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asanve
10-20-2008, 02:27 PM
I am new to the forum. A friend and I have been doing a haunted house at my house for the last 4 years. It is run by our Girl Scout Troop and Venturing Crew (which is a co-ed boy scout troop ages 14-20). I decorate the front yard--one section has an 8'x22' pirate ship decorated with skeletons and an animated 6' pirate that talks; another section has a graveyard with a dry creek bed with a bridge, fog machine, strobe lights, small lit trees, skeletons; another section has a blow up carriage being pulled by horses with a guy that pops up and down, 2 dummies on wood slabs with a morgue sign. Inside I decorate 4 rooms in my house--one with Lenox Halloween houses and figurines that make noise and light up; another room that is a Gypsy room with an animated head in a ball that talks, a table that "floats and spins", numerous candles, accordian, ouija board, tambourine, etc.; another room with spiders and webs; and another room with an animated skeleton in a coffin that sits up and talks, a ghost that floats, pictures on the walls, Frankenstein coming through the wall, etc. Then outside on the back deck I have a 6' tall animated mad scientist that talks, a variety of lab equipment, a BBQ with body parts. Then I have a corn maze 40' x 40' with strobes, scarecrows, and dummies throughout. Then you enter the 24' x 48' workshop--we have a chainsaw massacre in one room with body parts everywhere, the next section has spinning body bags that you have to walk through, and the last section has a clown scene with a clown in an electric chair, and a variety of clowns throughout. Then you exit walking past several inflatables. Then the kids man the rooms and scare people as they come through. All the proceeds go to our 2 troops. We are told that our haunt is GREAT and never hear any complaints. By this description can anyone give me a general idea what we should be charging for this sort of haunt? We don't want to be unreasonable. Thanks for any help you can give me.

berniehaunter
10-20-2008, 02:35 PM
If I may ask a counter-question that I know will help me, how long would it take me, an average consumer, to make it through this haunt? The description makes it seem to be a large home haunt, but it doesn't say much to how long it takes to get through.

The length of the haunt isn't everything, but it is one of the few things I can tell from the Web without going through it.

asanve
10-20-2008, 02:57 PM
If I may ask a counter-question that I know will help me, how long would it take me, an average consumer, to make it through this haunt? The description makes it seem to be a large home haunt, but it doesn't say much to how long it takes to get through.

The length of the haunt isn't everything, but it is one of the few things I can tell from the Web without going through it.

It sort of depends--some people take quite a while looking at everything in the haunt while other people hurry through because they're scared. I would estimate somewhere between 4-8 minutes. In the past we have asked for donation only but we have invested a lot more time and money this year than in the past and feel that we should start charging a regular admission.

berniehaunter
10-20-2008, 03:10 PM
Ok, here's just a few observations I've had over the years of going to, working at and running haunts.

First, most haunts charge about 1 dollar per minute the average person spends inside. Obviously, time varies as you mentioned but there is kind of a consistent theme there that I've seen evolve. In your case, that would make the price around five dollars probably, which isn't bad.

The counter punch is that, if you have a really high-quality haunt you can charge more or, if the haunt is really long, you might have to charge less per minute as few haunts seem to dare going above $25.

From a marketing perspective, I know that the price of $19.99 is magical. The reason is that most people will not hesitate to buy nor return anything that is lower than 20 dollars. Even though refunds aren't an issue with haunted attractions due to a "no refund" policy that is almost universal, people can still feel ripped off and badmouth the attraction.

With haunts you have to think of the group. If you have a family of four go through a haunt, thus paying $80, there had better be a good show or the family will be upset. At $10 per ticket, that weight is lessened and at $5 per ticket, even if they weren't impressed they likely won't care since they won't have lost much at all.

Personally, based on what I know and have seen and what you describe, I'd start off with a $5 per ticket rate. If it seems that it is going well, you can raise it in the future as you grow the haunt.

My hope is that would be more money than you've made previously off this attraction but still encourage people to come on down.

Also, don't hesitate to be creative and use promotions. For example, what if someone couldn't donate money but could donate something else of use to the troop? I was at a haunt on Saturday where you could either pay $10 or donate blood.

I chose to pay the $10. Roaming around a haunt weak from blood loss sounded like a bad idea...

I hope that helps some. But it gives you an idea of what I'm thinking.

PhantomSW
10-20-2008, 03:16 PM
If you "ask" for a donation and tell them it a fund raiser for X. May be sugest $3. I went to a home haunt that asked for $2 for the boy scouts and I droped a $10.

asanve
10-20-2008, 03:34 PM
Ok, here's just a few observations I've had over the years of going to, working at and running haunts.

First, most haunts charge about 1 dollar per minute the average person spends inside. Obviously, time varies as you mentioned but there is kind of a consistent theme there that I've seen evolve. In your case, that would make the price around five dollars probably, which isn't bad.

The counter punch is that, if you have a really high-quality haunt you can charge more or, if the haunt is really long, you might have to charge less per minute as few haunts seem to dare going above $25.

From a marketing perspective, I know that the price of $19.99 is magical. The reason is that most people will not hesitate to buy nor return anything that is lower than 20 dollars. Even though refunds aren't an issue with haunted attractions due to a "no refund" policy that is almost universal, people can still feel ripped off and badmouth the attraction.

With haunts you have to think of the group. If you have a family of four go through a haunt, thus paying $80, there had better be a good show or the family will be upset. At $10 per ticket, that weight is lessened and at $5 per ticket, even if they weren't impressed they likely won't care since they won't have lost much at all.

Personally, based on what I know and have seen and what you describe, I'd start off with a $5 per ticket rate. If it seems that it is going well, you can raise it in the future as you grow the haunt.

My hope is that would be more money than you've made previously off this attraction but still encourage people to come on down.

Also, don't hesitate to be creative and use promotions. For example, what if someone couldn't donate money but could donate something else of use to the troop? I was at a haunt on Saturday where you could either pay $10 or donate blood.

I chose to pay the $10. Roaming around a haunt weak from blood loss sounded like a bad idea...

I hope that helps some. But it gives you an idea of what I'm thinking.

Thank you sooooo much for your input. You obviously have been doing this for many years. $5 seems like a reasonable amount. We have a lot more ideas for next year like building facades for a general store, jail, etc., a bigger corn maze, more landscaping around the pirate ship (palm trees, hut, etc.) If we can pull it off it should be well-worth the $5 price. Thanks again.

asanve
10-20-2008, 03:38 PM
If you "ask" for a donation and tell them it a fund raiser for X. May be sugest $3. I went to a home haunt that asked for $2 for the boy scouts and I droped a $10.

Thanks for the input. We have had several people be very generous in the donations. Most contribute $1.00 per person, but we have had people donate as much as $20 for a small group.

berniehaunter
10-20-2008, 03:43 PM
Thank you sooooo much for your input. You obviously have been doing this for many years. $5 seems like a reasonable amount. We have a lot more ideas for next year like building facades for a general store, jail, etc., a bigger corn maze, more landscaping around the pirate ship (palm trees, hut, etc.) If we can pull it off it should be well-worth the $5 price. Thanks again.
I have to be honest and say that though I've been involved in haunts for a very long time, I currently only run a small home one. We are working our way toward going pro and we've followed the industry for many years.

Still, I do come from an advertising and marketing background, for what it is worth...

I'm glad I was able to help.

asanve
10-20-2008, 03:49 PM
I have to be honest and say that though I've been involved in haunts for a very long time, I currently only run a small home one. We are working our way toward going pro and we've followed the industry for many years.

Still, I do come from an advertising and marketing background, for what it is worth...

I'm glad I was able to help.

My friend and I would also like to go pro but we have no idea where to start. I know nothing with regard to advertising and marketing, or anything that has to do with the legal end of it all. Any suggestions where to go to find out about "how to" go pro? Plus I'm not real swift on a computer either so it inhibits my ability to locate things.

berniehaunter
10-20-2008, 04:03 PM
My friend and I would also like to go pro but we have no idea where to start. I know nothing with regard to advertising and marketing, or anything that has to do with the legal end of it all. Any suggestions where to go to find out about "how to" go pro? Plus I'm not real swift on a computer either so it inhibits my ability to locate things.
I'm not really an expert on this either, my plans are in the early stages and we are planning on taking things very slowly, likely something that will unfold over the next few years.

The first thing I would do though is find a good attorney to work with. Before you go too far you're going to want to set up an LLC or other corporation to create the haunt with. This will protect your private assets in the event things go wrong. They can also help with permitting, tax and other issues down the road.

At the same time, draft a business plan for your haunt. Figure out approximate costs, how much money you'd have to make, estimate your income the best you can and see if the numbers work.

Then you have to seek financing for your haunt. You can either do that yourself or find someone to invest in you. The latter is going to be tricky with the economy but not impossible since most haunts have a relatively low start up cost compared to other industries.

Once you've got that, you can start work on building you haunt, getting the permits and preparing to open.

If you want a good guide on starting a small business, I recommend this one:

http://www.sba.gov/smallbusinessplanner/index.html

Hope that helps!

asanve
10-20-2008, 04:41 PM
I'm not really an expert on this either, my plans are in the early stages and we are planning on taking things very slowly, likely something that will unfold over the next few years.

The first thing I would do though is find a good attorney to work with. Before you go too far you're going to want to set up an LLC or other corporation to create the haunt with. This will protect your private assets in the event things go wrong. They can also help with permitting, tax and other issues down the road.

At the same time, draft a business plan for your haunt. Figure out approximate costs, how much money you'd have to make, estimate your income the best you can and see if the numbers work.

Then you have to seek financing for your haunt. You can either do that yourself or find someone to invest in you. The latter is going to be tricky with the economy but not impossible since most haunts have a relatively low start up cost compared to other industries.

Once you've got that, you can start work on building you haunt, getting the permits and preparing to open.

If you want a good guide on starting a small business, I recommend this one:

http://www.sba.gov/smallbusinessplanner/index.html

Hope that helps!

Living in the sue-happy state of California, the attorney is a great idea. How large a haunt should one start out with? Is it better all inside or outside or a combination of both. Where do you look for places to open a haunt in--large city or smaller city (25,000 or less)? How can you figure a cost with regards to a building you don't have? Are people willing to rent you a place for a haunted house because of the liability issues or is it difficult to find somewhere? Any help you can give is greatly appreciated.

rwrussom
10-20-2008, 04:58 PM
Insurance will be a must. A $2 million policy should do a good job of protecting you even if your not an LLC. That of corse is dependant on the assests you need to protect, but in general a sufficient payout from an insurance co. is much easier that trying to go after a persons home and earnings.

berniehaunter
10-20-2008, 05:08 PM
Living in the sue-happy state of California, the attorney is a great idea. How large a haunt should one start out with? Is it better all inside or outside or a combination of both. Where do you look for places to open a haunt in--large city or smaller city (25,000 or less)? How can you figure a cost with regards to a building you don't have? Are people willing to rent you a place for a haunted house because of the liability issues or is it difficult to find somewhere? Any help you can give is greatly appreciated.

Ok, now we're getting into things I know less about and my hope is that others on the forum will help me out here some. Once again, my experience only.

Regarding the size of the haunt, that is impossible to say. That will depend on market forces. You will probably start out smaller than your competitors, but how large or how small will depend on your area and your resources.

Location is critical and all of the articles I've read and information I have say to try and find as big of a city as practical. Many haunts thrive in smaller cities, but it is easier to find an audience in a large one.

Also, don't forget about cities around you. For example, in my area, Baton Rouge is a popular spot for haunted attractions because it is a short drive from New Orleans, Lafayette and Alexandria. It's central location helps it out.

Inside or out is another question that is up to the haunter. The advantage of an inside haunt is that you don't get "rained out". Rain still hurts sales, but doesn't force closure. Same is true for extreme cold. Honestly, I prefer indoor haunts myself as both an operator and a haunt goer but that is me personally I'm sure others will have conflicting opinions.

Figuring the cost is actually pretty easy. Look up real estate prices in your area, either rental or to buy, figure out the cost per month to obtain it, estimate building costs and decorating costs. As an elaborate home haunter, you should have a pretty good idea of about how much it costs to build/decorate per sq. foot.

Another idea is to check out some used haunted attractions:

http://hauntrepreneurs.com/

You can find places to rent, so long as you can get the right insurance, but there are three problems I see with that instantly:

1) If you get the lease pulled from you, you might have to keep changing locations, making it hard to establish a brand.
2) You would have to build and tear down the haunt within the frame of the lease.
3) You're renting so you can't sell the property if you have to get out.

However, you might be able to pen a lease that is only six months, effectively preventing you from paying for half of the year.

Hope this helps.

berniehaunter
10-20-2008, 05:08 PM
Insurance will be a must. A $2 million policy should do a good job of protecting you even if your not an LLC. That of corse is dependant on the assests you need to protect, but in general a sufficient payout from an insurance co. is much easier that trying to go after a persons home and earnings.

Agreed. Definitely a must, something the attorney can help with!