Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A wicKED opinion on yard haunt lighting.

I have spent a lot of time, money, and effort in lighting over the years at the Wicked Woods. I have had many questions about what kind of lighting, color, and placement. I figured I would just go over some basic experiences I've had with lighting. I will list some pros and cons for each.

When I first started, I was using incandescent "party" bulbs and incandescent colored flood lights. This is a basic bulb that has a colored paint over them. There are several problems with this:

  1.  Heat! They get very hot! So you have to watch about materials getting close to them. I have had many a creepy cloth, foam head, or wooden coffin lid smoke and even catch fire because the wind whipped the light too close. 
  2. Washed out color. You never get a true color with incandescent. Green looks almost minty. Red looks orange. Blue looks sorta greenish. They all have a bright white overtone to them.
  3. They fade, crack, and peel so easy! What little color you get from them wont last. It will get worse as you use them. Constantly heating them up and cooling them off causes cracks, and peeling as well. 
  4. Delicate! I have broken so many lights just putting them in the haunt...I don't even want to talk about it! If you go with this kind of light, be prepared to replace them due to breakage, color peel, and just plain old burning out!
  5. "Black Light" bulbs just plain suck! 
There are a couple of good things about them such as:

  1. They are cheap. Very cheap comparatively speaking!
  2. They are available all over.
Green incandescent party bulbs.

Green incandescent flood lights. They just don't do the job and look sort of "minty"
A standard "green" floodlight and a standard "red"floodlight failing miserably.

I dealt with these kind of bulbs for a few years and then last year decided to upgrade.

2011 was the year I switched over to florescent and, over all, was pleased. They have a few downsides such as :

  1. They cost a good deal more. Sometimes 5X or more what you would pay for a regular party bulb.
  2. They are not as delicate as incandescent bulbs, but still require to be handled with care
  3. The spiral bulbs sometimes will not fit in lamps that held standard light bulbs. The lamp fixture that holds the shades sometimes touch the bulb making it impossible to screw it in. 
  4. Not as easy to find as standard bulbs.

The plus side to these bulbs far outweigh the negative such as:

  1. They last a lot longer.... I mean a lot longer! Sometimes you pay 5x the price of a regular bulb, but you will get at least 5x the service.
  2. Color is much MUCH better. Very vivid and almost true.
  3. Light radius is HUGE and they are bright (sometimes too bright)
  4. Much cooler to the touch. No worries about burning prop hair with these.
  5. They use a mere fraction of the power that standard bulbs d0.
  6. The "Black Lights" are hands down the best for UV reaction. 
Fluorescent bulbs gave me some beautiful eerie scenes but notice behind the tombstone that they are sometimes too bright.

It only took a few spiral bulbs to paint the whole haunt in color.

I really enjoyed using all florescent bulbs in my haunt last year, but sometimes the colors were just too bright, or not the true color I was looking for, which brings us to 2012!

I did a major overhaul with the lights and went with LED spotlights. So far, I am pleased with the change but they all have ups and downs. Some of the downs are:

  1.  PRICE. Be prepared to pay out for quality lights
  2. Availability. I tried to order some of these last year. I put the order in July and got them in November. You will mostly be ordering these online or paying out the wazzoo at Spirit Halloween.
  3. The black light is almost as bad as iridescent bulbs. It is not really a black uv light but more of a very creepy purple! 

The upside of these guys is huge:

  1. Durable. Good luck TRYING to break them
  2. Coolest running lights hands down.
  3. Longest lasting lights.
  4. Lowest power consumption.
  5. The truest, most vivid colors hands down.
  6. The spot lights are great at washing a scene in color without lighting up the whole place.

Notice the vivid color while not lighting up the entire area.

The LED spotlights are great at highlighting props and leaving pockets of dark in between.

This is an example of the "black light" LED It is really just a purple light.

I use a good combo of both florescent and LED bulbs in the haunt. The incandescent bulbs are now dead and buried.

A florescent black light underneath and a blue LED spotlight from above.
So in a nutshell, if you are serious about your lighting, get rid of the standard bulbs. For the most vivid and containable lights, go for LED. For lighting large areas go florescent  If you need a "black light" do yourself a favor and just get the long tube florescent ones. They are absolutely the best... and I know a thing or two about UV reactive stuff :

I hope this little tour on lighting has helped you in some way. It is nowhere near as concise as I would have liked it to be, but time is on short supply anymore for old wicKED! 


  1. Great post! I had a good laugh at the part about the incandesent bulbs :) I put some lights out this weekend (the lovely swirly florescents) and I ran across a few of my old incandesents and just laughed at how pitiful they were :) I have been thinking about getting some spot lights though, so I'm glad that you posted some pics of the LED ones. I had even thought about getting the little LED spotlights from MonsterGuts. I have 3, so I'll have to try it out to see if they are worth buying in bulk.

    1. Please let me know how they do as I have also wondered about them. GOod luck with the lighting!

  2. Great tips! I really need to update my lighting, and LED lights are beautiful!

    1. Thanks ;) You can find some good deals on EBAY sometimes.

  3. okay, Ked- wow!!! This post is (dare I say it?) even better than the old Skull and Bones lighting tutorial we all use! I love it!!! My lighting is AWFUL and it is always my ambition to do something about it, but it never gets better. Your lighting is FANTASTIC!!!

    Any tips on how to defeat the dreaded street light? Mine is really necessary for safety, so the "methods" available won't really work. ; )

    LOVE THIS POST and I am tweeting it. So awesome! Nice work!

    1. Thanks for the kind words! Glad you liked it. For the street lights I have a couple of solutions. #1 make your lights brighter than the street lights that way the spot lights cause the normal street lamp glow to fade. #2 plant fast growing trees around your property to block them! That is what I did and it is working out great. #3 Build things to block the light like a crypt, cleverly hung props, black plastic etc. #4 BB gun ;)

  4. Great breakdown. In the past, I've used incandescent flood-lights, but ran into the problem with them being too washed out, and not bright enough.

    I'm definitely going to take your advice on using fluorescent colors.

    Got to get me to Fred Meyer now!

    1. Can't wait to see how your new lights look buddy!

  5. Great post. Always nice to hear everyone else's trials and errors! You always have a lot of great info in your posts
    and always enjoy reading them and learning. Don't think the Led's are in my budget but I may have to try the fluorescent this year. Can't wait to see your full haunt pictures this year!

  6. I bought out spirt the day after halloween paying half price for the led's, but i am wondering how they hold up outside i am in ohio and have unpredictable weather during october. Are they waterproof or do they need covered

    1. The screws get rusty but with some effort they will last a long time. I used clear flat bottomed mason jars to make covers for them. The ones I put on the ground, I used a piece of 2X4 and mason jar combo to protect them. I just attached the light base to the wood, drilled a couple of anchor holes in the wood and hammered stakes into the ground to secure it.

  7. What sort of housing do you put the bulbs in? I have an older clip on reading lamp for my red spiral bulb, but that's it. I want the lights to spread over the front of the house (which is the length of an 18 wheeler.

    1. Go to Lowes or home Depot and get outdoor stake sockets. Found in the outdoor lighting section.

    2. Go to Lowes or home Depot and get outdoor stake sockets. Found in the outdoor lighting section.

  8. Awesome lighting!!! I have been struggling for several years to get just the right lighting and consume less energy. I looked up the LED spots online and find a 3 bulb spot with 1 watt each bulb. Are these the spots you are using, or can you give a link to the exact type of LED spots you are referring to? Thanks a bunch, KC

  9. This is the link to the ones that I used this year.

  10. You are the best. Thanks for the truly amazing job.


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