With so many towns now postponing trick-or-treating and other Halloween festivities until next October, have you thought about how you’ll spend this year’s Halloween at home? Numerous listicles will point you in the direction of scary movies to watch and creepy podcasts to binge. Blogs will recommend Halloween treats, like this spooky bundt cake that makes an appearance at my house each October. But if you really want to get in the spirit, perhaps you should consider home haunting!
Home haunting is the art of turning one’s abode into a Halloween attraction or spectacle. Some haunters go big and invite strangers into their garages and backyards to stumble through an obstacle course of frights; other haunters go small, choosing to trick out their front yards for neighbors and passersby. It doesn’t matter if you’re into small or big scares—the following media about the art of home haunting will get you pumped to decorate for the season.
In the spirit of home haunting, this post will start with fun and spooky stuff then build up to the big scares. Remember: please don’t touch the actors, and they won’t touch you!
You Must Have a Sense of Humor to Enter the Haunt…
The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell
If you’d rather haunt the inside of your home than the outside, then add The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell (2018) to your Netflix queue!
How to describe this show? If Morticia Addams and Martha Stewart had a baby, then that baby wanted to host a TV show like The Barefoot Contessa (but make it spooky!), then a random stranger had the wild idea to add reanimated Muppets… well, then you’d have The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell.
The first episode will treat viewers to tutorials on monstrous cake creations and more, and later episodes showcase Christine’s sculpting and sewing skills. This strange show is also part-supernatural Muppets sitcom, and Christine’s family includes Rose, a sassy taxidermy racoon; Rankle, a majestic, cheeky, mummified cat; and Edgar, a very adorable, very polite werewolf. (Seriously, if you’re an animal lover, you’ll want to boop Edgar’s nose!) The show is worth watching for the humorous banter alone. For example, Rose, Rankle, and Edgar love pointing out the obvious: that Christine often goes elaborately overboard with creations that are meant for consumption.
This series isn’t about home haunting per se, but those who believe that a haunted home is where the heart is will appreciate Christine’s creepy-chic aesthetic and the whimsically bizarre flavor of the show. (Adults: Yes, there are puppets and cake, but this is not a children’s show.)
Los Espookys (2019), a six-episode series created by Fred Armisen, Ana Fabrega, and Julio Torres, is hysterically funny and gives off big home haunt energy.
Renaldo, Úrsula, Andrés, and Tati are four friends with a deep interest in horror, so they go into the business of faking supernatural events, including exorcisms, haunted houses, and cryptid sea-creature sightings, to name a few.
The show is performed mostly in Spanish with English subtitles, but if you let that dissuade you from watching, then you’ll be missing out on a true seasonal treat.
One of the most endearing things about this show is the group’s positive can-haunt attitude! No task is impossible, including rigging a bed to swallow an unsuspecting victim and then regurgitate said victim from the ceiling… without using supernatural forces… maybe? ::shrugs::
Do Not Enter the Haunt If You Scare Easily…
Sliders of Ghost Town
For most of the year, Knott’s Berry Farm is known for its rollercoasters and fried chicken. But when the leaves change, so does the park. The spirits of the Old West Ghost Town transform this ordinary berry farm into Knott’s Scary Farm!
Knott’s Scary Farm in Southern California is one of the most prominent haunts in the country, and Sliders of Ghost Town (2016) highlights one of the farm’s many claims to fame: sliding. If you’ve been to a haunted attraction over the past decade and have had a scare actor slide frighteningly close to you while leaving a shower of ghostly sparks in their wake, you can thank Knott’s Scary Farm.
This 55-minute documentary will take you behind the scary scenes of this legendary haunted attraction, from the makeup to the hiring process and—most importantly—the sliding. Skidding across the ground with nothing but fabric and plastic (and in later years, thin strips of metal) between your skin and the cement is a skill that takes more practice than you think.
Sliders of Ghost Town addresses how vital ingenuity and persistence are to the spirit of haunting. This documentary also has one of the most metal montages that I’ve ever seen in any movie—ever. If you don’t get goosebumps at the 11:50 mark, then call the doctor because you’re probably dead inside.
You Must Sign a Waiver to Continue the Haunt…
Haunters: The Art of the Scare
Halloween Horror Nights is one of the biggest, most successful haunts in the country. If you haven’t been to HHN, it is truly a spooktacular experience. You’ll almost wish that you could walk through these haunted attractions alone just to admire the attention to detail—almost. A Halloween Horror Nights documentary with commentary from HHN Creative Director John Murdy would be an absolute dream (or a nightmare). But such a documentary doesn’t seem to exist, so enter Haunters: The Art of the Scare (2017). This 88-minute documentary highlights two home haunters and one scare actor, all of whom have perfected the art of scaring… or have they?
Some home haunts focus on good old-fashioned Halloween fun for the whole family. But other haunts are more controversial, employing extreme tactics to give guests the scares of their lives. Have you heard of those haunts that require you to sign a waiver? McKamey Manor is one such haunt and is one of the subjects of this documentary. You’re probably wondering how much it costs to have the living daylights scared out of you. The answer: a can of dog food.
Haunters will help you understand the politics of the industry, the psychology of scaring and being scared, and it will allow you to see long-term effects that haunting wreaks on some scare actors. It will also make you think critically about the “art” of scaring and question how far is too far. And as an added bonus, you’ll learn a little about Halloween Horror Nights Creative Director John Murdy!
Regardless of whether you identify with Shar, the endearing scare actor who has a deep passion for making people scream, or despise Russ’s dangerous scare tactics, home haunting is serious business. So, if you plan to pursue this professionally, consider watching Haunters for some insight into the industry. (CW for torture scenes related to McKamey Manor and other extreme haunts.)
Remember how we talked about haunts that require a signed waiver? It’s probably in your best interest to run in the opposite direction if you encounter such an attraction. Maybe that’s what the characters in Haunt (2019) should have done, but—spoiler alert—they don’t, and they spend the rest of their Halloween night regretting it. Somehow this Shudder original film escaped my notice last October, but I’m glad that I stumbled across this dark gem in March when I was craving Halloween feels and trying to briefly forget that we were in the midst of a pandemic.
Have you ever cried or yelped out of sheer alarm, simply because you weren’t expecting something horrible to happen? Your answer might be, “YES. 2020. HELLO!” That’s how I would describe this movie—a series of shocks to the system (minus the collapse of society to go with it).
Haunt features the perfect Halloween attraction: isolated location, disturbing vintage Halloween masks, a group of unsuspecting young people, and the promise of a scare so good that you’re willing to surrender your phone and sign your rights away.
But Haunt is also everything you don’t want your home haunt to be. So consider Haunt a guide for letting you know when you may have gone too far in your home haunting endeavors, and perhaps you should just enjoy watching this movie while peeking from between your fingers.
I hope these recommendations have helped put you into the haunting spirit, but if you’ve come this far and still have no desire to go to Spirit Halloween for fake cobwebs and cheap props, that’s all right. Maybe you’ll never feel a bone-deep calling to haunt your home. If that’s the case, it’s more than OK to get comfy on the couch and watch others do the haunting.
The best part? You don’t have to wait in line, and no waivers required!