Halloween is the time when we can show off our self-expression, get really creative, and have some friendly competition to see who can create the best Haunted House on the block.
Or so we thought.
The following is a true story of a neighborhood Haunted House gone wrong!
You have probably heard the old adage...
Well, not everyone follows it - as we found out the hard way.
It all started when we bought a way too expensive house in a very nice neighborhood.
We moved there for the schools, as many parents do.
It's a lovely place, filled with tree lines streets, families, kids of all ages, and swimming pools.
We settled in with our kids, and they quickly made friends. And we got the opportunity to meet and make friends with the parents.
As we were chatting with the neighbors one beautiful day, two days after we moved in - it was July, we were informed that there was going to be a competition this Halloween for the best Haunted House on the block.
The neighbors - let's call them Craig and Sue (names were changed to protect the innocent) suggested that we should participate and transform our house into a haunted house, as most of the neighbors do every year.
My husband and I exchanged glances and exclaimed, "What a great idea!" Little did they know Halloween is our favorite holiday and we love haunted houses!
The neighborhood newsletter came a week later making the formal announcement that the annual neighborhood Haunted House competition was soon coming around again.
The newsletter had some Haunted House rules - and my husband, determined to win and in his infinite wisdom, decided to break all of them!
Rules were as follows:
- Create a Haunted House - Your Haunted House MUST not be scary (What??) due to the younger kids.
- Each Haunted House MUST have a clear pathway with no obstructions for ease of trick or treating. (yeah, okay)
- Each Haunted House MUST provide both red and white wine ONLY (no beer or hard drinks). (okay, this was a first - like where it's going so far)
- You MUST carry your own wine glass - the wine was for the neighborhood parents. As they brought their trick-or-treaters to the door, you gave candy to the kids, and the parents a pour. (I love this idea!)
The Planning Stage
We sat down as a family to discuss ideas. Our daughter led the conversation with her long list of scary Haunted House ideas - and we were sold!
- Cobwebs and (tea-stained) cheesecloth (everywhere) ✅
- Bloody knives ✅
- Rats ✅
- Zombies with chainsaws and knives ✅
As the months passed, my husband kept coming up with more and more Haunted House ideas.
Our kids, now bored with this whole Haunted House planning thing, accepted an invitation to my sister's Halloween party where there were several cousins and friends and promises of a good time.
My husband and I were already "pot committed" so to speak, so we stayed home for our Haunted House.
The Big Night 🎃
In the days prior, the kids decorated with their dad while I made sure we had all the Haunted House Halloween decor items we needed.
On Halloween, we spent the whole day preparing for the big night.
The house looked great! It REALLY did!
In addition to the cobwebs, cheesecloth, bloody things, rats, and zombies, we decorated in other creative ways:
- Life-sized animated Skeletons sitting at a table on the front porch.
- We changed the door light bulbs to black lights.
- We added a furry spider hanging from a massive spider web.
- Fog Machines.
- The usual jack-o-lanterns.
- Black construction paper with glowing eyes on the porch walls.
So not too bad in terms of the scare factor... RIGHT?
The Night Begins 🌙
As the night progressed, we had kids come crying with their parents to the porch.
Some of them were so scared they would not walk up our walkway. Others ran right past the house!
Remember that old adage? Well...
Haunted House Gone Wrong!
What went wrong, well, lots went wrong, apparently!
- We learned that tea-stained cheesecloth is a great idea in theory... but it looks too much like real spider webs when lit by black light. And it wasn't just the webs, but the whole "spooky" atmosphere that was scaring kids off.
- We also learned that bloody things- even fake ones - are a no-no - it's just downright scary for the little kids (which is weird, our little kids love them).
- The life-sized animated Skeletons sitting at a table on the porch were dressed in dark clothes and lit by candles for the spooky factor. They were difficult to see except for the amber light in a sea of darkness - until someone walked up to the porch and triggered the animation - which triggered the screams... and the crying.
- The black lights illuminated the front door with a spooky glow - I guess too much of a huge impact on the spooky meter.
- That furry spider hanging from a massive spider web was hanging just right - it would just gently touch trick-or-treaters on the back of the hand as they rang the doorbell and scared them to more delightful screams. Fun for us... not so much for them.
- The jack-o-lanterns peppered with creepy crawlies crawling in and out of them on the walkway leading to the front door was a bit much.
The rules said, "Not too scary" - and yet we went with all of it!
The Biggest Mistake of all Were the Fog Machines!
...and did I mention the lighting?
So, my husband is like an expert on roller skates and rollerblades. He also has quite a knack for engineering and figuring things out.
For years we've had an old CD (of all things) of scary Halloween sounds. They are the eerie sounds you hear every Halloween; you know - moans, howls, creaking doors, lightning, and the like?
Don't ask me how he did this but, he was able to synchronize some spooky candelabras with the eerie sounds and he strategically placed speakers throughout the yard and house. And placed the huge candelabras at each window.
I thought the candelabras looked great and the CD sounded great! The neighborhood, not so much.
And the Rollerblades?
Let me set the scene for you.
Just imagine, a Witch with dark makeup and glowing teeth magically opens the front door very slowly (I practiced that for weeks!) and all you see is the Witch and a long hallway (47 feet to be exact), the lights are very dim, the Witch slips out of sight, the candelabras are flashing to lightning and eerie sounds, which lights up the fog just enough to see my husband, a 6.5 foot-tall Grim Reaper (with fierce face makeup) float towards you (because he's on his rollerblades).
Yeah, I guess I can see how it was creepy.
Not One 😕
- Not one trick-or-treater walked into our haunted house - not even the older kids that did come to the door.
- Not one piece of candy was handed out - we got stuck with all of it 😒 Trick-or-treaters were supposed to come into the Haunted House to get their candy that was in the decorated kitchen, by the skull with puffed rice maggots coming out of its mouth.
- Not one person saw the Zombies with chainsaws and knives hidden in a dark room by the bathroom.
- Not one person got to see the dead body floating face down in the pool!
Yeah, we had outdoor decorations in the backyard too. Not to mention all the other haunted house Halloween decor throughout the house - even in the bathrooms.
At one point I walked outside with the wine and poured a few glasses as I got an earful about how scary our haunted house was - some folks liked it.
Haunted House Officially Closed
Well, we didn't win due to the fear factor.
The neighbor that did win the haunted house party competition transformed his house into... you guessed it... a pumpkin patch!
We learned our lesson.
We give out candy these days with the lights on in the house and our life-sized animated skeletons inside the house sitting close to the door in funny poses.
We still dress up but not in a scary way. And the kids invite their friends over for homemade cookies after they're done trick or treating and they all have a great time together, which, BTW, makes it totally worth toning down the creepy and spooky (though I love it).
Is our haunted house disaster still the talk of the block - you know it! 😄
How Many People REALLY Decorate for Halloween?