haunted house theme

Haunted House Themes: how to choose the right idea for your haunt

Your haunted house theme sets the tone for the entire experience. What makes a good theme? The secret is a perfect blend of the familiar and the unexpected: fears that everyone can relate to combined with surprising characters or special effects. 

But how do you decide which ideas are right for your haunt? This guide will help. 

Whether you’re looking to refresh your existing haunt, need inspiration for a new room, or are opening an entirely new haunted attraction, grab a pen and notebook to jot down ideas and follow these 7 steps to find the right theme for you.

watch a scary movie

1. Watch a Movie

If you’re like us, you probably have a list of scary movies that you watch every Halloween. Those films can offer great ideas for the kinds of stories, characters, and situations that inspire your haunt. But here is our challenge to you: watch a scary movie (new or old) that you’ve never seen before. If you’re in an idea rut, a new film might shake you out of it.

2. Stream a Show

Don’t limit yourself to scary films only. Find a horror or paranormal-themed show to stream and see if you can find something to incorporate into your haunted attraction. 

You don’t have to license the exact storyline and characters. Maybe there’s one scene that sparks a new idea for you, or a VFX shot that you could transform into a practical effect inside your haunt. 

visit other haunted attractions

3. Visit Other Haunts

We are constantly amazed by the creative, twisted ideas that haunters come up with. One of the best ways to find inspiration for your haunt is to see what else is out there. Start in your local area, or plan a road trip if you’re feeling ambitious.

Plus, seeing what everyone else is doing can help you decide what NOT to do: you don’t have to have the same themes as everyone else. 

4. Look to Mythology

There are some truly dark & scary tales woven into the mythology of cultures around the world. You may have studied Greek or Roman mythology in school, and those are good places to start, but don’t limit yourself. Read a few stories from Norse mythology or Chinese mythology, or study the man-eating monsters that feature prominently in the East African culture of Bantu. 

study scary history

5. Study Scary History

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Have you ever heard of The Beast of Gévaudan? For three years in the middle of the 18th century, this ferocious, wolf-like beast reportedly roamed the French countryside, mauling nearly 300 villagers. 

There are hundreds of stories like this one, from unsolved missing travelers to gruesome murders and unexplained ghost sightings. Search online for strange but true stories, scary history, or unsolved mysteries and you’ll find a treasure trove of inspiration for your haunt. 

6. Cozy up to Common Phobias

Darkness. Enclosed spaces. Spiders. Some fears are nearly universal. And with a little creativity, those universal fears can make a great haunted house theme. 

Not sure where to start? Check out our blog post about 3 phobias that would make a great theme for your haunted attraction

learn about local lore

7. Learn About Local Lore

Are there any local legends or myths your town is known for? Use those to your advantage!

Maybe there was a mysterious UFO sighting in the ‘80s which was never explained. 

You can also take inspiration from your location’s overall history – for example, if your haunt is located out west, incorporate a theme that includes Cowboys or the Oregon Trail. Located in a port like Boston, New York, or Chicago? Transport your guests to a Prohibition-era rum-running operation owned by mobsters and pirates. 

How to Tie It All Together

Keep your ideas in a notebook (either a digital one or just good ol’ paper). Now, go through your list and try to find two or three that could go together to create one cohesive theme for your haunted attraction. 

You might also want to check out our blog post with 10 Haunt Themes to Scare and Satisfy All Ages to help you get started. 

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