Every year in March, I make my way to the midwest to the Halloween convention. This is the largest show of the year and I get to see all the new props and vendors. It’s also where all the folks in the Halloween industry look at things first hand and place orders. The reason most of us in the industry place our orders this early, is because the lead time to create and make some of these props is long (due to the detail and building of them). I often have people ask me in September for something specific like a large headless horseman.
These large or Pneumatic props cannot be purchased until the following year, if they are not ordered by April. With this in mind, it’s always best to plan your haunt and theme before the show in March, so that your main props can be planned for and ordered and you can then build the rest of your theme around them.
Every home haunt should (in my opinion) have one large prop for each area. Once those are in place, you then create around it with various junk and fabric to make the prop come alive and set the feel for the remainder of the area. For example, if you’re creating a Witch scene, then you want to have one large witch prop and then build around it with easy to find items like colored bottles, crows, books, cauldrons, broomsticks and various knick knacks with lots of layers of fabric.
The other main reason we all head to the midwest is to listen to the panels of professionals that we can learn new tips and tricks from. This year I attended a ‘Haunted wall class’ that showed different techniques of painting only using black and white paint. Black is a color most associated with Halloween, but it’s also a color that we do not use very often (due to the fact that it doesn’t play well when lit) and can end up looking very flat. So, we use more greys and browns and incorporate color by using lighting.
Less is not more when it comes to staging for halloween, so grabbing lots of broken and ugly junk, aging it and cluttering it all together creates interest and detail that helps set the feel for your scene and tie in with your large prop. Layer, layer, layer. A good prop will set you back between $700 for a static prop to $2000 for one that moves by use of air compressor, so best to make the most of that by designing around it with a lot of free or interesting stuff you collect throughout the year.