What Works and What Doesn’t – The constraints of haunting a historic home

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 The House

Our Head Haunters and their talented team of volunteers have been asked several times over just how they do it all. Haunting a house, let alone haunting a historic home, present one with a unique set of constraints, but as you know by now, our Haunters are always up to the  challenge. The Rengstorff House is Mountain View’s oldest remaining home. An 1867 Italianate Victorian which, though updated and restored in 20th century, still presents some interesting obstacles.

Power

Power, it’s one of those simple pleasures that seems to be nearly everywhere except for us, it’s for one nicety which always comes at a premium. We are used to modern homes with nearly limitless wall outlets and creature comforts, like data ports and the like. For our team of Hunters, batteries are like gold. It’s a simple fact that in order for us to haunt the house the way we would like, the scant number of wall outlets need to be augmented by battery power. Batteries are our friends and they can be your too. In fact some of the best decorations we’ve crafted are battery powered. Check out the The Prop Shop Tutorials page for some great ideas.

Walls

While the walls were reconstructed during the restoration, and the lath and plaster was replaced with drywall, we adhere to the custom of using a picture rail to hang anything in the house. In other words, there aren’t any nails going into the walls to hang picture, art, exhibits, or in our case, props.

We take extra care with whatever we hand from the picture rails and back our props with felt or frames with felt furniture foot pads to prevent them from damaging the reproduction wall coverings.

The Level of Detail

Everything is necessarily done to exacting detail and we don’t have much of a choice in the matter. Unlike a stage production where the audience is far enough from the props that their detail gets lost, or large scale haunts where guests are easily distracted and more involved with the experience than the workmanship, our house requires something extra. We work within the constraints of the 19th century for one. Our subject matter dictates a degree of authenticity which is, in our opinion inescapable, but more than that, our guests are up close and personal with everything we craft. They are often within an arms reach of our props and decorations and as such, they need to believe everything they see. On some level we realize that our guests understand the difference between a house full of antiques and the props we craft, but it’s all about making the impression. We might not be able to have open flame in the house, but we can have illusion.