Audio Haunt Hack 2021


This is day 41 of our 61-day Hauntathon counting down Halloween. Scott Swenson discusses affordable audio design for your haunt. 

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Audio Is Key, and a Huge Subject to Cover

Scott: Hi everybody and welcome back for another haunt hack. My name is Scott Swenson with from Scott Swenson Creative Development and the host of A Scott in the Dark Periodic Podcast for Haunters. Here we are with yet another little tidbit of information that might be helpful for you, the haunter, during the haunt season. Now, some of these haunt hacks are crazy and really not that important and then some of them are very important and really focus on key elements that we all should be focusing on as haunters, and this kind of falls into that category. 

We’re going to actually talk about haunt audio. Again, this is one of those topics that is far too large and far too important to be handled solely in a haunt hack, so one of the things I would recommend is to check out the section in my book The 13 Commandments of Haunting, yes this is a shameless plug, but there’s a great article that I did a while back on audio and why it’s important to haunted attractions, it’s in the book. 

Why Is Audio Scaping Necessary? Why Not Just a Generic Spooky Soundtrack?

What I wanted to do with this haunt hack was I kind of wanted to talk a little bit about, not necessarily the equipment that you use to play this back, but what you playback, what the content is. I know there’s a lot of haunters who will just put on spooky scary music and let it play. But, over and over and over again whenever I do either panels at trade shows or seminars, or I’m working with a group of haunters on a specific project, the one thing that comes up over and over again is that there’s a lot of haunters that just simply ignore the importance of the audio content. What I call the audio scape, the soundscape of the room so to speak. Like I said you can just play a spooky record, god I’m old, but you can just play a spooky recording in the background if you want to, or you can actually create and reinforce your story significantly more.

Now, I’m going to talk about a couple of different levels here. If you’re a home haunter, you probably don’t have to worry as much, I mean I’m not a legal expert, but you probably don’t have to worry as much about rights and royalties of the music or the content that you’re playing. If you’re a professional haunter, the bigger you get, the more you have to worry, and if you’re a theme park you already know. you’ve got to pay for the rights to use anything that you use audio-wise. 

Public Domain Audio Is Free to Use

Scott: So, let’s talk about a couple of different ways to find really portable and very usable audio for your haunted attraction. The first thing we’re going to start off with is public domain. Now again, not an expert in the laws of public domain, but there’s quite a bit of public domain recording out there, especially spoken word. This stuff comes in really handy if you’re trying to set a mood in your queue. One of the places that I would recommend first is This not only explains what public domain and royalty-free music is all about, but it also has links to several sources where you can actually find stuff that has gone into public domain.

There are also some really well-known horror films that are also in public domain that you can actually play in your queue that guests can watch while they’re waiting to get in. There was a very famous one that I’m sure you all know about, but I’m not going to say it because it may have somebody may have bought the rights to it again, I don’t know. But anyway, check that out and you can find some really cool material there.

Another place you can look is Library of Congress. If you go to, you can see what’s in the Library of Congress and what might be available to use as background audio. Again, a lot of spoken word stuff.

How to Utilize Royalty-Free Music and Audio Services

Scott: So, if you’re looking for sound effects and specific music that’s a little trickier and you really have to search a little harder, that’s why I kind of shift now towards the royalty-free music. This is music that, the way I would recommend getting it is to join a subscription series. It’s not that expensive. I belong to a couple of different subscription series, but the subscription series I belong to that I use the most, basically what happens is with my professional membership I can download any of the music they have, they have sound effects, they have commercial jingles that are in certain lengths that are already edited.

Once I download them I can use them in pretty much any project that I work on, and it comes in especially handy for me because then I can put together soundscapes for my clients utilizing a bunch of different audio clips with the finger paint of audio editing, which is Audacity; at least for me, super easy to use Audacity, if you’re a Mac user you know you can use whatever the audio editor is on Mac, I use that as well. Again, it’s just overlaying files and putting them together and fading them up, fading them down, creating something unique.

If you belong to one of these subscription series, and when I say that it’s the same thing as Shutter Stock or Adobe, where you get images, but there are ones that are specifically out there and they’re focused on music, sound effects, and things that you listen to. If you belong to those, I promise you they will pay for themselves very, very quickly. I think a personal subscription is like $100 for a lot of them and the business one, which means that I can actually use it as parts and pieces and then resell it to other people goes up to, I think it’s $200 a year and everything you download you can use as long as you want. It’s an excellent deal, especially if you have multiple haunts or you do a lot of work for other people. 

It might also be something that you look into for a consortium, maybe one of you gets a business account and the others pay them to create their soundscapes for them. That way you can kind of split the idea, check with your lawyer first though, make sure you make sure I’m not advising that you do something that’s illegal. Check them out, because there’s a lot of them out there; Pond5 is one, Tune Pocket, and there’s sound something or other.

Anyway, look for it, look for royalty free music and you’ll find all the subscriptions out there. Maybe you sign up for a year and then you download everything you need for that year and then you let your subscription go for a year or two until you need more stuff, maybe that’ll save you some money. But, if you’re doing professional haunting on a regular basis, get those subscriptions, maintain those subscriptions. I promise you, you will find use after use after use for this great edited music that you don’t have to pay rights on every single time you use it. 

Spot Source Audio Can Be a Huge Asset to Your Haunt

So, one more thing that I’d like to talk about quickly about audio and that is, everybody thinks that you just do one big audio track per room, and I think is fine, you can do that. But, if you really want to add something that’s super cool, add point source audio to your haunted attraction. What this means is it’s a little tiny speaker playing a little tiny sound that draws people’s attention. The best example I can use is if you’ve got a walkie talkie laying on a desk and you’ve got someone pleading for help through that walkie talkie, make sure it’s coming from the walkie-talkie and not just filling the entire room. What that will do is, not only does it make it seem more real, it also draws people over to the walkie-talkie. So you’re basically guiding the guests, distracting the guests so that you can startle them from a different angle. You can use little tiny computer speakers, there’s just a bunch of small speakers that can just plug the card into and let it loop all night and there’s bunches out there. 

So, use that point source audio, use the public domain stuff, and look into those subscription series where you can get rights and royalties free music and sound effects that will just elevate the whole level of not only your haunt, but also all of your online and any sort of video or audio promotion that you do. 

So that is the haunt hack for now. Keep an ear and an eye out for other haunt hacks here on the Haunted Attraction network. My name is Scott Swenson, I’m the host of A Scott in the Dark Periodic Podcast for Haunters, I also have a newsletter that you can join. Just go to, click subscribe here, or you can get any of my books, The 13 Commandments of Haunting or the other one that’s very popular is Follow the Story, which is all about how to incorporate stories into your haunted attractions. So again, Scott Swenson until next time, happy haunting. 




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