I have a confession to make: I am a total wall groper in haunted houses. Rooms that guide you through the middle of the scene are one thing, but rooms that require you to navigate an obstacle course of any sort (hanging bodies, a pitch-black room, etc.) send me straight for a wall. I like to anchor myself and work my way through an obstacle room systematically rather than plunge in, get disoriented, and end up spending far longer than necessary finding the next room. Before I experienced the white fog room (aka The Scare that Slays Me), I rationalized that I was only wall-groping through obstacle rooms because I didn’t find them particularly creative and wanted to get to the next scene as quickly as possible. As soon as I stepped into my first white fog room, I discovered that I had actually been avoiding my biggest fear. The trick to truly freaking me (and many other guests) out in a haunt is painfully obvious: remove my wall.
Imagine you’re several scenes into a haunt. Besides one room of “hanging bodies”, the path through the haunt has thus far been clearly defined and you’ve been enjoying the gory scenes, but largely felt in control of the pace of your visit. You are chased through a heavy curtain by an agitated evil scientist or perhaps an overly friendly clown and suddenly find yourself…adrift. All you see is white. The two steps you’ve taken into the room to escape your last pursuer are enough to have let the curtain settle back behind you and disappear. Everything is white. The floor, the walls, the ceiling, and the very air itself is a thick, heavy white. Squinting against the fog, you slowly move forwarding, knowing you’ll eventually hit a wall to follow, but instead faces begin appearing. The faces are white too, no more than disembodied masks against the oppressive whiteness, but they are everywhere and block you from finding what you want more than anything: a solid wall to anchor yourself. Everywhere you turn, faces and fog. Some whisper, some lunge, but all of them fade back into the mist before you can really register where they came from. When you’re sure you’ve been in this foggy white room with the staring white faces for hours, you finally find an exit and escape gladly into whatever lesser nightmare lies in wait.
This scene works best as a corner or bend where the exit is not directly across from the entrance. If your haunt is a “U” shape, this is a great way to force guests to turn the bottom of the U because they will typically be so disoriented they won’t notice they’ve made a complete 180o turn and will feel like the house stretches on forever. If you must use this room in-line with other scenes, at least position the entrance and exit caddy-corner to each other so there is not an obvious straight shot through the room.
As you can imagine, this room needs to be painted entirely white. A ceiling helps complete the scene and contain the fog, but may interfere with the fire code-required sprinkler system if you are operating your haunt indoors. If you cannot have a solid ceiling, an open-weave fabric like netting that will let water pass through can still provide a white upper boundary to your room. Bright lighting along the top of the walls pointing into the room will further disguise the lack of a true ceiling.
The most important part of the white fog room is the fog. Heavy, thick fog sinks so mounting fog machines at the top of the room gives better coverage than leaving them on the floor. Depending on the size of your room, rate of guest traffic, and output of your machines, you will need between 1 and 4 fog machines and plenty of extra fog fluid. HalloweenExpress.com recommends budgeting half a quart of fluid per hour for a small machine.
To keep the fog localized and provide the most dramatic reveal, create a short transitional hallway between the last scene and the white fog room that ends in a heavy curtain. The curtain should be dark on one side, but bright white on the fog room side to blend in with the walls. The transitional hallway should be no more than 3 feet long and actually extends into the white fog room. This may not be possible for those with tight space constraints, but the faux hallway ejects the guests into the middle of the room with no indication of how far away any of the walls are – even those that separated this room from the last scene.
You will want some talented actors to really take this scene to the next level. Guests need to enter this room with a bit of speed to prevent them from keeping hold of the doorway once they see the abyss on the other side of the curtain, so the actor in the previous scene needs to get them moving. Once the guests are all in the white fog room, the white-masked actors can begin moving in and out of sight. Their costumes do not need to be complicated – a full-length white poncho and white craft mask will do just fine. The art of this scene is in the chaos, so the actors need to practice moving around the room to block guests from exiting too soon and appearing “out of nowhere” without tripping over each other. If you do not have a large troupe of actors, a single skilled actor in a sea of hanging white masks can still be highly effective.
Though I’ve been through more haunted houses than I can count and seen some highly creative scenes, it’s the white fog room that strikes fear into my soul every single time. It’s not a particularly difficult scene to execute, and works as well as a standalone room for a house party as it does as a corner scene for a full-scale haunt.
Is there a particular scene that gives you chills? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!