"Home Is Where The Haunt Is"
An Interview With Steve Hickman Of The Terror Syndicate
By Rick Whitlow

Home Haunts - Usually referred to as a display where a person decorates their yard, or their house, sometimes even creating amateur "haunted houses" at their estates.
One man is setting a new standard in 'Home Haunts'. Steve Hickman, of Terror Syndicate Productions has created many elaborate and original props
for his home, and even creates a haunted house each year at his home entitled, "Dark Works". He puts alot of effort into his creations, and it shows.

Recently, I had the chance to ask Steve some questions regarding the Terror Syndicate, it's beginnings, and the current works of this talented people who work together to bring 'Dark Works' to life. Read on and you'll discover how Terror Syndicate came to be, as well as get a chance to see many of the props they've built over the years.

HauntSearch: First, what is it that your group 'The Terror Syndicate' does?
Terror Syndicate: The Terror Syndicate is home haunting at its extreme. Dark Works is much more than a yard haunt yet not many steps below a commercial attraction. We have also written a series of Home Haunter's Prop Building Handbooks, created a new how-to video series, composed 2 Dark Soundscape cds and operate GraveStalkers.
HS: How many people are involved in 'The Terror Syndicate'?
TS: That a hard question to answer. I do most of the production work year round. When the season gets closer I have a number of people who help build. When Dark Works is running a crew of 5 people operate it.
HS: How many years have you been operating the 'home haunts'?
TS: This will be our 4th year as a walk-through style haunt. Before that it was smaller displays only on Halloween night.
HS: What interested you in building props, and creating a 'home haunt'?
TS: I started when I was a kid living at home with my parents. My dad and I would set up some really cool scares. Now being married and in my own house the madness just went wild! The Internet sparked the old but not forgotten memories of Halloweens past. It's an addiction!
HS: How long did it take you to refine your skills in prop making?
TS: I am always learning but being creative and artistic from the start helps. Not to mention a remodeling contractor.
HS: Monster Mud, a mixture used all over the industry now, how did you come up with that, and what does it consist of?
TS: It all started when we met the strange souls at The Haunted Chamber and Castle Blood! There it was lurking in the dark, the first joint compound/paint and burlap prop we ever saw. It was then that the "creative beast" was unleashed that now terrorizes The Terror Syndicate.
When we first named the joint compound/paint mixture in '98 everybody was in awe of the whole concept. But "Monster Mud" has been used for many years by pro haunts and also widely used in the remodeling industry. It provides a great medium for sculpting cloth over prop forms and adds interesting texture to walls, ceilings, columns, posts and more. Nothing can be easier and give such great results for a low cost, locally found material, that you can mix yourself.
HS: For those who don't know, you create your own 'home' haunted house every year using many fo the props that you build. Where is your 'haunt' located?
TS: We are just outside of Pittsburgh, PA
HS: Do you charge admission?
TS: No and never will as long as we are a "home haunt".
HS: What have some of your previous themes been?
TS: We never do themes. Dark Works is just what is says a collection of dark works. Style wise though we stay away from guts and gore and steer more toward death and decay.
HS: How early in the year do you begin planning for the upcoming season?
TS: Planning starts around December through February. Building runs from March Thru Sept.
HS: How much is spent every year building props approximately?
TS: I try not to think about it. I know its several thousand.
HS: How long does Dark Works take to set up?
TS: 3-4 months is normal. I like to have the walls up early and pay more attention to prop building and placement.
HS: Where on your property is the haunt setup?
TS: The past three years we set up mainly under our large deck. This year we are building Dark Works as a free standing modular haunt on our concrete driveway.
HS: How many people on average go through Dark Works each year?
TS: About 250 or so. I like to keep Dark Works low profile and keep the neighbors on my good side. I try to avoid local news coverage like its the West Nile Virus!
HS: How long does it take to go through the haunt?
TS: Average time depending on the guest, 3-5 minutes.
HS: You also offer unfinished foam decor pieces for making any room a little bit creepier...would you like to elaborate on that?
TS: Our GraveStalkers product line started when we where pouring our own urethane foam skulls. Local haunters where buying them like crazy. We designed 6 addition profiles and created the GraveStalkers division of TerrorSyndicate.com. The product line later increased with our Fog Heads and Prop Hands.
HS:What are some of the most popular props, according to your visitors?
TS: Everyone loves the Monster Mud props! Some of the static Monster Mud props located inside the haunt look so live like people think they are live actors.
HS:Do you ever sell completed props, or make custom props for clients?
TS: Sure, I do both all the time. I sell off props each spring from the previous season to make room for new designs.
HS: What are some of the new props, if any for this year, can you say?
TS: Wow! There are some very cool ones. Four new pneumatic props, more gargoyles, new corpse props, new MM props, Dark Works itself is now longer and more complex.
HS: In the next 5-10 years, do you think TSP will still be doing elaborate yard/home displays, or do you think there's a possibility of going one step higher and getting a building and becoming a full scale professional haunted attraction?

TS: The possibility is always there. It's a matter of whether the money will be! I would love to own a building to setup Dark Works as a pro attraction. Work on it year round, have private tours off season, and open all of Oct. The question is do I want to be bothered with the insurance, advertising, permits, inspections, etc.
HS: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start building props and/or start a home haunt?
TS: Start small and add on each year as you learn and get more comfortable. It's better to build only a few new props paying attention to detail, than to rush through too many props just to fill space. -[HS]-

For more information on Terror Syndicate, please visit their website at

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