While commercial haunts have been open for weeks now, this weekend marks opening night for many home haunters. This means the most magical day of the year has drawn nigh: blood day. When the props are in place, the scenes are complete, and the costumes made, the final step before opening your doors is to splatter blood on, well, most things. Blood day is a fun, messy, and often emotional day that marks the end of this year’s efforts and the beginning of reveling in well-earned gasps, screams, and shrieks. To make sure you do all your hard work justice, we’ve put together a blood day guide!
Blood is one of the few exceptions to our “authentic is always better” mantra. There are actually ways to get real animal blood, such as in frozen form from some butchers and Asian markets, but we recommend using one of the dozens of convincing replicas on the market. Beyond the “ick” factor and sterilization concerns, real blood is expensive, and extremely difficult to work with because it coagulates so quickly. Fake blood products are available to mimic any type of bloody situation in a way that will stay fresh and convincing night after night.
The KD 151 Blood Line (pictured above) and Mehron offer several highly-specific blood varieties, but the cost makes these bloods more appropriate for actor effects than painting the walls. For walls, non-fabric props, and actors that can be trusted not to eat it, the cheap pints you can buy at any Halloween store or on Amazon work great. They’re runnier than theatrical blood and perfect for covering large areas or spritzing through a spray bottle. For on-actor blood, I adore Ben Nye’s stage blood. You’ll still need a thicker blood gel for convincing wounds, but this brand is fully mouth safe and even peppermint flavored!
Bloodying Your Walls
When choosing your general-purpose blood, one of the most important things to consider is how much you’ll need. How many rooms in your haunt need some bloodying up? Of these, how many require mere accents and tasteful splatters vs. depict an all-out bloodbath? An average human body has about 1.3 gallons (or about 166oz) of blood, so you could realistically get pretty gratuitous in a few of your scenes without defying science. Decide how much you *could* use, balance that with how much you’re willing to spend, and purchase from a store that will let you return any bottles you don’t use. I’ve been happy with the Bottle of Blood brand that can be bought by the gallon, and recently came across a blood concentrate that you mix with water (or glycerin) to create a gallon of fake blood. If you’ve used this product, please tell us what you think! I love the idea of only having to handle shipping and storing 3oz of powder rather than 128oz of liquid up until I need it, but am curious about the consistency and color.
I’ve heard of top tier commercial haunts bringing in crime scene specialists to help with blood splatter placement based on the wounds their mannequins have sustained. This seems overkill to me (pun fully intended) but do take the time to consider why blood would have landed on a particular wall or prop. The “slash” effect is the easiest to achieve (by simply flicking a paintbrush) but that would most likely have come from a deep and direct cut across a major artery. This is perfect if you’ve got a throat-slitter, but less appropriate for butcher shops and medical scenes. I typically use splatter much more than slashes, so I head straight for the pool toys. That’s right: water guns and sponge balls!
As with any mass-application technique, you’ll want to practice these methods on scrap wood before you let loose on your haunt. Cheaper water guns with a relatively short spurt work well for most scenes, and the smaller reservoir will let you better control how much fake blood you’re using. The sponge balls get soaked in blood and thrown at walls for a high-impact and truly gruesome splatter effect. While soaker balls sold as pool toys technically work, I prefer the 3” soft foam balls above. They’re typically used in magic tricks and are very squishy, so they create a larger, less symmetrical “splat” than the harder, fabric-coated balls.
Splats and slashes are great, but I am always a sucker for some good bloody handprints. They have the highest impact when they at least fit with the scene, but can typically be used just about anywhere. Think about why the handprints would be on the wall as you’re placing them – is someone scrambling along the floor? Climbing a wall? This can get messy, so use gloves if you’re not going to be able to wash your hands right away.
Fabric (especially gauzy strips of white) tends to soak up liquid in a way that makes low-quality and/or low viscosity fake blood look watery, pink, and disappointingly corny. If you’re going to be bloodying up a room with padded white walls or hanging fabric, this is the place to splurge on theatrical quality products. Some bloods are designed to stay wet and/or runny for a very long time, so look for a “drying” blood and help it along with a hairdryer if necessary to avoid accidentally staining your guests. I maintain that red paint will never look as good as fake blood because the opacity is so different, and would rather use black or green paint as unidentifiable sludge than try to use paint as blood. If you can’t get away from paint as blood, look for a deep red color with orange (rather than blue) undertones.
Remember, as a rule, fake blood will stain fabric. There are plenty that claim they won’t, and apparently mixing a bit of detergent with the blood before applying will help it wash out, but you should always assume that whatever cloth comes in contact with fake blood, be it a part of a prop, a costume, or your clothes, will stay bloody. This is typically a good thing, but definitely don’t wear your favorite white shirt on Blood Day and expect to step away unscathed!