Lighting is one of the most important aspects of spooky decorating, whether it’s for a haunted attraction or just for your house on Halloween night. Dim light can create atmosphere and hide flaws in (if not enhance) props while a light in the darkness and can lure eyes (or people) to a specific location. Lights shining under a glass tabletop can make the potions placed on top glow and two lit windows can make a house seem alive, especially if said windows are of the “quarter round” variety. You don’t need to have tons of lights; you just need the amount that’s right for what you are trying to achieve. As the above picture from The Old Man and the Street shows, you can make a house look incredibly creepy just by using colored floodlights.
Let’s look at the different types of colored lighting found in haunted attractions. Your standard lightbulb creates “white” light that, while useful in some types of setups, goes mostly unused in its undimmed form (unless it is used with silhouettes in windows and shadows on walls). Ultraviolet or “black” light can be used to make certain materials have an eerie glow but can only be effectively used in darkness without other light sources. On the plus side, this lets performers wearing a combination of black fabric and white clothing create ghostly effects. White fabric treated with RIT Whitener & Brightener glows especially well. Red is a color traditionally associated with heat and caution, if not outright danger. So naturally it is often used to light scenes where fire or blood is expected, like a boiler room or cannibal butcher shop. Green light is frequently utilized in rooms involving swamps, aliens, radiation and like. But it also is used in many other types of scenes which we traditionally don’t associate with the color. Blue is often used to simulate moonlight due to its shade and weak intensity. But they can be used for more than just casting an entire scene in a single color.
Light of any color used on one or more props in dark or dimly lit settings can be quite striking when done properly. Blue lights are also effective when used to spotlight certain props and hide what is an otherwise sparsely decorated room. They can also be mixed to great effect. Check out these pictures if you don’t believe me. Blue and green do go well together, but the stark contrast between red and green can make for some amazing visual effects. Several haunters and Halloween decorators recommend using blue to provide overall lighting, with red lights in the background and green lights aimed at props in the foreground. The contrast between red and green can also be used for transformation effects. No, I’m not talking about a variation on the Pepper’s Ghost transformation effect. It’s a much simpler effect which takes advantage of two important details about the color. We already know about how it contrasts with green, but did you know certain shades of red makeup seem to vanish under a strong red light? A person wearing scary red makeup seems to go from normal to monstrous when the light becomes green. This method was even used to enhance the transformation scenes in the 1931 film adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
In addition to the basic tips I gave to help you you get started, I have gathered up as many Halloween lighting tutorials as I could find (starting with two of the most highly regarded tutorials on the matter):
SkullAndBone.com Haunt Lighting Tutorial
Lighting: Seven Layers of Scare
Designing with Light & Shadow | Home Haunting
Basic Lighting Theory – Haunted House
Halloween Lighting Tips – Omar’s Haunted Trail
Wolfstone’s Halloween Technology Roadmap
Lighting Tip for Haunted Houses
How To Light Up Your Halloween Display & Holiday Decorations
Halloween Lighting Tips & Tricks
Lighting for your Haunted House or Attraction
Halloween Yard Haunter – Halloween Lighting Ideas and Tips
Spooky Halloween Lighting Tips & Ideas – Apartment Therapy
5 Tips for Spooky Halloween Lighting | Redbeacon
Halloween Lighting Tips | 1000Bulbs.com
As for tutorial focusing solely on black lights, Ken Pitek’s Halloween Propmaker’s Handbook has an entire chapter devoted to tips on using them in haunts and My Ghoul Friday has a wonderful web guide on the matter (along with some other creepy lighting ideas for Halloween).
There are also lots of ideas, if not full-fledged tutorials, for special lighting equipment available:
BlackLight Shelf – Muddy River Haunt
PUMPKINROT.COM: What’s Brewing: Witch JarsPortable and cheap lighting for outdoor decorations
Backyard Imagineering – Pirates of the Caribbean Fire
Haunted House Flicker Strobe
Lightning Light Box
Homemade LED spotlights – Haunter’s List
Taking pictures of your displays which accurately capture the lighting can be hard. Really, really hard. Thankfully there is plenty of helpful advice available online:
And if that isn’t enough for you, here’s an online tool which can be used to check out lighting effects will look before you set them up. Why waste all that time setting up and rearranging things when you can accomplish the same thing with a few clicks of the mouse?
Special thanks to The Old Man and the Street for use of the image!
Gravedigger’s Local 16 is not to be held responsible for the content on or anything that may occur (be it good or bad) as a result of visiting any links on the above sites (or constructing a project that’s detailed on them). This also applies to the suggestions made here. Attempt at your own discretion.