Open Forum

Haunted House Project

  • 1.  Haunted House Project

    Posted 07-16-2014 06:24
    Hi!  I teach Theatre Arts, grades 6-8, and am considering having my advanced class create a haunted house in our theatre space as our first project this fall.  The learning targets would be pantomime/character work, production design, props, and likely scenic painting.  If anyone has experienced Sleep No More in NYC, that's the idea although MUCH simpler!

    Has anyone done such a thing?  Any tips or resources you'd recommend?  Is this a disaster in the making?

    Please share your thoughts, thanks!

    Benjamin Stuart
    Middle School Theatre Arts Teacher
    Seattle Public Schools
    Seattle WA

  • 2.  RE: Haunted House Project

    Posted 07-16-2014 21:47
    Unfortunately I don't really have any tips to offer, but just wanted to say that I think this is an AMAZING idea. I'm a huge Sleep No More fan myself, and the idea of having your students create a similar (though obviously very down-scaled) haunted house experience is really cool and a wonderful introduction to interactive theater. I would imagine that your class would find it incredible fun, as I'm sure will their fellow students who get to visit it. ------------------------------------------- Brooke Pierce New York NY Sympathy Jones, the New Secret Agent Musical ( -------------------------------------------

  • 3.  RE: Haunted House Project

    Posted 07-17-2014 08:04
    Our Drama club does a Haunted House every year at homecoming. I would recommend having a theme to focus on such as Carnival Fun House, Harry Potter, Haunted Theatre, Alice in Wonderland (dark version). This year my kids did a sceance format based on an old radio show. Then the kids need to broken up into work teams such as technical design, marketing, actors, set-up and clean-up. One thing to wary of is their tendency to scream, misusing their voices and losing them completely. You want to switch actors often to avoid this.
    Of course, with Sleep No More, this was not an issue since it was movement focused.
    I have lots more advice but I'm posting from the wilds of Maine. Let me know if you have more questions!

    Lisa Houston
    Pennington NJ

  • 4.  RE: Haunted House Project

    Posted 07-17-2014 08:55


    I haven't done Haunted Houses with middle school, but my high school did one every fall as part of the school's Fall Fair for the community. It was done as an alternative to Halloween "Trick or Treat".

    We found after the first year that we really needed two Haunting places. One for the very young and one for those that really wanted to be scared. Parents would "make" there kids go through the Haunted House and so we had an alternate that was not too scary and we could direct parents to that one when the kids were scared to enter. We always encouraged parents to enter with small children. No one under 5 could go in alone.

    The students selected a theme every year. Some that I remember were: Surgery Gone Wrong, The Graveyard, Things that go Bump in the Night. The students would sketch out what each room would be along the way that would create increasing terror. They would also select times that things/people would pop out for an extra scare.

    Some years there were a lot of tech, strobes, fog, even red "blood" bubbles one year. But some years it was less high tech and more on the characters. We always ran an administrator and the ASB students through the Haunted House once we were done with the set up so they could see want we were doing in case there were any questions or concerns from parents.

    The younger set went to one room and there were be witches, ghosts, monsters and vampires. Things even young kids thing of as typically scary. It was a room with a corner for each group. The characters didn't really interact with the little ones and the kids went in a circle around the room and out again. Their was a student at each little section giving out candy and that usually moved them round the room. The rule in that room no blood and guts stuff and no popping out at the kids. It was scary, but not overwhelming.

    It was not a fundraiser for us because it was done as a service project for the community, but it was very successful. We always had a huge turn out and a line formed before we opened for the evening. My students loved doing it every year and they spent hours preparing the rooms, costumes, sets, and characters that would go into it. I hope this is helpful.

    Good Luck, Leslie
    Leslie Van Leishout
    Theater Education Coordinator
    Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
    Edwardsville IL

  • 5.  RE: Haunted House Project

    Posted 07-17-2014 09:42
    Hi Ben,

    I do a Haunted House at the high school level and I think it's a great experience for the students. They have a lot of fun and it really gets them involved in several different aspects of creation as you mentioned. My biggest lesson in putting one together was dealing with the fire codes. In Virginia, even though it took place in a theatre space, the regular rules for theatre spaces no longer applied because it was a haunted house. Therefore, there were quite a few effects and things that needed to be modified that would have been no problem if they were in a play. I would be sure to give a call to your fire marshal to see if there's anything special you need to plan for or avoid in producing this.

    Have fun!

    Morganne Davies
    Alexandria VA

  • 6.  RE: Haunted House Project

    Posted 07-17-2014 12:31
    We did a haunted house/ Halloween carnival a few years ago.  The house and carnival were open a couple hours before the main stage production of Dracula. Audiences could come for the carnival and haunted house and not see the show as well.  We used our little theatre for the haunted house and charged a separate ticket for the haunted house. The tech kids created the different rooms with flats and all of our students helped in creating something for the event.  Each room of the house (living room, dinning room, kitchen, garage, bathroom had places for students to interact with the audience in some regard from popping through the walls to being seated at the gory dinning table.  So they got a chance to build and work their improve skills as well.  The students loved creating the haunted house and as well as the carnival games. And the kids who came to see the haunted house wanted to know when the next one was.  It was very successful on all levels.   

    Kelly Thomas
    Mesquite TX

  • 7.  RE: Haunted House Project

    Posted 07-17-2014 13:15
    My 8th grade theatre students perform in Haunted Hallway each October. We set up a maze on the actual stage sectioning off areas for small scenes. Visitors are led through the maze - in one door and out another - and pass by each scene. I also have students who are solo characters, guides, greeters, and tech. The positives are 1) the performers love it, 2) the student body loves it - I get a lot of interest in theatre just for this "show." I hold it during three lunch periods so all students have access to see it (it costs $1) and I have a line of students waiting to go in each day, 3) The admin sees how popular it is since they help control the crowds, 4) easy sets and costumes - everyone brings what they have from home, 5) we discuss how to get their character and story across in ten seconds.  We make about $400 over the three days so the actors feel like they are helping with fundraising. The negatives are 1) no lunch break for three days and lots of screaming by the actors and audience, 2) I have to have at least two other parents on stage to help with security. Sometimes a student wants to yell at an actor or pull off masks, but they won't do it if they see an adult. It's fun and I'm always glad when it's over.
    Marcia Anderson
    Mission Viejo CA

  • 8.  RE: Haunted House Project

    Posted 07-17-2014 14:40
    Hi Benjamine;

    My troupe is going to be doing a similar event for the first time this year.  We should touch base at Conference to compare notes.


    Robert DiMartino
    Theatre Teacher
    Cumberland High School
    West Warwick RI

  • 9.  RE: Haunted House Project

    Posted 07-18-2014 08:10

    Our troupe does an annual Haunted Hayride fundraiser every fall. We are an agricultural high school, so we have the tractors, hay wagons, and a trail through the woods with 18-20 sites. But indoors or out, the basic principles are the same. While we have some regular sites that repeat each year, the students also choose their own site ideas to round out the route. We then create a story that links the various sites/scenes together and have a ghost-telling spooky guide with each tour group that vists our haunted woods. The guide is usually a senior student, who can help maintain some control if need be. We also have an adult chaperone on each hay wagon to help ensure the fun stays fun. We group younger kids/families together and the guides alert the performers (with a prearranged flash light cue) to downplay the scariness for younger visitors. For each site students create their own 20-30 second scene--with backstory, "blocking," sometimes dialogue, and varying technical needs. We have some students who have worked over the course of four seasons adapting and "perfecting" their site. Our haunt is run mostly by high school kids, with the zombie graveyard and parking lot creeps often handled by middle school kids. It is a great exercise in improvising technical issues--especially as it is outdoors and powered by strategically-placed generators. Some of our most effective "scares" are achieved through tech alone, like a very large projected ghost or well-timed air horns. I'm happy to share whatever information might be useful to you, as far as tech tricks, makeup ideas, easy and cheap effective sites, previous story threads, etc. Best of luck to you!

    Jennifer LaFrance
    New Hampshire
    Merrimack NH

  • 10.  RE: Haunted House Project

    Posted 07-20-2014 10:05
    We do a yearly haunted house. It's WAY too involved and a HUGE time sink, but is amazing so I keep doing it. We start designing the year before in May. The room design is the final project of the current tech students who want to take tech next year. I have attached my ridiculous design packet. After the house is created (and the 3-D model is made) I meet with my student volunteer playwrights (the first year I had 1 amazing student write 3 scripts; after that I incorporated into my curriculum and now I have 3 playwrights and 3 assistant playwrights every year due to the house's popularity). We have 2 summer meetings (about 3 hours each in a coffee shop) where I ask them to sit with the other playwrights and create 3 different scripts for the haunted house. Each script is 1/3 of the total story of the location, but self contained, while referencing the other 2 scripts (Easter egg like). The audience can therefore walk through 3 times and have a completely new story each time. We also design the house with 9 rooms, but each script skips 2 (a different 2 than the other scripts) so it makes it so that each walk-through feels very unique. Finally, when we write we have a guide who tells the story of each room and interacts with the actors within, and a follower that doesn't speak but makes sure that the audience stays in line and moves as they should for this complex, semi-interactive piece of horror themed theater. Wow...hope that gives even more ideas. We're crazy here, as this project takes up MONTHS of time, but the rewards are tremendous. I had over 120 students in last years' haunted house, and it grows every year. I've attached both the design assignment and our current floorplan. I can email a sample script if anyone wants it, but I don't share student work publicly. I know this is over the scope of what you want, but I figured others might benefit from my struggles this past 5 years making this the thing that it is (it started out a NIGHTMARE). Good Luck! ------------------------------------------- Bryan Ringsted San Jose CA -------------------------------------------

  • 11.  RE: Haunted House Project

    Posted 09-15-2021 08:21
    Hi Ben,

    My mind can't stop thinking about the Interactive Haunted House Ideas and activities that everyone has been sharing---yours most of all has taken root in my mind. If it is at all possible I would love a copy of a script, if I could even purchase one I would do so. I just need something that would give me an idea of how to go about starting this process. I have so many ideas, and I have many clubs/groups who want to be involved next year---I know there's no way to feasibly pull this together at this point in the game.  (According to my students we can throw this together in 30 days) I'm like oh no we can't!

    Lauri Quick, Theater & Debate (Spring)Teacher
    Somerset College Preparatory Academy
    Port Saint Lucie, FL
    O. 772-343-7028 ext 276
    F. 772-343-7029