This was our first year doing something other than just taping a paper Dracula to the front door and carving pumpkins. We decided to decorate the garage and purchased some cheap plastic props, piling them into the corners. A plywood frame supported a mask outside to spook the kiddies as they came in and Sharon dressed as a witch to hand out candy. It was well received by the neighborhood, and my own kids.
With the big success of 1998, I wanted to build something really impressive. I launched into several major construction projects. The entrance got two of them, a giant face that breathed fog made out of monster-mud and twin columns supporting a talking skull and flaming tiki-torches. On the side of the house went the giant spider which became a neighborhood icon. Also constructed was a monster-in-the-box featuring chains and a speaker with growls from inside.
I expanded again in 2000, this time down the driveway, creating my first haunted house maze. The construction was basic PVC sprinkler pipe and black plastic walls. I purchased a second fog machine and fogged it up for effect. By this time, we had quadrupled the number of kids coming over for Halloween and were the talk of the neighborhood.
With the move to our new house in 2001 and the success of the "driveway haunt" I wanted to expand on the construction. The PVC pipe was not strong enough so I cobbled together a wooden structure using scrap pieces of plywood and 2x4's. New props included the Jangling Chained Skull and the Wall of Pain. We had carloads of kids coming from our old neighborhood just to go through the haunted house.
The wooden structure worked quite well but was difficult to construct. This year I took a modular approach and pre-constructed a series of freestanding plywood corners, which I then linked via simple braces. The system worked much better. The new prop for this year was the "Demon Throne" - I was tired of handing out candy while sitting on a plastic lawn chair and I felt something more appropriate was needed. In the last photo you can see the crowds. This year we began to receive large numbers, forming lines out into the street at times.
Building on the success of last year, I basically continued in the same manner. The biggest change was that last year I noticed how many people drove by in the weeks leading up to Halloween just to show the haunt to their kids, so I wanted the outside to look more impressive. New prop for this year was a giant foam skull with a shop-vac blower mounted in its mouth. When the kids walked by it turned on and blew air at them.
This was a year of major successes. I decided to change the construction, expanding it slightly and adding in two different "paths" to make it more of a maze. This allowed the kids to run through it more than once, something they took advantage of all night long. The previous year I noticed the parents standing around looking bored while their kids went into the haunt, so I wanted to give them some entertainment as well. Thus the construction of the "Laughing Joking Skeletons" who sat on lawn chairs, told bad jokes and were an instant hit!
This year we were in the middle of moving and created a small haunt, but there was not time to create anything new.
The first year in our new house saw us proceeding cautiously. Unsure of how our haunted house would be received by the neighbors and worried about the weather (we live in the rainy northwest) we opted to shrink the size and do the haunt inside of the garage. Being new the the neighborhood and with few TOTs we had only a handful of kids.
With the disappointing turnout the previous year we did little innovation, opting to continue the haunt. The weather was COLD and we decided to keep the garage door closed in an effort to stay warm. Despite the increase in home construction and (hopefully) word of mouth, we had even less TOTs this year. Friends tell us this area is not a big trick-or-treat one.
Due to the change in environment around us, we are planning a yard display rather than a haunted house. That way we will be able to stay indoors (warm) and will not have such a big push on Halloween night itself to setup and takedown. It should provide opportunity for some new props as well.