Lots of people find joy in decorating their house for Halloween, but those with a Gothic bent are especially bound to to relish it. These people will take particular care in crafting a beautiful yet bone-chilling atmosphere for their guests… For them, it isn’t so much “decorating” as it is “haunting” the house.
Here are some of the easiest and most effective ways to perfect an eerie atmosphere:
Use a Fog Machine.
For creating a convincing supernatural atmosphere, consider investing in a fog machine. Fog creeping along the ground adds an unnerving, ethereal atmosphere to your yard or house. There are many different options for fog machines– this page has a roundup of good options for use in haunted houses.
Buy Dry Ice
Another way to achieve a ghostly mist, albeit on a smaller scale, is through dry ice. Use it in outdoor scenes, like in the witches cauldron below, and serve it in ghostly cocktails inside. Also consider putting dry ice inside a jack-o-lantern for a unique and spooky effect.
The Power of Projection
For a Halloween party I threw last year, I hung large swaths of cheesecloth up on the wall and projected old horror movies onto it. It was extremely easy to set up– All I needed was my laptop, a borrowed projector, and the proper cables. It was a hit. Besides horror movies, there are also ghost effects videos made especially for the purpose of being projected on Halloween. Consider projecting these specters on the side of your house, in your windows, onto trees, on fake gravestones in your yard, or– for a really convincing effect– onto fog from your fog machine.
Dark blue lights are an effective way to create a mystical scene—moviemakers often use dark blue lights for moonlit nights or dark interior scenes. Hang a dark blue bulb in your porch-light fixture to turn your front porch into a shadowy dungeon, or use dark blue floodlights to bathe your front yard in eerie moonlight, which makes the perfect lighting for a graveyard display (source). Placing a Jack-o’-lantern (or a regular lantern) at the foot of tombstones punctuate the blue with a sinister fiery glow.
Use LED lights as glowing eyes.
Nocturnal creatures have a tapetum lucidum, a reflective layer on the back of their retina which helps them see clearly in the dark. If you happen to unwittingly shine a light on an animal’s face at night, it can create an unnerving effect– two glowing dots stare back at you, disembodied in the dark. You can recreate this effect in your yard or your house with a few methods. The effect below was created by placing LED lights inside film containers. A similar effect can be achieved by placing a glowstick inside a toilet-paper roll with two holes cut out. People passing through will do a double take as they try to figure out what kind of creature is staring back at them– a cat, an owl, or something more sinister?
Generate Ghostly Frequencies
This idea’s a bit more… experimental, shall we say? In 1998, an article was published by a scientist who claimed he found the source of his lab’s ghostly apparitions and haunted atmosphere: a “silent” exhaust fan in the lab which was sending out low-frequency vibrations at 18.9 Hz. Apparently, frequencies between 7 and 19 Hz can cause feelings of anxiety, dread, and chills. It can also cause people to see ghostly blobs at the periphery of their vision. This infrasound theory has become a popular explanation for the phenomena of “haunted” places. Why not take advantage of these findings and try to recreate a haunted space of your own? There are some videos out there that supposedly emit 18.98 Hz, so you can loop these on your laptop and play through hidden speakers. Observe your party guests/haunted house visitors/trick-or-treaters as you play the sound and take notes on any differences in their behavior… just like a mad scientist would.
Let me know what kinds of special effects you use to create a haunted atmosphere!