A haunted house and a corn maze are popular Halloween activities, but they are hardly the only haunted attraction you can create for your next Halloween party or event. An outdoor haunted trail in your back or front yard is a great way to implement your haunted house ideas while keeping your home free for refreshments and conversation.
Many haunted trail ideas are both cheap and effective ways to scare your visitors on Halloween and make them earn their candy. You can use DIY Halloween decor or purchase some premade items and special effects, or it can be used for a party or another special event and tailored to your specific needs.
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Plan the haunted trail basics
You will need to make sure that everyone, visitors and volunteers alike, are going to be safe and have fun without doing any damage to the property. Try to select a location for your trail on level ground.
If there is some rough terrain, make sure this part of the trail can be well lit. Stay well away from any thorny bushes, long grass or undergrowth and low-hanging trees.
A family-friendly trail intended for children and trick-or-treaters should be kept within an area that can be completely supervised by adults. If your trail is going to be set up for a while, make sure that everything is waterproof or can quickly be moved inside in the event of rain.
A haunted trail can be made more memorable with a theme. Your choice of theme might be influenced by access to existing props. The ages of the participants should also be taken into consideration.
- Children — ghosts and ghouls, witches and wizards or creepy crawlies.
- Teenagers or adults — insane asylum, graveyard, mad scientist or ancient crypt.
Mark out your trail
If you only have a small space, you can hang sheets of black plastic, trash bags or tarp to make the walls of a maze. If you have a larger space, you will need to provide obvious markers for your visitors so they don't get lost, such as:
- LED lights inside jars or lanterns
- Reflector patches on trees (if your visitors are carrying their own light
source, like a flashlight)
- Fairy lights strung along the path
- A rope or ribbon that visitors will hold and follow
- Paint gravel with glow-in-the-dark paint and scatter it along the path. This might need to be refreshed with light if the trail is up for a while.
- Use red paint to make "bloody" handprints or footprints for visitors to follow.
Address safety concerns
Make sure that there is nothing on your trail that can trip up or harm your visitors. Any potential hazards, like thorny bushes or low-hanging branches, should be clearly marked or removed.
Remember to plan from the perspective of the youngest anticipated visitors. A child will have shorter strides and a lower viewpoint than an adult, so make sure they will be comfortable and safe.
Provide instructions at the beginning of the trail, advising an age limit; whether there are any health concerns, like the potential for a severe shock or strobe lighting that can affect people with seizures; and how visitors should proceed.
Make Halloween props
Many props for a haunted trail can be made cheaply from craft supplies or ordinary objects. Choose props to complement your overall theme, adding to the scary atmosphere. Too many props can overwhelm the visitors and might actually lessen the overall scary vibe.
Usually, the best arrangement is to have one prop to distract attention and another to scare. For example, you might have tombstones or a glowing cauldron near the path, which will draw the eyes of visitors as they approach so they don't see a rubber spider hanging from the spiderwebs over the trail until they crash into it.
- Boarded windows. Use cardboard and paint to make fake boards and "board up" any windows or doors that are visible from the trail.
- Tombstones. Use polystyrene or thick cardboard to make gravestones. Place them in long grass so they look very old or at the head of a mound of dirt so they look brand new.
- Ghosts. Sheets of plastic and bubble wrap can be fashioned into ghostly shapes. They can be lit from within by LED lights.
- Silhouettes. Use black cardboard to cut out scary silhouettes, like witches or monsters.
- Masks. If you have a scary mask and no volunteer to wear it, place it in a tree hollow or hide it in bushes so that it is just visible and not immediately obvious that it is empty.
- Dolls. If you have large dolls or mannequins, wrap them with clingfilm or gauze to blur their shape in the dark.
- Classic props. Rubber bats and spiders are classic props that can still be very scary if used carefully.
- Obstacles. Give your visitors something to walk through by hanging strips of black crepe paper or wads of white cotton over the trail.
Remember to stay aware of fire hazards. Don't use candles or any kind of real flame to create props and try to keep electric wires to a minimum. Only use power wires, lights and props intended for outdoor use. Remember that people may be stumbling or jumping in fright, so props will probably be knocked over at some point.
Create a spooky atmosphere
Light and sound effects can add an incredible dimension to your haunted trail.
- Spooky sounds. Scary sounds, like heartbeats, loud thuds, growls and howls, can be found online and transferred to an MP3 player attached to speakers.
- Flashing lights. Strobe lighting can add to a scary atmosphere.
- Mirrors. Placed in strategic positions, mirrors can help create the illusion that something is moving in the distance.
- Angles. Lights placed below a prop can turn it from an ordinary object into something spooky.
Enlist volunteers to monitor the trail
If you have volunteers, you can take your trail to the next level. Even without a costume, volunteers can hide off the trail and make spooky noises, like rustling or growling. They can throw harmless objects at visitors, like rubber spiders or cotton balls, or brush them with feathers when they pass by in the dark.
In costume or with makeup, they can interact with visitors in a number of different ways. One example is to pretend to be a prop as visitors approach and then spring to life and scare them.
If you are using volunteers, make sure you instruct visitors to refrain from touching them. Your volunteers should be told to use their best judgement when attempting to scare someone. A small scare is fun, but taking it too far will ruin the event.