Outside PropsIf you build it, they will come… probably
If you wander around the Internet, you’ll find all manner of stories about how people started decorating their house and hundreds of people began showing up. To bears, that doesn’t sound particularly thrilling; but to haunters, it’s something they live for. You gotta love the irony. They live for something by killing off everything they’re putting out.That said, our humans would like to point out that it doesn’t always happen the way the Internet stories tell it. Our haunters live at the end of a single lane, dead end road. The neighbors don’t decorate, so it’s not exactly a destination block come Halloween. Right across the road is a housing development with lots of kids. They used to wander through a small grouping of rocks and trees to visit the graveyard. But the HOA (which, if we understand correctly is the name of a fun-sucking leech monster) decided to put up a fence. It blocks the children’s access to the single lane road our haunters live on. Nowadays, if kids want to visit the graveyard and get candy, they have to walk two blocks out of their way. You do the math about kids and walking out of their way for anything. Visitors to the Haunted Bears Graveyard have dropped dramatically. This creates a pivotal decision point. Do you create your haunt for the adoration of the masses, or do you create it because you think it’s fun? Sometimes you live in a neighborhood where you can have both, but it does help to know which kind of haunter you are. If you live for the haunt, you can live pretty much anywhere and be happy. If you live for mobs of munchkin monsters marveling at what you do, you might grow despondent living on the end of a single lane, dead end road. Our humans live for the haunt, which means as long as they’re able; they’ll put stuff out because they think that, in and of itself, is fun.Our haunters put out their decorations and props every year. Every year they add something new to the mix. And every year they watch online videos of houses that show hundreds of little costumed visitors and dream, “what would it be like?” They’re encouraged that one year they had forty visitors. That’s a pretty low high-water mark. We like it that way because we’re bears, and we’re not really fond of humans, even the ones that dress up like animals. Besides, our humans buy tons of candy hoping that one Halloween a bunch of parents and kids will magically show up. We get to eat all the leftovers when that night never materializes. Score one for the bears. But we feel for the humans, and we hope one Halloween night their wish will come true. The fact that it never happens doesn’t deter them from continuing to do what they do. They’re the kind of haunters that do it because they love doing it. Come Halloween night, those that do visit enjoy a real treat beyond a candy bar. There are those visitors that return every year to see what’s new. And every year one human is upstairs handing out candy, and the other is downstairs wandering around showing off the haunt to visitors and stoking the fire. They run up and down the stairs to discuss every group of kids and parents that drop by to visit. They keep tabs on how many people show up. And somehow they make only nine people visiting a major coup. Humans are crazy; our humans are particularly crazy. But we love that they made a home for us, so we’re probably crazy too. Part of their crazy is buying and building props for outdoors. Some just stand there looking ominous or cool. The ones that do both are the best. There are lots of jack-o’-lanterns and pumpkins on the stairwell. They are also scattered around the graveyard. We think they’re there to help the graveyard look a bit less scary for the younger children. Quite a few skeletons, both human and animal, stand around all night. They’re up in the trees, sitting on fences, hanging out with other skeletons. We’d offer to let the humans use our bones, but we’re not sure where they are thanks to the coyotes. Besides, we’ve noticed that neither one of them actually like real bones. They buy plastic bones and then spend time trying to make them look like real bones. Humans are crazy.There is a huge carved stone skull with glowing rocks in his eyes and nose. We know it’s not real stone because we see one of the humans walking up the stairs with it every Halloween, but it looks kind of real. We’ve been told it’s an homage to a movie. As soon as we learn what an homage is, we’ll probably ask which movie. But for now it looks freaky weird, and that’s good enough for us. Static props can add a great deal to a haunt, and they are the easiest for novices to buy or construct.There are other creatures that go bump in the night; or more accurately, they go around and around in the night. They’re often made from wiper motors, which just go around in circles. But if you add enough metal arms to those motors, the creatures look as if they’re moving when you hook them up. Skeletons rock in rocking chairs. Graves move. Cauldron creeps stir their pot. Witches struggle to keep their creations contained. Books mysteriously slip in and out of the library stacks. A bat flies around in a circle all night. It never figures out that if it chewed through the rope it’s tied to, there’s a world of bugs out there to eat. Bats are crazy.Below are pictures of some of our household’s favorite props. Click on any one of them and you’ll be transported to a bit more about them. There may even be a tutorial on how to make them, or links to people on the Internet who have done a bang up job showing you how they’re made. If you’re one of those haunters that haunt for haunting’s sake, you may one day want to add props to your outside display. We highly recommend it. The more kids you scare away with the use of props, the more candy you have left over after the night is done.
One of the joys of being dead is you don’t have to move.
Motion in any haunt can be a key factor in capturing and maintaining interest. However, if everything you have on display is moving, that motion can become a confusing mess. Not that “confusing mess” isn’t a totally legitimate theme for any Halloween haunt. Some folks take everything they’ve got and toss it out on the front lawn and call it good. There’s hardly an inch of grass that isn’t covered by some moving critter or another. It’s as if they’re on a mission to buy every rocking, jumping, flying, swinging thing that the Halloween and Big Box stores put out every year. And that is fine with everyone in our home. In fact, we think it’s great. Doing something is always better than nothing. And doing over the top everything is even better than something. If it’s what you like, then don’t let a couple of dead bears dissuade you from your chosen calling. You rock that idea of everything rocking. But, for other haunts, the things that don’t move play as important a role as those that move. A whole bunch of stationary tombstones make the one wiggling back and forth stand out. A few skeletons that are just sitting there make the ones that move even better. You’re working with the dead. Take advantage of the fact that most of them prefer to just lie there anyway.
Don’t go knocking our props if they’re rocking.
Animated props are a staple of many a haunt because they’re just plain fun. There’s something comical about a skull popping up from behind a tombstone; something eerie about a cauldron creep stirring his pot; and something downright terrifying about a spider lunging at you from the dark. Whatever mood you want, companies are out there making animated stuff to cater to your whim. If you have a budget for them, some purchased props are remarkably good. Others die faster than teenagers in a slasher flick. Even if your budget is really tight, you can probably afford to make a few of your own props. We have a tombstone popper that cost all of fifteen dollars to make. And, that includes the replacement motor for the first one we burned out.If your graveyard seems a bit too dead for your tastes, adding a few animated props might be just what the undertaker ordered. We’ve found they liven up our home no end.