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HHH - Psycho Clown Factory - Advice/Ideas/Thoughts Please - Garage Haunt

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  • HHH - Psycho Clown Factory - Advice/Ideas/Thoughts Please - Garage Haunt

    You have all taught me so much... thank you for inspiring me to go big... how big?

    Well, this year I've decided to go all in …. take up the entire 3 car garage (22x25) and driveway (24x25)! This will be, by far, the biggest home haunt I've ever attempted. As such, I'm seeking your help and guidance.

    [Just re-read this post... jeez it is long... sorry …. lots of thoughts are in this garage haunt]

    While I've been meticulously planning, thinking, drawing, acquiring, building, designing/re-designing, etc. over the past 4 months, I'm certain there are a number of elements, ideas, and concepts I simply missed because I'm inexperienced at this scale. For example, one of my concern areas is around competing sounds. That is, the noise from one area of the haunt bleeding over and ruining another area. I'm also thinking a lot about flow control, and how to maximize through put. There are also some obvious ideas and “wins” that I've simply not thought of. Your opinions, suggestions, cautions, etc. are sought.

    I've attached my hand drawing of the layout to help you follow along should you read this entire post. It is done to scale.

    The overall theme is a “Psycho Clown Factory”... each year I do something with clowns, so this year is the assembly process.

    I am a fan of the gore, scare, humor blend so that is what I'm after. I'm also trying to slowly ratchet up the scare factor, encouraging people to build their courage as they go from the easy stuff up front to the hard core by the end. For the pros out there, actors are the key but in my case, this is a “one dad” show whose brother comes over to help so we have to run it all by ourselves and I'd like to keep it that way. Plus, I love electronics and animatronics, so I'm going heavy in this way.

    [Haunt Rooms]
    I have 5 main stages of the haunt that coincide with the creation process: sourcing, assembling, liquifying, electrifying, and releasing. I've book ended these 5 scare areas with entry and exit tunnels. The entry tunnel, for example, is the staging area for the first group wherein the factory PR person gives a 45 second spiel explaining the process, reminding people to keep their hands to themselves, and the like.

    “Waiting Area” is a 12x7x7 tunnel that goes into the left most garage space. As the group goes into the tunnel, a 3' animatronic clown butler welcomes you. Once inside this space, a video is projected from an LED projector onto the entry to the actual garage entry door, The video is of a female clown, the factory's PR lady, welcoming you to the Psycho Clown Factor. The voice over was professionally done in a wonderful “PR” voice explaining the creation process and reminds the ToTs the rules of the haunt. [The tunnel is a actually a green house frame I picked up off of ebay, and I'm wrapping it with a light fabric. Easy to put up, stable, and easy to take down.] (Scare Scare = 0)

    “Sourcing”: as you leave the tunnel and push aside the door, you will lots of body parts on a table, in boxes and bins. They are labeled things like Psycho ward, Prisons, and Capital Hill. (Scare Score = 1, more just “ewww that's gross”)

    “Assembly” continuing onward, you will pass a 5'8'' gas masked female clown who is pivoting back and forth (thanks to a wiper motor). She looks like she is assembling a clown, taking parts from the sourcing bins. (Scare Score = 2, motion and creepy odd)

    “Liquify” continuing inward, you come upon a 5' x 3' pan that has red liquid freely pumping up and over a body. Last year, I did a blood spewing clown and it was a hit so this year the clown will be laying down and its blood will squirt upward and spill down over its body. (Scare Score = 4, this is a gruesome display)

    “Electrify” as you enter the back of the garage, there is a scene that may be well over done.... but hey, its my show! I've built a 6' jacobs ladder, sourced a red LED police light, a smog machine, laser beams, and a Spirit electrocution man that I bought 3 years ago. I've created a vortex with a spinning motor on the ceiling, serving as a “containment” field. As people enter the space, you can hear power building, the red police light begins, a count down type voice begins, the jacobs ladder then begins its thing, smoke starts billowing, and after the build up.... the electrocution man gets fried. To keep this “Clown themed”, the electrocution man will have on a clown wig. The Jacobs ladder is a real one, and there are 14,000 volts so I'm keeping that 6 feet away from people (barricaded off), and away from the liquify stage with a splash guard. (Scare Score = 5, the build up of the audio and electrification of the guy is good, but the coolness factor is way high)

    As people leave this scene, they come upon the Training video. Before Pyscho clowns can be released, they have to watch a training video. I had a professional clown do this for me, and the video is great. In front of that will be a static clown, whose back is to you, watching the video. He will be taking “notes”. On the walls to either side of the Psycho Clown in training are posters of “Employee of the Month” and “OSHA” items. Any other posters ideas? (Scare Score = 3, this is a very odd video and the clown watching the video has his back to you.... he is very life like so you are uncertain if it is a real person about to jump up)

    “Releasing” is the final stage. In this area, there are a series of clowns all laying down. There is a “Shhhhh” clown directing people to be quiet. As you walk along the bodies, one is a startle prop (Dead Humor). The walls in this space are all blood bathed (Scare Score = 6, you know “something” is going to happen …. and you know one of the props is going to pop.... you just don't know which one)

    Once you leave the “Releasing” area, you walk the final halls like the other released clowns. This is an entirely black light area... with neon paint, etc. There is a talking neon clown mirror. There are words (“Killer Klown ahead”) and pictures (Evil clown faces) done in black light reflective neon. As you walk this hall, you will hear a low voice “Dead Clown Walking” and then “Chck Chck” (sound of a shotgun being loaded). You continue forward, and then a “Gotcha!” evil clown voice above you is heard and then strobe above your head will begin to flash and you will see a static skeleton clown that is suspended above your head. (Scare Score = 6, the entire black light hall has been designed such that it keeps your eyes from going up... the startle will be the illumination of the clown above you waiting to drop down)

    When you leave this space, you enter a square room. In the corner opposite of you, you will see a 6'3'' clown with a shot gun aimed directly at you (hence the shotgun heard in the previous space). In the corner to your left (and exactly opposite from the shot gun clown) is a very large, fat, female clown in a white dress, with lots of blood splatter. Within a second of being in the space, the gun goes off with a flash and you are “popped” with an air-blast (I made it out of a sprinkler valve and pipe... it works quite well I must say!). This is the first “touch them” part of the haunt as they will feel the air. You leave this space, and go into the “Exit Tunnel”(Scare Score = 7, this area hits you fast.... all the other areas had a build up of tension, but not this one … it happens very very quick)

    The Exit Tunnel is dimly lit, full of suspended victims bodies. It is dripping with “blood” (actually, bubbles from a bubble machine) Feeling the “blood” will be the second time you “feel” something in the haunt, but this time there will be a lot of “feel” You have to literally push your way through the gore in this tunnel. It is of the exact same size and dimensions as the entry tunnel. I have a clown (Honky the Clown) that is manically laughing and honking the entire time you exit. The bubble machine doesn't run full time.... it only runs just after someone is “shot” in the previous room and does so for about a minute. (Scare Score = 4, this area is more gross than scary. The dripping bodies give the ewwww factor).

    [Odds and Ends]
    I'm not sure on all the lighting yet, as I suspect that I really won't know what to light and where until everything is up. I'm working to stay away from overhead lighting as much as possible. I have plenty of lights, from flood to pin point.

    The sounds are good, with a number of custom made ones just for the haunt. As shared before, I have a concern about sounds bleeding over. I could constrain the people entering such that only one group is in at a time... but that would really gum things up and create a significant wait for those outside. I've not yet graduated to a DMX type system, with each area having its own sound playback system (I have 3 different PicoBoo controllers and they have audio playback on trigger capabilities). The training video is a looping video whose audio track simply plays out of the TV.

    The smells are really just a consequence of things in the various spaces. For example, the Jacobs ladder puts out a unique smell as a consequence of its function. I thought about maybe doing a burning flesh thing in the electrification area, as that would be pretty easy to do …. just a time/money issue.

    Power distribution “shouldn't” be an issue. There are four sets of outlets in the garage spread across two different circuit breakers, one at 15amps and the other at 20amps. Doing back of the envelope calculations shows that even if everything were running at the same time, no one set of “things” would go above 15amps. Even though I'm inside, I will be using the outdoor extension cords and outlets that we use during the …. ahem.... fat red suited guy holiday (here is the deal, wifie gets to design whatever crazy light show she wants (wherein I'm the engineer and laborer) and I get to do whatever I want on THE holiday of the year)).

    I am really concerned about the background/back drop/setting of everything. This is a critical piece and is my weakest area. I've dropped plenty of coin already into this project, so I need to be creative on this front. Any ideas? When I admire others haunts, it is the attention to the details around the thing that I appreciate yet I have no touch or style sense to get this right, especially on sourcing the stuff.

    I've been building each of the individual scene parts (e.g. laser/vortex cone, jacobs ladder, etc.), but won't begin putting up the walls and the like until the first weekend in October. I'm worried that I won't have enough time.... so all the pre-work is necessary (and fun as hell!!!) and also constrains what I can do.

    People wise, I expect about 200 (I live in a community of 2000 homes) over the 3 hour period. While people will come in bursts (based on last years flow), if I simply average things out I'm looking at 66.6 (prophetic number!) people an hour, or just over 1 person per minute. If you look at my layout, I'm thinking I could have 2 groups of people inside at any one time without compromising the experience (one group in the Entry Hall, and another group in the Release area).

    The entire haunt is designed to take 8 (to 10) minutes, end to end. If I only let 2 groups in at a time and have a 10 minute traversal per group, I'm a capacity of 14 groups an hour. At worst case, with groups only consisting of 1 person, that means I would have a flow rate of 14 people an hour. If the group sizes are 2 people, then I'm at 28. If group sizes are 4 people, them I'm almost at target. Past 4 I get nervous about crowding and people management, so it would be on a case by case basis (a dad with 4 kids in tow would be allowed in as a group, for example), and I will break the groups up if need be (6 teenagers would be broken into 2 groups of 3, for example). For completeness, these flow numbers assume a ready made pool of people that enter at the exact right moment. That isn't reality.

    All this theory is great, but reality will be the ultimate arbitrator. Breakdowns, people bailing out in the middle, weather, etc. will ultimately determine what happens (I'm a physicist by eduction, but an engineer by trade... I live the theory/reality difference every day!). However, I've got to plan and this gives me a good excuse to think about Halloween all year!

    [ToTs Profile]
    Based on the past 2 years, I'd say 25% of those who came by where adults (18+years) , 5% were 15-18, 15% were 13-15, 25% were 10-13, 25% were 7-10, 5% were 7 and under. Of the adults, about 25% of them were without children... coming over because they “heard” about our house. The “appropriateness” of the haunt is always an individual parents tastes/beliefs, but I'd say that anyone over the age of 8 would be fine... but I'm skewed! My 6 year old has been helping me build haunt things the past 2 years.

    There is a lot of detail to all of this, like where the sensors are to be placed and the like. However, rather than blabber on about everything for this already long post, please provide any feedback or ask questions.

    What have I missed? I have only 155 days to address the gaps!!! (funny how that number now seems small)

    [To Other Home Haunters]
    Not sure if my sharing of the above helps or hinders your efforts. On the one hand, it could be inspirational (“wow, I could do that too!”) and on the other discouraging (“wow, that is a lot to think through.... screw that!”). I love Halloween, and creating all this detail allows me to enjoy my holiday all year. I've captured the above to help me think through everything and ask for advice.

    [To the Pros]
    Hats off to all you pros that do this. My scale is no where near what you have to consider (in terms of physical size or people volumes) and I'm a bit overwhelmed..... and I don't have to worry about people asking for refunds, making profits, building codes, and proper operating licenses. My biggest concerns are jackass teenagers, johnny clumsy, and mad moms (this isn't appropriate for X)... all of whom I can deal with.


  • #2
    I personally love it!! Do you have any pictures to share?

    *Sigh*I can't wait til' October


    • #3
      No area photos yet

      Thanks Pumpkin King!

      The only photos I have are of the various individual pieces and parts that I would be putting together to pull this off. As it comes together, I plan on sharing it on this thread for continual feedback.

      I'm so eager to build this out! The tension of "normal" functional usage of the space (e.g. storing the cars) versus my desire to see it come to life is intense! So, I get my fix here and continue doing the small things.



      • #4
        I'm excited to see it come together!! Be sure to keep us posted!
        *Sigh*I can't wait til' October


        • #5
          looking forward to seeing the pictures.


          • #6
            Update - Assembler Prop Test Run

            This afternoon I was able to test my "Assembler." If you will recall from the original post, this years garage haunt will be a tour through a Psychotic Clown Factory. One of the early stations that a ToTer will visit is the "Assembler" I've continued to morph this stage, and am pretty happy with how it is working out. The body was sourced from a FleaMarket ($ was missing an arm), numerous parts from FrightProps (PicoBoo, PicoVolt, and their E-Cracker). The prop combines a probe (which is a pneumatic) with a electric tacking gun (which is the E-Cracker), with the rotations choreographed via the PicoVolt. I plan on connecting a 1.5 inch in diameter black corrugated hose to the gas mask canister fitting and running it upwards and eventually out of eye-sight. On the white foam head, I will be putting on a 4 faced clown mask that I picked up. The entire sequence is triggered via a PIR sensor.

            Any and all suggests are welcome.... especially on decor that would be great to surround this prop in. Damn, I love this holiday!


            • #7
              Update - Training Video loaded on Digital Media Player

              This week the ball was moved forward on my garage haunt when my Micca Digital Media Player arrived. It is a very small HDMI playout capable, self-contained video player. As shared originally, once a Psychotic clown as been brought to life, it must attend training classes and this includes video. As such, I needed a Psychotic Clown Training video on a loop. If you're interested in the actors banter, you will have to turn the volume way up.