How to Make Your Own Haunted House

By Boze Herrington
Ghost, a lantern, haunted house
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Setting up a homemade haunted house is a chance for people to showcase their talents for inventive spookiness, using simple lighting effects, props and decorations to create an eerie and claustrophobic atmosphere. Depending on the vision of its creator, a haunted house may be funny, gross, morbid, unsettling or any combination of these.

Indoor Props

Close-up of dry ice
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Before the party, fill two or three buckets with warm water. Immediately before guests arrive, drop dry ice into the buckets to create a churning, frothy mixture that sends fog into the room. Hire someone to stand motionless in the corner of a room, staring at guests. If done well, this may be even creepier than a traditional “Boo!” Set up a television in one corner playing a video of surrealistic, nonsensical sequences such as the scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “Vertigo” where a man falls into his own grave and a giant head comes flying toward the screen.

Outdoor Props

Teenager, red candles, sidewalk
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Make tombstones out of cardboard and set them up throughout the yard. Inscribe them with scary names, including the names of your own guests if you’re going for a creepy effect. If the intention is to create a more lighthearted event, then write humorous names on them. Line the sidewalk with rows of battery operated black and red candles, leading the way to the entrance. Place stuffed ravens strategically over the eaves as though guarding the house. Ask two or three assistants to dress in torn clothing with a smattering of makeup and stand around near the outer edges of the property, ghoulishly moaning like the living dead.

Sound Effects

Close-up of indoor speaker system
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Stream a playlist of Halloween sound effects or play Pink Floyd’s 16-minute experimental song “Echoes,” which features long periods of silence intermittently punctuated by dissonant music and eerie, animalistic shrieking. If you or someone you know can play the piano, make a recording of lightly atmospheric piano music and play it when guests arrive. If you have a loudspeaker system, hide someone in a back room with a microphone and give them instructions to laugh eerily at random intervals.

Lighting Effects

man, a lightbulb
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Set up a black-light system in the house that causes clothing to glow in the dark. Remove the white lightbulbs from your ceiling fixtures and replace them with red bulbs that glow with a dark, ruddy glow. Set up flashlights randomly throughout the house for a surreal, disorienting effect. Use candles to cast flickering lights and spooky shadows all over the room. If the moon is bright outside, cover the windows to prevent light from seeping in.

About the Author

Boze Herrington is a writer and blogger who lives in Kansas City, Mo. His work has been featured in Cracked and "The Atlantic."