Jonathan and Crystal Present a List of Terrific Ideas to Keep Your Haunt Spirit Alive All Year.
This blog is based on episode 178 of our Haunt Weekly podcast. It’s a long time to Halloween, so Crystal and I have compiled a list of 31 ways to keep Halloween alive in your day-to-day life. We weren’t able to include all 31 in the blog due to space considerations, but we have most of them.
First—and this one is really important to me—it to keep a good Halloween playlist in your iTunes, Google Play, or whatever you’re using, and just listen to that whenever you get the chance. Crystal and I each have a personal list as well as a joint one that we listen to together.
“Mine is pretty much the Disney villain list,” offered Crystal.
Second, watch Facebook Marketplace for Halloween stuff, and check it at least once a week.
“Or anything spooky.”
Craigslist seems to have fallen off in this regard, at least in my opinion. That, and I just don’t have as much fun searching Craigslist.
“The other thing is, because Facebook has all of your data, they know what to suggest to you. If you look up mannequin heads, they’re also going to place severed limbs in your list,” noted Crystal. “Also keep an eye out for store closings, because I’ve seen a lot of people pick up mannequins and amazing things for dirt cheap if not for free.”
Join haunters groups if you’re not a member. Haunter’s Hangout, Haunter’s Toolbox, Haunt Chat Live, Haunt Chat—all these groups are great.
“Some are specific to Halloween and Horror fans, so you just have to look for what you’re into. Recently, I’ve noticed that in the Facebook app, they’ve added a section just for groups. If you go there, you get the notifications. You want to make sure you’re following them.”
Build the Perfect Halloween Office
Next on our list is decorations. Whatever your style of Halloween is, put it in your home and office. Seriously. I think most people do this to some degree, but I also think there are a lot of haunters out there that miss opportunities that really home in on this—posters, paintings, photographs, knick-knacks, doodads, whatever. Go crazy. This is a good thing for the thrift shopping you’re doing that we were just talking about. Find stuff like that. You’ve probably been on a multi-year quest to build the perfect Halloween office, so do that all year round.
Then there are craft projects. If you’re a builder, a craftsman, a fiber artist, a graphic designer, or whatever, take up some spooky projects. They don’t have to be for your haunt. Of course, we haunters we want everything we do, design, and make to go into the haunt. That’s great, that’s good, but sometimes it’s just fun to do spooky things and build spooky things that aren’t for the haunt.
“The first headdress I made for myself came about from things I found around Halloween that were on sale. I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to make this one day.’ In March, I had some time off and made the headdress. It was awesome.”
Remember that you can do Halloween things 365 days a year, and they don’t have to be for your haunt. Of course, most people can’t be working on their haunt every day, because it’s not practical—unless this is your full-time job. You have a family, you have other stuff to do, but you can still do something every day. This is a rule that I’m setting for myself now for our haunt. For example, what’s are you doing with the social media? Have you posted anything in the group for your actors lately? What’s going on with the website? Have you written your haunt story for this year? Have you started that project, that teardown, that build, whatever? Find something you can do, and do it every day, even if it’s just five minutes. It doesn’t matter. Doing a quick social media post on your Instagrams and your Facebooks and all that takes like two minutes, so do it.
“That’s actually a really great way to make connections in the community, too,” said Crystal.
Image Cedit Pretty Tipsy
Bring Out Your Halloween in Whatever You Wear
The next item on our list is clothes. Obviously, everybody listening has probably has a menagerie of haunt Ts. We all love our haunt Ts. I think my Raven’s Grinning shirt is one of the shirts I’m most proud of.
“And you own two.”
Bring out your Halloween in whatever you wear. But hey, wait a minute here, I have to dress professionally. I’ve got a job, I have to wear a uniform for this gig, I’ve got to wear a suit and tie, or whatever. Hey, don’t give up. Jewelry is still a thing. You can wear a ring, you can wear a necklace, or, one of my favorites, you can wear a pin—either a tie pin or traditional pin if that floats your boat. You can be professional, you can be in that uniform, or you can be in that suit and still have some Halloween close to your heart.
“I like wearing horror-themed barrettes and hair accessories during the year.”
We know one woman who loves to wear horror-themed socks, and that definitely goes with pretty much any uniform.
OK, we’re one-third of the way through our list, and the next point is to celebrate adjacent holidays. National Science Fiction Day is January 2nd , and National Horror Day is January 3rd. That second one has a question mark beside it, because I couldn’t find any official-ish site for it, but I’ve read from two or three sources that it’s a thing. Batman Day is May 1st. Come on, it’s Batman day! Talk like Yoda Day is May 21st, Pandemonium Day, which a day to celebrate chaos and disorder (and that very well describes the haunted lifestyle) is July 14th, Frankenstein Day is August 30th, Talk like a Pirate day is September 19th, and finally, Day of the Ninja, which is actually what it’s called, is December 5th. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Next, consider a Halloween wallpaper on your computer desktop. Consider a screensaver, and, if you use the Chrome browser, you can do Halloween themes for your browser itself. The one we have at the office has these weird little robot guys who are smiley and creepy all over it. They make me giggle.
“Yeah, run with whatever makes you happy,” advised Crystal.
Next, review your security cam footage. Everybody does this. I did it last year, and I know I’ll probably do it every year until I’m done haunting. “This” is the thing where you pull down all the security camera footage, get it out of the DVR, Cloud, or wherever it exists, go through it once, put it somewhere, and never pull it back out. Pull it back out! Seriously, there’s some great stuff in there.
“If nothing else, you could post one a week to your private crew group,” suggested Crystal.
One thing we find security footage very helpful for is tracking flow. We actually pulled it mid-run so we could see what the hell was going on in the second room, because people weren’t going into that hallway and we couldn’t figure out why. We realized it was because they weren’t sure where to go, and the actor in that room had to break character to get them to move. So, we came up with a solution for it—more light!
Image Credit Transworld
Go to Conferences
Here’s a big one: Go to conferences. They’re all over the country, all year round. We only list the ones that are targeted at the haunted-attraction industry and haunters. We try to focus on that, because a lot of these have overlap with horror. There are conferences and conventions that are still heavily horror-focused, but they’re also targeting haunters.
“There’s one next weekend in Texas,” said Crystal. “Frightmare. I think that’s the name of it. We’ve got a friend who’ll have a booth there. There’s also the cosplaying Comicons that have a lot of overlap with fans, too.”
Next, create or join a local, in-person haunter group. You’ve done the Facebook stuff we talked about earlier, but this is IRL—in real life. We’re talking about finding people in your area—your crew and others—who are haunty people, and get together regularly. For a long, long time here, we had Haunters’ Karaoke in New Orleans.
Why didn’t we ever think of that name?
“I think somebody suggested it to us.”
We’re midway through the list now at escape rooms. How many escape rooms are horror/Halloween/scary themed?
“Quite a few.”
Get your team together, go to an escape room, and get your Halloween juice going again a little bit. Get your scare on.
“You don’t even have to go to the horror-themed ones. You can just go and admire the detail—or lack thereof—and see what they could have done better.”
The next item on the list is to do touristy things in your area. Just about every metropolitan area has some kind of ghost-tour culture, some kind of haunted-history tour culture, so go check it out.
“The guides make a lot of difference, because they’re locals. They may know other people to hook you up with. It’s a networking opportunity,” said Crystal.
Moving on, we have: Visit a year-round haunt. I’m perpetually surprised at how few and how many of these there are. We talk about year-round haunts like they’re Sasquatch—everyone has seen one, but no one has ever caught it, you know? Go to a year-round haunt. There’s almost certainly one somewhere close to you, especially if you live in an area with heavy tourism. I’m surprised New Orleans doesn’t have one.
I’m very surprised there isn’t a small one in the French Quarter.
“There used to be.”
Image Credit Simple Symphony – Ophélie
Go Down a YouTube Rabbit Hole
Next, allow yourself to go down a YouTube rabbit hole. There are rabbit holes for horror makeup, costuming, prop building, set design, and just about anything related to Halloween and haunting that you can think of. You can find a playlist for it and then go right down. A list I really enjoy is Gothic homemaking. It’s more about making things for your home, but there’s some really cool stuff.
Crystal added, “Some of the techniques can be applied elsewhere,”
Another suggestion on our list is to have fun with your wi-fi. Set up your wi-fi name and password to be something haunty. It’s a small thing, but every time you go to connect, you’ll see it. Likewise, name your phone, because when you go to connect a Bluetooth device to it, you’ll see that name.
“Also, you can make your passwords at work horror-themed as well. This is especially good if you’re in a boring office, which I’ve been before.”
Okay, we’re down to the last 10 items on our list. Find ways to modify Halloween activities for the season you’re in. A good example would be making horror snowmen, the Calvin-and-Hobbes type of snowmen. One that I actually saw on Facebook today was a guy carving a jack-o-lantern out of a watermelon. Well played—it actually worked pretty well.
“Bringing some horror into your 4th of July celebrations?” mused Crystal. “That actually works better than a pumpkin, because the inside of the watermelon is red. The inside of your jack-o-lantern would look like blood.”
For sure, go to garage sales and estate sales. This is related to thrift shopping, but it’s worth mentioning as a separate item. There are finds available at garage sales year-round. If you’re not hitting garage sales regularly, you’re missing out.
“The other thing about garage sales, which I’m sure a lot of people know, is, if you go early and find something you like, you’ll probably have to pay full price. If you go right before it closes, sometimes they’ll just give it to you, or, at least, you can get it at a discounted price.”
In the same vein, dumpster diving is a year-round activity, and that’s the next item on our list.
“Not just when the Halloween stores close.”
Drive around your neighborhood on the night before the bulk pickup day.
And, of course, we can’t forget Ren Fests. Why don’t more haunters go to Ren Fests? You know what I mean? Seriously, go to Ren Fests and other related festivals. There are tons of adjacent festivals that you can find. Go to them. They have great costumes, great builds, great acting in some cases, and it’s a lot of fun.
“There’s also, sometimes, little puppets you can wear on your shoulder and learn how to make,” said Crystal.
Image Credit 973 The Dawg
Study Your Area’s Lore
Next, study your area’s lore. Do a little research, hit the books, and use Google to find out about where you live. It’s amazing. We’ve lived in Algiers since 2002, and we still don’t know all the lore of this area.
“Not by a long shot. I just learned about the devil man of Algiers.”
Okay, we’re heading for the home stretch now, and the next item on the list is: Learn a new skill. Learn a magic trick, bone up on your carpentry, take up some costuming, or maybe even learn some makeup if you’re like me and know absolutely nothing about makeup. There’s a reason I wear a mask, people. Go to a class, or your local community college probably has something you can do, some continuing ed stuff.
“I really wish more haunts would offer something like this or that haunters would offer paid classes other than at conventions. I can’t always do that, or they’re always full by the time I’m aware of them.”
The problem with those classes at conventions is that, to attend them, you have to make such a big sacrifice in the stuff you won’t be able to. The class will usually take up half a day.
Don’t forget video games! There are a ton of great horror video games, and you can learn a lot, as a haunter, by playing them. This is probably the best way for us haunters to get our horror experiences, because it’s interactive, and we focus on being an interactive medium. This is a great place to learn your lessons. Amnesia, the Resident Evil series, Silent Hill, Fear, Condemned Criminal Origins—which is the reason I can’t stop looking at the metal pipe in front of my house in the same way. This is a first-person, horror-themed game. It’s bizarre and fun, and you’ll never look at lead pipes the same way again.
Go to a midnight movie. Rocky Horror; Repo, the Genetic Opera; Cannibal, the Musical, and films like that are usually played at midnight. Find your local independent theater and give it a go. It keeps the feeling alive. You can find some great stuff there for your midnight screens.
Read a Book
Here’s a throwback idea—read a book. I’m not going to give suggestions here, because we’re running out of space, but there are so many great books—fiction and nonfiction—that are good for haunt research.
“I’d also throw in some psychology books, to learn why people get scared,” said Crystal. “Margee Kerr is great for that. One of the first books I read for our haunt was a history of torture and how people have tortured each other through the years.”
Next, participate in Halloween-related charities. We mentioned a whole bunch in episode 67. There’s a slew of them out there, many of them national, and there are probably things you can do to assist a Halloween-related charity right now.
“I know with some of them, this is their peak season, their peak busy season.”
We have two more items on the list to go. Have a Halloween party out of season. I don’t know why we didn’t think of this ourselves, or why we haven’t done this ourselves. I can’t have a Halloween party at Halloween, because I’m working. So, whatever time of year it is, have a freaking party right now.
And…Listen to Haunt-related Podcasts
Last but not least—and this should be obvious—is to listen to haunt-related podcasts. I hear there’s one called Haunt Weekly that’s really good. People just love the hosts. There are tons out there—the Haunted Attractions Network list, Big Scary Show, Scaretrack, A Scott in the Dark, Marketing Your Attraction, Hauntopic Radio, and more. For an industry that’s not particularly huge, we have a lot of great podcasts and a lot of wonderful people doing them, so check some of them out.
“A few new ones have popped up in the last month, and I’ll be checking those out,” said Crystal.
So, there’s our list of Halloween things to do all year round. I hope we’ve given you some ideas you hadn’t thought of before.