Seven: Touch and Smell

First step in designing your haunt is to first decide on an Art Direction and/or Theme. This will help unify the rooms and set-up a story. It will also help simplify designing choices. Now start designing the Walls, Ceiling and Floors. This is what is going to tell the ToT what environment they are in. Is it a prison or a slaughterhouse? Walls are most important but when you add decorating the ceilings and floors then they are truly immersed. The Main Scare should fit into the room you are designing. From there you can decide if you want to use a Cheap Scare or a Set-up and then Sudden Scare. Adding Accents to a room helps tell the story of what has happened or what will happen. Now spend some extra time Lighting the haunt. Think about how to use Color, Brightness, Distribution and Movement to add that extra scary edge in your lighting. Atmosphere added to your haunt is the over-the-top experience your ToTs are hoping for. Use great Sound, Lighting and Weather to transport them to your magical and horrifying experience. Finally, use Touch and Smell to once and for all scare the candy out of those sweet little darlings :D

Thank you so much for sharing in my journey learning how to make a killer haunt :)


8,363 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Thanks! Well, I am actually very backed up because this was such a long series. First though, I am going to repost my tutorials here so they are in an easier format to print and I can include videos. Then I'd like to blog about some of the classes I took at Transworld.

3,040 Posts
Great Blog topic Terra! It's strange to think that smell if often over-looked, even in most profesional haunts. Smell really hightens the experience, IMO. To me the best smells (fog scents) are the ones that aren't overtly detectable. If scents are added just right...it's like a one-two punch! They can create that extra little bit that completes a scene or room.

8,363 Posts
Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
I'm going to just try having the scent packets in a bowl in the electrical room (Burning Electrical). The 'Earth' scent packet I'm going to have sitting on one of the tombstones and the 'Campfire' sitting out front of the haunt where the minefield is going to be. By the way, if you go directly to Sinister Scents site owned by Dream Reapers haunt: http://shop.dreamreapers.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=6&zenid=bbc7953ed461a83d644d92b3bb643899 they have small scent bags (I'm hoping this size will be great for a home haunt) for $12.

Also, you can hang the packet in front of a small fan and that should help disperse the scent.
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