Have you always dreamed of causing nightmares as the spookiest Halloween house on the block? Halloween may be just around the corner, but it’s not too late to turn your home into a spine-tingling haunted house. Here are some ways to up the creep factor that any ghost can master.

The keys to haunted house perfection

The secret to a super-scary haunted house is to engage ALL the senses. Here’s how to keep it suspenseful.

What they see:

You can turn your garage into a couple of scary scenes, using plywood or large sheets of foam to section it out. You’ll want the place to be dark, lit with just a strobe light or very dim lights (flickering ones are fantastic!). Purple, red, or green bulbs also look particularly chilling.

For the scenes, let your imagination run wild. Think skeletons or mummies that leap off operating tables. Floating ghosts. A haunted prison. Not sure if you’ve upped the fright factor enough? Just add fog.

What they hear:

Set up some speakers and run spooky sound effects to boost the boo factor. Shrieks, ghostly wails, rattling chains, or just well-timed thumps can all be ominous.

What they smell:

You can buy so many different kinds of scent spritzers these days. Go with a campfire scent or even something more specific and strange, like a basement scent. Check your local Halloween-themed store or search online.

What they feel:

Creating wind with fans can feel downright spooky as your guests traverse through the dark. You can even position the fans to blow sheets or other lightweight fabric, simulating a ghost or spider web brushing against them. Or hang nets or lightweight chains they have to sweep through.

And if you have friends dressed as skeletons or monsters jumping out at your guests, make sure they don’t actually touch anyone, which can unnecessarily freak people out. A well-timed jump can be frightening enough.

5 of the easiest “not quite haunted house” ideas ever

Prefer to just up your scary decorations game instead? Here are 5 simple ways to make your house a scream.

1. Create a cemetery

A front lawn or driveway can become a gravesite in no time. Craft your own gravestones from foam or wood and paint them with punny sayings like “Let me out now!” or “I told you I was too sick to go to school.”

2. Project scary scenes on your garage

We get it — not everyone wants people in their garage. But you can still use the space by turning it into a canvas of sorts. Animated digital decorations are lots of fun and show your spirit with little effort.

3. Ring your porch in spider webs

Haven’t cleaned your front deck recently? We feel you and love how this is the one time of year it fits a theme. But if you don’t have the “real thing,” faux spider webs are relatively easy to make or buy.

4. Use the classic: a “prop” in a porch chair that jumps out at guests

Dress up as a “porch sitter” and hang out oh-so-still until an unsuspecting bunch comes to your door. Then leap out and yell. (Extra points for putting the candy bowl near your feet then jumping up as trick-or-treaters reach for it.)

5. And, we leave you with the simplest one ever

Just a red balloon … hanging out near a drain. “It” is sure to get teens and parents laughing.

But remember: safety first

Yes, scares are fun, but there’s nothing as scary as an actual emergency in a haunted house. Remember these tips for a safe and fun Halloween.

1. Talk to your city

Even if you’re just making a makeshift haunted house (i.e. not a business where you’re charging guests), you might still need a permit. Find out and fill out the required paperwork.

2. Test the maze yourself

Predict what could happen if someone jumps. Make sure they won’t inadvertently hit a barrier or something else that could cause injury.

3. Have someone in charge at all times

Create well-lit emergency exits and make sure that there are plenty of chaperones to help guests out, if needed. Remind your helpers not to touch guests unless someone’s in distress.

4. Don’t use real candles or open flames

But have a fire extinguisher handy anyway.

5. Double-check your homeowners insurance

Make sure you’ve got liability coverage on your homeowners insurance, as a claim you’re not covered for could be really scary. And if you have any questions about whether your homeowners insurance will cover your haunted house, contact Esurance today.

DIY hacks | Home and garden

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about Cathie

Cathie Ericson writes about personal finance, real estate, health, lifestyle, and business topics. When she's not writing she loves to read, hike, and run. Find her @CathieEricson.