I am a big believer in the power of a good Agritourism haunt to add another revenue stream to your business. Most of us however do not have extensive budgets to get things kicked off in our first year. I was definitely in that same boat in our first years of haunting so I am going to share some of the things that we did.
1. Mobile Home
Something that we found to be a big success was putting a major scare right before the exit. This acted as our Grand Finale like at a fireworks show. Our guests knew that when they got to this scare, that they were almost out of the haunt but also knew that they were in for the best scare of the attraction. We found that a great way to make this happen on a tight budget was with the addition of a mobile home. In our part of the world, you can find a large mobile home (20’ X 50’ or so) for pretty cheap. Many times for under $1,000. Since you are going to gut it anyhow, you don’t care what kind of shape the inside is in.
One of the best things we did for our haunted corn maze was to add a mobile home with the attractions inside of it that changed every year. Here are some of the things we did inside that mobile home that didn’t require a lot of capital but had maximum impact.
Put up walls to create a pitch black maze they had to find their way through by feel. Add shock strips to the wall for added fun and effect.
Used ¼ of the space for a spandex room. If you have never experienced one of these, they are very effective. Walls and ceiling covered in a patterned spandex, strobe light, and one of your actors dressed (full suit) in the same spandex fabric that seems to just come out of the walls at you
A hallway of spooky pictures that we picked up from auctions or garages sales with strategically placed Drop Panels (easy to make yourself)
One year we left the bathtub in place, filled it with live rats, and covered with plexi-glass that the guests had to crawl over.
Giant Madagascar Hissing cockroach room where the walls and ceilings were filled with these delights behind plexi-glass that the guests had to get very close to in order to pass through.
Very dimly lit Hallway of masks mounted to the walls with an actor recessed in an area of the hallway with the same mask on
Compressed air triggers
Claustrophobia Tunnel (doesn’t meet the low budget threshold but very effective inside this attraction)
The great part of the mobile home is you can move it every year and total change the layout to keep things fresh and new.
2. Black Plastic
For a limited budget haunt, black plastic is one thing you can use a lot! We used it for:
Tunnels - Throw up a 4X4 framework in your field and cover it with black plastic for a great place to funnel guests through, hide actors, etc.
Walls - Throw up your 2X4 walls where you need them but instead of covering with plywood or t-111, use black plastic. Keeps the light out and can be very durable if you purchase the heavy gauge rolls
Light barriers - Great for blocking out moonlight or other light from your scenes
3. Mattresses and Carpet
A very cool effect in a field can be pulled off with some old mattresses and old carpet. You simply dig a hole big enough to lay the mattresses in side by side (the bigger area the better), cover with carpet and then 2 or 3 inches of dirt. The ground appears to be normal but walking across this effect is far from normal. Feels like a cross between quick sand and a trampoline. Throw in an actor with a chainsaw and the combination can be very disorienting to your guests and a lot of fun to watch.
We would always seek out a junk yard for one of our sponsors as you will find lots of great stuff to use as props for your haunt. Throw a bus in your field that they have to enter from the back and exit through the front. Add some child and adult mannequins, a recording of kids singing a creepy nursery rhyme, a strobe light, black plastic on all the windows (or black spray paint) and a real actor sitting among them and you have a great prop that you can place anywhere.
5. Big Truck
That same junk yard (or another local farmer) may be able to provide you with a big truck. Doesn’t need to run, just pull it into your field, rig up an air horn and the headlights and you have a cheap scare when your guests exit a tunnel or come around a corner.
6. Simple Movie Scenes
It is easy to spend thousands of dollars setting up a butcher shop or other typical scare scene. Sometimes you can pull off an even more effective scare by getting creative and playing off current horror movies. For a couple years around the time of the movie, The Ring, one of our most effective scares was a simple well that we built from rock around the property, a TV that was motion activated to come on to static, and a small female actor that would come crawling and hissing out of the corn in a white dress with her hair over her face. This simple setup was far more effective than some of the props we had spent thousands of dollars on.
There are great DIY things you can find around haunts on YouTube. Many things would be hard to describe in a few paragraphs so we won’t go into detail here except for one example. There is an effect called a spinning vortex tunnel where your guests pass through on a fixed bridge but the tubular tunnel they are walking through is spinning around you. It is very disorienting and you will see guests typically leaning to try to stay upright. This is a fun effect but one that would cost you $10,000 to buy which is not a bad way to go if you have the budget for it. One year while we were still on a limited budget, we decided to use a YouTube video as a guide and build one of these for ourselves and did so for around $700. This was a very well received attraction. YouTube can be a great source of ideas for good DIY effects with limited budgets.
There are some awesome professional effects out there that will continue take your haunt to the next level. I am also a big believer in adding these to your haunt as your budget allows. There are not many of us that can do that our first year and have to be creative. Just because you are on a limited budget, doesn’t mean that you can’t pull off the best haunted attraction in your geographic area. You can be low-budget and not end up with a low quality attraction.
As your attendance builds each year, you can start adding the great professional props and effects that are available on the market and continue to improve your attraction year after year.