Don’t Do It – Yard Haunts

I don’t even know how many yard haunts we’ve built over the years. Awesome, masterpieces that started out on graph paper back in May or June of each year. It was a family project that we put our hearts into. We had fun, we researched and tested and we made lots of mistakes.  Here are just a few of them.

  • don’t chase people down the sidewalk with your remote controlled spider. They could trip and fall and their kids will laugh at them.
  • don’t dress up like a werewolf jump up at the windows and scare people riding the bus. Not everyone is a Halloween fan.
  • don’t drop a skeleton from the tree, right in front of your 80 year old neighbour when they come over to see your haunt or at least have a supply of Depends on hand. They might not be as eager to let you expand your haunt into their yard the next year. Also, don’t name the skeleton after your 80 year old neighbour. Sorry Frank.
  • don’t dig real graves for your graveyard. Although you’ll get an “A” for authenticity, your parents (wife/husband) will be really pissed.
  • don’t blare the music. A little bit goes a long way. Keep the scary music low so you can hear the special effect sounds that you spent two solid weeks perfecting. Also, keep in mind the many of the newer props are sound activated. They will cycle continuously if your music is too loud. Most people, you will find, are more afraid when it’s quite. It’s creepier.
  • don’t use too many foggers. Too much fog and nobody can see your graveyard. Fog chiller works really well. It keeps the fog down at the ground. We generally control the fog by hand. We set it off just before the next group gets there. Timers are good, but they never go off when you want them to. If it’s a windy night, just forget about the fog. It won’t work. You’re just wasting your time and perfectly good fog juice.
  • don’t put spotlights too close to your props or where little fingers can touch them. With the advent of LCD spots, this is becoming less of a problem. We’ve completely melted beautiful props over the years. Very sad. And you can’t count on parents keeping their little ones out of your graveyard. Keep spots behind your tombstones for back lighting and use LCD’s in the front for touches of lighting here and there.
  • don’t throw candy down to trick or treaters from your second story window. They don’t see you doing it, they lose it in the grass and they tromp through your graveyard to find their candy, which they never find and you have to throw down another one.
  • don’t scare while trick or treaters are actually up on your porch. Allow them to leave safely before you scare the crap out of them. We had one kid jump down the entire flight of stairs and fall on a really cool prop. We managed to salvage the prop – don’t worry!
  • don’t give out better than average candy for years and then cheap out one year. It’s really hard to get the toilet paper out of your tree and the egg splatter off your car. Think hard before you decide to give out the best candy around. Just because you have the best haunt doesn’t mean you need the best candy. Haven’t you done enough?
  • don’t make your spider webs too realistic or at least put them where someone’s “get this spider web off me” dance won’t sacrifice any of your precious props. Lost a hand carved tombstone that year. 🙁
  • don’t mix big life size characters with miniatures. Nothing breaks the spell more than not having consistency throughout your graveyard. All big or all little. You can’t have a 6 ft tall Frankenstein hiding behind the hedge and a 12 inch Frankenstein standing next to a tombstone. People have to believe that what their experiencing could be real.
  • don’t make the graveyard too uniform. Google old graveyard or cemetery. The tombstones are all unique, some are tipped over and broken and they are scattered randomly. Add a little “dryer lint moss” to them and they’ll look older. Break a couple that you don’t like. Be sure to save any that the trick or treaters break for use next year.
  • don’t hit a kid with a bright spot just before they go up your steps. They’ll trip up the stairs, spill their candy and you’ll have to replace it all while the parent glares at you.
  • don’t let the kid reach in your candy bucket to take a handful of candy. You’ll end up having to send one of your valuable actors out for more. However, if you make them reach for candy though some slimy body parts, you should be okay. One year we fed body parts into one end of a custom built machine and candy dropped out the other side with the tiniest amount of red goo on it. Not enough to really affect the candy. Nobody wanted it. We got to eat a lot of candy leftovers that year.
  • don’t bother telling scary stories to the trick or treaters. Nobody cares, they just want the candy. Make them really work to get to the candy container. Make sure they earn their keep.
  • don’t stress about giving candy to older kids that don’t dress up. It aggravated me for years. These kids are too old and too lazy to even bother with a costume. I came around when my own son was 6 ft tall in grade 8 and heard the comments that other candy donators made to him. No every tall kid is too old. As the kids got older I realized that some of their friends just didn’t have parents that were enthusiastic about Halloween and some who’s parents just couldn’t afford to buy Halloween costumes. Not every kid with no costume or a crappy costume is lazy. They all just want to have fun and come home with a sack full of candy. Don’t spoil your night and theirs. Have fun, enjoy what you’ve done and scare the crap out of them.
  • don’t get too attached to your props. It doesn’t matter how careful you are, somebody or something is going to wreck or steal your props and prized possessions. If you do up your yard haunt too soon, either the weather or some jerk is going to destroy your display. If you think a prop is really cool, somebody else will too and they’re going to take it. Wait until Halloween evening to put out your best stuff and anything you’re really attached to. Take them in after the tricker treating is done.