View Full Version : Pitch Black-Help!

11-08-2010, 08:30 PM
Hello All,

I am asking for advice on a pitch black haunt I am designing for April 30/May 1st. I need to come up with an affordable design, with easy cleanup/breakdown as we will be building it in no more than 10 hours on site at my school's Relay for Life. Last year our haunt was the biggest and best it's ever been, and it's the largest on-site fundraiser at the event, this year we are trying to increase the size and decrease the cost. My idea is to use PVC Pipe for a frame, and essentially wrap the entire thing in black plastic, and designing a maze pattern within by hanging the plastic wrap down to form walls (lined with PVC for support).

So my question to you guys are,
1) Do you think it's safe? (Last year we used 2x4 frames, and stapled on paper room rolls and no one went flying through them...)

2) What are some possible room ideas? (i.e, bottomless pit, jason mask room etc.)

3) Ways to improve time on building or save on cost?

4) Anybody want to help sponsor? We have a tax ID number!

Thanks and sorry for any and all hassle, we are re-theming the entire haunt to help increase the amount of people to go through it, so I'm up for as many suggestions and tips as possible.

My contact info is in my signature, feel free to email me, PM me or send over an owl...we have a few months. ;)

11-09-2010, 08:09 AM
I would not consider pvc frames and black plastic, even if it's fireproof, to be safe for customers to walk thru. Unfortunately I also do not have an answer as to a safe, quality way to quickly build and disassemble a haunt. Sorry.

11-09-2010, 12:26 PM
Thanks for the input Brian. Last year we used 2x4 frames that we built a week or so beforehand, and then we put them up on-site from 8am-4pm and then we stapled on the walls and added props from 4-8pm and it was sturdy as heck! It took longer to take apart than it did to put it together. We braced it properly and to test it, I hung from all the frames and I could not get the things to budge. It was a huge success! So I know it can be done safely, we even passed inspection. I was just curious to see if there were better ways out there. :) I appreciate your concern but with any amount of determination, there is always a way.

Mr. Haunt
11-09-2010, 01:30 PM
I'm not sure what you have for a budget or if this haunted house is indoors??? There are a few things to consider, but you need to talk with the Fire Department on safety concerns before you go buying anything.

You can buy fire rated black plastic from Menards. Not sure if I'm for PVC pipe, might be cheaper in the end to go back to 2x4s.

Did you keep these 2x4s from last year??? Frame up the walls from last year and spend the money on plywood instead of starting from scratch. Then your walls will be more stable and you can use them year after year. Just remember, if this is an indoor haunt, you WILL need to treat them with fire rated chemicals and use water based paints.

Hope this helps??? See if any of your local haunts want to partner with you and put something together???

Mr. Haunt

11-09-2010, 06:40 PM
Thanks Mr. Haunt! This is actually on a college campus, and we submit our plans in a digital 3-D layout (similar to the ones presented to customers of professional haunted attraction designers, that we make our own.) I thought I posted the picture of last years...maybe it didn't go through? It is an outdoor haunt, and we get approval from the fire marshal. It is located next to the bleachers of a football field at an overnight Relay for Life event.

We used 2x4's last year, it worked really well but it was extremely time consuming, and we had no location to store the 2x4's so we donated them after we were done.

Another option someone suggested was using an inflatable haunt, such as a scAIR structure, but we are not able to afford a scAIR haunt. I'm trying to find a donor, or alternative option. I agree that PVC is not the greatest, as I'm learning. This is why we're starting early! :)

I would love to reach out to local haunts for help, but there aren't any in my area, which is why this event is such a hit at the Relay for Life. There are no major haunted attraction in our section of Connecticut, and the ones that do exist are all outdoor and do not use any 4x8 walls. They're forest walks, or hayrides through cornfields. It's a little frustrating when you love haunting as much as me, and most of you guys! lol

Allen H
11-09-2010, 09:59 PM
I have been looking into Coroplast sheets for walls. Its also called corflute, its the stuff most outdoor signs are printed on. It runs about $9.00 a sheet and comes in a ton of colors. I normally use 2x2 to frame my panels one on each side and three 45" pieces connecting them. That puts your panel at about $18 each. Light weight but supportable with 1x4 bracing across the top.

Greg Chrise
11-09-2010, 10:31 PM
I'm thinking that your event is off season for most pro haunts and one might be able to rent you some wooden walls for the two days. I don't know who is in your area. Certainly minor compensation for moving in and out would be a fraction of this building something temporary that has to be disguarded or might incur storage fees.

Chances are this gets you into the pro fire proof catagory. Not only is black plastic a real hazzard in so many ways if something went wrong but if you can nvest in the quality of the event, you would be supprised with the patronage.

11-10-2010, 06:20 AM
Thanks Allen, that never crossed my mind. I appreciate the tip!

And Greg, we don't have any pro haunts here that use 4x8 walls. There was Fright Haven (if you checked the CT haunt section) but they went out of business and the owner wants over $100,000 for each haunt. I don't know if it's a great idea to take the risk with his kind of prices. The walk through of the haunt is only about 2 minutes, due to time and space, but the scares are intense and people love it! I'm hoping the new theme can make it seem longer (by being afraid of the dark) and provide the same quality of scares.

Thanks again everyone, I really appreciate your advice! Feel free to keep it coming. :)

Mr. Haunt
11-10-2010, 05:38 PM
Well it sounds like you have options to choose from when it comes to building walls. As you can see from the other haunters, they are against the plastic. I like Allens idea, seems to be affordable anyway.

Let me give you this suggestion; I'm sure that you have sponsors that support your event, right? Why not go to a local storage facilitie and ask them to sponsor your event by donating a space to store your walls??????

My concern for you is this, your haunt does WELL for you every year, and form what you tell me there is an issue with storage? Thus you have to spend money building walls every year??? Or at least thats what I'm thinking, so with that said you need find a way to keep your walls and use them year after year.

I'm pushing the issue on a storage space, because building walls year after year is only going to eat your budget. I'm sure the other haunters would aggree!

Mr. Haunt

Jim Warfield
11-10-2010, 06:55 PM
A lumber Yard for a sponser?
My wacky idea: buy 3/4 inch thick plywood (Yes$$$!) but guess what? it will take and make very good use of ONE coat of paint and someday these pieces of substantial wood will still be valuable, you could build a real house with them, unlike flakey boards.
I could see this as actually being cheaper in the long term of things.
"Wood" is cheap right now.
I met a guy who was given an inflatable laser gun game /thing. He set it up near my house one Halloween I guess the owner had alot of $ and got bored owning it.

11-10-2010, 07:58 PM
Thanks Mr. Haunt, I really agree with Allen's idea as well. This is the 3rd year of the haunt at the Relay in full blown scale. We emailed a couple storage locations and they offered a couple month storage but no one was able to donate year round storage. The reasons we could not afford to pay for storage was because the school provides us with a small event budget that we only have access too for the preparation and duration of the event. So it doesn't cover storage.

Thanks Jim, I really wish we were able to do that! Once I graduate college and become financially steady enough to go pro, I'll gladly take that advice and apply it to my future attraction.

Greg Chrise
11-11-2010, 06:08 PM
If you really are going to go pro, you should keep working on this free storage angle instead of the yearly disposable haunt. No one is going to want PVC pipe and black plastic.

It could be a longer term relationship for the lumber yard where a small but unique banner is placed at the event. Then also the local contractors or builders group, the chamber of commerce and the storage place all offer portions until all the finances are covered.

Perhaps there is some charity that also wants an event in the fall and they can also be made into Christmas panels and some whacky photographer and a theatrical group needs use of some "flats"

There you have a mini college income business when this exceeds the costs of storage and transportation. Being able to secure sponsorship, many small donations to equal one big expense is one of the major skilz. Also finding raw materials on Craigslist under materials.

This whole undertaking could become your college thesis on helping the community.

So, you take Jim's idea. Who needs 100 pieces of 3/4 inch sheets. Some home builder who also happens to want advertising/mention at a charity event, happens to have a small warehouse for his building supplies and can take that raw material and use it as floor underlayment. Instead of buy stuff, input lots of labor and then treat the landfill to some hydrocaron goodness.

If you can demonstrate this cycle of business, you might not need that degree in basket weaving.

Greg Chrise
11-11-2010, 06:25 PM
This haunt that wants $100,000? You really need to talk to them instead of just poo poo this idea. Whats the harm, they get to donate a few panels, get them back and can still theoretically sell them for $100,000 which isn't really ever going to happen by the way. By time they sell everything for $2500 is will all be a rotted mess if it isn't already.

What kind of square footage is this maze thingy? How many walls do you think you need? What is the budget for the event. What haunt is it that wants $100,000? What is their phone number? Is there any news articles on your schools participation in the Relay for life? How much has been raised in total last year?

How many participants are there, what is the population of the town you are in?

11-14-2010, 05:48 PM
Hey Greg, Sorry I took a while to respond I went away for the weekend with family.

I am not the owner of this haunt, all donations belong to the organization and so turning it into a business is not anything I have power over. I might have a hit on free storage though! One of the freshman in Colleges Against Cancer at my school has family involved in the storage business and he's checking into it for us. It looks really positive.

We already have 90% of the props and costumes, and about 30 walls, which is all I could fit in the basement at my parents house. But hopefully this freshman's storage connection really pays off.

My budget right now is $750 for entertainment, (last year I started with $1000), so we have been sliced a large amount. So I'm working on some fundraisers that can help us bring in some more funds to put the event together.

The maze is about 2,500sq ft. This year we want to bump it up to 3,000. (Mind you this is all built in one day, it's an incredible and inspirational story really.) We need about 50 or so more walls.

The event is one of the largest in our area for college Relay's, and it is a big deal at our school, it gets a ton of press between news and newspaper, and we blow it up on Facebook and other social networking sites to get the word out. We sort of take over for the weekend :-)

Thanks for your input and advice, it's really appreciated!

Jim Warfield
11-14-2010, 07:28 PM
Instead of 300 4 by 8 wall panels , maybe a singular maze would be much cheaper figuring the cost per/customer by the number of wall panels.
If say 200 customers take 20 minutes to pass through 300 panels in a maze, maybe it would be cheaper to just take those wall panels and make coffins from each 1.5 wall panels. Then these would contain and secure one customer each for 20 minutes.
Then open the coffin, let them run!

11-15-2010, 04:26 PM
Nice Jim! We can just do a human operated "last ride" and throw dirt on the lid to freak them out while they're in there! Thanks for the singular maze idea. :)

11-17-2010, 07:33 AM
I'm coming in late on this, but another wall material option for lightweight walls could be 4' x8' Masonite panels over 2 x 2s. The Masonite is made with fire retardant already added and usually runs between $5.50 and $6.00 a sheet in most areas. Of course it will not give you the strength factor of a 1/2" plywood wall, but will hold up infinitely better than plastic sheeting. It takes paint well with one coat usually and can also be wall papered as well. The biggest drawback I know of is that it can and will warp under adverse weather conditions, so if you go this route, don't scrimp on the screws when attaching to your framework. Another tip on 2 x 2s is to rip your own out of 2 x 4s rather than buying them precut. If you have access to a table saw rip them to exactly 1-1/2" by 1-1/2". This will give you a drop piece slat the size of lattice material that although you may not think would be useful, can be used in dozens of applications. But most importantly it makes your framing material much more universal and easier to work with when building the walls. And, when purchasing 2 x 4s from your lumber yard, make sure to pick them out yourself rather than letting the stockman choose them for you. Check each one to make certain they are straight and not warped. This will make ripping them much easier, and never store the raw material upright leaning against a wall. Kiln dried lumber is never really dry completely and they will almost always warp over the course of a day or two.

Greg Chrise
11-17-2010, 10:28 PM
Round here there is an entire underbelly of community events and charities. The events can only be judged by the number of porta potties at the event or how much money was raised is a small amount of time.

Your whole event raised more than $27,000 last year. The highest college type event raised $51,000. What this tells me is how to have an increase in your event every year by wether or not to invest in real wall panels. Yes, you should. Anything over $25,000 is a good event.

So there are some tricks to procuring wood for panels. They might even be doors from various junk shops or the entire habitat for humanity restore pallet of donated paneling that isn't really up to home building quality but, they had such stuff donated. Same for paint. You can hit paint stores and actually offer them a value for their mis mixed paint for a tax write off. Not only is there owes and Home Depot but all sorts of old skool paint shops that previouly had no way to get rid of this stuff.

A bold move would be to have the event also include habitat for humanity in the area as well as a food bank of some kind that generally has a big ass network of advertising and bilboards.

All thought this is much more big picture than is there something cheaper than black plastic, this event is going to have something every year and how hard it is to do should be made far more easy. The better quality makes it far more safe and a real investment simply increases how popular it would be to participate in it.

The real payoffs are generally meeting people in the community that you otherwise would never have the inclination or excuse to meet. The cross overs for your event and when ever there is some fund drive for other charities simply makes the whole town more sufficient and not at a burden in hard times.

This makes who ever came up with this idea a god of philanthropy. All the events thrive and moreso than if they were just left stangnant as they are and seperate. Then instead of ever seeing a cut in funding, the questions will be what if we put a couple thousand into this thing. You are also entertaining people that are family and friends of relay participants and the more things there are to do the better. The more quality your stuff looks the more can be raised per haunted house victim. We are talking thesus level research project here. Honorary doctorate. Free lemonade!

What would happen if you got serious about this? Well, you would have developed the one to one relationship wether it happened the way you wanted it to or not and done all the fact finding missions that will pay off big time for any future resource scrounging. Only you actually did it once, didn't just dream it or theorize it could happen. It doesn't matter if you are the events big cahoona or not. Certainly you scout out these ideas and get them to the proper channels but, some of this may simply be oh sure we have 50 gallons of paint over here we don't know what to do with.

Some joker donated this whole stack of wood that is kind of moldy and scared up by a fork truck or wild pigs or something and we sure could use the space. Wala, easier stuff to build and something worth storing. Reused over and over instead of lining the landfill every year. Make your charity event more efficient as far as banking resources from year to year.

One of my pet peeves is how charities actually screw over so many resources that actually cost money and this should make a certain amount back but, they don't because who cares it is all free and everyone volunteered and garbage is garbage. In reality the electric bill went up with this thing happening, the money sort of went out the door and if it doesn't make some serious amount of money or get some serious amount of recognition then it is only a cost that can be avoided.

Hand the big cahhoona back his $750, thanks pal. I got this. Is this supposed to be 3500 square feet of washer and dryer boxes with little sesame street windows cut in them?

Just to put things in perspective, there are charities that pay 20% of their take gladly to have an attraction brought in and run. A real investment is how you work toward that. It is recouping your expense for storage and adding more structure every year rather than the money that is supposed to build something from nothin every year.

This is the way it be's when you are too poor to be a philanthropist.

Greg Chrise
11-17-2010, 11:18 PM
To be a star, you also have a fund raising event that is only haunted house in October and this is where the funds come from to make things great or pump up the event's yearly income if you are into that. Or the October event helps another charity. Same people having fun other times of the year with the same free resources.

You can independently ask for donations FOR the haunted house or the expense it incurres as it benefits all sorts of things and anyone that is a sponsor gets mentioned in the paper yearly as a keen community participant. In effect free advertising that would otherwise cost 10 times more than they have donated.

Greg Chrise
11-17-2010, 11:23 PM
Or, you buy 100 Taiwanese scuba snorkels and 100 used shovels and half the customers bury the other half alive for 20 minutes. Then reverse roles. The paper gets wind of this performance art and dedication, people paying money to bury each other because it's scary.

11-18-2010, 08:41 PM
Thanks for all the input everybody! It's much appreciated. :D

We received a reasonable lead on an inflatable haunt, that will be a great addition to the approximate 30 walls we have in my basement, and we also received year round storage sponsor from one of our club members family which was a huge plus!

Where did you get your fundraising number from Greg? We had a goal of $40,000 I believe, and our chairs told us we made our goal by literally a couple hundred dollars. (Kind of sad, but at least we made it!) I think you are not really understanding my situation, I am just the Haunt Coordinator and an Entertainment chair for our Relay, which is sponsored by our schools chapter of Colleges Against Cancer. We get funding from our school, not the American Cancer Society to host this event, and the haunt I'm working on is for a one night mega attraction that is the biggest on-site fundraiser in our area and people pay to go through it multiple times each year. I am not the owner of any donations or items, I simply do my best to recycle them (which we've done really well so far) and ensure a safe and enjoyable attraction. I am not using any of this to go semi-pro with and won't have access to most of the items until next year when we do it again, and now that we have storage, we can get larger and more elegant than ever! It's fantastic news! :)

I am working on a separate solo project completely different from this, I'd like to make a haunted old school manor at a local store in their parking lot, it's a non-profit event and all the money raised would just reimburse my expenses and be split 60/40, 60% to the American Cancer Society (I really like helping them out) and 40% to go back into the haunt to make improvements for the following year. I would like to keep that out of here for now, as I'll probably be making a thread for this soon, or join in on some already created "I'm new to going big and I need help!" kind of threads haha.

Thanks for your help and advice Greg, it's much appreciated, I can tell you put a lot of thought into it and I'm sure your haunt must be pretty great by the amount of knowledge you're sharing with a complete stranger.

And Ironman, I'll keep that in mind if this inflatable scAIR structure falls through the cracks. Thanks for the words of wisdom :cool:

11-18-2010, 08:47 PM
Oh, and last quick thing to anyone reading this, if you have unwanted, broken, or dust-collecting props, costumes, etc that you would like to donate, we accept anything in practically any condition, and do have a tax ID number for you to claim on your taxes the next time you fill them out, or if you are a company looking to look great in the eyes of Uncle Sam or would like advertising at the event and on our social blasts we can work with you to ensure a happy and healthy donation. :) Just send me a PM or email (bobbyarel@gmail.com or arelr1@owls.southernct.edu I check both, but my Gmail account is the one I use most often) and I'll give you all the information you need. Thanks again Everyone!

11-22-2010, 10:36 AM
Although I'm not sure what your budget is...
As a haunter, I'd stay away from anything that could be of hazard to your patrons and Actors. Although materials come fire-proofed and certified, we still wouldn't use plastic for anything. Safety is our number one concern, as it should be for every haunter. Just think, one mistake to a particular haunted attraction, could affect the entire Industry.

I'd say to personally try sticking with 2x4's, although it can be costly, its durable and safe. I'm not sure what you meant with the plastic but if my assumption was right, you were trying to wrap your walls to darken the show? If so, try buying a cheap outdoor black paint that you can coat the walls with and never have to deal with them in the future.

Before we built our new building, we use to house two additional haunted attractions under a large circus tent set upon a concrete slab. Year after year, we'd uncover dozens of wall panels stored for the season, and put them up along with the tent to create two completely different shows. It was alot of work, but provided more value to the patrons until we were able to afford the new building. It just takes time, but safety is key. =]

Aaron Smith
Niles Haunted House Scream Park

11-22-2010, 07:48 PM
Thanks Aaron,

Yeah we were discussing a bunch of different possibilities, and we definitely won't use plastic at all. We are looking into an inflatable scAIR structure of sorts, safer, quicker, and still good quality. =) I appreciate your input!