This project originally came together at the beginning of the year for a local convention. I am a crafter, scare actor and horror enthusiast and so I decided to combine these skills and go all-out with this display in the form of a themed haunted house that convention visitors could walk through and see my work "in action".
However, due to space limitations in both my truck and convention venues, the house would need to be small enough to easily transport and set up for display. Therefore, my chosen building materials became a 10x10 pop-up canopy, several tarps, and for the front entryway I salvaged a couple of pallets to create the frame for a unique facade. The following steps show the process from start to finish in making this haunted house. Feel free to use the ideas and concepts for your own mini-haunt this Halloween!
Step 1: Framework & Signage
The theme I chose for this haunted house was the "Zombie Research Outpost". Zombies are popular anyway and I figured an apocalyptic setting would be quite fitting for a house mostly made of basic, salvaged materials. After taking measurements of the canopy frame, I disassembled the two pallets I had, and rebuilt them into a doorway entrance with two "fences" on either side.
I stenciled the lettering on the top doorway sign, and made two additional themed signs out of scrap material which I then nailed onto the side fences.
Step 2: Exterior Assembly
With the basic framework of the facade finished, I then bought a couple of 10-foot tarps in which to close in the sides and back of the house. A shorter tarp is hung in the middle of the inside, to work as a divider and create two individual "rooms".
To give the house a darker, more foreboding appearance I used sections of burlap to cover the front corners, and hung strips of dark black fabric above the doorway so those entering would not be able to immediately see what was inside.
I didn't like how the bright blue cover of the canopy contrasted with the brownish colors of everything else, so I got four more yards of burlap at a fabric store, to drape over the top that would face the visitors. That detail alone changed the whole look, into something that much more resembled a haunted house!
Step 3: Props and Interior Details
Construction of props was what took the longest with this project, since I wanted to put good consistent detail into everything I built for it. I needed a mix of "scientific" looking items for the front room, as well as more gruesome "zombie food" which would be scattered through the back room towards the exit.
For the front room items I used a lot of salvaged plastic, jars, tubing, and some LED lighting to illuminate certain unique features. A trapper friend had given me a couple of fur animals to skin out around that time, so I even saved the real brains from a possum and a coyote and preserved them in jars for part of the ambiance! I had a spare state map, too, which I marked over with "zombie outbreaks". This map was the perfect filler for a blank wall in the room, and very easy to make.
For the back room I found some real, large sized pig bones and added some simulated gore to them. (similar method as I used here: https://www.instructables.com/id/Realistic-Brain-Prop/) I also chopped the top off a foam manikin head to make it look like the brains were eaten out, and attached the detailed head onto a sewn lifesize body. This tasty-looking corpse would be the macabre main centerpiece for the back room!
Step 4: Spooky Soundtrack
A haunted house wouldn't be so haunted without a few creepy noises and some eerie music playing in the background! For the audio in this house, I put together a mix of tracks by Nox Arcana and Midnight Syndicate, both of which produce a great variety of horror music and ambient sound effects specifically for these purposes. They each happened to have some perfectly fitting "Zombie apocalypse" themed music available, as well as simulated emergency radio broadcasts!
I arranged the tracks into a playlist in Windows Media Player, so that I could simply hook up my laptop to external speakers that were set up inside the house, and set it to loop throughout the day.
Step 5: Ready to Roll!
I designed all parts of this haunted house to fold and pack down easily into just a few crates and boxes. The largest pieces, the wooden facade frames, are loaded into the truck first, with the smaller items packed in front and around them.
The bulkiest of the interior props was the life-size corpse, but even he was able to compress down enough into a plastic bag for easy transport. (or, buckle into the passenger seat!)
When designing anything of this scale, always take measurements of both your vehicle and the items you are designing to ensure everything will fit properly when it comes time to go to your show.
Step 6: Show Time!
With the help of a great group of friends, the house can be set up within less than an hour and we can put on an enjoyably interactive, spooky show! Even though the house itself is small, we make a great presence and can get in a bunch of fun jump-scares. Lots of people had a wonderful time taking photos with the zombies during our very first show, including the Ghostbusters!
Our haunted house even got featured in this Youtube video, (skip to about 6:50 minutes in to see the walk-through)
All in all, the project was a success and we've gotten some wonderful feedback from patrons, and more opportunities to show the house at other conventions, as seen in the above photos. I will continue to make further additions and improvements to it throughout the year, so that the Zombie Research Outpost can continue to be something enjoyably spooky and memorable for all who get to encounter it!