Choosing a theme for your haunted attraction can be fun, however, it’s easy to fall into a trap of analysis paralysis. While this can be attributed to the long list of terrifying options, you’re bound to run into trouble if you’re not asking yourself the right questions. What is my location? Who is my audience? What characters or stories feel terrifying, yet exciting? What is my budget? By answering these questions honestly and considering the ten horrific themes listed below, you’ll be on your way to producing a spine-tingling haunted attraction that meets the needs of your crew and your audience.
Part of the fear lies in imagining yourself behind bars, and the rest is derived from the crazy and creepy inhabitants of the cells. There are many prisons around the world that have grueling stories of their past, or are rumored as haunted to this day. A few of the finest include Alcatraz, Kilmainham Gaol, and Eastern State Penitentiary. If these don’t get your creative juices flowing, Paul Siegel’s story of building his haunted prison might help you decide if this theme is the right choice for you and your crew.
2. Slashers and Madmen
Basing your haunted attraction off of recognizable figures such as Jason, Michael, or Freddy is a great scare tactic because these characters come with a powerful, built in story line. Guests instantly realize who they’re up against and have already been conditioned to fear these troublemakers.
3. Glow In The Dark
This is a perfect theme for the younger crowd, as it produces a cool effect without a ton of crazy animatronics or expensive equipment. A black light is a must, however, you can take this theme in any direction you’d like. From glow in the dark potions, to spectacular murals this effect is always sure to thrill guests of all ages. Another bonus: giving kids a glow stick or other any other glow in the dark prize at the beginning or end of your attraction is a sure-fire way to make your event memorable.
4. Haunted Mansion
If you’re looking to host an event catered to families, look no further than the classic haunted mansion theme. Not only are there endless possibilities with this theme, but you can get a good start with props and ideas just by looking at Disney’s Haunted Mansion. You might not have Disney’s budget, but you can spark creativity and discover new scare techniques that can be fun for kids and adults alike.
5. Witch’s Lair
If you’re not convinced this can hold up as a theme itself, then you might want to familiarize yourself with the Salem Witch Trials. The deep history and true events that can be used to create a rich and horrifying storyline are embedded in the many tales of the accused who were thought to be a host for the devil. If you want to cater this toward a younger crowd, Hocus Pocus is a solid go-to for great costume ideas and spooky props.
Steven King’s It will get you into the mindset of creepy clowns and dark storylines. If you decide to take on this theme, it will be crucial to find actors and actresses that can really play the part. Take a tip from HaunTopic Radio’s Brian Foreman and choose your actors wisely. Additionally, it can be fun to utilize your glow in the dark props to enhance clown costumes and circus scenes.
The zombie theme comes along with great benefits, as it can be achieved with a low budget. Tattered clothing, makeup, fake blood, and excellent actors will do the trick. It’s important to get creative with this theme, since there’s some potential for the zombie effect to get stale (actors moving slowly with their arms out attempting to eat your brains could get old fast). The Walking Dead can be a great source of inspiration, as well as movies like 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead.
The Tayman Graveyard has this theme locked down. Upon entering the town of Tayman, guests are greeted by the residents of the graveyard who are more than willing to make passersby into permanent residents as well. Take a look at some of the existing grave sites around the world that are sure to make your skin crawl:
- La Recoleta, Buenos Aires
- Capuchin Crypt, Rome, Italy
- Howard Street Cemetery, Salem, Massachusetts
- Stull Cemetary, Stull, Kansas
Animatronics are typically a must with this one, however, if you have the time, great makeup applied to convincing actors can get the job done as well. Utilize dark, narrow hallways to position animatronics, actors and actresses close enough to guests that they can get a quick glimpse of the creepy and grotesque creatures. Use Alien vs. Predator as reference material or check out Universal’s Halloween Horror Night’s Resurrection of AVP.
Last, but certainly not least horrific of all, is the vampire theme. Draw inspiration from movies like Near Dark, 30 Days of Night, and of course, Dracula. Looking to get out of town? There are a few spots that have taken the vampire theme to the next level. Check out Le Musee Des Vampires in Paris and Dracula’s Haunted House located in Australia. If you want to dig deeper into the myth of Dracula, it’s best to go straight to the Romanian location upon which the novel was believed to be based, Bran Castle.