Learn How to Create a Haunted House Facade for Halloween

Thu, September 17, 2020

Façades: Giving your Attraction a Face Lift

By Michael Krausert / Bad Boys Scenic Design

Photos courtesy of Kleer Photography & Justin Connaher


Judging a Book by its Cover

Take a moment to imagine yourself as a writer. You’ve just spent more than a year plotting, researching, developing, writing, and editing your first great thriller. You have been living this novel for so long and now the book is printed and ready to sell. You are going to be the next Stephen King. After all the creative blood, sweat and tears to get to this point would you ever consider selling this book without a cover? How could you successfully sell your book without an image and title to draw people to read your story? Consider the façade of your haunted attraction as the cover of your book.  Your goal is to get the customers to see your book on the shelf, pick it up, and read the first page. Once you entice them, they will buy your book and you can really show them what a great writer you are.

What is the theme of your attraction? Knowing what kind of an event you are delivering to your customers on the inside helps you deliver an exciting theme and vision for the outside. Every style of event could benefit from a well-thought out and interesting exterior. From the simplest decorations to more elaborate interactive exteriors, facades help to bring a level of suspense and excitement to your patrons.  The idea is to grab your customers’ attention from the start. The façade is  priming your audience to be caught off their guard, to suspend disbelief and generate anticipation (or perhaps anxiety) about what could be awaiting them on the inside….


Getting Started

Choosing a style for the  façade is the first step. The façade should reflect the contents of your attraction, giving them a taste of what is to come. It doesn’t really make sense to walk through the mouth of a giant clown only to discover a house filled with vampires, would it? With this in mind, have a clear idea about what you want to convey to your patrons from the moment they arrive at your event. Remain open to the possibilities your exterior may present as another exciting element to your attraction.
At Terror on the Fox in Green Bay, Wisconsin, our façade has been evolving for decades. We designed our façade as an exterior of an old, decrepit house. Nearly all of the rooms we created inside Terror on the Fox are rooms that would exist within an old house or abandoned mansion. What began as a small house façade with fixed lighting has grown into a monstrous mansion with computer controlled sound, lighting and video screens. The show that has developed around and in front of our façade has become a living breathing addition to our event.

We developed the design of the façade at Terror on the Fox around many things. Our property was easily seen from a main road and our façade became a curiosity for people driving by. This really helps to generate  word of mouth advertising and stir up interest.
We also found that a well-designed exterior became a priceless dramatic backdrop for many of our live TV remotes. We wanted the viewers to feel they were a part of our event even from the comfort of their own home.

            A key reason for many of our exterior design choices was to be able to support entertainment. We were to committed to our façade being a focal point which would captivate our patrons and entertain them right from the start.


Building Suspense

While patrons wait in line you want their imaginations to run wild. As haunt owners, we all aim to play with the perceptions and comfort level of our customers. Why not create that unpredictable environment before they even walk through the front door?

The façade at Terror on the Fox appears to be a two-story building. Many customers have told us they enjoyed going through the rooms and different floors in our attraction.  Actually, our property does not have a second floor but our exterior was designed to create the illusion that there is.
We wanted our façade to be interactive so we designed it as a multi-level “stage” for our actors to use for pre-show entertainment. Some actors lip-sync to a soundtrack in a center tower, others slither around the queue in the main courtyard. Doors open and slap shut while curtains blow in the wind. The use of actors, celebrity, games and rides are also great tools for enticing patrons before entering your event.

Obviously, budget is a main factor in designing and building any façade. Keep in mind that customers usually only see the front of an event and there is no need to keep a consistent theme on the side or rear of a building. You can build a dramatic exterior without incurring a heavy price tag. Pile up palettes and wooden boxes, add red lights for eyes on corpses, a few spider webs or maybe scenic lighting. Perhaps build towers or different levels. It doesn’t take much to create something to make your customers feel a little uneasy. The only limit is your imagination.

The Terror on the Fox Experience

Upon buying a ticket at Terror on the Fox, you board an old passenger train to take you to front of the event. The ½ mile train ride ends at an unloading platform along the banks of the Fox River. You walk through the woods on a long path bordering a graveyard. 

Upon reaching the front of our event you can now see our main video screen and beyond it is our façade. We use the giant outdoor screen to show footage of past house events and we offer the use of this screen as advertising incentive for sponsors.

Our façade is very large and quite commanding.  It has an upper level consisting of five separate towers which can support performers for entertainment. The main (center) tower houses a video screen used for rear-projecting images. This gives the effect of fire burning or other unique images behind the performers. These towers and the wraparound porch on ground level are outfitted with fog machines and full scenic lighting.

We landscaped the front courtyard with mulch and trees and ran a network of PVC pipe underground. We use the pipe network to fog our courtyard. By running the fog underground, it automatically cools in the earth which helps it to emit low to the ground. Brick pillars hold torches and we built an outdoor fountain with skeletons who appear to be spitting fire into the pool below. We have  30’ flagpoles along the customer line with hanging skeletons at the top.  On certain nights, you may see small pyrotechnic shows. The aim of our façade is to keep our customers engrossed with the show while waiting in line and to keep them wondering what will happen next.

            All haunt owners want to create a memorable experience for their customers but many forget to deliver the whole package. A well-designed façade helps transition the customers from the ticket booth to the “main event”.  It a simple but essential tool for building anticipation and generating excitement for what they are about to experience. When it comes to facades, you may not get a second chance to make a first impression.


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