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View Full Version : What does it cost to start a pro haunt?



woolf
11-01-2007, 12:52 PM
For those of you who have your own pro-haunts, what does it cost, in reality to start a haunt? Can a haunt break even it's first year or does it need to build a base of customers first? I have been planning and studying haunted attractions and various haunt media for years but am concerned that either I don't have enough money or that I will spend all of my savings (not a lot) but not be able to compete and unable to open the following year.

Another issue I know I will have is that my dreams and ideas for the haunt will most likely far exceed my budget. :( But I have learned from my recent tour of many haunts in the upper Midwest is often it is the very simple things that startle and freak people out and that it doesn't always have to Disney-quality detail (but I can still dream to achieve it one day).

What format would be best for a beginning haunt? Should I go non-profit so that I can use "free" labor? Or would it be better to try to budget in paid labor and be a for profit business (I am not 100% certain how the non-profit thing works but I assume that some people could be paid and the actual business profits could either be put back into the haunt or donated to charities).

I think starting small is the smart way to go and then build each year. But how small is too small? What is the recommended size of the haunt/building? How many rooms would you start your haunt with?

I have seen advice in some books, magazines, websites that a new haunt should always hire a consultant....but then I have seen pictures on this site of a new haunt that lost everything despite hiring a consultant? If I have good entertainment instincts do I need a consultant? (Maybe for the business side or how to get all the mechanics operating correctly).

I know that owning and operating a Haunt is a lot of work for not always very much financial return (unless you can bring 30-50,000 paying customers) and that I will need to have a "real job" during the off season but I have come to a point in my life were I think may no longer be working in an office for a big company and will be trying to fend for myself in the coming year. This means I could actually have the time to setup and run a haunt. (if all goes as planned).

Nightmaretony
11-01-2007, 04:55 PM
Welp, for one, a pro haunt is a BIG jump from home, props notwithstanding. the biggest change is that it goes from friends helping out to a business ballgame world of permits, inspections, and taxwork.

Your basic building blocks I would summarize as follows:
1. Physical assets: props, walls, leasing or ownership of location.
2. Human resource assets: actors, techs, security, business office, managerial.
3. Business assets: insurance, permits, advertising, inspections, certificates of occupancy, tax forms, etc.

For your first, if you are making the jump, your home props can definitely join the fray. Be warned that they will need toi be taken care of in terms of fire ratings and inspections. If you used black plastic for maze walls and covers, it is recommended to break that habit, pronto.

The location will have some factors such as feasibility: can the crowds get to it ok, is there enough parking, can you lock everything up at night, is it a war zone after dark or on a hundred year flood plane? The lease and zoning are parts of the business assets gig.

For human resources, volunteers and paid workers. If you tie in with a charity, it is a big help in all fields, especially if the charity receives a good cut of things. Security is very much an essentials, round the ticket booth and in general. You will want to go the route of hiring an off duty policeman there.

for business assets, a pro haunt is a business. There will need to be kept tax records, balance ledger, etc. hiring a bookeeper is a good bet if you arent doing it yourself. Insurance is important for the event, and NEVER make the mistake of going into this without insurance in place. Without it, the first person who stubs their toe at your entrance and sues can destroy all the hard work put in. Permits and certificates would be from the state and county from inspections long beforehand. Those would need to be in place before you can open your doors.

Advertising is a must. How else are people going to find your haunt? Be smart with your advertising dollar.

Also, realize that instant profit may not be had. Low turnout, a natural disaster may spell the difference between red and black ink at the end of the run. Realize and plan for it do it doesn't break the event. Make sure of all your budgets as you go into this so you aren't budgeting wastefully. That will help towards the black ink side of things.



There are some great resources to find towards the business side. The most useful I can think of:
1. Kelly Allen's book on haunt entrempaneurship is worth getting. It igves a good overview and details on things.
2. Field of Screams by Michael Cruz pertains more to the advertising business aspects but is excellent.
3. Castle Blood also publishes a great book on haunt business. I forget the name offhand but I do recommend it.
4. Haunt World and Haunted Attractions both have some very good business directories.
5. IAHA is a trade association for haunted attractions with many resources. It is very much worth your time towards getting you towards your goals.
6. I will throw you a freebie here, the JBCorn book series. Hit up my website at www.nightmarepark.com and click on JBCorn CD then download all the files. They are 4 books, and 2 books are of interest: book 2 is on advertising and book 4 is on the business aspects. (books 1 and 3 are on construction)




Hope that all helps.

As an end shot, methinks good actors are paramount. You can spend millions of dollars on beautiful furnishings rivalling Disney, but without the actors to get the scare, you have a museum. You take a good actor, put them in a room with 4 blank walls and they WILL deliver the scare, period.

Mr. Haunt
11-01-2007, 09:15 PM
Take Tony's advice on the J.B. Corn books. Great for learning the trade. What state do you live in? Weather is a factor when doing something out side and people will stand out in the cold, but to make them happy indoors is key.

I have spent time learning the non-profit gig. It is just as much work as being forprofit. you will need to have a "board of members" You will have to hold monthly meetings and such. You will have to keep things on record such as assets for the Government. I know that you can get things for little to no cost being nonprofit, but I thing with the amount of work that goes into it, it might not be worth the effort.

There is no wrong way to haunt even on a tight budget. You can be the most simple haunts for your first year or so open, but you will need to upgrade what you do to keep the paying customer interested. It is important that you MARKET WELL!!! If they don't know about you they will not come.

You can visit Haunt Con and buy some DVD seminars to. I have got two DVDs and I have learned a bunch from them. There is one called "getting started".

This forum is one of the best places to learn the trade. Good luck on your dream!

Brian

Barry
11-02-2007, 05:16 AM
While not definite yet, we will probably be bring back our popular "Getting Started" workshop at MHC in '08.

Barry

woolf
11-03-2007, 11:51 AM
Thanks for the JB Corn links! I had not seen them before. And thanks for all the other advice. I have read "So You Want To Be A Haunt Entrepreneur" by Kelly Allen and have also purchased some other books and "how to" CDs. So my head is has some book knowledge, but I am still very uneasy about knowing the minimum amount of dollars I will need to realistically get started. I don't want to end up half way there and run out of cash....but on the other hand, I don't want to let the fear of this unknown keep me from ever getting started.

I live in southern Ohio so I was able to to poke my head around the Midwest Haunter's Convention last year but did not have the time to stay for any classes (but it looks like a great resource for information and will make time next year!).

The actor thing is so true. A really awesome set it great, but without the actual scare there would be no reason for coming to the haunt.


I guess for know I should start investigating my local laws on haunt attractions.

Barry
11-03-2007, 12:36 PM
Well, I think many people shy away from this topic because there are many ways you can start a haunt. I my opinion, to do things the way I would want things done, I would be looking at $150K for the first year. This amount would cover a healthy advertising budget as well as the haunt itself. I am sure there will be a ton of people that will say it can be done cheaper but again this is the way I would do it.

As for laws in Ohio you need to be looking at the Ohio Revised Code and the Ohio Fire Code regarding "Special Amusement" facilities. These laws include the need for sprinklers in any structure over 5,000 sf (1,000 new construction), all materials need to be Type A fire retardant, and the need for a automatic fire/alarm system.

Barry

woolf
11-03-2007, 02:48 PM
That definitely is helpful information. It gives me a goal for the budget as far as what is needed to "do it right" as well as where to start looking for codes and legal requirements.

Thanks.

Transfusion Tom
11-05-2007, 03:48 PM
Blood, sweat, tears, and about $100K (on the low end)

icarian
11-05-2007, 04:48 PM
it really depends on your area, and what you are shooting for.

in my market, a haunt can be started for far less than 100k, just because the competition spends as little as possible here and none of the haunts focus on providing a good show. point being, that if the haunts in your area are large and big budget, and you want to compete, then expect to spend some cash... but if your area is like mine and the "professionals" all use party city masks, black plastic walls, spend absolutely no attention to detail, and have 0 animations... then you could blow everyone out of the water with 20k.

Jim Warfield
11-05-2007, 08:39 PM
Almost 20 years ago I looked into a piece of property along a very busy highway in Tallahasses it was maybe 150 foot by 300 foot, had an abandoned gas station on it and the price was $180,000.
I forgot my checkbook at home in Illinois! (Along with my tiny bank balance)
Well, we can dream can't we?
Write a book about the dream, publish the book, Hollywood buys the rights to it, THEN we have the money!
Start typing now!

HauntedWebby
11-07-2007, 12:20 PM
Well I started out working in haunted houses (Rocky Point and Maniac Manor), then left .. got married .. had the kid ... started home haunting. Did that for 13 years.

Hubbie baught me a building. I thought I had collected enough stuff to fill a haunt. Not even close. We baught out another haunted house. By the time all was said and done we could only equip 16 rooms.

That wasn't even the hard part. Finding actors. I was so unprepaired!!! So my husband's family (cousins, nephews, neices, mom, co-workers) did all the acting. I was wearing all the hats back then. Costumes, Make-up, Actor training, set design, building (with help), casting director. It was a nightmare!!! Luckly I had a kid respond to an ad in the newspaper that came in and helped with make-up and is a wonderful actor. He called in a couple of friends that pretty much now let us continue to be. Very lucky on our part.

The next year was easier. More actors. 24 rooms. A lead make-up artist with helpers. I still did the rest.

This year we had a Casting Director, Costume Director, Make-Up Director .. all with assistants. 95 actors. 33 rooms with outside areas, and we might break even (still counting the pennies).

If we are allowed to open next year (damn city), we will grow even more. The only reason we have been successful is great actors, staff, lots of luck and a 100% entertainment theory!!! I ask people at the end all the time ... were you scared and they will say no sometimes, then I ask if you had fun and they all say yes.

Our props are not the best. We make 99.9% of them. So don't worry about that part. If you buy everything then you'll end up looking like the other haunts in town.

Price wise to start ... at least $250,000.

Mr. Haunt
11-07-2007, 12:57 PM
That is a big hunk of money. I think when it comes down to money, everyone tends to freeze up. It is a lot of money, but I think that for some new comers they come right up front and expect to pull off their dream haunt their first year open.

I am starting to discuver this for myself. It's hard, but I believe that a good number of haunters on this forum have started small, and over the years they have grown to some of the largest attractions.

I have learned and I am "quoting" from a seminar video that there is 5 haunts that a person can choose to own or operate:


The cheapest available type haunt to operate is what’s called a “ghost story or ghost tour”. These types of haunts take very little money and work, just so long as you spend the time writing a true or fiction tale to tell. These types of haunts can use the use of costumed actors, but are limited to smaller numbers of those other larger attractions. These haunts can also use a great number of special effects to enhance the story to make it more of a realistic experience to the consumer.

The next haunt available for a little bit higher funding range is a “haunted trail”. Generally these haunts have fewer overheads. The costs are a bit more then a ghost story or tour. Some of them can be the same, except they are out doors and have a bit more components that make the overheads higher.

One of Minnesota’s most popular attractions is the “haunted hayride”. These attractions cater to those who seek low level scares all the way up to the haunting thrill seekers. These attract all ages because the scares are limited, plus it’s a lot harder to scare a wagon full of people. Another reminder is it is outdoors.

Now we are getting to the bit more expensive haunts. The “open air” haunt seems like it’s not one of the more popular haunts, but if you look, they are there. Basically the open-air maze is just like an indoor haunted attraction. It utilizes the same characteristics. However remember, mother nature can be a pain, the weather is very unstable and unpredictable. So if you can spend the extra money to keep your thrill seekers warm, DO IT!

Now comes the mother of them all, the “haunted house”. These to are very popular here in Minnesota. These attractions come with many hurdles to jump and also are the most expensive to operate. Operators will have to also face all different types of issues such as fire and building codes.

As you can tell I have been doing my homework. "There is NO WRONG WAY TO HAUNT AND SCARE PEOPLE"!

Stay positve and your dreams will come true and this is what keeps me going!

Brian

HauntedWebby
11-07-2007, 01:10 PM
That is a big hunk of money. I think when it comes down to money, everyone tends to freeze up. It is a lot of money, but I think that for some new comers they come right up front and expect to pull off their dream haunt their first year open.

So true. But you can't walk in with a min wage real world job and no savings to start a haunt.

This is an investment. My husband and I both cashed in our retirements. We purchased our location. While this is the BEST location in our area for what we want to do, that almost killed us financially. And physically with repairs. We were living VERY lean last year.

When you first start if you don't have a large bank roll then you will have to give up A LOT of comforts.

Another thing you have to watch is you only have a couple of years to make a profit. If you don't then the IRS considers you a hobby, not a business.

I found our the year we ran our first year, my dentist also ran a outdoors trail tour type of haunt. One of those ones that is suppose to be inexpensive (compaired to indoors). He lost SO much money. He spent $130,000 in advertising, $200,000 in props and other things. He spent so much money there was no way for him to make it back his first year.

You have to be a mizer with the money your first 5 years. Water down your paint, build your own props, lease cheap, volunteer actors. :)

Mr. Haunt
11-07-2007, 01:58 PM
Yep, that is all so true. This is not an easy business to get into that is for sure. It takes a good network to help in some areas as well.

If you can do a small haunt at a city summer or fall festival at or near the location that you intend on doing your large attraction, this might be a good way to get the word out and to start in the business.

Create a small attraction “open air” or under a tent. Keep it small enough to not have to have the use of a sprinkler system. Keep your costs low and don’t get to detailed with your stets or rooms. You will most likely be open only a few day’s (nights). Get a local high school drama club involved to haunt your house as volunteers.

Charge only $3-$5.00 to walk through the haunt. You can hand out flyers regarding a bigger haunt in October.

Don’t forget to be in the parade also!!!

I know that there is much more to this, but I wanted to just give an idea. You will still have to have insurance and all. It’s just meant to be a PR type event.

Or stay at the festival for a few years and tweek it up a bit each year!

Brian

beardedbil
11-07-2007, 02:19 PM
I think there is something to say about starting small. 15 years ago when this business/industry was getting steam behind it, many places did start small. 15 years later they are some of the biggest attractions around that receive national exposure. I would think now a days it is extremely difficult to "start out" with a small little haunt operation, whether it be indoors, outdoors, or in a tent. Some events have up to 7 different attractions in one location. How does a small start up compete with this? I think if you find yourself a niche something no one else is doing, you might be able to stick around a few years to make a profit, hopefully gain exposure, and grow as an attraction.

If you do start off small, what stops customers seeing your event (the small one) and not making assumptions about your bigger event, if you ever get to that position? There is something about that wow factor that when you impress them the first year or first visit, by either detail, scares, actors, or just plain entertainment, they will tell others about your event. Won't the same be true if you can only muster a few thousand dollars to invest? Won't those same customers tell everyone, "You know what, they didn't have many props, only a few scenes, takes only 3 mins to walk through, not worth even the $3.00 entry?" Perhaps I'm wrong, but id love to hear comments about this...

I believe this is why many people feel that "Go big or go home" is the step they have to take their very first year of operation. Spend all you can in hopes that you will draw a big enough crowd to make some of your investment back so that you can open a 2nd year. Many think you have to get very lucky and find an unbelievable space at a high traffic area for an unbelievable price to even have a chance. So is there really room for a start up haunt in todays industry? What do you guys think?

xxxdirk
11-07-2007, 03:26 PM
Webby,

You said IF the city allows you to reopen. Want to elaborate for those of us thinking about buying a place?
Ron

xxxdirk
11-07-2007, 03:38 PM
For whatever it is worth, I think this is a very legit question and there are many different takes on it.

As far as starting big, I do believe that there are many haunts that try this and then go out of business very fast. Many people see the long lines at a haunt, think to themselves that it is a cash cow, take out huge loans or cash out their IRAs and find out it is not as easy as it looks. Personally, I started very small, tried to keep my price reasonable, tried to put on as good of a show as I could and learned as I went. There is no way I could have put on this years haunt 4 years ago. I have learned so much over the past 4 yrs and hopefully my 5th year will be better than this year and eventually I will reach that superstar level. If you were to ask most of the successful haunt owners, most of them started as home haunters, or as very small haunts and continued to grow slowly......

xxxdirk
11-07-2007, 03:49 PM
For whatever it is worth, I think this is a very legit question and there are many different takes on it.

Of course if you are charging $3.00 for a haunt that takes 3 min to go through, have 2 actors, no sets, plastic walls, hopefully most people SHOULD realize that they get what they pay for. They realize that the big haunt down the road takes 18 min to go though and has very cool sets and great actors but costs $$20. However, ask yourself, would you rather pay $3 to go to a so so movie, or $10 to go see the big blockbuster....

As far as starting big, I do believe that there are many haunts that try this and then go out of business very fast. Many people see the long lines at a haunt, think to themselves that it is a cash cow, take out huge loans or cash out their IRAs and find out it is not as easy as it looks. Personally, I started very small, tried to keep my price reasonable, tried to put on as good of a show as I could and learned as I went. There is no way I could have put on this years haunt 4 years ago. I have learned so much over the past 4 yrs and hopefully my 5th year will be better than this year and eventually I will reach that superstar level. If you were to ask most of the successful haunt owners, most of them started as home haunters, or as very small haunts and continued to grow slowly......

icarian
11-07-2007, 04:00 PM
I too would have to agree with the start small concept.... though starting too small can hurt your business reputation as well.

webby put things into a nice light when she said that you need to be a miser the first 5 years. do things on the cheap. and though its a sad recommendation, watch trading spaces and other design shows that show you ways to dress a room (though not scarily) on the cheap.. take hints from wherever you can find them. There are ways to scare people effectively with a low budget, the trick is making things seem to be expensive and elaborate.

look into the theming of your haunt, are there other, cheaper, options for wall panels? look at the layout of your haunt and see how efficiently your actors can multi task, giving the illusion of a large cast.

basically the point of this thread has pretty much come down to the fact that there really isn't an answer to how much you should look at spending. Do plenty of research and DON'T RUSH THINGS! As with most any business, large amounts of money are turned into fire starter if you don't take your time and think things through as much as possible. A professional haunt is not something that can be hastily put up on the cheap.

on top of researching the haunt industry, i would recommend reading up on other entertainment topics. Disney Imagineering is a good subject, and having a couple stagecraft books lying around is ALWAYS helpful. (especially for lighting and scenic painting!... on the cheap!) Its amazing what you can learn about scenic painting by simply becoming involved in a community theater.... utilize concepts and put your own twist on them... and i say community theater because they're usually on an extremely restricted budget, and a good community theater director knows how to stretch a small budget into GRAND things!

HauntedWebby
11-07-2007, 04:41 PM
Webby,

You said IF the city allows you to reopen. Want to elaborate for those of us thinking about buying a place?
Ron

Haunted Houses and Spook Alleies have been banned in Ogden city since 2003.

We skirt the fine line of being Interactive Theater in the style of a haunted house. http://www.lazarusmaze.com/about.html Some officals don't see the difference.

This year the city censored 11 of our rooms. Basically walked in on opening weekend and said cut these or you can't open. No real explinatioin. They did hint that we didn't have the correct types of fire escapes for handicap persons.

We are in the process of being annoxed into a different city because the neighboring city loves us and the other 4 haunted attractions because it raises their tourism.

Mr. Haunt
11-07-2007, 08:33 PM
Webby,

I am sorry that the city has done that to you. Not fare at all. They must not understand the business and the Holiday. I would have to say MOVE if you can!

As for the rest of you, I like getting into these heated topics. I think it would be a BIG BAD IDEA to go the big time your first year open. TO MUCH AT RISK!

I plan on doing something smaller, cheaper, but still be at a level to keep people happy. I know that there will be critics, but tough love for them.




Brian

xxxdirk
11-07-2007, 11:05 PM
well good luck Webby. You have put too much $ and work intop your place to have to deal with that BS. Hope I can meet you in Vegas

Mephisto the Great
11-09-2007, 12:08 AM
The idea of having to spend $150K+ for a first year haunt may be true under certain kinds of circumstances, but it is possible to start a haunt for far, far less and, with some finesse, build a popular product. I've managed to build two haunts that both started with a budget of under $20K. My first professional haunt in 1998 cost us $6K.

How can it be done? For me, it meant having a haunt outdoors. The event I was hired to help produce in 2004 was an outdoor trail that led to an indoor pavilion, and it saw about 2,000 guests over four nights. This season the haunt has expanded to over a mile in length and saw nearly 11,000 customers, earning the non-profit group that owns it over $100K in revenue. It has grown by at least 10-20% every season.

The secret? Start the first year off right. Act professionally, even with a small cast and a small set-up. Don't overcharge. A strong theme with a strong website, strong collateral, strong visuals and a kick-arse scare reputation can make it or break it. I've seen shows that spend $100K/year on their budget that completely suck, while I've been to small shows that rocked my world because they acted like Disney from MOMENT ONE. It's really about confidence and acting profesionally.

I still remember my haunted forest "Dark Hollow" in 2002 had a big problem where only seven (yes, SEVEN) actors managed to make it and they worked the show harder than anyone I've ever seen. We had people coming back through, swearing there were 20+ people, simply because the actors had been trained to put their heart and soul into making the best show possible.

So that's my $0.02. You can start off small and build up strong if you plan, plan, plan and don't start off looking cheap. Volunteers will often bend over backwards to work for you...IF you create a product that they believe in.

Good luck!

P.S. Consider why you want to haunt as well. If you do it because you love it, (and not so much as a business venture), a small haunt can often provide the thrill and satisfaction you crave and save you breaking your wallet. Something to think about. Are you prepared to work very hard for long hours doing a lot of mundane, back breaking work to make this happen? Sometimes finding your joy in this business doesn't happen until the last few days in a season, simply because those who have a small budget often have to supply "sweat equity" to make up the difference. You MUST treat it as a small business, not a hobby, and that means sacrifices across the board.

Jim Warfield
11-09-2007, 07:56 AM
Read what Mephisto just posted AGAIN, all true!
He gives true advice and real concepts of work creating worth which equals success.
This haunt business is not like walking down the street and finding a $20.oo bill laying on the sidewalk, unless you have to bend over twenty times to pick it up, THEN it's more like this business!
(Watch your backside when in the scooping manover!)

screamshow
11-09-2007, 11:39 AM
$150,000?

$200,000?!

In my opinion this is exactly the wrong mindset to have and is probably the reason so many haunts have trouble.

neffuri27
11-09-2007, 04:56 PM
Hello there,
we were able to convert an old barn and a few outbuildings and buy a FrightProps Bunker elevator and scarefactory giant animatronics like Grim Thrasher, DemonKnight, Hanging Thrashing Skeleton and Mango Through the Door as well
as built tons of other props and a few animatronics ourselves and a ticket booth,
little shop of horrors and concession stand with equipment for around $45,000
with lots of volunteer effort and a great back story and some unique scares
we had an excellent fun season last year and were able to donate a nice
amount of money to St. Jude. It was a dream come true for us and although
it was lots of work, a TREMENDOUS amount of work and sacrifice. We could
not open this year because of a family tragedy with my sick hubby we will be
open and bigger next year. We now have nonprofit status but I am up in
the air over whether we even want to pursue things in that vein, we may
disolve that and be strictly for proft and then give money to charity that we choose
to give.
I just wanted to throw my two cents worth in there, we have had a movie
filmed at our haunt in July entitled SCREAM FARM in honor of our haunt and
we were featured in SIRENS OF CINEMA MAGAZINE Issue 8. So we must
be doing something right.giggles

Blessings and keep haunting!

Kimberly Cole Zemke

Jim Warfield
11-09-2007, 06:35 PM
Kimberly, Good to hear that you got your place open, not good to hear about a spouse having dire problems....
Hang in there and the best of luck with everything.

HauntedWebby
11-09-2007, 07:11 PM
I guess it depends on what the other haunts in your area are like. I'm against 60K and 80K sq ft haunts with million dollar budgets. They do a great job and have built up to that level of a couple decades.

For me to be one of the elite haunts I have to expand fast, which takes money.

In my area there is no way a $6K haunt would make it ... even 15 room haunts don't make it past their first year generally.

Jim Warfield
11-09-2007, 08:42 PM
Maybe the mentality has temporarilly reversed from a few years ago?
Bigger did not mean better, it just meant bigger, more crowding, more bodies all trying to walk down a hallway, more missed scares,alot of just empty space ,then the biggest folded it's tent and did not come back.
People were finding small haunts where the customer was seen, not overlooked in the mass and crush of seething humanity. Scares happened.
Fun was found........not on a conveyor belt.

HauntedWebby
11-09-2007, 08:48 PM
That is how our big haunts feel to me. A conga-line tour. They do well and try to interact with people, but with that many people it's hard.

That is why we've never advertised. We like being smaller with a big feel. But the feel cost us $$$.

Mephisto the Great
11-10-2007, 12:27 AM
It's funny you say a $6K haunt can't make it in that area; my haunt in 1998 was in Provo, using a 100-year old house that's since been converted to apartments (the old Whitney House). We managed to rent the place and run the show for $5K...sure it was low budget (and it was nearly ten years ago), but the house made up for it and we made back our investment plus more. The skills we learned led to opening our outdoor haunt in another state a few years later and it's progressed from there.

I still think that often we can get the same results, the same "magic" by rethinking our approach. We've had more success with a good actor, a few tiki torches, a portable sound player and a clever scare than many people do with a very expensive animatronic.

If someone's wating to do an indoor haunt, though, the expense is clearly much higher. The place in Provo was shut down by the Fire Marshall two days before we were supposed to open. Only a personal visit to the Mayor and a pledge to make some lower-cost changes (basically going over the FM's head) allowed us to open. An outdoor haunt was SO much easier to manage with the city...but such an option has it's own challenges too.

That's for another thread. :-)

Jast223
11-10-2007, 01:21 AM
Lets see for all I would want in my haunt about 1 mil. But the cost depends on how fancy you want it.

dr0zombie
11-10-2007, 02:31 PM
Break down wise, does it help to start small? It seems most events built from the ground up but a lot of the budgets here are tens if not hundreds of thousands. Is it better to test the water with a small event?

Mr. Haunt
11-10-2007, 08:39 PM
From what it sounds like, it is best to test the water to see how deep and cold it is before you jump in. I know that this topic is a new thing every year over and over and over......... trueth of the matter thoug, you can start a haunt for practicaly nothing. I am going to test the water myself. Spend little to gain a little bit more and see how it goes.

I know it will take time to achieve the bigger goal. This season comes one time a year with to many voids in the middle, makes the wait seem endless.


I think what I am going to end up doing is:

File my articals to the government for an LLC
Keep in close contact with the city on land use
purchase permits
draft a story
write a business plan of some kind to help get through the season
hang advertisement in any place possible
Get as many as Minnesotans as friends on my MySpace page
Get a guesstamate on insurance
Advertise any place free (parades)
Keep in contact with Mr. Fire Marshal

And take it one step at a time till October.

Because ghost stories are cheap and something new in my area, who knows what might happen!

Brian

Nightmaretony
11-11-2007, 11:10 AM
Might be better to look into a business partner for handling the business side and to make sure that all the legal ducks are in a row.

For the LLC, research into it and see the advantages and disadvantages of it.
Same with any other biz aspects, of course.

TheCareTaker
11-11-2007, 03:52 PM
As a new comer to this I would have to say to purchase as much materials on the subject as you can and thinking realistically if you can not afford the reading and video materials you may be off to a really bad start to begin with. One item I would recommend is by Halloween productions “Create Your Own Haunted House” it is a quick down and dirty of the whole Hauntworld the movie series and if you can only afford one item that is a good bang for the buck. But I would recommend again to get your hands on as much info as possible and begin to look around buy books on the subject of Business plans finding investors and such.

Look at property rental rates and costs, look at building codes and location zoning. Look for population density and income ratings al this type of info is available free on various consumer sites.

For me I have a big dream but have realized that I will have to start with a small budget of about $300,000.00 to get through the good thing for me is that my plan does not include me taking a dime for the first three years and reinvesting every penny back if there happens to be a penny that is.

I have bought just about every book and DVD I can find on the subject and to not only figure out what is needed but to see what level of entertainment is out there; even if they are not a direct competitor.

Sorry to say I recently even spent two separate nights in the car watching and counting with a hand counter the numbers of a local haunt to see and evaluate what to expect. Keeping in mind that it is only rough justice to be had.

So those are my two cents hope they help

Best of luck and remember to keep over head down low until you have the numbers to support extravaganza then all hell breaks out

Greg Chrise
11-11-2007, 06:32 PM
Usually someone asking how much does not have a retirement fund to squander or a savings of $300,000. It is the old addage "if you have to ask-you can't afford it"?

On the other hand I have many a tale of young people over a few years having a total investment of $10,000 and breaking even, nearly breaking even or trippling the return on investment. They set up in rented or loaned spots and have sponsors get all the legal stuff done and go to work.

For me the haunted house IS my retirement fund. Something I can do later in life that makes any amount of money that over years becomes a large event and is completely paid for.

So you can go from a haunted front patio, to the 2 bay garage, to building rooms for another haunt, to actually building the displays that wil be used in a haunt that you own to having your own event. You can jump in at any point where you actually have enough stuff to do an appropriate seasonal display or event.

Some people are making more on mid way events or theming out a party than I am from my haunt! Partially because my haunt gives me only a small percentage with the larger percentage going to charity but, that is my choice.

From seeing one good midway event in my same town, of course it broke even to them but I could break my haunt down into panels and props and do 6 large midway buildings and make 15 times what my haunt makes.

I don't like stealing others ideas or being the new competitor but in comparison I've watched people make more with 20 panels than some 20,000 SF haunts have made in some cases. So where do you start? Perhaps there is much to be said for not having anything and doing what you can and finding opportunity.

Or you can wait until you are 50 an cash in your life savings and be told your town no longer allows such an event. Or you can have one to 6 booths that play events that ultimately become a large detailed haunt if that is what you are going to work toward. There is work and opportunity out there for everyone.

I always feel that the money shouldn't come from me, a credit card, a bank or ripping off grandma. I don't think it should require a life savings or risking retirement. The money should come from customers and you either have the money comeing in, can pretty much match the money you do have to what kind of event you are limited to and go make money. This breaking even thing is also known as cash flow. You spend what you can, get it back from customers and spend it again only the second time around you have twice as much sometimes.

If you are young and have no money, don't ask how much does it cost. Ask youself what can you do? How much can you afford? How much do you spend on something that isn't really good for you and spend that money on your new business!

In the real world people aren't able to retire anyhow so spend it now. If you had the tools and skills to do sopmething that makes money that you could go do when you wanted, you have it going on. If you can't do it all find others that can do some of the other things.

It is totally ridiculous to go tire kicking if you have no money. Can you go pay cash for a new home right now? If you had $300,000 to spend you should really look into a Subway Sandwich franchise and be open all year long. If you are looking for a business you can start with some school glue and newspaper and make it into a business that eventually pulls down half or over a million per year....This is it.

In any business it is tough to borrow money. Especially when the profit is only many times about 25%. If you borrowed the money the intrest takes all of your profit and you never grow. Conventional businesses fail all the time for this reason. The planet has been told how to have a business by borrowing money.

Anyone can spend money. Can you make money? Have total claim to your money and continueally reinvest? Sure you can. Keep a day job and every year do $3,000 to $10,000 worth of effort into an event, a part of an event or even one trick display. Over time you have all of the tools and it is a no brainer.

Even if you hit the lottery and had $300,000 it would take 2 years to buy and make all the crap you will need so whay not make and pay as you go and get it done?

The question how much is also stupid because your event can pull down $32,000 per year in a pole barn with dirt floors in a rural area where there is no law, the whole thing built out of used crap and about $300 in purchased items. Yet, if you are emulating some existing attractions and it has to be like that? Sure let's sell one of your kidneys and start scaring people. How ever big you want the event, that is haow many partners you will need that are either theifs trying to launder their money or are willing to also donate kidneys for cash.

Greg Chrise
11-11-2007, 07:07 PM
By time you save that $300,000 due to inflation or the devaluation of the dollar it will cost $600,000.

My first event cost $475 and lots of work. It made some charity $4200 the first year and $8,200 the second year. I probably spent $3000 on more stuff for the second year and over all broke even. Was it fun?

If it was even a lame offering in town it might raise $48,000

Where do you want it to be, where are you, what do you have?

From watching these young guys I know if I took them to an event I have worked in the past they could make $10,000 in like 6 nights with little more than what they already have. Of course they thought this was a wild imagining because they haven't been and known everyone and everywhere I have been. I know everyone's attendance numbers over the years and presently.

but, so many times I have heard of $100,000 offerings seeing only 800 people the first year. If it only brings in $4,000 or $8000 they only deserve that you spend 4,000 to 8000 and break even.

How much does an attraction cost that makes $500,000 to 1.2 million? 10 to 20 years of your life. Go for the kidneys or maybe just one eye donated for money. A small event or party can be funded by regularly donating blood for money!

Things seek their own level. If your grandpa has a pole barn out behind the mobile home you could use or even an open field you can have an event. To use one of Jim Warfield's suggestions get a shovel and dig a grave in a field and charge to hear the tale. You could borrow a shovel and get your mom to make fliers on the Xerox machne at work. We don't care if she gets fired, you are gonna be rich! You'll be able to show her your picture on the cover of Hauntworld Magazine!

How much? well in todays costs, the Disney Imagineers screwed arounf 17 years trying to get the Haunted Mansion built....Billions! They were on a payroll probably smoking pipes and trying to look like they had a good idea. Apparently it makes money because they built 4 more of them and spread them through out the world?