Thursday, July 22, 2010

A yard haunt or


Some odd things have been happening in the background of the Davis Graveyard this past year. Since we needed to make some decisions about how to update the Haunter's Video Awards categories, I have been thinking about things a lot.

(Completely distracting me from prop making, and that sucks!) This post has been written and re-written for months. I have often thought of completely deleting it.....but it really haunts me (pun intended) and I have to say this is always in the back of my mind. . So I thought sharing it might help me understand it better.

This year, on several occasions, I have found myself out of place (in the this haunt world.) I thought I knew what I was, but I am finding that I don't anymore. Up until recently, I called myself a haunter.

But more occasions than I care to remember, I have been told well,....something to the effect of "Your stuff is not exactly scary."

True, creepy, yes...definitely not scary.

Is there or should there be a distinction between a "haunter" and "yard display"? If so, how is that quantified? What does it mean to have a "yard or home haunt"? I have been thinking......

What is a "haunt"?

You don't walk through my yard/garage/house, it is just a display. I get asked at least 10 times a day when will we "open" the inside of the church. They are usually disappointed when I tell them that it is just a facade and there is nothing inside.

They tell me that I really should have a "haunted house." I have no desire to a do that again - ever.

So, since you don't "walk-thru" my yard, is what I do a haunt? So, how does "scary" fit in? I don't really have anything in my display that is "scary" - unless you are a kid or very easily frightened.

With the exception of a few props, almost nothing in the yard even moves. I am purposely gore-free.

No monsters jump out or run after you, having you run away screaming, is a worthy goal, just not mine.

The short of it is, since no one walks through my display, and I don't "scare" people - is the display really a haunt?

Upon reflection I am beginning to believe that my goals are contrary to "haunting".

My desire is to be creepy and detailed. When I tell people silly stuff like ....

I have spent too much time hand painting every fake flower or vine in my yard gray to match the color scheme.

I have a set of skeleton keys that hang off the belt of the grave keeper. They are the keys to the mausoleum that is closed each day and opened each night...In my back story, that is what the gravedigger does. I can guarantee you, no one notices.

The "mourner", the standing monument of a woman has bare feet (that we cast) sticking out under her shroud, you will never see them.

I am going to stop there, because the impractical details are numerous; and I think you get the point. I know and I am sure you will agree, none of these items "scare" anyone.

Many believe that scaring people is the whole point.

So why would I not want to do that?

"Because it is not me" with a grin was my answer. "I like it fine...just not what I do best."

Worked for me for a long time. It felt right, I never questioned it. But this year several times, I have found myself feeling uncomfortable, like I should be apologizing for not playing by some undefined set of rules.

Usual responses from haunters are "I would never waste time on that stuff." or "Why don't you do "insert jump out and scare you prop" here?"

In that light, I guess I don't have an answer other than, just not my style.

We were recently called eye candy. I think it was meant to be an insult, but fair enough. I see their point.

Most haunters (who I love and appreciate) spend their time, energy, money and a large part of their yard or garage (even house) in the noble and much needed pursuit of creating a whole experience designed to make you scream.

I think generally, most yard and professional haunters would call that a haunt (and I do love them, all of them, home and pro haunts, have been through more than most and I never get tired of it). And I really have no problem with that definition. None at all. The label attached to what we create makes no difference to me.

I am just wondering, if I am not a haunt? What am I? When it comes to home haunting, should there be a distinction between types of haunts?

I call the Davis Graveyard a yard display these days.

Since talking has a lot to do with my problem, I am thinking of stopping talking to haunters, ah, and maybe just people in general :D


  1. It's your style - and a style that I constantly keep in my head when planning my own yard haunt. Ours has always been more "creepy" than scary, classy rather than cheap scare, and that is how I like it. I definitely call yours a yard haunt, its a different style, and thank heavens for that.

  2. Oh, you and I have much in common when it comes to our 'haunts'. I do have a single 'scare' in my Treat Room but it's just a bit of startling fun to earn their candy reward... but I am not a 'haunted house' guy in any sense of what most consider the term these days. I have no violence, no outright gore, no blood, nothing jumps up/behind/next to anyone in the yard, I have no chainsaw wielding maniacs, insane clowns, loud noises, sick gags... just a few animatronics and colored lights and eerieness.
    It's cheap and easy to freak out teenagers with buckets of blood and gore, and the usual guys in Freddy, Jason, or Jigsaw costumes. We 'yard displayers-yard-haunters-whatever-the-big-haunter-boys-want-to-label-us' like things a little more contemplative, a little more classy, a little more **actual Hallowe'en** than just horror, you know?
    I can tell you that for all the kids who'd say 'yeah but it's not scary', every one of them will come back again and again, and as they get a little older and wiser they'll appreciate it all the more.
    For all the differences between the props and decor we each display, we certainly see Hallowe'en in very similar ways, dear!

    Keep it up, you guys are amazing and inspiring.

  3. I hold my head high when I call myself a haunter, even though my yard display is neither scary nor particularly creepy and it's moving to the humorous vein. As far as 'yard haunt' and 'home haunt', I would think that the 'home haunt' would be more of the walk-through variety and the yard haunt being what it is, a haunt in the yard.
    Ok, let's find out what the word "haunt" means in our context via
    –verb (used with object)
    to visit habitually or appear to frequently as a spirit or ghost: to haunt a house; to haunt a person.
    –verb (used without object)
    to reappear continually as a spirit or ghost.
    What we have here in the definition is the appearance of a ghost or spirit. It says nothing about jump out and scream with a &%$#@!!! bloody chainsaw! The Final Unresting Place Cemetery is definitely a haunt but not really scary either and I'm happy that way! Halloween is the time when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest by definition, if you're drawn to the elegant and subtle and hyperdetailed, that's beautiful. If you think Halloween means throwing meat entrails at people and screaming at them, then that's your right too.
    You have one of the most beautiful haunts right up there with the Hallowed Haunting Grounds, be proud of it!
    Mr. Macabre steps off his soapbox.

    p.s. But if I see a blucky anywhere in your haunt, I will personally find and deliver the biggest, hairiest, fattest spider that I can to you!:)

  4. I just call mine an... annual seasonal themed temporary public art installation. Sort of covers all the bases and leaves me more time to dwell on more important gravestone placement issues and such.

  5. Hmmm... my mind is going in numerous directions on how to reply to this. I may end up emailing you with part of it.

    Basically... I consider Home Haunter and Yard Haunter as the same thing. If I refer to a Home based walk through haunt then I will say... Home walk through Haunt. As far as Haunted House's... I consider them just that, the professional style (or not so professional/cheesy) Haunted Houses.

    I consider you and Jeff, Professional Home Haunters. Why Professional? Basically you have taken it up numerous notches compared to Billy Bob and his plastic tombstones with all store back crap. Not only do you use your marketing skills, you use everything else at your disposal to promote and design your Graveyard. Why do you do it? Obviously because you love it and THAT in itself should be what people see first. Not that you aren't this or two much of that.

    Any of the Professional Haunters that cast shadows on you guys or spew their egotistical crap at your Haunt... can basically go F themselves. If I personally hear any of this or read it anywhere, I will make it known that they need to remember where they started and its a very long fall from their high undead horse.

    ::: breath ::: I have more to say but I'm filling up the comment thing here.

  6. must be something in the air. I have been pondering a label myself lately. Display? Vignette? Open Air Gallery? It's all so hard to decide.

    You are a Haunter of the first degree. Don't let anyone tell you any different.

  7. whoa, girl...please don't stop talking, PLEASE! there are so many kinds of haunts...I'll take the classy and eerie ones anyday, anytime, over the gore and get in my face variety. (to be quite honest, I've never really understood the connection between bloody maniacs carving people up and Halloween.) To this 'haunter', the 31st of October is a time to create a feeling of mystery and uneasiness in people--what better way to do that than by a visit to your graveyard? re the details, I know what you mean when you say nobody even notices them but you (it is the same in my sculptures) but it's important to YOU--your graveyard wouldn't be what it is without those details. besides, who gave these guys the right to determine what a 'haunt' is? it's whatever YOU want it to be and I for one, think your graveyard is fabulous.

  8. Scar is different for every person. Your yard might be very scary to children or various adults andit might be perfect for some groups. Other people want scary to be something horrific. I'm glad you don't go tha route. You are definately a haunter. You don't have scare everyone to be a haunter.

  9. I really love what I've seen of your haunt - and I do think it is one.

    Being a "consumer" or "spectator" -I don't really enjoy having some asshat jump out at me with a chainsaw. Also - fake blood is just too cheesy for me.

    I'm a really visual person, so I appreciate the detail. Plus, I really think there's something to be said for a place where kids don't come away having nightmares for life.

    Maybe I'm a little tame, but your haunt is right up my alley!

  10. I have to agree with you. The first time I went to a "haunted house" was a couple years ago; I was very disappointed, I wanted to see the props. What I got was a dark maze with a bunch of idiots that jumped out and yelled. I didn't find this "haunted house" to be what I thought of as a traditional Halloween type thing. I think the younger kids will remember the skeletons, tombstones and other things that they can actually see better then some dude that jumps out and screams.

  11. There comes a point when you overthink a thing. And I don't mean you. It's easy to get so into something that you want to data-fy it, especially if you have nerdy tendencies in the first place. It's also easy to forget that the group you're looking at is too small to divide.

    What I'm saying, in my overly nerdy way, is that of course you're a yard haunt. Anyone with the slightest bit of perspective can see that, and to say otherwise is faintly ridiculous.

    On a more personal note, Pam Morris said it beautifully: "the 31st of October is a time to create a feeling of mystery and uneasiness in people". I can't agree more.

  12. I'm going to say that anyone with a Halloween display can be considered a Haunter with a Haunt.

    And, thankfully, that means all sorts of different things. Variety, lots of it. It's like the word "Paintings"... think of the varieties. I'm a watercolor man myself, but everyone digs their own style of painting..and their own artist who painted them.

    That's us.

    I'm a static guy too. And I have a preference for displays that are static. Ones where you just let it all sink in...slowly. I can appreciate animatronics, but when a Haunt sounds like an automotive assembly line with pistons firing and hydraulics hissing and spitting and clanking and clicking, that's really not something that appeals to me.

    I'll go back to the first time I found your site online. I really truly was blown away flipping through your image galleries. I thought it was creepy and spooky and incredibly detailed...and sprawling. I loved taking it all in. And I wished I could see it in person. To me, if I see it online and WISH that I could visit it, then it's a pretty awesome Haunt.

  13. thank you...

    this is for you guys...

  14. I am with you on this. As a kid I was all about the gore and scare but as I got older I longed for the old things I knew of halloween the "classy" halloween the non gore blood all over the place halloween. Now days im way more impressed with a yard that gives me the creeps because of the atmosphere then the one that has the chainsaw or the yard that my daughter will get scared of just because it feels creepy. Yours and Rots yards are the things I long for not jump out and scare but it really gets into you slowly mythically, its like Alfred Hitchcock movies versus say Saw ill take hitch over saw anyday because its creepy not gory

  15. There is no doubt, your display is definitively a haunt. And a fantastic one too! I prefer ambiance over gore and screams. Maybe your graveyard is not that scary, but I'm asking yourself how many people would dare to visit it alone on a dark and cold night?

    I can't agree more with Pam Morris:"the 31st of October is a time to create a feeling of mystery and uneasiness in people". And your graveyard is pretty good at that.

  16. I've had this page open for a couple of days, chewing on my answer.

    Let me tell you a story.

    I found myself among a group of haunters. They didn't know who I was, nor had they seen my website.

    They were all talking about their haunts and their scares and their moving props which of course I can appreciate. They were talking about props they'd bought that move and hiss, and sharing pictures of a few.

    When they asked me about my haunt, I explained I only decorate indoors and that all my props were static. Someone - well meaning & good hearted - said "Don't worry. Some day you'll get to the point where you'll have a real haunt like us".


    So, transforming the entire main floor of my house with huge displays filled with handmade items that takes months to make, and changing out the theme each year...that doesn't count as a real haunt? Just because I didn't BUY a moving prop?



    Jumps and scares and screams have their place. I call those haunted houses.

    Home haunts and yard haunts are an entirely different beast, and refer to significantly altering your own property to reflect the Halloween season. Period. You are a haunter. I am a haunter.

    But like Dave the Dead, I've changed how I view my "haunt". More like an art installation.

    It's not all about chainsaws and screaming.

    It's about beauty in the darkness.

  17. The atmosphere is what counts, in my view. I think we're so exposed to extremes these days (take a look at what passes for horror movies now), some people can't appreciate atmosphere; that sense of "oooo, this is creepy". The anticipation of what's coming next. Ask someone what their interpretation of "scary" or a "haunted house" is and you'll get as many different answers as the number of people you ask.

    Reinventing the wheel might sound like a good idea, but is it the direction you want your haunt to take?

    You've become a landmark over the years and I think that in itself speaks for the quality and popularity of your hard work.

  18. My daughter, who is 32 and grew up in the Friday the 13th generation, visited me a couple of weeks ago, and watched "The Changeling" with me. Not the Angelina Jolie one, the one with George C Scott who moves into a house haunted by a child. She commented on the atmosphere of the movie, how the story drew you in and how they took their time setting up the scariness.

    Ah, just what I've wanted her to understand. Remember how Hitchcock was? His whole thing was building up the mood, the atmosphere, and letting the imagination of the people kick in and jack the fright level to new heights. The anticipation of it all. We can scare ourselves far worse than anyone else can.

    And that's how I see your "haunt". Because haunt is applied to a melody, too--and it's not all the clash of cymbals or booming instruments. It's the insidiousness of the melody into your brain.

    To me, those are the best hauntings--the ones that give you goosebumps in the dark.


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