Themed Haunt 57?

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I don't know if there's really a "debate" about Themed haunts Vs. Unthemed, but there are definitely two camps.

The unthemed "Haunt 57" is basically when a haunter takes whatever props are on hand and puts them up wherever they look good. One such haunt might have a cemetery, Freddy Krueger, some aliens, a man eating plant, a flying ghost, and an Egyptian mummy. This might be in a display or a walk through. There is no real connection between any "scenes" or areas.

Personally, while I may enjoy individual parts of such a haunt, I prefer one that has a unifying theme. A theme gives a haunter direction. It helps with the back story. It helps create unique characters. Maybe a haunter wants to do a theme, but has so much cool - yet unrelated - stuff, that is seems like a major sacrifice. Won't many things have to be left out?

I don't think so. These are some thoughts I have on creating an "Open Theme" that I think might be applied to displays or walk-throughs.

1. Nightmare / Phobia Factory

This one is the most obvious. This is a place where nightmares are made. Dreams have no rules, so literally anything goes. I would suggest a curator of some kind as the character, and some kind of unifying elements. It's OK in this kind of haunt for the transitions to be jarring. Still, by knowing in advance that it's a nightmare, maybe transitions can be made? Maybe the cemetery leads to the zombies. Maybe Zombies lead to toxic waste. Perhaps toxic waste goes to your underground room, or a military scene. The cemetery can have groundbreakers, the zombies can be dripping glowing goo, the toxic waste can be partially buried or at the entrance of the cave. You get the idea. The cave could lead to a mummy room if you like. The curator of the whole thing is some kind of nightmare creator, leading you down ever more disturbing paths. Maybe the curator's voice is incorporated into the soundtrack for different scenes. Maybe he/it has minions scattered throughout the haunt? Now all the disjointed scenes and props align together into the theme and story.

2. Oppressed village or country

This is how I dealt with my own collection of more or less random props. I wanted a scarecrow and cornfield, cemetery, FCG, mad lab, and whatever else I could make by Halloween. So, I decided these would all be elements a traveller to the beleaguered land of "Transuevania" would encounter. A mad doctor had taken over. On the outskirts of town was the cornfield and scarecrow. The laughter of children mixed with the sounds of crows. This is where the doctor's unholy experiments often ended up. Next, the cemetery with sounds of footsteps, digging, more laughter (but quieter), and thunder in the distance. This is where other experiments began or ended. The cemetery included a groundbreaker and some enormous spiders.
At the end of the cemetery was the mausoleum where my FCG was displayed. This was the doctor's wife. It was her death that drove him to experiment with reanimating corpses and eventually to even more horriffic experiments. Then the dungeon, where the doctor kept the unwary travellers until he needed them. I never really got that part done. Then the actual mad lab, where it was revealed that in his madness he had actually experimented on his own daughter in an attempt to make her superhuman.
So, that's one way to thread together a lot of disparate elements into a more or less coheseive story. It could be a mad general, wizard, witch, alien overlord, demon, or something else oppressing the land.

3. Time Travel

You can do anyting with time travel! Visit ancient Egypt or the Aztecs. Visit a post apocalyptic wasteland. Get shot at by gunslingers, visit Frankenstein's Lab or Dracula's castle! You could even do "alternate realities", where there was a zombie outbreak in London in 1865. Perhaps visit the Planet of the Apes or the post-nuclear world of the Terminator. Ideally, there would be some mechanism for traveling from scene to scene - or at least a guide - but I think you can see the potential. It's not just a graveyard. It's where Jack the Ripper's restless victims were buried. It's not just an alien - it's an invasion in the near future! Love clowns? Maybe it's an alternate past where clowns rose up and took over a village! Or a future where clowns rule.
Whatever. When you mix timelines and realities, anything can happen, without resorting to the "nightmare" theme.

4. Interdimensional Portal / Rift

This is similar to time travel in that you can do lots of different scenes as you travel. It could be done very differently. For example, imagine your haunt is set up like a "typical" Gothic or Victorian haunted house. However, as soon as you enter, there is a mysterious hallway where none should be. It leads to a dark and sinister land with occupants both inhuman and mysterious. You might find anything in there. Certainly, in this area, you don't have to worry about having a sitting room, kitchen, or bedroom. The house was jut the shell for the portal, and no rules apply here - except yours.

5. Reel Terrors

If you have a lot of movie themed props, maybe you would like to arrange them as a journey through cinematic horror? Maybe chronologically, or grouped by theme. Perhaps an aristocratic vampire with a Hungarian accent is beside some Californian vampires from the 80s? Maybe it's a showdown between Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees. Maybe Pinhead is animating a mummy? Is there any reason xenomorph eggs cannot be in your cemetery?
How does this happen? Well, it could be that a sorcerer or shaman cursed a movie theater and characters started stepping off the screen and into our world. Would they be more interested in each other or us?
This one backstory alone could probably provide all you need to put your Hollywood inspired props into any number of scenes that make sense - at least within this particular world.

So, what do you think? If you do a "Haunt 57" type haunt, do you use a theme I have not mentioned? Do you have a story or characters? Is it best to just go themeless and have fun?

Let me know how you do it.

Happy haunting!


  1. GrumpyPoppet's Avatar
    My first couple of years, I put out whatever i had plus the new props i made. The last few years have been entirely themed - old west, zombies, cemetery. This year, the theme is lighting based - blacklight. So while the props are not cohesive in and of themselves - I've got zombies, ghosts, headstones, bugs, pumpkins - they are all blacklight.
  2. JustJimAZ's Avatar
    Be sure to post some pictures, GP!