families have their own holiday traditions, that bring the family
closer together . Some have Easter Egg Hunts on Easter Sunday, some
read "'The Night Before Christmas" by the fireplace on Christmas Eve,
but for the past seven years at the Kraft household, they do something
a little bit more sinister to celebrate their favorite holiday. On
Halloween night they invite guests into
Their home, more importantly, their basement for a trick and a treat.
this issue, the home haunt I will be talking about is Jeff Kraft's
"Haunted Basement". Located in Hackensack New Jersey, "The Haunted
Basement" began when Jeff's wife belonged to a theatre group and had
offered to store the group's props, sets, and costumes in their home.
Well, just one year later, the theater group disbanded and the decision
they faced was either throw all that stuff away or find some use for
it. So for his daughters birthday, Jeff decided to use it to create a
small maze haunt in his basement. It was a huge hit with all the kids,
so from there Jeff and family started to add to it and create a large
home haunt in the basement every October, making it bigger and better
The Haunted Basement" is made up of 10 rooms and a few
long hallways. Each scene is filled with assorted witches, skeletons,
bats, monsters, spiders and other traditional
images. No movie characters will be found here and that's the way Jeff
wants it. He wants to pass down the traditional Halloween themes to all
the young trick-or-treaters that come through. The theme is not the
only traditional element in "The Haunted Basement", but
haunt itself has become a tradition within the family and will be
passed on down to the children for many years to come. "My kids are
already fighting who gets the "buckys" and who gets the tombstones
whenever I stop haunting and they leave the nest."
One of the highlights of "The Haunted Basement" is the science lab, at the end of the haunt, where the victims who
adventure the dark halls get to put their hand in a covered sink and
feel around for "body parts". Some of the body parts within the lab are
actually "quite tasty". You will also pass through other rooms like
slaughter house, bone alley, lost spirits, ghost hall, the witches
and the corn field just to name a few. For 2003, they will be adding
some new rooms as well as keeping many of the old rooms that have
become favorites among their guests.
All of the props that Jeff has
made in the past were static and homemade, however Jeff does plan to
try to create some animated props for this coming season. Also "on the
slab" for this coming season is a more detailed cemetery outside in
hopes to create more traffic for his home haunt. Nine new realistic
tombstones, two half coffins in a 6' X 18' plot filled with assorted
zombies with a new fence to enclose the resting place of the dead. Jeff
builds most of his props using what is around the home or he wanders
the neighborhood to collect, in his words, "..as much trash as my
neighbors can throw out."
Haunted Basement" has on average 5-6 actors ready to jump out and scare
to doo doo out of you. Mostly Jeff, his wife, and 2 children (a son and
a daughter) with the help from his daughters friend and an old theatre
buddy of Jeff's (from the Rocky Horror production), who travels 3 hours
to help out with the haunt.
for "The Haunted Basement" starts on November first, immediately
following their last haunt, with props being made all year round. Setup
for the haunt starts the first week in September and is finished around
mid October. The outside display is set up the first weekend in
October. "The Haunted Basement" is open Halloween night from 5:00 PM
until about 9:00 PM.
Jeff from the time he was a child has always decorated the home for
Halloween. Some of Jeff's influences include 'Rocky Horror'; "I met my
Horror' on Halloween." "Another influence would be my daughter...she
may look like my wife but she has my personality. So we kinda like the
same things and gives me ideas."
Haunted Basement" is a great example of a number of things. First off,
how one can produce a full size elaborate haunted attraction like the
pros on a small budget. And most of all how something like a home haunt
can get everybody in the house together and give them something to do
as a family. If anything, that's the true spirit of a home haunt.
Jeff plans to host "The Haunted Basement" for many years to come and
then pass it down to the kids. He also plans to keep it a home haunt to
continue the family tradition. "I do this for Halloween and for the
kids...it is not a business and I do not charge or take donations."