Category Archives: haunted house

Music to Haunt By: An Introduction

Having clearly not learned my lesson from doing the Freaky Tiki Surf-ari, I’ve decided to do another music-related review series for the site. However, unlike last time, this will be much shorter and won’t have the introduction and first review merged into a single post…

Sound is an important part of any haunted attraction, be it the noise made by a performer or by a hidden audio player blasting scary sound effects. Don’t get me wrong, a haunted attraction can still be great without any prerecorded sound effects or music, it’s just that sounds can greatly enhance a scare. Try watching any of the shark attack scenes from Jaws without the music and you’ll see what I mean. No offense to Dario Argento, but I’m convinced that Deep Red would have been nowhere near as intense without Goblin’s amazing score.

But you don’t necessarily need sound effects to scare people. Simply playing the theme from Halloween in a darken room is enough to unnerve many people. However, doing that in a room decorated to look like a spaceship will only cause confusion (if not outright amusement). You just have to match the right audio with the right setup.

Over the course of this review series, I’ll be looking at CDs from artists that specialize in music designed to scare people. I’ll also include suggestions on what themes work best with each CD and how certain tracks can be used, be it at your haunted house or simply played in the background when trick or treaters come a-calling.

These aren’t the standard “scary sound effects” CDs you can pick up just about anywhere come October, although some of the CDs will have a track or two of just sound effects. Most of the time, the majority of the tracks will either be just music or a combination of music and sound effects. For those not in the know, the latter is also known as a “soundscape.” Soundscapes can be a combination of sound effects played over music, or a group of related sound effects playing on the same track (either playing one after the other or layered over each other). For example, a graveyard soundscape could consist of ravens cawing and the wind blowing, with the occasional sound of a grave being dug or a shuffling zombie.

Speaking of soundscapes, our Twitter pal Tribal Gothic has recently released an ambient sci-fi soundscape called “A Failed Event in Time.” You can get the free .mp3 here.

For an even more in-depth look at the use of sound in a haunted attraction, I highly recommend this twopart article from 2 Scary Guys. Also, our recent “Tricks and Treats” article has a few sneaky sound tricks. Check ’em out!

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High-Tech Haunted Houses

For the past two Halloween Countdowns, I’ve always had at least one haunted attraction review. Sadly, it’s looking more and more like that won’t be the case this year. Ironically, my busy schedule for the countdown leaves me with zero free time to check out any of the few haunted attractions that are within reasonable driving distance. As for my usual method of reviewing a haunt I’ve been to in years past, my well (of four) attractions that haven’t definitely ceased operation seems to have dried up.

One attraction is definitely still open, but their web site is lacking in certain information I require and I have been unable to contact them. Similarly, there’s another haunted house that I’m not sure is still in operation, and I’m never able to reach a person whenever I try calling the company that runs it. I was able to contact one last week, but they were still undecided as to whether or not they would be doing it again this year! Finally, the last haunt on my list has been replaced with a differently themed haunt run by the same organization that ran the original (and is set up at the same location), but is allegedly so different (and so awful) that reviewing the one I went to would be pointless. What’s a guy to do?

Well, besides hope that Strange Jason gets to go to the haunted trail that invited him to attend, I live vicariously through videos of haunted attractions. Along with Living Dead Live!, the following video from the official CBS Youtube channel was enough to make me feel better about the whole matter:

If the haunted attraction review sites I have linked to in the past aren’t enough of a consolation for you, check out:

Haunted Illinois
Is It October Yet?
Haunted House Chicago

Alternately, you can look at these classic articles about various haunted attractions:

Dracula’s Castle
Harvest of Horrors
The “Ultimate Haunt”
Witch Dungeon Museum
Barrett’s Haunted Mansion

Still More Vintage Halloween Insanity

For the last two years that I’ve do this, I always think I’ve found the most dangerous and foolhardy Halloween how-to and will never find anything that will top it…only to then find something that does so. This year was no exception.

When I first read the “Mechanical Halloween Pranks” article from an October 1918 issue of Popular Science, I thought I wouldn’t have a good “Vintage Halloween Insanity” this year. The homemade lanterns were only somewhat unsafe, although use of a flashlight, LED or glowstick would make modern usage of the plans safe, while the window posters were fine. But just when I thought I had mined vintage Halloween stuff for all it was worth, then came the instructions for a witch’s cauldron scene. Although wisely telling the reader to only use real fire (and flame powder that produces colored bursts of light) outdoors, the “safe” indoor alternative of a light bulb covered by wads of tissue paper is anything but.

However, the star of this entry did not appear until I chanced upon an article called “A Halloween Chamber of Horrors” from the November 1916 issue of Popular Science. Not only is it worthy of note due to its dangerous ideas, but it’s also the earliest example of a haunted attraction that I know of, homemade or otherwise! The fact that such things existed in the early 1900’s must be a huge shock to home haunters and Halloween enthusiasts. Amazingly, this haunt was not simply a “blindfold someone and have them touch bowls full of icky-feeling items”-type deal. No, this was an honest-to-goodness walk-through attraction with several electrical effects!

The first page of the article details what one would see and experience if they had been at the haunt. Numerous “moderately severe shock[s]” are administered to visitors, with visible electrical sparks that even the writer noted would be dangerous to touch appearing at one point. Oh, and did I mention that visitors also have to kiss a baby’s skull? Don’t worry, it’s just a small fake. They weren’t THAT crazy back then. Still, I’m impressed that they came up with something that sick. Speaking of “sick,” I wonder how many diseases were contracted due to all those people kissing the same skull in the exact same spot?

The next page is filled with behind-the-scenes secrets, such as how patrons were hit in the face with raw meat and football bladders! The final page reveals more secrets, such as the use of a Crookes’ Tube (which give off cancer causing x-rays) for lighting and the use of live snakes. Said snakes (and bare skin) were covered in homemade glow-in-the-dark paint made from crushed match heads! Do I even have to explain why that’s a terrible, terrible idea? If the previous installments are any indication of the future, then I’m going to find one hell of an unsafe tutorial for the 2011 countdown…