Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Haunt Theory: Backstory

In the early days of my haunt, I can recall creating some basic information regarding the logic behind my display's layout - a story to justify why props ended up where they ended up. I didn't share it with anyone. It was just something I kept in the back of my mind to help me with the flow of things (and to have a comeback if my father asked an annoying/condescending question like "Why ain't that skull coming back to life like them dead people are?").

Back in the late 90s, when I first added a Witch to my display, things really clicked when she became the logic behind the rising corpses. She was responsible. She was causing it (and loving it). Still didn't share it with anyone though. It was just something in my mind like a private joke. But it made things feel natural and logical.

My scarecrows have all benefited from a backstory. Back in 2005, I had the fun of inventing a Bigfoot-like creature called Roots and received emails asking me if it was an actual legend. My Bog Man's faux history is something that I still enjoy reading about, as if it were actually a real tale.

Having a backstory evolved over the years into something that I personally MUST have in order to feel comfortable with my yard haunt. The Three Sisters raising zombies from an old cemetery. A Wrath Poltergeist forming as an angry byproduct of reanimated corpses - filled with hate and rage and violence. The return of the Sisters with a new plan: fusing souls of the departed with their rotting corpses to create the Ghost Dead - forcing ghostly zombies to do their bidding (more powerful than regular zombies, by the way - and a gunshot to the brain won't help in the least). A field of mysterious scarecrows in a lonely and dark hollow. And then a repulsive legend of something called a Corn Witch.

For the most part, people visiting the haunt will never know your backstory. And that's just fine. It's really for you anyway.


NecroBones said...

And I thought I was the only one who did that. :)

Well, not really. Everything is so much more cohesive when you tie things together.

My old haunt that I used to run as a kid started out with no plan whatsoever. Since then, I try to at least have some concept behind it, even if it's not elaborate. I usually still throw random elements in that have no purpose, out of panic at the thought of unused and empty space.

Can't wait to have a real yard. Then the fun can really start. :)

keyword was "herse" :)

Anonymous said...

I literally had a nightmare about the stuff on this blog last night. Michael Meyers, dark pathways with crunching leaves underfoot, with an addition of dark lakes that I was forced to swim in(yeah, I guess my own brain added that one).

Anyway, all this stuff is getting into my head. I guess that's the purpose? :)

I'm enjoying the Haunt Theory stuff a lot. I'm a sucker for what you call "Traditonalism". You posted a scene yesterday that gives me hope that even *I* can have great Halloween porch atmosphere.

Loving it...thanks.

Rot said...

I think the Traditional aspect is key. There doesn't have to be a prop in sight to have a great Halloween haunt that's memorable and spooky.

Sorry about the nightmare ; )

Johnny said...

I love the backstory element. It turns the scene from a haunt to a living graphic novel.
I remember when I read the 'Roots' story I ended up spending the day googling looking for more of the story which lead to some great legend/story finds.

NecroBones said...

Definitely love traditional haunts and traditional elements, and you my friend, are a master.

NoahFentz said...

I dont think my backstory came into play until 2003. The early years was just a montage of assorted props. I always wanted to change up the themes each year but then it gets so costly. I am now content with how it all came together and that Hills have Eyes mutant family feel.

I am very intrigued on this Corn Witch haunt for this year. I always loved how each of your haunts were different but tied into each other.

JHMDF said...

I love creating a back story....A Murder of Crows is the one I put the most thought into.

Rot said...

I should have added that a backstory really isn't necessary for a great haunt. Just that I've found that it's helped me personally over the years.

The Frog Queen said...

Appreciate your Back-story musings. As always, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, they are an inspiration to everyone of us!

Creating a back-story changed my display completely. It answered the "why" question. Once I stood back and asked myself why things were in the display I realized that I needed a plan. That plan became a story.

The creation of a back-story caused a major restructure of the display, building a church facade being the biggest change, and it rippled all the way through down to the details. I even changed the video of the talking bust to tell part of the story for the visitors. Which I have come to realize, is entertaining, and important for me, but not necessary and last year was the final for that prop.

As frustrating as it is sometimes - I have not found a reason that works for me to explain a scarecrow in a graveyard, so I gave it away...I really miss him :( - I know it helps and could not imagine creating the display without one.

So what to do about the my longing for a scarecrow? I have that solved , I will write another story for the backyard display...one that includes scarecrows and pumpkins :) I am looking forward to that one :)

(this is likely too long of a post, so I won't be offended if you don't post it on the blog :)

Rot said...

No such thing as too long a post!

Rot said...

and I'm looking VERY forward to the new story : )

The Captain said...

Another great "Haunt Theory"!

I have been doing back stories for myself ever since we bought this house and started the display four years ago. The stories keep getting better and more involved. This year I think I am actually going to put it to paper and include it with the invitation to our night before Halloween party. If I do get it out of my head and on to paper, it will for sure show up on the my blog.