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Mike Chambers
04-26-2013, 09:28 PM
I have been a haunter for as long as I can remember. I have worked in the professional side for years as an actor and laborer for build outs and have been doing the home haunt thing. So I have been thinking for years now that I want to own my own professional haunt. Am I crazy for wanting to do this? Some might say so.

So my question is where did you start? Where should I start? I'm not looking to start something this season but I want to plan and do things the right way if this takes years then so be it, I want to learn as much as I can from where ever and who ever wants to teach me. I have worked with John Burrton a.k.a One scary guy for a few years. I have learned alot from him and would have to say he was the biggest influence for me to get into this.

So where should it start?

Darkangel
04-26-2013, 10:11 PM
I notice you are from Philly, that's a crowed market that dominates the entire mid Atlantic region. With so many high quality haunts in the area I would think it'd be impossible to make a dent without at least a 300k budget to start. I think the best area to create a niche up there would be in the areas in the middle of Philly and Pittsburgh maybe around penn state university?

DA

Dark Tiki Studios
04-26-2013, 11:56 PM
I just posted this yesterday on another thread, but I thought I'd re-post it here for you:

I know a successful haunter on these forums who had a really big home haunt, and then decided to go pro. He made a video of his awesome home haunt and took it around to various farmers in his area, to see if any of them would partner with him to do a haunted trail on their land. He ended up finding a farm to partner with, and now his pro haunt gets rave reviews, and grows every year. He never told me the exact amount of his first year budget, but he hinted at it strongly, and I definitely get the impression that it was below $10,000. Possibly under $5000. It is unlikely you're going to get any less expensive than that. The farm provided the land and insurance. He provided all the sets, props, costumes, marketing, and volunteers.

If there's a less expensive (but still SAFE and legal) way to get started than that, I'd love to hear about it.

Best of luck to you!

Mike Chambers
04-27-2013, 07:46 AM
I notice you are from Philly, that's a crowed market that dominates the entire mid Atlantic region. With so many high quality haunts in the area I would think it'd be impossible to make a dent without at least a 300k budget to start. I think the best area to create a niche up there would be in the areas in the middle of Philly and Pittsburgh maybe around penn state university?

DA

There are a few in Philly I can think of 3 in Philly itself. Most people I have talked to about this are tired of them because they change things up. Im thinking of pairing up with a local civic assocation. I have spoke to them about in the past and they are still showing intrest. I also might be able to partner with someone who does have some undeveloped land he owned a hayride about 15 years ago. He would supply the land and I would do the rest. So do you think first year operating cost would be?

Darkangel
04-27-2013, 09:24 AM
Mike,

Did you say 3? When I say Philly that means the entire market as people will travel an hour or more and that's still considered the philly market if they get Philly radio and tv channels.

Here are a few off the top of my head that I've personally visited over the years....

Bates Motel
Pennhurst
Fright Factory
Haunted Mill
Halloween Park
Field of Screams
Jason's Woods
Horrorfest
Shocktoberfest
Valley of Fear
Sleepy Hollow
Eastern State Penn
I'm sure there's more smaller ones...

Plus you could extend it to Frightland in DE since that's close to Philly and the Jersey Haunts nearby.

Darkangel
04-27-2013, 09:30 AM
I just posted this yesterday on another thread, but I thought I'd re-post it here for you:

I know a successful haunter on these forums who had a really big home haunt, and then decided to go pro. He made a video of his awesome home haunt and took it around to various farmers in his area, to see if any of them would partner with him to do a haunted trail on their land. He ended up finding a farm to partner with, and now his pro haunt gets rave reviews, and grows every year. He never told me the exact amount of his first year budget, but he hinted at it strongly, and I definitely get the impression that it was below $10,000. Possibly under $5000. It is unlikely you're going to get any less expensive than that. The farm provided the land and insurance. He provided all the sets, props, costumes, marketing, and volunteers.

If there's a less expensive (but still SAFE and legal) way to get started than that, I'd love to hear about it.

Best of luck to you!

I know several of the Philly area haunters and I go to this area every Halloween a couple weekends. There is no way you could do a haunt at a high level at that price point and expect to compete with those haunts I mentioned. If you're just trying to open and exist and offer people a low budget, fun festive experience you could survive but if you're expecting to compete on any level with the likes of Terror behind the walls/Estern state or Field of Screams of Bates' haunts, you better be looking to spend a few hundred thousand at leasts. By the time you build your show, detail it, pay your staff and expenses, and marketing you're looking at close to a half a million at their level at least. I have heard that those big haunts spend over 100k-200k for advertising each year alone. That's a BIG and thriving market up there but like I said it dies out a little between the big cities. Again I don't know if you plan to come on strong like the big boys there but since you said you heard people are tired of them, it sounds like you are?

DA

Mike Chambers
04-27-2013, 10:06 AM
I know several of the Philly area haunters and I go to this area every Halloween a couple weekends. There is no way you could do a haunt at a high level at that price point and expect to compete with those haunts I mentioned. If you're just trying to open and exist and offer people a low budget, fun festive experience you could survive but if you're expecting to compete on any level with the likes of Terror behind the walls/Estern state or Field of Screams of Bates' haunts, you better be looking to spend a few hundred thousand at leasts. By the time you build your show, detail it, pay your staff and expenses, and marketing you're looking at close to a half a million at their level at least. I have heard that those big haunts spend over 100k-200k for advertising each year alone. That's a BIG and thriving market up there but like I said it dies out a little between the big cities. Again I don't know if you plan to come on strong like the big boys there but since you said you heard people are tired of them, it sounds like you are?

DA

I'm not sure where this would be. I am just looking for advice on how to start and how to learn more
I have read up on alot of diffrent subject matter about this. I would like to know where people started and where they made mistakes along the line. Maybe I can learn from others.

Frightener
04-27-2013, 02:42 PM
Mike. I'll tell you my story. And I'll try to keep it simple, one liner timelined.

Wife and I had (ex) had been together for 11 years in the 2012 season, our 'Pro' debut.
We had always loved Halloween and she loved the fact I had always thrown Halloween parties etc.
I built my own props, made my own yard haunt etc.
She had inherited a home (old n rundown) and house was paid for
We sold the house, a 67 Camaro SS, a 74 Nova drag car and took our savings.
Paid some bills off and started our venture with $40,000 to build the haunt.
We rented a place in town. Was our 3rd choice and one of the most expensive.
Rent was $2,000 a month. Made a deal for $7,000 down ($1,000 a month) and rest paid after season
Fire Marshal initially said 'ok' to the haunt in the old church building which was then a daycare.
Then he realized it was 6,500 sq feet. Said we can't do it, he apologized and I made a new plan.
I put 2, 996 sq ft metal buildings on the parking lot. Used the 1,500 ft house and these 2 buildings.
Long story short, people loved the haunt, but my ex wife went crazy in about august and ran the business into the ground.
Lied about paying certain bills etc, divorce happened, now I'm here with my tv, my truck and computer. I have a half a truck load of Haunt stuff and that's it.
All the money, gone. All the masks I made, stuff I bought for the haunts, Thousands lost in tools and airbrush equipment.... all gone. She didn't pay rent like she said she did (took the money) and divorced. When I came back to move more stuff out, it was confiscated / foreclosed on. So I lost all of it. Trailer, tools, haunt gear, costumes, masks, mask making equip. etc.

March, I asked her "Before we sell the house and the cars, I need to know if you are 110% happy with me, the marriage and our family" She said the most perfect answer. Now comes the reason. June 19, she was prescribed Citalopram, an Antidepressant for slight chest pains, saying it was stress. In 3 months time, she was a completely different person. Stealing, lying, drugs, cheating with the actors etc.

Why is all that prudent? Because I lost everything Mike. That's why. After research, I learned A LOT about antidepressants and it's really an under-looked problem with personality change. So yes, I think my haunt's failing was because of the drug, which I didn't learn / make the connection until after the season.

Now, Hindsight.

1. Obviously should've researched the drug before allowing my wife / partner to take it.
2. I went TOO big, too soon. I thought $40,000 would buy all I needed. Nope.
3. I learned you need to go to other haunts for inspiration and LOOK! WORK, don't just go to play and get entertained. If you do, go twice.
4. LOCK UP YOUR MARKETING MONEY! I had to dig into my $10,000 marketing cash I had set back to help finish.
5. Always scale back. I should've looked at how much foam work I was wanting to do and reduced it by at least half. I spent $1,500 just on the 3 rooms with foam work.

6. I should've thought more on "Cheap Scares" ... only by budget, not 'cheesy cheap'. Drop panels are a huge thing and cost very little. A gate latch and some wood. Maybe 2 metal strips.

7. Never stop planning! I didn't and I think i'd fked up ROYALLY had I not! Of course, I'm a business man (entrepreneur / retail experience) and I still feel I could've done more planning. Plan, ask, question, plan and plan again. When you're done, GO OVER IT AGAIN! Always thinking of safety etc.

I think I should've made my budget $20,000. Took half of it and set it back for some major b/s crisis like I had. Mainly thinking "if we don't get enough people I can still pay rent till next season" We lived there so it helped us mind it better. So taking off our rent etc... utilities, we only thought of the haunt rent as $1,000. 160 parking places and was a decent place.

But yes, I should've cut the money in half. Only used ONE metal building and the house. Planned the haunt a bit better for efficiency and budget. My best recommendation is DO NOT TRY TO OUT DO YOURSELF! Don't try to keep the mindset "Go big or go home" It doesn't work that way.

I hope this has somewhat helped. Btw, I am still planning on doing something. Making my next show mobile.

Frightener
04-27-2013, 02:52 PM
Ohh. .forgot #'s.

By the time I was finishing construction, my ex / partner was going out partying with the actors / volunteers, staying out late etc. Blowing money... you name it. Like I said, she completely flipped in personality (even prior to all the people showing up, so it was NOT the flood of all the young people. Her change was prior) I didn't notice it in time to stop, I was busy :( So anyways, she failed on 80% of our marketing plan! Guerilla marketing was our plan. Stunts, etc were planned. We only did 3 of the 20 location stunts, crashed only 1 theater instead of 3. Only got flyers out to a 1/3 of the surrounding towns. She only got 1 radio ad going instead of the 3 planned, and the ONE we got was the cheaper, less listened to station. (was a new station. Great, but new)

And we still pulled 800 people. The bad? We only needed 2,000 to take care of EVERYTHING till next year. I lost my job during all this mess so it went from hell to extreme b/s in just a matter of months.

We sold lots of Tshirts too. People were loving the haunt. People still msg my facebook asking / begging for us to open another haunt this year. People loved us. I had noted 2 wet pants before the seasons end. Not many to a lot of you guys, but I MADE PPL PISS THEMSELVES!! haha. Was awesome.

Also, on actors. If you hire YOUNG people, be sure to do a thorough interview. You want to try and weed out the trouble ones, you have to look under their façade of behavior to see who is who. Also, make them your EMPLOYEES at first. Friendships can come later!! Haunt takes priority. Not partying and being a great host.

Anyways, I think that's all I got for you. Good luck with your venture.

tonguesandwich
04-27-2013, 04:24 PM
Mindsets!!!!

I’m one of the least qualified to give you advice. I come in from a different perspective since my main income, helping peeps setup up home based biz in network fitness as they lose weight, is very lucrative. So that said cash flow is not an issue. As I shop for buildings now in the Nashville area and decide if I want to go Mega off the bat or go small for a fun’r ride for the 2014 season I have a couple mindsets you may want to think about.
Partners really have sucked for me in the past. I had one were his commitment was marketing. He fulfilled his contract by getting billboards up in the last 3 days of the haunt.. total screw. So one, pick your dance partner carefully and get out of the excitement stage and think like Spock.
The second thing, it is just like any brick and mortar biz… lack of capital investment is a huge reason to fail. So when you do this say to yourself I am not going to be able to pull a check from this for five years. Any money I make will support this venture. If you make it sooner great… but if you don’t, Its in your plan.
Give yourself time to market.. shot myself in the foot by putting up a 30K ft haunt in 3 weeks…. Pat myself on the back . But as Scooby Doo would say Rut Ro… no time to market. Haunt was a success only on pee in the pants numbers.. but overall numbers not so good.
I think a huge huge huge factor is can you be in the same spot next year and the 4 after that. The mindset is that all money coming in is going to bills and marketing. So basically you don’t get paid for your first year customers. Only return customers…. And they need to return to the same place. It needs to become tradition! That’s the bucks.
Like I said earlier there are a lot of guys more qualified than me, and as always there are exceptions to the game. But at least I would get these mindsets into play.
Big money can only be found in marketing and innovation…. Until you have a stack of repeat customers no paycheck for yourself. Big or small!

Dark Tiki Studios
04-27-2013, 06:41 PM
That's quite a story , Frightener! It is awesome that even after all that, you still haven't given up.

Mike Chambers
04-27-2013, 07:23 PM
Ohh. .forgot #'s.

By the time I was finishing construction, my ex / partner was going out partying with the actors / volunteers, staying out late etc. Blowing money... you name it. Like I said, she completely flipped in personality (even prior to all the people showing up, so it was NOT the flood of all the young people. Her change was prior) I didn't notice it in time to stop, I was busy :( So anyways, she failed on 80% of our marketing plan! Guerilla marketing was our plan. Stunts, etc were planned. We only did 3 of the 20 location stunts, crashed only 1 theater instead of 3. Only got flyers out to a 1/3 of the surrounding towns. She only got 1 radio ad going instead of the 3 planned, and the ONE we got was the cheaper, less listened to station. (was a new station. Great, but new)

And we still pulled 800 people. The bad? We only needed 2,000 to take care of EVERYTHING till next year. I lost my job during all this mess so it went from hell to extreme b/s in just a matter of months.

We sold lots of Tshirts too. People were loving the haunt. People still msg my facebook asking / begging for us to open another haunt this year. People loved us. I had noted 2 wet pants before the seasons end. Not many to a lot of you guys, but I MADE PPL PISS THEMSELVES!! haha. Was awesome.

Also, on actors. If you hire YOUNG people, be sure to do a thorough interview. You want to try and weed out the trouble ones, you have to look under their façade of behavior to see who is who. Also, make them your EMPLOYEES at first. Friendships can come later!! Haunt takes priority. Not partying and being a great host.

Anyways, I think that's all I got for you. Good luck with your venture.


Wow! sorry for all that happening. Things happen for a reason and I hope this is the beginning of great things to come. This is the stuff I'm looking for.. This will help me keep an eye on the things around me not just the haunt itself.

tonguesandwich I too have a great understanding of business that will help me with the that aspect of a haunt. I am in the restaurant business now and also work for a restaurant consulting company where I deal with the the operating cost of a kitchen and the cost of items. The restaurant business is one of the toughest businesses to be in. 9 out of 10 fail within the first year. Your input is useful as-well, so I thank you for it

Greg Chrise
04-27-2013, 09:17 PM
There are a lot of problems with the go big off the bat business theory. It ends up in failure all the time and that 10% that say they are still at it, have simply chosen it to be a lifestyle rather that that thing that is going to let them retire early.

There are lots of problems with 2 year or 5 year break even scenarios because in todays world of everything being fractured and lots and lots of competition, You can't just assume spending money is going to make it happen. You have to develop your clientel with lots of little experiments. To get feed back that what you are doing is crap or wildly successful or at least broke even.

If using the restaraunt scenario, you could have a hot dog cart and just a few events to make sure people are wild about your hot dog and fixings or it is impossible to compete with some corporate vendor strategy. Whereas it isn't simple to say that there is a sucker born every minute, now everyone can find what ever on the internet for free. As you mention some or lots of people are tired of haunted houses that exist and the new generations could compare you venue to either small live bands somewhere in an underground location or to a movie that has a 300 million dollar budget.

You can't just say a partner with no previous track record is going to fix that or just spending $1 or $3 per customer is going to make it happen. More like it takes 3 years of smaller stunts to get noticed, have a social network that is solid and then you can go medium or go home. If you go big and fail you have ruined your lifes access to resources. Sorry.

If there are partners they need years to develop the skills specific to the location. Actors evolve over several years and return but then 5 years down the line kind of get lacks because the have earned the right to just show up or something. And it all comes down to you. Pieces of a haunt I got were floating around for sale because the guy died. The guy who layed out the wonderful life of haunting in a big way died. The two guys from my business that I felt would be a great match for doing a haunt as a second business, one died on his motorcycle, and the other one in a different scenario also went into a coma from bouncing his head off the aspalt on a motorcycle. Those two I have never been able to replace in capabilities. But, I had a remodeled haunt. Then the location that we had been doing events at was lost in the landlords divorce.

SO my haunt became a charity event where there were lots of people that could and would do things. Except for actually telling anyone they had a haunt opened. It still made money. BUt in the mean time some younger guys with advertising backgrounds started the first pro haunt in the area. Their charity dues went on for 3 years where they basically used the charities advertising budget and the characters they created to develop a following where it was sort of understandable that they had a real segment of clientel that would come to a haunted house, people would want to be actors and people would want to set things up and make things long term even if it paid nothing.

After a few decades there are some zen principals.

Lots of people die at an early age and it seems to be from working themselves to death because there is a deadline or they have to have it now and in excess.

Lots of bitches seem to think they need mood altering legal drugs and go nuts and cause divorces.

There is an astounding number of people who can't do shit.

So that leaves you alone with how much can you put up with. So you start super small even if that is an entirely different angle on the haunted house experience. Have people following you for years wondering now what is he doing. In a way, I did that too, it became second nature to do something different.

So I'm supporting things like Frighteners mobile attractions because it may take a few years but instead of just whipping out $200,000 no one actually has or can borrow, you have earned it and know when pay day will be 4 or 5 years down the road and then you have a break even first year event.

A couple years of being a mobile hot dog vendor completely understanding the tastes of the locals. Like who knew, here instead of mustard and relish it is miracle whip and relish. Disgusting but if that is what they want, heres freaking miracle whip on your hot dogs. So you are the guy who isn't a cookie cutter franchise that doesn't have miracle whip or thinks relish is expensive so you get shitty little condement packets if you want that only by special request.

So you end up with a complete knowing of your market, not Bob is our marketing guy and he is going to pull all this amazing crap off starting the week we open this year for 50 cents a customer.

You can't get a loan for $200,000 since you haven't already done it and proven you can make $200,000 but you can get $3 per customer having a halloween party. Then in a city like Philidelphia, you probably will have to spend $3 per customer to do it, so you save the $3 per customer and spend their money to get them to come support the big thing. You already have several groups on social marketing, email lists and become a character of sorts and you are just cashing in on the big album tour. That is the proper other people's money scenario. Indivviduals having been inexpensively entertained funded your deal and the money went to send them a personal invitation that they already paid for and are highly likely to respond to.

Some haunts have taken 15 years and 20 years for this automatic fan base to develop. So the trick is to have as much haunt as the fan base deserves and actually supports. Not Just 50,000 SF or go home. Not when you can just have a scary bag of tricks that is a total of 2 SF.


So then in the bigger picture you still have the mobile hot dog stands not making much money but not costing money out there being your advertising media. So many companies after the fact have service branches that are a lost leader but necessary to keep finding the new customers. You don't stop the mobile activities, or go back to it as an after thought, it is part of the program. Then it doesn't matter what other haunts are doing one bit, you have qualified YOUR customer that still has life in them and is intrested and hasn't just been expected to be a good consumer.

Greg Chrise
04-27-2013, 09:40 PM
So you have to pace yourself and do little experiments that prove yours and other people's theories. Just finding a partner doesn't work because they have no idea what works either. It is more than throwing money at it or serving that one customer that will only attend the big $20 show or nothing. You want the young people who have no idea why this big $20 spectacular is supposed to be anything or developed into this thing where they are all the same. When a haunt can be quite an intimate experience for 10,000 people per year. That doesn't happen with come tonight and save $2!!!!

It comes from hey, I saw that scary clown guy before on TV and the internet, it is hilaroius. Lets go check this out.

It is going to be kind of a tough sell having a gorey haunt when there are pictures on the news of someones legs blown off and the bones sticking out. But getting back to it could be haunted stories have held the test of time. The true wonder of the worlds other dimensions or phenomina and the young people that aren't totally sure if there are vampires or not.

I'll just bet the ones everyone is tired of has butcher scenes and body parts. When the world these days is supposed to be interactive entertainment somehow. What are people not doing, what condement do the customers really want. Then slowly all those customers are coming at least once over the course of many years.

There is no 2 year break even, there is more like 20 years later you have everything and then the market takes a nose dive or someone with different vision took the market. So be the guy that took the market. That is also a use of someone else's money. I have a competitor that wildly advertises and spends lots of money and goes bankrupt every so many years and changes his name. The potential customers call around and everyone says I'm okay and that guy isn't really doing the right things for anyone. They call a dozen places and they get the same general advice so I guess they need to talk to me. I don't want to talk to them until they have made that realization. No one is guarenteeing I will get paid for educating the customers. I don't bid on things, you either want me or you don't. If it is a competion, you don't know who I am yet so give me a call if you ever figure it out. It can be zero marketing dollars by reputation. But you have to do that for years and let the market come to you.

So you have zero dollars and that kind of matches how much it can cost so it is a win win way of operation.

Marr Branch
04-27-2013, 09:41 PM
Maybe, Frightner was married to a whore, who else thinks this?

Deathwing
04-27-2013, 10:33 PM
Maybe, Frightner was married to a whore, who else thinks this?

Hahaha

Greg, just curious what is the name of your haunt? I'm sure it's quite cool given your experience.

Jake

Greg Chrise
04-28-2013, 01:51 AM
16241It currently is completely modified, sold as the second attraction called the Void at Terror Nights in Tyler. It was in Noonday for 5 years as a triangular grid and out door trail and prior to that was a roving gypsy haunt doing biker events of various sizes in the form of large 1500-3000 person private one weekend gatherings. It was portions of Castle Dragon reconstructed and added to considerably. It has been indoors as one unit and outdoors as 17 seperate sets on a trail.

Some of it was circa 1979. We have done things for Terror Trails in Yantis Texas, Phantoms when it was at the State Fair of Texas, did a facade for Mayhem Manor that was at Mountasia in North Richland Hills a long time ago, and at Hangmans as a 3rd attraction.

There are another half dozen haunts, event planners and investors I am an advisor to including all of the above are on going support efforts for us. Some are free for information sharing and some are on commission and under non disclosure agreements. For some we are an on call set up crew for the old style mobile attractions.

Even though it was called Vampire Safari, no event used that name in their marketing or reference material. Who ever we supported is who got the credit.

If it was cool, it was inspired by Verdun Manor, Mayhem Manor, Castle Dragon. A triangular grid only with lots of detail, props and actors. Whereas Mayhem Manor had painted walls to look like a house and mostly just a big maze with few props and few if any actors. I'd have to say Alex's Dungeon of Doom has a very similar look and vibe to what I came up with only mine was torn down and hauled off every year and could be put up and detailed in 2 weeks, taken apart and taken out in 3 days. The wall system was also used as a fire and rescue training house off season.

At any given time it could have been a 1000 SF side attraction or usually 3200 SF indoors with 2 acres wooded trail. Currently at Terror Nights it is down to about 1500 SF of actual haunt in a 3,000 SF building. Our usual bay was 42 by 75 and now it is in 50 by 60 with central corridors and about half the interum walls taken out to comply with the fire marshal requests.

The noonday haunt now has a different square room wall system and even more roof coverage but ended up with most of the props and costumes and power grid and lights. Of course over time things rot and break and wear out.

I make more money from consulting than the haunt made percentage wise for charities and small events so I sold it. When it gets right down to it, it isn't how cool my haunt was or is but, how I have greatly effected the east texas market and all of these haunts now have expecting community around them in actors and patrons. I have been involved in taking area wide patrons from about 2300 when the market tanked to about in this town to 17,000 and in other areas from nothing to 16,000. The investor group is in yet another location in the country and is into 3 larger cities now.

Some of my props over the years are in most haunts you know in Texas. Originally I didn't even have a haunt and was making and buying/selling props. I sold lots of stuff back in the day never thinking we would actually have a haunt and be more than a scenic design and set up crew. I bought lots of used walls to have on hand for scene building and moving in entire detailed rooms instead of full haunts. It was never actually my goal to have a haunt but it happened just because I had enough stuff to just set one up.

Also my commercial concrete overlay business seems to have the same busy seasons as the haunt conventions and halloween season and being one guy made that kind of tough to do all of that. I became aware of haunts in the first place from building outdoor concrete caves for a wooded trail and for some water parks. Real ground zero was our first biker halloween party only had 80 people for a one night event, then having a doctor buy all the props for his backyard party.

I have a couple of haunts I do sort of a mystery shopper thing for, posing as a customer and report on the performances and where improvement in the haunt design could take place or be re-engineered to meet entertainment goals and suggest what would attract more customers.

With a haunt set up seasonally, for me it was an open gallery of props that could be bought or the whole haunt or specific rooms were for sale and could be viewed. So to me, the addition and support of the many more haunts was not competition, it was the inspiring of a customer base to sell even more props and set design. It ended up being a consulting business I don't even advertise. To me it ranges from costumes to hearses that are prop quality to 24 foot by 80 facades to 16 foot tall concrete skulls or volcanos.

My newest venture is painting giant penises in the bottom of Olympic sized swimming pools that can be seen from air craft. I'm very busy and not looking for any work right now.

I did all this stuff and all this work and I'm still facinated how 2 guys took 3 props and 20 walls and made $2500 outside a lame Jaycees attraction that could have been $10,000 at some of the haunts I deal with using the same set up. I could have taken my haunt apart and had a dozen of these things at a dozen different haunts with very little overhead. So if you were industrious and hard working that could be $120,000 right there but everyone asks for numbers and descriptions to fill out some magical business plan where Ed McMann will show up and hand them a check for $150,000 so they can get started. Except Ed is dead too.

In previous posts, mindset has been mentioned. My mindset see places all over that have memberships of 3,000 or as many as 1 million people per month where something simple could make money. All I know is carrying lots of haunt walls and moving big props will literally break you back. SO you better make it before you get old and busted up, leave clean underwear. And pace yourself because it is possible to work yourself to death. It doesn't matter how much money you made if you are dead.

It was cool. I did what I could. It taught a lot of people their own capabilities and enjoyment of life.

poison
04-28-2013, 04:07 AM
THE BEST HELP I can think of is Alan Hopps.
http://www.stiltbeaststudios.com/
Check out all his youtube videos.

And take as many haunt seminars as possible.

Mike Chambers
04-28-2013, 09:27 AM
THE BEST HELP I can think of is Alan Hopps.
http://www.stiltbeaststudios.com/
Check out all his youtube videos.

And take as many haunt seminars as possible.

Thats what my plan is. I'm going to NHC next weekend and taking as many as I can.

austind
04-29-2013, 05:10 PM
I am glad Greg did only his short answer. Lol. Greg you are the best.

Greg Chrise
04-29-2013, 09:07 PM
So to try to summarize my dysfunctional haunted history, the outline of what to do is to make props, buy things that can be repurposed into props, cheap at trade days events, garage sales or even garbage day or dumpster diving. There is are a couple people who say if you are still doing that you aren't a success but one of my face book freinds you all know and love just found a bunch of manequin forms in a dumpster. I think he is kind of a success.

The argument is when you are a success you will only go buy $18,000 distortions props because that is what people want. Far from the truth in how often that really happens. SO you make things, repurpose things, like an artist would. Like Allen Hopps Videos show so many things you can make that certainly provide the proper level of entertainment and eye candy any haunt really should be using for detail. Only Allen is so successful that he seems to have an addiction to shopping at Harbor Frieght, Home Depot and Tandy Leather supply. He also knows where ALL the suppliers are for professional materials. Yet with thinking a bit and watching for sales, and close outs, you accumulate all the raw materials to dress out a haunt. This is actually the time consuming part. Collecting costume bits and masks or make up and so on.

Despite the other wildly held opinions that things from seasonal halloween franchise stores are all crap and are below standard for a proper haunt, these things are in lots of cases just fine and can be embelleshed to become part of a better costume package and personalized and upgraded if you will.

It takes hours and hours to make things and some how hours and hours to earn money to buy things already made by a pro is somehow just magically in a budget or you shouldn't even proceed, there is no difference in hours making instead of hours earning the money to buy already made and marked up to hell items. Even if you were mister money bags, you will find it takes hours and hours to shop for things and worry about their timely delivery and still have to modify things to fit your overall look to a themed haunt. You can spend $7,000 for a proper costume or come up with time and a couple hundred dollars in materials. So where do you start is developing your own look. How does that happen if every haunt in the market buys this years newest thing?

Or you do want to support vendors that make one of a kind custom items that are individual works. You spend more time planning themes and costumes and the customer interaction yet forums seem to only repeat over and over who bought what at Transworld, how do you make walls, write a business plan and deal with a fire marshal. So because we started out with parties, theming and decorating on an almost nothing budget it all came to be. The budget wasn't nothing because we were broke! We could pull of super cheap parties because it was part of the fun to make everything and lots of things and dummies posed and monsters and things flying in the air made out of crap and things popping up outdoors and giant dragons made out of freaking 2 litter pepsi bottles, covered in bondo, with detail carved and added and airbrushed with underpaintings and scale dimensions. It cost like $10 and 75 cents in air brush paint and was round different shops for like 10 years getting rave reviews and was built in maybe 2 partial days.

It seems silly but you can do a model of your haunt or room set ups in paper or cardboard and your monsters are army men and space men toys and if it is hay ride you buy a kids farm set to have a tractor and hay wagon and plan out your scenes to enough of an extent that is going to flesh out your show.

It isn't what haunts have become in the last 30 years and you need to aspire to that. I go to lots of haunts and come out realizing I have seen this crap before and the overall style came from the original Jaycees one kid in a room acting some crap out play book. There are a tremendous amount of haunts that have been doing it wrong for 30 years then if that is the recommendation. So if there are 20 haunts, go see them and flood your head with what is cool and what is not and attempt to do the better things. Some time you just can't afford to do the cool things in the beginning so you don't and plan for years down the line it might look like this or that. And the money comes from the customers. If the first set of customers doesn't respond you get some new customers! Either a slightly different kind of show or an entirely different location. Everything evolves.

Still at some point you have to stop all this imaginary crap that you have to change the show a lot every year and spend the big bucks to keep up with the Jones haunt and make a living. It would look cool if this or that or the other thing was all pimped out. Well, make me a shit load of money and we'll do that. Until then this is what you got do something with it.

You have to do enough research to understand you aren't just being told you need $250,000 or don't even start or that is what "they" want to see. Really? That's 3 people out of 300 million in this country alone. Find your own customers and meet their entertainment needs. Perhaps your crew that started with nothing is the top haunt prop maker or gizmo designer or character actor 10 years from now. Even if you did nothing for 30 years was developed people's skills and life trends that they truely wanted to follow, you are a success. It isn't just 60,000 people showed up and bought the combo VIP ticket for mega bucks and that is what success is.

Back in the day, people in haunts all said they were inspired by the Disney haunted mansion. Well that took millions and millions of dollars and is larger than 100,000 SF and took 17 years to build. In the real world it might take 17 years to build but you open as soon as you can not two decades from now when it is ready. There are lots of Universal movie tour fans too. Still not what an intimate haunted house evening with no travel package can be. So it is an entirely different animal. You can scare people jiggling a plastic bag at them or having something with teeth go for the belt. How does that cost $250,000 to do something cavemen were spoofing each other with 40,000 years ago.

First you develop the overall feel of what the routes of your show are and how these simple things become performance art and you test these things out any way you can in any venue you can afford and if it was riteaous you make someone money. Either you, some other established haunt or charity. If you can make people money, you get to be part of the bigger picture and are rewarded. It doesn't have to be step one, have a fast car to drive away with the ticket money on the busiest night and disappear and start a new life in Venusuala. It can be that the customers were wildly involved and intrested and then formula marketing can be lessened to a great degree. If you develop an enthusiastic following you don't have crap that sounds like a used car commercial cheapening your art. You still do well, just you might not impress other haunters by saying "my haunt's name is blankety blank, did that make you horny or did juices squirt around in your brain when I typed out the name of my haunt?" It really doesn't and it is the customers I care about.

Even seeing pictures of other haunts is some kind of pathelogical end satisfaction. No reason to build your own because you spent the evening looking at pictures. Like Haunt porn. The haunt pictures are better than I can make so I'll just look at pictures as they come up for 10 years on some dorky forum. No make things...do small events, develop an enthusiastic cleintel and then get the walls and electric system and lease.

Greg Chrise
04-29-2013, 10:01 PM
Beware of the corporate haunt mind control stuff. That's how they keep the little haunter down man!

Frightener
04-29-2013, 11:43 PM
Maybe, Frightner was married to a whore, who else thinks this?

I told my story so I could express how important it is to expect a bomb drop from any direction, even inside the home.

I do not appreciate this comment. Not one bit. I put my story there, knowingly that something like this may come up. But you brought it up...

My wife was the most wonderful person to me for 11 years. Of course we had our trials, every marriage does. We haven't even had an argument in the past 6 years. We had that 'disgusting' kinda love that people always told us to get a room or w/e. We did everything together. She hated drugs, hated alcohol etc. She didn't do anything like that until 3 months after starting antidepressants. If you want some websites in case you're concerned or want to know the reasons for my believing this, other than seeing her beautiful personality switch with my own eyes, PM me and I"ll happily send you site after site, story after story.


Now, back to the subject. Greg always has great advice, but you do have to read his stuff to get it lol. He's helped me out along the way through 2012 and was actually the turning point for me to pull the trigger. Everyone else had me believing I shouldn't even try. The ONLY reason it 'failed' (meaning I can't be at the same location this year) is because of the incident with the ex wife. I wholeheartedly believe, had she completed even half of the marketing plans, we'd pulled off 2,000 ppl and would've been able to sustain the building etc.

Marketing is where it's at. You can have the best haunt in the area, but no one's gonna show if you don't get the word to them. Our publicity stunts made a huge difference. Most of the ppl who came, either drove by the gas station we were at, or went bowling and saw us there... etc. That, I'd say had 70-80% of our attendance. Other options were flyers and 1 radio (was suppose to have gotten 3 stations)

Keep up with Allen Hopps. He's always got new videos coming out showing some great tutorials and acting etc. Buy his DVD's. He doesn't talk too much... like some of the other dvd's like detailing etc... they talk for 10 minutes, then show something cool for 2. Talking is ok, but not when you're repeating the same thing over... and over.. and over.. and Ohh hey look at this. lol. There are some good detailing dvd's out there tho, so pick up w/e you can and learn learn learn! The more you do, the more you save!

Marr Branch
04-30-2013, 08:08 PM
I have been a haunter for as long as I can remember. I have worked in the professional side for years as an actor and laborer for build outs and have been doing the home haunt thing. So I have been thinking for years now that I want to own my own professional haunt. Am I crazy for wanting to do this? Some might say so.

So my question is where did you start? Where should I start? I'm not looking to start something this season but I want to plan and do things the right way if this takes years then so be it, I want to learn as much as I can from where ever and who ever wants to teach me. I have worked with John Burrton a.k.a One scary guy for a few years. I have learned alot from him and would have to say he was the biggest influence for me to get into this.

So where should it start?

Start small, do not go for broke the first year. Do not expect a return for the first 5 years. I am on year 4 by the way, and close to turning profit. If you're wife get's on citalopram shoot that bitch in the head.

Frightener
05-01-2013, 12:01 AM
.......



Ok... I'll admit I laughed hard at that one. (actually, there's a blackbox warning now that states the family should look for personality changes and contact doctor if needs be. However, the doctor will want to up the dose.. just turn it all away. You won't go to prison)


Although you could shoot her and have a $800 static prop to put in the freezer with the low low cost of a 45 slug :P

Greg Chrise
05-01-2013, 07:53 PM
When starting out, it is also important to intentionally not be too flashy. Setting up a wall system in even a parking lot or in a building with large garage doors wide open for a few weeks or a month is in itself free advertising of what are they building, what is that about, what is happening there? If you whip in with semi trailers or horse trailers already set up in half a day and whip out the ticket podium then it is they just want my damn money, stupid gypsies screw them.

Setting up and tearing down is part of the performance art. Auditioning actors is part of the performance art. Having some landlord with lots of freinds getting an attraction at his place is part of the performance art. Telling other haunters what you are doing and where is also part of the performance art. It shouldn't be a competition, it should be every venue finding their own style of customers that evolve and become the other haunts customers and vica versa.

Genuinely helping other haunts with stuff is becoming part of the community, developing a market. If there is no market, no one makes any money and it is a crazy hobby. You are just some weird Halloween guy.

So someone that goes to Universal studios might not be impressed but he should be because you just took $10 from him and it took Universal studios billions to get $30 from him. Does Universal come to you? No. So they are not the competition. Again it isn't something that only happened 40 years ago, it is happening all over in undisclosed locations all the time. Now many chose to remain small 8,000 customer venues and not bring 60,000 to their facilities. Success is different for everyone. If you only saw 800 or 4,000 people you are not a loser. You were able to be more intimate than any cattle line of patrons doing a conga line through pretty styrofoam and jiggly latex.

As much as I kind of hate some post menopausal grandma pretending to be a witch warning of which path we should go down in the woods, those are the things I remember. Even the bad things that are just slightly tolerable are what speaks volumes of gotta go back it could be different this time. Some how going big loses that sense of wonder and changability. There is no way to manage hundreds of actors but you might be able to really get 15 in the groove. There is no way to have a mobile haunt and detail 20,000 SF and it is really tough to detail 20,000 even in a permanent building but you can really rock 3,000 or 5,000 SF. BY comparison you aren't able to charge $20 or $30 but even at $10 you might be seeing a profit.

Every little detail of why is that idiot painting a skeleton in the parking lot in July is advertising. I have the advantage of having been around a long time and I'm hearing now from 18 to 20 year olds who drove past my shop wanting to see weird things like hearse and walls with strange paint on them when they were 6 and 8 and 13 and 14 and waiting for that time when they could go or what happens in reality when they are out on their own, employed and free to go anywhere the couldn't go when being with their family that budgeted every meal and trip.

So that is the real story of marketing plans, they take 20 minus 6 = 14 years of going through the motions for a majority of your real customers to show up. So what you do for 14 years needs to not have lots and lots of stress and deadlines and budgets and pay backs or you are dead and problems of any kind. You can't buy real loyalty of a community, you can earn it for free by just being consistent and happy and laid back and matter of fact about how cool this is.

Dark Tiki Studios
05-02-2013, 03:35 PM
make things...do small events, develop an enthusiastic cleintel and then get the walls and electric system and lease.

Great quote!