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13 tips to take some of the bite out of the cost of home haunting from the lurking lunatics at ScreamingScarecrowStudios
You know you are in danger of being labeled a Halloween fiend when you find yourself daydreaming about spending any lottery winnings on a Hollywood-grade, year round haunted attraction! But if you’re just poor working stiffs like us, who haven’t yet won the lottery, you know there is never enough cash in the coffin to fund the annual dark obsession. For this reason we thought we’d share how we get some of the materials used in our home haunt and Halloween props.
Halloween – not just for October 31st
Tip #1 – Post-Halloween Sales
We hate to state the obvious, but the best way to be able to scare up cheap haunting supplies is to be thinking about Halloween all year round – starting with November 1st. If you don’t already know, most stores put what is left of their Halloween stock on sale the day after Halloween, sometimes up to 75% or more off! We often take the day off and go to our favorite Halloween store early before it opens so we’re first in line for all the glorious mad grabbing of discounted horror.
Tip #2 – Costume Remainders
As much fun as it is to make haunt props from monster mud, for your next creature consider scooping up a Halloween costume while you’re taking advantage of the November 1st sales. When you buy a costume for a mere pittance of what it was a week earlier you don’t feel bad about using it on a monster prop. Costumes often give your creatures of the night a more authentic look and feel. Also not using monster mud allows you to disassemble a store the prop more easily.
Tip #3 – Stock Up on Fake Spider Webs
Never pay full price for fake spider webs. This is one item that is almost always deeply discounted. One year we paid only 25cents a bag, so for a cool 10 bucks we had ourselves 40 bags of webbing! As an added bonus. when taking down the used webs at the end of the season, don’t throw them out – just ball it all up into a good head-sized mass because it actually makes great stuffing material for a Halloween mask.
Tip #4 – Costume Makeup Sales
Never pay full price for costume makeup. This is another item that is almost always deeply discounted. You’ll always need Halloween face makeup for some costume or another but you could even use the makeup as greasy pastel crayons to draw horror scenes on cardboard backdrops in the haunt. Also it is face makeup – the kids can use it all year round for face painting!
Wood – it doesn’t just grow on trees in the haunted forest
Tip #5 – Lumber Sales
Thinking about your haunt plans and projects during the year allows you to watch and wait for basic building materials such as lumber and plywood to come on sale at the local lumber yards. For bigger projects, wait to get the full size wood on sale, but for smaller projects it’s good to know somebody in the construction industry. You can ask them to bring you left over job scraps. We have one guy who brings us all sorts of useable scrap wood.
Tip #6 – Pallet Manufacturers
Another place we get wood is the local pallet manufacturers and businesses that receive items shipped in crates. Often they have this pallet wood or crate wood piled up in designated areas waiting for people to come and haul it away for them.
Tip #7 – Old, Reclaimed Wood
Then there’s old weathered wood, which is perfect for coffins and crosses. We help friends & family when they are tearing down a garage or shed. Especially if the building is old and the wood is weathered and beat up. Nothing makes more authentic cemetery crosses and coffins then old wood – sure there are lots of techniques for distressing and aging wood but they don’t come close to the real thing.
Black is our favorite color, until they come out with something darker
Tips #8 – Grey is the New Black
Although we love black, one of the most common colors in our haunt is grey. If everything was black too much light would be needed to properly light up our haunted scenes. So it’s a good thing that most paints mix together to make a blah looking icky color to which we add some black paint to make various greys. Paint is expensive, so like the wood it’s good if you know someone in the painting business that can bring you left over paint from jobsites. Another place to get free or cheap paint is garage sales. Most people have old paint in their basement or garage but don’t think to put it out, so we just ask if they have any old paint they’d like to get rid of?
Tip #9 – Discounted Paint
Another way to get cheap paint is the local hardware store. Sometimes you can buy discounted paint when people return paint because of the wrong color. Once again it does not matter what color the paint is because it usually all gets mixed together into grey.
Tip #10 – Packaging Tarp
On the subject of black – we construct our Halloween haunt in our driveway and side yard using 2 X 4 wood framing. Once the framework is setup, we skin it with tarps that we get from the local lumber yards. These are the tarps that wood manufactures cover and ship their lumber with. Often these tarps have a black side making them perfect for Halloween. Plus the lumber yards just puts them in the garbage anyway. We’re actually keeping the landfills cleaner!
Garage sales Goblins and Thrift store Trolls
Tip #11 – Garage Sales
Of course you already know that lots of great things can be found at garage sales and thrift stores but whenever we go throughout the year we always keep an eye out for a few things that we like to use in our haunt. One of those things is bolts of cheap fabric – of course anything black or grey but we also look hard for blood red satin sheets because they make perfect liners for coffins. We also snap up any cheaply priced white sheer curtains because they are perfect for flying crank ghosts and static ghost alike.
Tip #12 – Pool Noodles
Something we haven’t found that often at either garage sales or thrift stores is water noodles. New, they are not super expensive but they also are not cheap either. So we snap them up when we find them and ask anybody we know with a pool to let us have them when they are done with them. Why water noodles? Because we’ve found they are great for giving form and shape to a creature’s arm or leg. If you just stuff an arm or leg with stuffing it often looks too stuffed and unrealistic – a water noodle that has been shaped into a limb often lets the clothes hang correctly giving more realistic appearance.
Tip #13 – Mannequins, Old Paintings, Storage Trunks
Being number 13 we thought we’d squeeze in 3 more things we love to find while out second hand shopping. First, for obvious reasons, mannequins! When we come across a reasonably priced used mannequin we definitely grab it. Put on those discounted costumes and makeup the face anyway you like because you’ve got plenty of discounted face makeup and you have an instant character! Second is old portrait paintings. These can be turned into creepy eyes-following-you-around-the-room or blood-leaking-from-the-neck props. Thirdly, a find we never past up, is the old dusty beat-up storage trunk. In low light, these old trunks just naturally add more creep factor to most haunted houses. Plus they can be used to make Monster-in-a-box props or a variation of the Trash-Can-Trauma props. Both are classic scare tactics in the home haunter’s bag of tricks and treats!
Hopefully, somewhere in these 13 tips, you’ve found something to help you scare up supplies for your Halloween home haunt. Thanks for reading and Happy Haunting!
You probably have a Halloween-dozen of your own favorite tips. If you’d like to share some of them, please add your comments.
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