CalHauntS Glossary


Haunter’s Glossary

Below are a set of terms used in the haunt industry




Animated Prop

A prop that moves , lights up , or makes sounds. Action can be triggered by light , people moving near the prop , or it can run randomly or continuously. (See “Prop ” and “Static Prop “)

Talking skulls , rocking gravestones , wiggling skeletons , etc….


Puppet-like props that move via motors, servos, or pneumatics. Generally, these props’ movements are synchronized with a pre-recorded soundtrack. The movements are triggered by one of several means: the soundtrack itself, unheard signals immbedded in the soundtrack, or a seperate but synchronized stream of signals, such as MIDI or DMX.

This term was originally “Audio-Animatronics” and was coined by Disney’s Imagineers at WED. The technology was developed to create “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln”, but was soon deployed famously throughout the Pirates of the Carribean and the Haunted Mansion attractions.


Ultraviolet (UV) light , usually from a flourescent fixture , that although invisible to the human eye , will cause certain materials or colors to flourece (or glow) when struck by ultraviolet light.

“Blacklight ” can also refer to the fixture itself. Flourescent fixtures are the best source of UV light. Incandescent “blacklights ” are very inferior.

DImmer Pack

An electrical device that that controls the brightness of one or more light fixtures. Dimmer packs usually need a seperate lighting controller to operate , connected via a cable.

DImmer packs can be controlled by a variety devices using DMX or MIDI signals.


An electrical device with a knob or slide control that can vary the brightness of a laight fixture.

DImmers usually look a lot like a standard light switch , and need to be mounted in some kind of enclosure. Not to be confised with “Dimmer Packs “.

Dry Ice

Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide gas. The surface temperature of dry ice is -109.3 degrees F. When dry ice melts , it turns back into carbon dioxide rather than a liquid. This process is called sublimation. Sublimation can be accellerated by immersion in warm water. However , the dry ice will rapidly chill the water , and as the water chills less carbon dioxide gas will be release. For continuous sublimation , the water must be constantly heated or exchanged with warm water.

Dry ice can be used to create dense ground fog , but also to chill the mist from a smoke machine. WARNING – Dry ice can injure you if you touch it. Always handle with thick gloves.


A lighting device that casts a wide , unfocused beam of light that will create soft-edged shadows.

Best used for illuminating large areas.

Fog Chiller

A device that lowers the temperature of smoke or fog (usually from a smoke machine , as they produce warm mist) so that it will hang close to the ground. Usually consists of a container that is chilled mechanically or with dry ice that the smoke mist is ducted through.

Creating ground mist that swils amongst gravestones , or fog that will pour down an inclined surface or steps

Fog Machine

General term for any device that produces smoke , fog or mist. However , a fog machine specifically refers to a device that produces mist by the immersion of dry ice in heated water (as opposed to smoke machines which work by burning a special fluid). This produces a dense , cool mist that will hang close to the ground as long as it is cooler than the ambient temperature. (See also “Fog Chiller “)

Best used to create ground fog as fog will be cold and dense from dry ice


A colored sheet of acetate used to alter the color cast by a light source

Gels can be set in a metal frame that slides into a light fixture to hold it in place


A solid material that has cut-out areas made to cast a pattern of shadows when installed in a light fixture.

Gobos can be used to simulate light that is passing through trees or a window , or to project a shape that would simulate the moon , or bats , ghosts , etc….

Hot Wire Tool

A tool with either a rigid wire or a thin wire suspended between two posts. The tool has a heating element that makes the wire very hot.

Hot Wire Tools are most commonly used for cutting or sculpting styrofoam, but can also be used on very thin plastics and other materials.


Stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. MIDI is a communication standard used for musical keyboards and sequencers to communicate with and control each other.

MIDI is usually associated with musical applications , but can also be used to control lighting or effects equipment.

MIDI Sequencer

A device used to record and then play back MIDI signals.

PLayback from a sequencer can be used to play aMIDI musical keyboard , control lights , or trigger other events with the appropriate equipment.


An audio device used to combine signals (or sound) from two or more audio sources (tapedecks , CD players , etc…) into one signal. The sound level of each source can be controlled independently of the others.

A mixer allows you to use one amplifier and set of speakers with multiple sources.

Pepper’s Ghost

An effect that uses a pane of glass to reflect an image in such a way that the reflected image appears to occupy the space behind the glass. Fading the light on the image subject will cause it’s “ghost ” to fade into view or to fade away.

The best example of a Pepper’s Ghost is the “Ballroom Scene ” in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland theme parks


Mechanical movement driven by compressed air. The compressed air is fed into a piston which pushes a rod out, in, or in both directions (dual action).

Pnuematics are commonly used for props that sit up, jump up, or that perform a repeating, fast movement.


Anything that is used for decoration of a haunt – short for theatrical term “property ” (see also Static Prop ” and “Animated Prop “)

skulls , gravestones , rubber spiders


A translucent screen material.

Scrim can be used to create a hazy effect when placed between the view and a scene. Also , patterns or images can be projected onto scrim , giving a transparen ghost-like effect.


An imaginary straight line that maps what an observer would be able to see from a given point

Use to determine what will and won’t be visible to your audience from a particular point. Remember that someone may be walking past your haunt , which means that the sightline will shift along with them.

Smoke Machine

Often referred to as a “fog machine ” , a device that burns very thin oil or a water-based solution to produce smoke. The smoke will generally rise as it is produced by heat and will be warmer than the ambient temperature. Ground mist can be created with the use of a “Fog Chiller ” or an actual fog machine (See “Fog CHiller ” and “Fog Machine “)

Best for “fogging ” an area for an errie effect , or to make beams of light or lasers visible


A lighting device that casts a narrow focused beam of light that creates hard shadows

Use for illuminating a specific prop or very small area

Static Prop

A prop that is only for looks , does not light up , make sounds , or move.

skeletons , hanging dummies , fake body parts , etc….all of which could also be animated