Ah, the walking stick insect. Perhaps one of nature’s greatest marvels – specially designed to blend into the scenery for the purposes of defense. Can’t fight what you can’t see, can you?
When designing a haunted house, whenever you set out to make an environment, there’s a few things you have to plan for. On one hand, you’re re-creating a scene – whether it’s a meat locker from a horror movie, a mad scientist laboratory, or a dense jungle. Your challenge as a haunter, rather than as a set designer, is that you’re planning for spots for your props and actors. After all, in the land of the haunt, the element of surprise is the champion of the kingdom.
While us here at FrightProps tend to stick out with our large beards, dirty tattered pants, and goofy shirts with kittens on them, when it comes to scaring people we all unanimously agree that blending in is key. Here are a few examples of some of our favorite ways to use scenery to scare the hell out of your haunt victims.
Environment Suits, Environment Cloth
The stick bug isn’t the only one who can use nature as camouflage, there’s a ton of easy and simple ways to send your haunt guests running out of one room and straight into another trap. First and foremost is the classic disguise the room, disguise the actor tactic employing the use of fake moss sheets and environment suits – also called “ghillie suits”. And if you happen to be a haunter with an outdoor production, you may not even need to disguise the natural surroundings. Just pick the right colored suit and an actor with some springy legs who doesn’t mind looking like a pile of grass.
Moving floors, man. Because at a haunt, you’re rarely looking down at your feet – it’s too dark for you to even consider the fact that there’s anything but whatever is ahead and around that corner. But moving floors follow the same rules as the rest of the things on the list – simple, but when unexpected, wreaks havoc on the mind. Whatever you do, however, make sure the action of the moving floors is restricted to a point – and provide a handrail or walls for people to brace themselves on if they’re genuinely slipping. And of course, feel free to mount a shock mat as a nice surprise for your little strugglers.
We’ve all seen this one, haven’t we? You enter a dimly lit room covered in polka dots, usually lit up with a few large black lights. The result of the close pattern is that it creates a disorienting effect – that’s when your polka dot-suited actor comes to life. We’ve also seen this dizzying and dazzling scare effectively used with checkered rooms as well.
Hidden Drop Panels
Probably one of our favorite scare methods regularly employed in haunts due to it’s consistent ability to terrify even the most “prepared” guest. Drop panels typically work best when there’s a distraction of some sort – like in the awesome video by Halloween Hellmouth that you see above. They’ve employed the use of a video camera and monitor displayed at the end of the hallway. How does it work so well? Because as people, we’re naturally distracted by looking at ourselves – which brings us into our next environment scare…
Further exploiting our narcissistic need to check ourselves out (especially around Halloween when we’re all trying extra hard), Banging Mirror props are one of the simplest and most cost effective ways to frighten your crowd. Place one on a wall with six others and watch ‘em flee the scene.
Skinsuits, Dolls, Mannequins
Another classic actor scare which transforms an eerily calm scene into a memorable nightmare. Rather than blending into the scenery undetected, fill a room with mannequins dressed in old clothes and buy a matching skinsuit for an actor of similar height. Works especially well after a still detailed scene in a haunt as a lot of people will automatically assume the next room follows suit. For more of a spooky theme, dress the actor and mannequins up in doll clothes and doll masks. Throw some children’s toys around, maybe nail a few bloody ones against the wall panels. Hell, regular kids scare me — evil ones are downright terrifying.
There’s about a million more out there that we haven’t mentioned: pop blasters, ankle blasters, air whips, severed head props paired with actors — the list goes on and on. Despite the overwhelming number of choices of environment scares, there’s one thing you can count on — the goons at FrightProps have you covered for individual parts, pneumatic fitting kits, and pre-made, good-to-go Halloween props.