How to Turn Your Home Into a Haunted House

Creepy shadows projected onto the side of a house.
  • 2-5 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-100

Are you ready to get your scare on? Welcome to October, when we officially blaze into the fall season of holidays. First up, Halloween. In the past several years, Halloween has been giving Christmas a run for its money in terms of home decorating. You'll be hard-pressed to make your way through any neighborhood without stumbling upon at least one decked out haunted house.

The good news about decorating your home for Halloween is that it lets potential trick or treaters know you're up for some fun. In other words, you can avoid the "tricks." The question then becomes, how much do you want to scare your visitors? When it comes to decorating for Halloween you've got three basic options:

For a party

For trick or treat

For a haunted house tour

All of the following tips apply for every option but how far you want to take the fright might depend on who would be on your guest list. In other words, if you're expecting the young ones you might want to put up a warning sign for the parents if your haunted house is especially scary.

Here then are some devilishly good ideas for turning your home into a memorable haunted house for Halloween.

Step 1: Pick a Theme

A couple of carved pumpkins aren't going to cut it as far as themes are concerned. To stir up the frights you've got a lot of potential plots to pick from. Consider these suggested themes for your haunted house:


Insane asylum

Haunted hospital

Monster mash

Twisted fairytales

Zombie fest

Slasher factory

Witches coven

The dead from Breaking Bad

Once you settle on a theme, you'll be able to coordinate your props, decorations, lighting and costumes.

Step 2: Sign Up Your Ghoul Squad

The more friends and family members you can enlist for your ghoul squad the better your haunted house will become. Everyone should be in a costume that relates to the theme of your haunted house. For a good ol' fashioned zombie fest, you can pretty much put your crew in any type of outfit (cheerleader, cowboy, cop etc.) and give them the zombie makeup treatment. A little white base for the skin, black around the eyes and lips and grease in hair and you're good to go. Once you've laid out a floor plan for your haunted house, station your ghouls at appropriate places for a coordinated fright fest.

Step 3: Set a Path

Whether you're merely creating a path to your front door for candy or are setting up an tour around your property, you should sketch out the many "tableaus" where you'll be setting up the various scares. Just like all the classic haunted houses you've been to, you want to have a new "scare" around every corner. You can create a decent maze effect with a couple of strategically placed hay bales or hanging sheets. For the scares themselves, surprise is the key. Having your friends pop up from boxes, trashcans, makeshift coffins and shrubs will do the trick. Just make sure everyone knows: "no physical contact." Screaming is all you need. Of course, a little playful water gun squirting never hurt and adds to the freak-outs!

Step 4: Lighting Ideas

Wherever you've got regular light bulbs swap them out for red bulbs or black-lights. For the lawn, a few well-placed ground spotlights can cast an eerie glow on trees, bushes and whatever scarecrows you might be posting. Because Halloween is such big business you're sure to find strings of orange lights like your Christmas lights. Use them liberally. Don't forget it's not just the lights, but the shadows. A hidden flood lamp with small figures in front of it can project big, spooky shadows onto a wall, or into a sea of mist.

Step 5: Random Creepy Decorations

Beyond the standard cobwebs, pumpkins and hanging goblins, there are some other "details" you can add to perk up your haunted house.

Tombstones - If you have Styrofoam tombstones for the lawn, add some topsoil for the plot in front of the "stone" to give the impression of a fresh dug grave. This would also be the area where you can place a few dummy hands and bones poking up from the dirt.

Corpses - Speaking of dummies, any chance you have to blend in a mannequin with your real life freaks the more chance you have for scares.

Spiderwebs - Hang strands of black thread from doorframes. People entering won't see it but will feel like they've got spiderwebs crawling over them.

Eerie Mist - FYI, fog machines are affordable to rent or buy and provide plenty of creepy cover. If you're renting, reserve yours early.

Step 6: Have a Frightful Soundtrack

There are plenty of horrifying soundtracks loaded with creaks, screams, howls and thunder that you can download to your iPod or MP3 player and blast from speakers. Just try to avoid the temptation of playing "Thriller." Remember you want to scare people not get them dancing.

Above all else, have fun and take plenty of pictures. We would love to see what your haunted house looks like this Halloween.