Maybe it was all those times I went to Disneyland and Chuck E Cheese as a kid, maybe it was the hours I spent playing Five Nights at Freddys, but nothing tickles my horror funny bone like creepy animatronics. They touch that sweet spot around the famous Uncanny Valley and they're a fun addition to any home-made haunt.
Once upon a time animatronics were only a theme park thing but now they're really affordable and they look really good! Below are some of the most reasonably priced ones I've found, along with some suggestions on how you can set them up. For bonus points, see if you can get the item possessed by your occult figure of choice. I have a singing robot teddy bear controlled by the spirit of a 1930s prohibition gangster, so he whispers "I'm rubbing you out, see" to all the guests at my Halloween parties.
The classic animatronic prop, this lunging spider nightmare is the perfect treat to freak out your arachnophobic guests. I've worked four seasons at Spirit and we used to set these up by the front door so it would freak people out as they were coming in.
Best Use: Hide this happy guy by doors or overhead so it can lunge down on your victims. Put a lot of spiderwebs around, so they get some advance notice.
For those of you fortunate enough to live in a place with actual seasons - I'm from San Francisco and didn't see a proper autumn until I moved to New York - this creepy Jack-o-Lantern is a perfect backyard addition.
Best Use: If you're planning a pumpkin patch-themed haunt, this is a great accent piece to hang off a nearby tree.
The contagion is loose! Run! Run!
As any fan of biological horror knows, you HAVE to start the scene with an outbreak. With this handsome fellow you can see a harbinger of the zombie apocalypse!
Best Use: Pair this one with some colored lights and lots of caution tape.
Animated Crystal Ball Skull
As all stories end in death, take a look at your (eventual) future with this 100% accurate crystal ball. It's a creepy piece that adds a touch of fantasy to your Halloween.
Best Use: Witch costumes or any Haunt centered around a Game of Thrones theme.
Every good boardwalk and carnival has to host a fortune teller. But a good scary circus has to have a Misfortune Teller! Set it up and see what misfortune it whispers to your guests.
Best Use: For your murder clown circus.
Zombie Trophy Head
Remember, you have to destroy the brain to kill a zombie. If you simply cut off their head then you get a nice groaning trophy!
Best Use: You can make this a part of anything from a Victorian Hunt Club set to a redneck murder shack.
Donna the Dead
I do love a good morbid pun almost as much as I love a proper spooky ghost and nothing satisfies both requirements quite like Donna the Dead.
Best Use: She has a creepy asylum vibe, so if you can get a few metal cots and some white linen separators you'll give Donna the home she deserves.
The baying of a primal howl in the night, the inhuman transformation by the light of the full moon, the glory and majesty of the Werewolf! Put this guy in your lawn and unleash the wild animal within.
A good monster rampage can often be very messy, so you might as well have a witch's broom handy to clean up all the blood and body parts.
Best Use: Witches-meet-Martha Stewart!
Nothing reminds us of the comforts of home like returning to a loving grandmother's arms, especially if your grandmother is Norma Bates!
Best Use: Have her set up at your front door and be sure to have some plastic tarps at her feet in case your guests are rude to her.
Have any other favorites? Let us know in the comments below. And share it with your fellow haunters.