Disney’s Haunted Mansion Design Experts Share Their Best Halloween Decorating Tips

published Oct 22, 2021
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Tis the season to get spooky, and there are so many ways to stylistically reflect that in your home — from shopping the latest Halloween decor collection at a store near you, to investing in a viral 12-foot skeleton (if you can get your hands on one, that is). With so many options to choose from, deciding how to decorate your spaces can be the toughest part, so leave it up to the visual masterminds behind Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion to do the work for you.

The ride debuted in 1969 in Disneyland in Anaheim, California (followed by Disney World’s that opened in 1971), and it takes you through a mansion occupied by “999 happy haunts.” Not only is the attraction iconic for its otherworldly storyline — from the witch Madame Leota summoning spirits to ghosts rising from the graveyard — but the design elements make it as beautifully terrifying as it is. Plus, now through Jan. 9 is Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion Holiday, a seasonal event where the Haunted Mansion is decorated with elements from Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” So it goes without saying that there’s a lot of spine-chilling decor inspo to be pulled here.

If you’d like to create a similar look for Halloween, Tim Wollweber, Haunted Mansion Holiday Gingerbread House Lead Artist with Disney Live Entertainment, and Anthony Castro, Entertainment Art Specialist with Disney Live Entertainment, shared a handful of design tips inspired by their work at the Haunted Mansion. Proceed, if you dare:

Decorate paper mache boxes.

Designing a paper mache box is an easy and affordable way to add some Halloween flair into your home. Wollweber recommends painting the outside of the box with a white paint pen and wrapping it in black ribbon to make stripes.

Castro likes to wrap the boxes in printed paper and add warped wire-embedded bows, which he says is “one of the biggest visual hallmarks” at the Haunted Mansion around Halloween. And last but not least, don’t forget to add a spooktacular tag. “Make odd-shaped tags for your decor-presents. Think tags shaped like coffins, tombstones, pumpkins, and bats,” he told Apartment Therapy. “These little design touches go a long way.”

Credit: Shutterstock/New Africa

Lean into lots of candles.

One of the best ways to set the tone is with candles. For Haunted Mansion vibes, Wollweber says to go for red or dark candles and arrange them together on the edges of shelves and counters. If you’re planning on adding a large quantity of candles, he suggests choosing electronic candles for safety purposes, when possible. “Even the small electronic tea light candles are great, just use some red or black colored construction paper tubes to give the candles the look and varied heights they need,” Wollweber added.

String skull-inspired garlands everywhere.

Wollweber and his team incorporate plastic skulls and bones into dark garlands in and around the Haunted Mansion. “Skulls and bones are big design components that we use,” Wollweber explained. “There are plenty of affordable plastic long bones and skulls out there for this.” He recommends using florist wire to tie it all together.

Choose decorations that work for the holiday season

Since Halloween is right before the holiday season, save yourself an entire redecorating session by choosing rope lights that can stay up for the rest of the year. Wollweber suggests choosing orange, green, and purple lights that you can display to your heart’s content.

Castro likes to buy holiday items in black that can do double duty for Halloween and the holidays. “Many craft stores now stock black trees, wreaths, garlands, and ornaments that work with the Haunted Mansion Holiday theme,” he said.

Go vintage with your lighting

When it comes to decorating his own home, Wollweber likes to replicate a vintage look in by using specific lighting. He strings his rooms with vintage-inspired incandescent bulbs and light-up blow molds that are either LED C7 or C9.

So with these Haunted Mansion-inspired takeaways in mind, go forth and complete your Halloween decorating! Oh, and both Wollweber and Castro recommend watching “The Nightmare Before Christmas” while you work.