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Creating an eerie, off-putting mood is key. “A lot of people hate the dark, so having rooms where they have to feel their way around is (always) good,” says haunted house veteran Richie Bennie. “Strobe lights are good, too – anything that will confuse people and affect their vision.”

  • • By the time people enter a haunted locale, their hearts are full-on pumping, so building that anticipation more is great. Some places, for instance, start the experience with an elevator or long staircase down to the unknown.
  • • Sometimes what you don’t see is scary enough. Noises or little glimpses of something unknown build tension that you can draw out, so long as the payoff comes eventually (think Jaws).
  • • Visibility is one of the biggest aspects, so don’t overlook lighting or fog (and, for that matter, don’t over-do it either).
  • • Make sure there’s enough light to complete the trail journey. Line the ground with colored mini bulbs.
  • • One top-rated haunted house fills a room with “blood” bubbles to the point of zero visibility.
  • • Temperature can be great to toy with, like making people enter a meat locker-type environment.
  • • Don’t place too much importance on pyrotechnics or animatronics. The more real, the more scary.
  • • Tesla Coils and Theremins are creepy.
  • • Prison cells and clear walls/floors make for unique design elements, because they provide a safety barrier but also increase visibility.
  • • Don’t forget the smell factor. Make-up and spray paint aren’t scary smells.
  • • The combination of blue and red light bulbs can create a double-vision effect.
  • • Local florists may be able to provide you with dead flowers for decorations.
  • • Corn syrup and red food coloring is a classic recipe for blood.
  • • If you have a corn maze, some rope, and spare boards, look online for crop circle directions.
  • • Dry ice is pretty cheap, and makes a lot of fog. Look for it at Indianhead Foods.