Haunted Homes Creating Your Own Haunted House at Home


 Hauntworld is the World biggest website to learn about and find haunted houses, haunted attractions, real haunted houses, Halloween attractions, haunted hayrides and much more. Hauntworld will provide information about how to haunt your home, haunted house details tips, haunted house scene idea's, how to build haunted props and much much more.  If you would like to find a haunted house go to the front page of www.Hauntworld.com and use our interactive map to find haunted houses nationwide.  Find Halloween Attractions at www.HalloweenAttractions.com.


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Actors  Resource Guide


Frank Weidman



   It’s a new year and that means a new season. As a actor/actress, Our minds are going every which way ninety miles per hour trying to come up with a new character. As we open our makeup cases, the smell of the makeup room hits us in the face. Inventory is being done and we write a must have list for the new season.


   First, we need makeup, the foundation for turning ourselves into our demented altered egos.  There are several types and brands of makeup out there for us actors/actress’s.  Liquid makeup, creme makeup, face powder, cake makeup, appliance makeup and the most common used of makeup for haunters, grease paint.


  Student and professional pre-selected makeup kits are available by Ben Nye, Kryolan, Graftobian and Mehron. Also new this past year in 2004 was Wolfe Brothers water base makeup.


   Alternative route for character development is foam prosthetics. These highly detailed second skin alternatives are great when time is a issue or if you just want to really give your customers a great show.  Great companies such as Boneyard Fx, Scream Team, Cinema Secrets and new in 2004, San Diego Fx Studio  all provide a wide variety of selection.


  Now for creative side in you that wants to create you own prosthetics, companies such as Monster Makers, Fx Warehouse Inc. and Cybergraphic Designs (may I add that Cybergraphic Designs carries a nice line of the popular discontinued Nu Prosthetics.) all 3 carry a diverse selection of materials to create your own pieces.


  With your monster face on, lets discuss about the little details that can make a huge impact on your over all presentation.  We don’t want to step out of the makeup room with a hideous face and some clean pearly white teeth, do we? NO!!   Mehron offers some liquid alternatives for your teeth. And Dental Distortions has some great teeth that fits over your own and does not effect your speech when talking with them in. Scarecrow has always had a good selection of fangs for your  creature of the night needs.


 Before you devour you next victim, let them gaze in your eyes as you wear a pair of fx contacts by such companies as 9mm SFX  and Wild Eyes.


  Ok, now splat on some blood, Ben Nye’s Fresh Scab and Cinema Secrets Blood Gel are two of my favorites.  Put on your costume, I prefer to make my own from various Thrift Shops, but there are great companies such as Rubies, Morris Costumes and Rozzy Alexander Studio.


  Lets do a product review;

For makeup:                                             For material supplies:

www.mehron.com                                     www.getspfx.com       

www.kryolan.com                                     www.monstermakers.com

www.bennye.com                                      www.fxwarehouseinc.com




For prosthetics pieces:                             For teeth and fangs:

www.boneyardfx.com                               www.dentaldistortions.com

www.screamteam.com                              Scarecrow fangs can be found at

www,cinemasecrets.com                           www.vampfangs.com



For costumes:                                           For fx contacts:

www.rubies.com                                       www.9mmsfx.com

www.morriscostumes.com                        www.wildeyes.com



   With blood and ooze dripping off your chin, let your imagination come to creation as you turn yourself into a flesh eating zombie, or a boogey man from your customers darkest fears.



Controllers-The Animation Maestro

By Rich Strelak

R&J Productions

Las Vegas, NV



In our industry, every once in a while a really cool product comes along. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on one such product and actually used it this last season. It was Haunted Enterprises’ Animation Maestro.


There are many other controllers on the market, most are very good. Each has drawbacks and strengths. Usually you would think that the cheaper the unit the fewer features and the more expensive, the harder it is to use. The Animation Maestro seems to be the best of both worlds. It is inexpensive, yet it can accomplish a lot and is extremely easy to use.


First let’s get some background on Controllers as they are varied for different applications. First you have a single event timer. When triggered it turns on for a set amount of time then shuts off. The bad part is that if the trigger it activated the controller turns on again, no delay. So if five people in a group go through it could be triggered five times!


So the next level is a single event timer where you can set the on time AND the off time. This allows you to trigger your event, time on, and then have a down time. During the “off-time” the trigger is inactive which allow you to activate your event only once per group. This is extremely advantageous with air cannons and other pneumatic driven props.


Single event timers can be mechanical or digital. Mechanical timers are the least expensive, but can be the least effective. Most mechanical timers have just a simple dial that you set each time with. They have a tendency to break down from use and when jarred by the prop it can sometimes “reset” itself!


The next level would be a multiple event timer for a single prop. This type of controller allows much more flexibility. You can turn on and off a single prop multiple times. Flash a light, bang shutters, rattle doors, or even create a coffin banger or wall knocker. The simplest multiple event timer has a systematic on and off sequence, like a strobe light effect, which is not very versatile. A more complicated controller allows random lengths of time for each on-off period, more like random lightning flashes. As it is more complicated, multiple event timers usually have to be programmed, and then you download it to the controller.


A multiple event, multiple item controllers are normally referred to as a Show Control System. The most popular such controller is the Gilderfluke mini-brick. It controls on and off sequences of multiple items over multiple time frames and can overlap controls. You could turn on lights, pop up several animations, trigger an air cannon and then turn the lights off. This style controller almost always requires a computer link to program the sequence. Some can do real time programming but most require you to create the program then download it to the controller. If the timing is off you must redo the program then download it again.


The Animation Maestro is a multiple event single item controller. What I really appreciated was first the versatility and then the ease of programming. It does not require a computer hook up. You have a two-minute recording time, which is more than adequate for most haunt applications. You “program” it using two simple push buttons. The good part is you can program it with your props attached so you are dealing with real time. You can also change it quickly. Here’s a programming sequence.


Say you have an air cylinder attached to a coffin lid or a shutter. You want the effect of a real person, (or dead person), trying to get out. You press and hold in your record button. This starts the program, as it will be activated when someone touches your trigger. I want the patron to walk past the trigger before the prop is activated (this helps “hide” the location of the trigger), so I count to 5.  Now I tap the control button varying the time to replicate the banging of the lid. Let’s say the banging goes on for 6 or 7 seconds then I stop, but the record button is still held so it continues to record. I want some time to let my group get out of the room without re-triggering the prop, so I wait, still holding the record button in until my group would be leaving. Let go of the record button and my programming is done! You can program sequences up to a full two minutes long, which can accommodate almost any Haunt need.


As people start going through, let’s say you feel that it might be a little more effective if the coffin started banging about 7 seconds after triggering instead of 5. No problem! Simply turn the power off, hold both buttons in and re-power the unit. The lights flash showing the memory has been wiped clean and you can now re-program. It’s that simple!


Instead of needing several different types of controllers, the Animation Maestro handles most situations. It can control one single on-off sequence for props like an air cannon or a pop up or multiple random triggers for flashing lights, knocking doors or slamming lids. You can have it trigger once for each group entering or you can put a jumper on the trigger input and have a repeat timer!


I was also able to layer effects by using more than one Maestro in a room. We had a Sitting Room that contained a TV and several pieces of furniture covered with sheets. When people walked in, one trigger set off two Maestros. The TV was tuned to an off channel showing the “snow” pattern but no sound. The first Maestro activated the sound for the TV, which blasted a loud “white noise” sound, startlizing the audience. (We did this room BEFORE White Noise came out!!) As they continued through the room past a chair, an air cannon blasted them from under the chair sending the white sheet up into the air! Just about the time they settled down and were leaving the room, I had the air cannon give them one more quick blast!


In essence, I had the equivalent of a show-controlled room with one trigger and two Maestros! What I also like is having that random delay. It allows you to trigger your prop, wait, and as the audience goes to leave you are able to give them one more quick shot! So much for being the “safe guy” at the end!


We own Mobile Trailer Haunts and this last season we completely revamped and re-themed one as a Haunted Hotel. Besides the Sitting Room I described above, we used the Maestro in several other rooms. They controlled several air cannons. They activated a washer in a laundry room. One Maestro activated two separate air cylinders in a kitchen scene slamming a steel table and activating a pop up in the sink. When you entered the hotel room, the closet doors started banging sporadically. It was a distraction to an actor scare.  It was very versatile.


Several other animation vendors were able to test out and use the Animation Maestro this past season.  Scareparts,LLC. Recently installed 40 different Scaresquares TM in a client’s attraction. The Maestro controller was utilized in all the units. According to Keith A. Korner, president of Scareparts, the Animations Maestro’s were, “Easy to use. It doesn’t get any simpler!”


Unit 70 was able to get a few of the first Maestros and started putting them into their animations. According to Brady Armour the Animation Maestro is “...the low cost solution for one and two cylinder animations.” 


The Animation Maestro is a cost effective unit. At about $60.00 each (including the power supply) it can take the place of 3 or 4 other styles of controllers. The Animation Maestro II will be debuted at TransWorld. Although it is the same size, the Maestro II will be able to control two separate props at the same time. In the rooms where I had used two controllers, I will now be able to replace them with one Maestro II. Although twice the controller, the Maestro II is only about $25-30 more than the single unit cost. It has the same ease of programming, although you do become a bit of a “typist” holding the record button and the activating each of the two control buttons. It has been suggested that future units incorporate a different style of switch for the programming button so that you do not have to hold it down while trying to activate the control buttons for each of the two props.


As you can see, the Maestro can handle the majority of your basic control needs. If you have to trigger more than three effects in a room or for certain other effects, you may wish to move up to a Show Control System such as the Gilderfluke controllers. The strength of the Maestro unit is the ease that you begin programming and using the unit. They will help you to gain the confidence so you will really be ready to move up to Show Control and fully animate a room! Haunted Enterprises will have the Animation Maestro and the Animation Maestro II available for sale at their Transworld booth. There will be a free demonstration of the Maestro on Friday, March 4th in the afternoon at Transworld.  Check them out yourself!


Haunted Enterprises: www.hauntedvillage.com 


Gilderfluke: www.gilderfluke.com 


Scareparts: www.scareparts.com 


Unit 70: www.unit70.com 





BEST SCARE EVER IDEA by Tim Harkleroad


During our first year at KroneHouse, there was a lot of talking on HauntWorld, and the various lists and boards, about surveys. When I thought about surveys I was reminded of the typical smart-ass who, no matter what, criticizes or belittles everything, whether he liked it or not.  They scream like a five-year-old girl while inside, but when they are asked later they say "Aw that wasn't scary", especially in front of others.  So, I wanted to devise something to satisfy both fronts, the "Survey Board" was born.


The Effect


        The "Survey Board" is a combination of a "Drop Window" and a survey chart with a grid for answering questions.  The chart is attached to the drop window instead of a standard portrait, and is framed using light wooden molding. The grid has 2 columns that are permanently painted on the wood. One is a "Yes" column and the second is a "No" column. At the top of the board is a sign that asks "Was Krone House Scary?" A piece of chalk in a holder is hung on a string near the frame. An actor in a mask or make-up is stationed behind the board on an elevated platform ready to operate the drop window.


        The reason for using the elevated platform is to put the actor above the heads of the guests; this adds an extra element of fright. A small hole is drilled for the actor to see when the prey is at his panel. The guest is prompted to use the chalk to register his or her vote. While the guest is writing, the actor releases the clip on the panel and the board slides out of the frame revealing the gruesome actor, who now roars at the unsuspecting patrons. This sends them screaming out of the attraction.


The Construction


Materials you'll need...

4ft. x 8ft. plywood wall panel

30in. x 40in. Luon plywood board

2 8ft. lengths of aluminum channel

3ft. length of foam rubber window insulation

Hook and eye set like used for a screen door

Chalk and holder and string for hanging


        Starting with a standard 4 x 8 wall panel, a 4 ft. by 8 ft. sheet of Luon plywood attached to a wooden frame built with 2x4s. You'll need to also cut a piece of Luon plywood approx. 30in. by 40in., this is the survey panel you are going to slide. Now, cut a square hole in the wall panel that is slightly smaller than your survey panel, let's say 28in. by 38in. This should be centered horizontally and about a foot from the top of the wall panel vertically.


        You are going to make a track with the aluminum channel on either sides of the hole on the back of the wall panel. This is for the sliding panel. It will need to slide freely. The open sides of the aluminum channel will, of course, face inward, and the sliding panel will need to be inserted in the tracks before attaching the aluminum channel to the back of the wall. Keep in mind the painting will need to be done before as well.


        We use a small "hook and eye" set to hold the panel into place. We also attach a piece of foam insulation at the bottom, under the sliding panel to keep it from splintering when it hits the bottom of the frame. Now let's go on to the front.


        You need to frame your square hole on the front with wooden molding. Attach the chalk on-a-string to the frame, and attach your sign above the hole reading... "Was _____ _____ Scary?" as in illustration #2. Now it is up to you as to how you want to dress his Wall panel out. Using a brick treatment would be impressive; we simply used a distressed medium gray paint.


        This is a great gag and I hope you will use it. For more information on how to build a great "Drop Window" check out Kevin McCurdy's "Secrets of the Haunted Mansion" video and for more information on the "Survey Board" Check out HauntWorld: The Video #12.


Tim Harkleroad (MoonPub@aol.com) is a haunt consultant and owner of KroneHouse, a small attraction in East Tennessee. After taking a year off they are looking for a new location. He is also the author of "The Complete Haunted House Book" which is currently out of print, but keep watching for a new edition. Visit www.hauntedhousebooks.com.



Creating Vines From Hoses

Raymond Latocki

One thing that will bring out the really creepy look of any mansion,
house, gothic cemetery or overgrown jungle are great looking
vines. These can also be used for roots from a tree or from the
walls in a basement. It adds that extra special touch that makes
your attraction spooky! I wanted to have it overtaking a kitchen
through a window of my haunted attraction “The 13th Door,
Portland, Oregon”. I was not sure how I was going to make it work
and look good for my guests to walk right past it, even grab it and
have it feel real!




After asking all my friends, neighbors and a few local haunt groups
with little to no luck I expanded my search. I did not care about the
color, if it leaked, size in diameter or length so long as it was over
6 feet. I hit up my sanitary department (trash collector) and got
funny looks, but they did me well and provided some. I still
needed more. Recycling center? I gave it a try, but they didn't give
up anything, not even when I offered to pay for it. Then I struck gold
with a local plant nursery that is supported by donations. People
had donated several sections of very damaged hoses to them in
hopes of helping. A leaking hose did nothing for the nursery so
they were more than happy to give it to me.

Knowing, where to search is the hardest part in locating old
unwanted hose. Here are a few other places to try. Landfills- but I
did not even want to know where the hose had been left, not to
mention what it was sitting in! Local yard maintenance
companies, replace their soaker hoses regularly. This is one of
the better sources, as a soaker hose is much lighter than a regular
garden hose, a bit stiffer, with a good rough texture to them. One
drawback with the soaker hose is that they bend with a crease
during storage (but it will not stay) and usually covered with mulch
and dirt. Another thing to consider using is foam pipe insulation
, which is very, light, but not very durable and bends way to easy,
causing creases. The end of summer or spring seems to be a
good time to pick these items up.

Now that I had my hose, I needed to do a bit of quick prep work to it
in a small kiddy pool. My neighbors don't even ask what I’m doing
anymore, they just watch, wonder and after I’m finished come over
and say "wow that turned out pretty cool!" Anyhow I had some
really nasty hoses that I needed to make clean so the latex would
stick to it and so that nothing would grow later while in storage. I
added 5% bleach to the water to kill anything in the crusty stuff and
let it soak over night to knock off the harder dirt and crust.
After a few hours of quick scrubbing with an old rag it was all
cleaned off, I made sure all the water had drained out of the hose
and off I was to the next stage. If you have an air compressor this
will speed the process of tempting all the fluids out of the inside.
With everything dry I went to work making the vine. I cut the hose
into lengths that I wanted and laid them out on the ground to get
the look I needed. To make the base thicker I duct taped several
ends together and started to braid them. Not an even braid, but a
loose and uneven style. At some points I would leave large
sections of the hose drooping from the rest and then bring it back
into the rest so it made a large gap, making it more realistic.
I made sure to have shorter sections so the vine would have
offshoots at various lengths towards the end. Reality is what I was
striving for. I had researched the Internet to get some inspiration
and had several good photos to refer to. After I got all the sections
of hoses attached to each other for the full length it was starting to
shape up to the look I needed. I did a bit of duct tape in sections
just to hold them on, but not a lot of it so that it didn’t cover the
groves and deep pockets that I needed. The duct tape
worked really well for the offshoot branches as it gave a nice even
look and I taped it in the directions I wanted the vine to bend and it
gave an even round bend.

Now I was going to start getting really messy, old overalls on and
several pairs of latex gloves await for the texture process. Knowing
that at the end of each offshoot I was going to have this go from
hose to a smaller branch of vines, I decided to use an old braided
rope. As I got further out I just unbraided the rope to make it
smaller at the ends to get the look I needed. To attach the rope to
the hose I started with some caned spray foam. A small squirt into
the hose and a fair dabbing to the end of the rope that was to be
fitted into the end of the hose worked well. I’m sure that a hot glue
gun or a bit of latex would have worked just as well. I left this to dry for several hours and found it was very secure.

I was working in a grassy area so I took several poles and
inserted them into the ground about three feet high at the end of all
my vines. If you don't like to stoop or bend a lot, make sure you get
it high enough to work on. I had several four-foot long 2x4’s to
place in the center points so the vine would be kept off the ground
but I did not secure them to the ground. This way I could sill move
the boards to work around the vine. This is a hard juggling act for
one person to get it up off the ground. I needed some help to raise
all the sections. A nice trick is to put some feet on the bottom of
the support boards so they are not always falling over when the
vine swings a bit while you work on it. Taking 2 boards and
screwing them together towards the top to make a scissor style
brace also worked well to hold the hose up.

Once it was all suspended I got the canned spray foam back out
and with latex gloves on I sprayed a bit into my hands. I dabbed
the entire section of hose and rope to give is some texture of knots
and bumps, leaving an old growth look! Note that if you do not want
to shave your arms don't get this in any hair, it will not come out!
Ouch! After this is dried, in about an hour or so depending on
weather and temperature, I noticed it had some bumps that were a
bit larger than I wanted so I just picked off a bit, making it the size I liked. This worked really well and took a lot of the braided hose
look away and gave it more of the old growth feel.

Now the hose was ready to get the outer shell of the old creepy
vine look. What a better way to do this than a corpsing? This
worked out so well, I purchase a few kits of Kevin’s, Gore Galore's
http://www.gore-galore.com/ and I was on my way. No use for the
hair on this project, but it would be put in to good use on my next
experiment. I got a new plastic paint roller tray and filled the lower
part of the tray with latex. I put small sections of Batting on the dry
side and brushed latex over it. Long thin sections sped the
process up and after a few hours the hose was no longer visible.
At the sections where the hose met the rope I covered a foot or so
out from that point onto the rope and thereafter I just coated the
rope with latex and a few small strips of batting. The support posts
were in my way and I didn't want to have a flat spot in the latex
batting so after the other section was dry I went back over that
area. I don't think anyone would have noticed it, but I would have.
I did run into few problems. Like I said earlier, make sure you have
the vine at a good level off the ground to work on, mine was too low
to start with and I had to raise it later, bad back and all. In the sun
the hose will stretch so make sure you have extra support
boards-mine really started to sag. Also a chair or stool with wheels
worked well and I just put the plastic paint tray on my lap and had
the bag of batting attached to the chair. Keep it easy and simple
for a faster workflow. Depending on how many of these vines you
have to make, it will really slow things up if you have a small yard
or workspace and have to do one vine at a time. I needed several
long vines and my yard was not big enough to do more than one at
a time. Make sure you do not wear anything that you care about
getting latex on, as it will not come out of anything! I ran short of
batting on one hose and tried some strips of sheet, which worked
well, and I could give a more twisting look. I tried plastic wrap but it
didn't stick well to the vine. I did not put a base wet coat down
before applying so it really had nothing to stick to the hose with.
This still worked, but I do not think this will last as long as the
others I made. I did use cotton and quilt comforter lining and it
gave a really rough, old look, but it also needed extra latex over it to
seal some spots well.

Painting was the next step. I needed a dark contrast in the kitchen
so I went with a deep dark brown. I have a spray gun and used
that to speed things up but a good old 2” bristle brush would work
jut as well. Just make sure you get in the crevasses well as you
want them darker for shadow looks. After the base coat dried I did
several additional colors: yellow, green, and tan as highlights with
the dry brush and a dry tip blotting technique. This gave detail and
contrast for a real vine look. If I were to do this for my cemetery I
would want to use a grayer dead look or dark purple for
contrast. To hang the hose I used drywall screws and it worked
very nice and held form well.

Now you too can be a hoser and spice up your facade, dungeon
wall or cemetery gates. Putting a price on this project, I used one
gallon of latex per vine, with the vines approximately 50 foot long
and not a lot of Batting, a pint of base coat paint and just a few
drips of dry brushing with extra paint I had lying around. Total cost
was under $50.00 each and that includes the gas for getting the
hose. Forward thinking; you could make this vine bleed, running
another smaller hose through it, air hose it to make the ends
wiggle or to spray the customer with small amounts of air. Enjoy!
Raymond Latocki
Director of Haunting Productions LLC


Garden hose? Yes that was it! It’s long enough, durable and
flexible and I needed lots of it. Before you decide that will look
cheesy, read on. Ok so I have one in the back yard that decided to
have a small leak, the wife will never know, now I only needed like
six more.



Illusion Gags:  Creating Memorable Scares!


When designing haunts each year, the Oak Island Team is always looking to out-do our scares from the year before (aren’t we all!).  We know we are trying to create great memories for our guests, so when we sit down to the design table, we ask ourselves “What were our most memorable scares from last year?”  Hands down, the greatest memories we have from our haunts are the properly executed illusion based gags. 


“Illusion Gags” are performer operated scares that appear from furniture, pictures, clever camouflage or other static objects that suddenly come to life when a guest least expects it. In essence, it’s a magic trick that reveals a performer at an opportune moment.  The key to a great illusion gag is that it is positioned so that a guest has suspended his/her fears- meaning, it sets the illusion that there could not possibly be a threatening performer in a certain location at that moment.  Once an illusion gag is executed, it is a great opportunity to create apprehension through the rest of your attraction because subconsciously guests will not feel that there are any safe zones in the haunt.  When the overwhelming experience of the seemingly “impossible” scare happens once, your “battle” to scare the wits out of your customers throughout your entire haunt is half won!


At Oak Island Productions, we design illusion gags in two main categories:  Camouflage and Moving Door.


Camouflage Gags

Camouflage gags are based upon a chameleon’s principles of blending in to local surroundings.  For example, if you have red curtains in your haunt, dress a performer entirely in the same red curtains and have them stand among them- great scare!  If you have an outdoor haunt, buy some camouflage netting and dress a performer as a bush or plant.  You may be amazed at how well this technique works!


You can also get very creative with the idea of camouflage illusion gags.  In a funeral home, your performer can be dressed entirely in “mourning flowers,” or on a hay ride, your performer can be dressed as cornstalks or a pile of hay.  Another great example of this design technique is the “Polka Dot Room” so many of us are familiar with.  All of these are very effective scares!


Moving Door Gags

The second type of gags, Moving Door Gags, are gags we will explore much further in this article.  These illusion gags consist of the art of hiding performers in static objects, then utilizing a moving door or “gag door” to make the performer suddenly appear.  These doors can either be drop doors or slide doors.  The number of elements these gags can be implemented into is only limited by one’s imagination!


 Drop Doors

The main difference between a drop door and a slide door is that drop doors fall vertically and slide doors move horizontally.  The falling of a drop door creates a loud “bang” which adds an additional scare to the illusion.  To allow a “fall” distance, drop doors work best when you want your performer to appear three foot or higher off the ground (such as appearing from a portrait or mirror hanging from a wall).  There are several ways to build a drop door, but most of them have inherent durability problems.  The real challenge in building a drop door is when you want to build one that can withstand thousands of repetitions. 


In several years of development the Oak Island Team tried many different drop door designs, to include using screen door trolleys, ball bearings, welded steel frames etc.  We now use a relatively simple design that is able to withstand long-term use proven through several years of field testing. The required latches and specialty pieces are machined in our studios in Tampa, Florida.  Please note image 1 for the specifics of this design.


 Here we see a standard Oak Island gag crate implemented with a drop door.  Crates are wonderful opportunities to create illusion gags because of their theming versatility.  When a guest nears these crates, they do not expect that there would or could be a performer in them.  The illusion stands in the fact that the gag appears to be three crates standing on top of one another.  By stacking the crates crooked, the illusion is further enhanced.


  Here we see a common drop door design.  The mirror is inset into the wall and the frame of the mirror hides the offset.  Décor placed around the illusion helps divert attention from the specific performer placement point.  The mirror on the wall quickly drops to reveal a performer.   A similar illusion can be done with framed pictures, or anything else you can imagine that would not look out of place positioned on or near a wall.


Slide Doors

Slide doors move horizontally and are advantageous when you want your performer to appear from large pieces of furniture, doors or low positions.  Slide doors will not have a loud bang when a performer uses them (unless you have a very zealous performer!), but they offer more flexibility and a vast amount of speed in performer appearance.  For example, a great way to use a slide door is to make a “hall of bedroom doors”.  Line a whole hall in your haunt with doors on both sides.  Put large, obvious gate hinges on all of the doors so that it sets the illusion that the doors open normal (in or out).  The doors actually slide, like a pocket door, enabling a performer to appear from behind them at a high rate of speed and differently than the subconscious mind expects- a great scare!   The Oak Island Team builds slide doors out of custom machined latches and fasteners, unistrut trolleys and unistrut.  Please note image 4 for the specifics of this design.


 These images show an example of a location where a slide door would be applicable over a drop door.  The three drawers on the left of the desk are actually an illusion- they are one gag door on a slide.  A performer can quickly slide this door and get a great scare!  Note that the slide door slides into a maintenance area to inhibit the door opening into potential guest flow.


 In this example, we see how a slide can be used to move entire pieces of furniture quickly- for an impactful performer appearance.  This gag illusion is made from a standard bookshelf.  As a guest approaches, the bookshelf suddenly slides away to reveal a villain.  Note that the entire piece of furniture slides into a maintenance area.


 Illusion Gag Placement in Your Haunt

When entering a room in a haunt, most customers immediately scan the area and assess where possible threats may come from.  This is what we want as designers.  This assessment of the room gives the “all clear” to the mind and sets the guest up for the illusion gag.


One of the best ways to design a room around an illusion gag is to use an animation as a diversion.  For example:  walking into a room, a hangman hangs from the rafters jerking violently.  On the other side of the hall, there are several pictures, candelabras on small tables, and a china hutch.  As a guest, I have assessed this environment and have decided to focus my attention on the hangman- because that is where the scare will come from.  In actuality, the performer hides in the china cabinet as a gag illusion and appears at the most opportune moment- the moment when the guest gets close to the hangman and their attention is the most diverted.


If you have a high throughput, don’t forget to place your gag around 90 degree corners as much as possible to prevent guests farther back in the haunt from getting tipped off to the upcoming gag.


Challenge Yourself and Your Gag Operators!

How many cool ways can you think of to make an illusion gag?  Can your performer appear out of a television set or the body of a corpse?  What about a small trash can or the backside of a farm animal?  Be creative- the more outrageous the more startling! 


Just because your performer is operating a very cool gag does not mean they also cannot have several other opportunities to scare.  As a matter of fact, I would highly recommend this.  Often we find a performer gets bored and is physically challenged when operating the same gag all the time.  You should be able to get two or three strong scares out of one performer.  For example, if a performer is operating a drop door with his/her right hand, put a small inconspicuous hole in the wall for his/her left hand to also get a quick “reach out” scare.  In addition, give this performer a hand trigger for an air cannon placed cleverly right after his/her scare.  You have created three scares with one performer, a primary, secondary and third.  This will keep your performers and guests thrilled!


In closing, when designing or upgrading your next attraction, challenge yourself to find a unique way to present each of your performers to your guests via illusion gags. This format will give your guests the scares and memories that will set your haunt above the competition!


John Hawkins is President of Oak Island Productions, a haunted attraction design, fabrication and scare products company servicing nationwide clientele based  in Tampa, Florida.  He can be reached at john.hawkins@oakislandproductions.com or 813-242-8485.



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