Fall is here and along with the dreaded pumpkin spice lattes, beautiful crisp orange leaves and a pleasant smoky- smelling mist hovering in the air, it means one thing for families… Halloween. However old we get, we all enjoy the inherent theatricality of the traditional Halloween celebrations, and the time-honored traditions of dressing up and trick-or-treating are sure to form treasured memories for your kids. That said, absolutely nothing brings the whole family together like dressing up your home and yourself and conspiring to scare the bejeezus out of friends, family, and neighbors.

Turning your home into a haunted house can be fun, but it’s also a daunting task. After all, the last thing you want is to get fake blood on your Versace cushions and throw pillows!As much fun as there is to be had transforming your beloved family home into a hellish dungeon of depravity, it should (as with any significant activity) be carefully project managed. Here are some helpful hacks to help you get it right this year.

Decide on your theme

More and more households are transforming their homes into monuments of horror every year, and the last thing your family needs is to invest their time and effort in an also-ran. Therefore a generic haunted house is good but a more specific theme is what will make it great.  Some excellent variations on the generic haunted house theme include…

  • Graveyard
  • Haunted hospital
  • Insane asylum
  • Mummy’s tomb (excellent fun if you have a vacuum cleaner that’s up to the task of picking up a lot of sand)
  • Grim (see what I did there) fairytales
  • Zombie apocalypse
  • Witches Coven

Not only will a theme give your haunted house a unique wow factor, but it will also allow you to shop smart when it comes to buying props and accessories to decorate your house of horrors. You’ll also be able to coordinate your costumes accordingly.

Assemble a decent sized monster squad

You don’t want the project to become a stressful mountain of obligation, so avoid biting off more than you can chew. Why not open the task up to extended family and friends? The more the merrier (and the more hands will be on deck to help with the clean-up). Plus, having more willing participants allows for a more immersive experience with each member of the squad adding to the tableau of horror.

Establish a path

It’s crucial that you know how you’re going to direct your terrified visitors around your haunted house (after all, you don’t want straddlers peeking behind the proverbial curtain) so that you can manage their experience. You can assign a family member as a ‘guide’ character or simply direct their attention to a series of grisly tableau. Be sure to keep your guests confined to the most heavily decorated areas with spider webs, tombstones, and jack-o-lanterns all valid ways of forming boundaries while contributing to the atmosphere. Use of light and darkness is also instrumental in both creating the right ambiance and ensuring that guests move and look in all the right places.

Have a creepy soundtrack

If the Exorcist taught us anything, it’s how instrumental (pun semi-intended) sound and music are in creating a scary experience. Soundtrack CDs can be very effective in establishing a creepy ambiance with music and sound effects but nothing beats live sound. With a soundscape of groans, chanting and screams you can ensure that your guests have a ghoulishly good time in a truly immersive experience.