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View Full Version : What makes a "Professional Haunt"?



tustinhaunt
03-03-2008, 03:03 AM
It seems like a simple question, but ends up rather complex:

What makes a Professional Haunt, a "Professional Haunt?"

Is it the fact that it is run as a business? I have been through many haunts run as a business that I would definitely NOT consider professional by any means...

Is it gauged by the number of patrons you have? I know of home haunts that have more attendees

Is it defined by how much money you have spent?

Is it classified by the location? Is a warehouse a more professional location than a parking lot? Can a residential location still be considered "professional?"

Is a commercial haunt considered a professional haunt?

Is a professional haunt considered a commercial haunt?

Just wondering what other people thought.

gadget-evilusions
03-03-2008, 07:02 AM
I don't even use the term professional haunt, because as you pointed out, there are home haunts that are run more professionally than some commercial attractions I have been too. I classify them as either home haunt, or commercial haunt. Commercial haunts would be pretty much any haunt not held at a home, be it for chairity, profit, or to loss money every year.

Frighteners Entertainment
03-03-2008, 07:10 AM
Well put Brian.

Nightmaretony
03-03-2008, 11:56 AM
There is plenty of overlap. I would personally consider it that it permits and insurance are a part of it, then that pushes it into the realm of pro.

Running it at home can still be pro. For example, I purchased land to do a pro haunt with staff, insurance, business plan, etc. Hacker House does the same thing with several acres. I think SpookyWoods has the owners living onsite as well but with an excellent pro operation.

So the difference, if the fire marshalls are needed to open, you pull permits and insurance, you are pro.

Florida Fright Knight
03-03-2008, 02:58 PM
Permits and ins. are needed for most haunts regardless of status - and I fully agree, many commercial haunts aren't all that professional. My personal take on it goes to attitude. What comes first? Stress on safety, patron satisfaction, show quality, production value and overall experience are all required to attain "pro" status. Egos, idiots and "money first over everything else" or "mine is better than yours" attitude can turn even the best haunt into a VERY amateur production. We all have our own ideas of what works and how to present it - that's always been the best thing about haunting - no right or wrong way, so to speak - just what works for our respective patrons. I personally have had a wide variety of haunts, staffs and crews over the last 16 years, always striving for that "pro" production and usually hitting it - but a few didn't quite make it - my mistakes, my fault maybe - wrong staffing choices, expecting too much, cutting corners to get open, whatever the reason. The trick is to stand back, learn and not repeat it. My current crew is absolutely the best I've ever had - dedicated, creative and most importantly, they get it! What's odd about that? They are all high school age. I have the honor of teaching what the kids refer to as "halloween university's Haunt 101" to roughly 200 kids for 10 months a year at a "school for the arts of motion picture and television production". Together we produce 20,000 s.f. of indoor haunt (adding 3 acres outside in '08) learned - and built - from the floor plans up. The end result is a very large pro haunted event, smoothly run, well staffed, financially successful AND incredibly rewarding. It's hard to describe but the difference you can probably relate to is this: For 13 years when we closed the doors after the last patron on our last night, I would smile and utter a sigh of relief - "yes, it's over, we did it!" NOW for the past 3 years I have to literally hide the tears (unsuccessfully, it usually turns into a staff bawl fest) - knowing I won't see "my kids" again until January and it sucks! Pretty cool, huh? Even cooler is that this is a new generation of haunters that care about the haunt industry and that, dear haunters, is REALLY cool! God, I love my job! See you all in Vegas!
www.xscreamhalloween.com

RJ Productions
03-03-2008, 08:25 PM
While I agree there are some home haunts that act more professionally that pro haunts, you really have to just go by a straight definition. What's the difference between an amateur athlete and a professional? Between an amateur theater group and a professional? There are athletes that train harder and compete more than pros..
It is a matter of getting paid, making a living, doing the venture as a business. What defines a business from a hobby? Same thing here.

When I had a yard haunt, I did not deal with the fire dept., insurance, licenses, employees, taxes...and the list goes on.
As a pro Haunt you cover all these and more.

Just as in ANY business, BEING professional and ACTING professional are twin different animals!! We should not confuse them.
Just because you act professionally, it doesn't make you a professional haunt.( Unfortunately it doesn't go the other way!!)
If the haunt makes money or fails, who is responsible? Who takes those risks? THAT defines more who is a pro and who is not.

Someone works for me and I have a bad year. HE still gets paid! The IRS doesn't come knocking on HIS door.
Being professional is also a matter of responsibility. Sure someone gets hurt at your home haunt , you are responsible, but not to the degree of a pro haunt.You can argue that either they shouldn't;t be there or they are on your property by invite only. A pro haunt charges, is open to the general public and therefor has a greater responsibility.

Here a few simple questions:

If you have to form a legitimate business.....you MIGHT be a professional!!
If you have to obtain a license and it's not even fishing season.....you MIGHT be a professional!!
If you have to pay for insurance that costs more than your home, auto and health combined.....you MIGHT be a professional!!
If you have high probability of losing your ass....you MIGHT be a professional!!!

Now if you only ACT like one!!!

tustinhaunt
03-04-2008, 11:00 PM
Ok, all that leads me to my next questions.

Is there such a thing as a "semi-professional haunt?"

and if so;

Where do people that make semi-professional haunts fit within the haunted attraction industry?


FYI - I consider the haunt I create "semi-professional"

Jim Warfield
03-05-2008, 08:20 AM
So all of your employees drive semis?
This could be handy.
Strap those cbs to their backs as they work in the haunt and you won't need two-way radios .
Of course they will really fill up your parking lot quick.
"This must be a really good place to eat, all the truckers stop here."

"Our special is a Blood & guts buffet with a complimentary side dish of fresh maggots, all you can eat!"

tustinhaunt
03-05-2008, 01:41 PM
I dub thee Jim the Jester.

Yeah, you should see it... we don't even need special effects. All the fumes from the diesel engines cause everyone to hallucinate! We put everyone in a black box and get great reviews.

RJ Productions
03-07-2008, 05:21 AM
So Ben, How do you classify yourself as "semi-pro"??? Do you only charge every other customer? You only get half the required permits? You only pay for half the insurance????

No really, what would your definition be??? I am assuming you might say it is not your full time job, a semi-pro in sports usually has to have another job to live! If that's the case, then the majority of the industry is probably "semi-pro"!!!!

I had to go semi-pro for a couple of years before this became my sole income. Many of us have to do that to be able to sink everything back into the attraction. Only a couple years of that puts you at a point to draw an income.

But even if this isn't your sole income, you still have to take all the "professional" steps necessary to open an attraction. My Fire dept never cut me any slack because I wasn't "full time". I still had to get the licenses, insurance...ya-da ya-da.

So what defines a semi-pro?

Nightmaretony
03-07-2008, 09:35 AM
How many of us in the industry derive our sole income from our haunts only? If that was the defining factor, the number of pro haunts would be super small, even the amusement park ones since the staff dedicated towards the haunting side is very few. For example, Knotts has a staff of thousands of people, but only one or two actual people who have it as their full time job dedicated to the haunt side.

For example by definition, Larry would be semi pro and not a true pro since the majority of his income is defined by sales from HPI rather than solely the haunt.

Jim Warfield would be one of the few entirely pro haunters as 100% of his income is derived from his haunt.

The permits and insurance and business aspects make a good defining line.

Jim Warfield
03-07-2008, 11:36 AM
Except guess what Tony? By many people's current standards I do not run a "Haunted House".
Myself and others have always had some difficulty finding words or a term to describe exactly what it is that goes on here. I began calling it a Haunted House because by my definition it sure was!
People describe it as various things from "Performance Art" and on down the list..

A "Haunted House" was always the big, old house that had a supernatural history, that is this house.
I add to this with my own artwork and usually mostly comedic performances.
My dialog and physical actions are things that I feel comfortable doing and the majority of my patrons enjoy too.
I have had people begin laughing as soon as they enter the house and laugh non-stop for the next 90 minutes til they are leaving, often begging for "Mercy" along the way since most people can't laugh that much, that long without physical discomfort.
But before some extremely hard-core haunter writes me off as a non-scary entity, I do have thousands and thousands of hours of video tape, via surveilance cameras, of people screaming themselves silly with deep, genuine, uncontrollable fear, all recorded right here, inside these walls, no they are not family films of my ex-wives either!

Nightmaretony
03-07-2008, 11:57 AM
Except guess what Tony? By many people's current standards I do not run a "Haunted House".
Myself and others have always had some difficulty finding words or a term to describe exactly what it is that goes on here. I began calling it a Haunted House because by my definition it sure was!
People describe it as various things from "Performance Art" and on down the list..

A "Haunted House" was always the big, old house that had a supernatural history, that is this house.
I add to this with my own artwork and usually mostly comedic performances.
My dialog and physical actions are things that I feel comfortable doing and the majority of my patrons enjoy too.
I have had people begin laughing as soon as they enter the house and laugh non-stop for the next 90 minutes til they are leaving, often begging for "Mercy" along the way since most people can't laugh that much, that long without physical discomfort.
But before some extremely hard-core haunter writes me off as a non-scary entity, I do have thousands and thousands of hours of video tape, via surveilance cameras, of people screaming themselves silly with deep, genuine, uncontrollable fear, all recorded right here, inside these walls, no they are not family films of my ex-wives either!



Ok, lets go step by step.

A "Haunted House" was always the big, old house that had a supernatural history, that is this house.


Ok, so do many haunted houses. So that fits definition.



I add to this with my own artwork and usually mostly comedic performances.

Haunt owners do their own artwork or their employees do and sometimes them or their actors do comedic performances. So that fits the definition.



I have had people begin laughing as soon as they enter the house and laugh non-stop for the next 90 minutes til they are leaving, often begging for "Mercy" along the way since most people can't laugh that much, that long without physical discomfort.


Are you sure you aren't showing them a picture of me there?





You still fit and I hope to get out there someday. Gotta love definitions. I still remember somebody doing a smear campaign of me politically some years back, claiming that I don't own a single haunted house.

That is correct. I own 3 of them. All on my property, all paid for. (ok, so one was free but 13 trailer loads of props and structures is a helluva lot of gas bills!)

By definition, ownership implies that you can buy and sell your own property. I can call Norton's tomorrow to auction all my props and structures and the money would go into my own pocket. That would imply ownership. If you sold the Inn tomorrow and retired to Florida, the money would go into you pocket, but mostly Jessica's (tell her I sez hi and am still crazed out here :)