A monster’s hot breath on the back of our neck used to send shivers down our spine…in a good way. The art of scaring often relies on a fearsome creature popping out from the dark and getting just-a-little-too-close. It’s terrifying and delightful all at the same time.
Now, the idea of someone getting up in our face and screeching, growling or even whispering sounds a little bit gross and unhygienic. COVID-19 has changed almost every aspect of our daily lives, but for haunters, it has really thrown our industry for a loop. How can we effectively scare guests if we can’t get near them? Can we still scare while social distancing?
This is an opportunity to challenge ourselves, push the boundaries of our creativity, and invent new ways to scare while keeping our guests and our team safe. If you haven’t already read our guide to reopening your haunt, be sure to check that out. It has some great tips on using contactless payments, timed ticketing, and virtual queuing to manage your crowd flow post-pandemic. In this post, we’re going to cover new ways you can:
- Promote physical distancing with special effects
- Place props to minimize contact with guests
- Create costumes that double as PPE
- Adapt storylines and which themes to avoid
Promote physical distancing with special effects
Physical distancing can be especially tricky in an indoor walkthrough haunt. Guests have a tendency to move through the haunt at different paces, and they’re often built with intentionally narrow hallways in between rooms to create a sense of claustrophobia or provide blind corners from which scareactors can surprise guests.
Here are a few ways you can use special effects to keep scareactors and guests safely separated inside your haunt:
You’ve probably seen the plexiglass barriers added to grocery stores and some restaurants in recent months. You can use the same concept to separate your scareactors from guests inside your haunt.
Think about some creative ways you could disguise the barrier, perhaps with prison cell bars or a chain-link fence.
Here’s another idea: create a room with a large plexiglass enclosure in the center, then set one or more of your scareactors inside the enclosure. Maybe it’s themed to be a lab with creature experiments gone-wrong or aliens from another galaxy. Your scareactor(s) will be able to move freely about the enclosure, running from one side to another, without coming in contact with guests. Create narrow pathways around the enclosure, to create a feeling of no-escape for your guests while keeping your team safely away from germs.
You don’t need to have a funhouse theme to make mirrors work in your haunt’s favor. Consider using mirrors to make your scareactors look closer to guests than they actually are. Guests might turn a corner to see a scary clown appear directly in front of them, but in fact the actor may be behind them at a safe distance.
What if you could scream in someone’s face without getting anywhere near their face? You can…kinda. With strategically placed speakers, your scareactors can get loud and in guests’ faces without being, well, in their faces. In fact, they might be in another room entirely.
Automatic doors or windows can help add to the effect. It gives you the sense that someone is close by, unseen.
Add outdoor attractions
If you have the space, now is the perfect time to incorporate some outdoor scares into your haunted attraction. Zombie paintball is a great example because the open-air vehicles limit the number of people and the paintball guns can be mounted to promote physical distancing. The “zombies” never come in close contact with guests, and could easily be given masks for an extra layer of safety.
A haunted forest, corn maze, or outdoor midway are other examples of outdoor experiences that can help promote physical distancing.
Minimize guest contact with props
We all love pushing our way through those swamps with inflatable walls, or the meat lockers hung with bloody carcasses, but they present some issues in the post-pandemic world. The same goes for hallways lined with hanging strips of fabric or dangling spiders and other creepy-crawlies.
If your haunt has props or decorations within guests’ reach, consider moving or rearranging them. This will cut down the number of times guests come in contact with those props and reduce the number of times they need to be cleaned or sanitized each night.
To create the same impact, you’ll need to get creative with the design of those rooms. Use lighting effects to make it seem like the props are closer than they really are.
Costumes that double as PPE
Sometimes it’s unavoidable to come in contact with another person. If that’s the case in your haunt, you’ll want your scareactors to be protected. With a little creativity, it’s possible to incorporate personal protective equipment (PPE) into your costumes.
There are plenty of characters that lend themselves naturally to a facial covering: scarecrows with burlap faces, black widow brides shrouded in veils, butchers and metal workers donning clear plastic face shields splattered with blood, wolfmen, spacemen, bandaged hospital patients, deranged steampunk scientists.
Keep in mind that sometimes it’s actually scarier when you can’t see the actor’s face. It doesn’t mean every scareactor in your haunt needs a full face covering, but it’s a good idea to take extra care to ensure that anyone coming in contact with guests has PPE.
Cleaning costumes and masks is extra important post-pandemic. Consider the materials of your costumes, how easy they are to clean, and discuss the proper sanitizing procedure with your scareactors.
Themes to avoid
Given the tense environment surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s understandable that some folks might find an outbreak-style storyline in your haunt a little anxiety-inducing these days. Consider your guests’ comfort when designing new rooms for your haunt this year.
That doesn’t mean you need to stay away from medical themes or zombie outbreaks altogether. We’re just suggesting you consider the current environment when designing your storylines and rooms; it might take a small tweak to take a theme from eww to eek.
Before you go, be sure to read our Guide to Reopening Your Haunted Attraction. Need some help setting up social-distance-friendly features like virtual queueing, timed ticketing, or contactless payments? Set up an onboarding call with our support team. We’d love to help.