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View Full Version : Home haunts--how many do it "right"?



asanve
11-13-2008, 06:20 PM
I know there are many, many home haunts out there, but how many do it "right"? By that I mean, how many pull permits, take out insurance, get inspected by the fire dept., etc.? Or do the majority just "take the chance"? We have been a home haunt for 5 years and I am becoming increasingly nervous "taking the chance" but I seriously doubt that I could afford everything necessary to do it right. Has anyone ever had a bad experience in doing a home haunt, other than the cops being called for a disturbing the peace violation? Anyone ever been injured on your property and what were the ramifications? If your haunt is asking for donations and donating the money to a charity, is your city a little more willing to work with you, or turn their head and look the other way while you proceed? Any feedback you will be greatly appreciated.

UnDeRTaKer313
11-13-2008, 06:31 PM
ok here we go lol lets see how i can help you out
first off we had a neighbor complain this year and we had every inspector in the city come by because they wanted to shut us down.
Except they couldnt... they had nothing to clasify it as. it didnt have a roof and it didnt have a floor it was just walls as far as the structure was concerned.
So they eventually gave in and told us that if we didnt generate traffic from the even then we could open up.
We had fire marshall come and he thought it looked great. even wanted to come to the party.
So here is what i would do. I would tell them what you are going ahead of time and ask them to help you out.
Also get a special event permit and you can stay open till midnight even if you get complaints.
However we had 500 people show up halloween night and we did not have an event permit and we were rushing to get people through before 10.

Let me know what else you need help with.

shawnc
11-13-2008, 06:55 PM
I know there were a number of similar questions before Halloween, and one of the responses from many was to just get the permits like the city wanted.

I'm not sure if they understood what the home haunters were doing. Building everything permanently and up to code for a temporary structure would be a waste of time and money, and then what would you do with it afterwards?

asanve
11-13-2008, 07:54 PM
ok here we go lol lets see how i can help you out
first off we had a neighbor complain this year and we had every inspector in the city come by because they wanted to shut us down.
Except they couldnt... they had nothing to clasify it as. it didnt have a roof and it didnt have a floor it was just walls as far as the structure was concerned.
So they eventually gave in and told us that if we didnt generate traffic from the even then we could open up.
We had fire marshall come and he thought it looked great. even wanted to come to the party.
So here is what i would do. I would tell them what you are going ahead of time and ask them to help you out.
Also get a special event permit and you can stay open till midnight even if you get complaints.
However we had 500 people show up halloween night and we did not have an event permit and we were rushing to get people through before 10.

Let me know what else you need help with.

So it sounds as if you are only open on Halloween night? See, we are open Fri., Sat., and Sun. for 3 weekends during the month of October (Fri. and Sat. 7-10 p.m. and Sun. 7-9 p.m.) So if you get an event permit is it only good for one night or can you get one that would encompass almost the whole month of October? We had a fire truck show up out front cuz they saw all the lights and were curious (they were passing by on their way back from a call). They didn't hassle us tho. We told them we were doing a haunted house and our girl and boy scouts were running it. One even came back and brought his kids and went through. Maybe I just worry too much, but when you're living in the sue happy state of Calif. you can never be too careful!

shawnc
11-13-2008, 08:14 PM
A lot of the things you bring up vary greatly from state to state, and from municipality to municipality. Some building and fire inspectors are better to work with than others.

Some will ask almost nothing of you, while 50 miles away you wouldn't be able to open without $50,000 in safety upgrades.

The important thing to figure out is what will be asked of you in your town and work with the officials who can say yea or naye to your opening. And remember: it's easier to catch flies with honey than vinegar. Don't be confrontational from the start, or at all if you can possibly help it.

UnDeRTaKer313
11-13-2008, 08:17 PM
yes be carefull.
we had a firetruck show up because we had so much fog.
It covered a really busy road and pretty much spread all over the entire neighborhood. Its crazy.
im pretty sure you could work something out to get an event permit for multiple nights ? ?

Greg Chrise
11-13-2008, 09:04 PM
The trick is to manage crowds.

I have seen 700 people standing on less than an acre. Other parking lots and open fields used for parking. The fact that you have this number spread out over many evenings is a big plus so they aren't coming all at one time.

I have seen low attendance haunts close at 10PM and open at dark 30 and still get all those people in and out. The shut down was more because people stopped arriving at 9:30. It kind of works out good.

Simple rules are smaller attractions have much higher through put. Don't add things that would keep people hanging out like mid way type games or camp fires. Perhaps even not have porta poties so people that have to go have to go. If there is a party perse, it is limited invite.

Even pro haunts that have had injuries that were unfortunate, the doctor bill was far less than the insurance deductible and they paid out of pocket and stayed concerned for the injured. People say they will sue all the time but, very very few have actually paid anyone $375 and hour to get things done. No matter what harrasment, the $150 per hour lawyers are pretty much just going to run the complaintant out of money for asking too many questions. People that say they will sue have never sued. Of course there is that on in a million guy who is looking for that opportunity. These types might work the car accident circuit but, try to get home owners insurance to pay for even legitimate claims. They don't pay. The attornies pile up a bill but only the victim is victimized. It will cost them $6200 to force you to pay a $150 doctor bill.

Also a great number of people do have health coverage from work or such, if they have a family they generally do so, the are covered, everything is understood to be an accident and life is wonderful. Real jury trials come down to realizations that maybe grandma shouldn't have been allowed to wander in the street in the dark and too bad she doesn't get a million dollars.

Such an ordeal may be emotionally wrecking to everyone involved but, if the event can be throttled back a bit, so much the better,

Perhaps the distinction be tween pro and non home haunt is the intention to drive as many customers as possible to commercal faciltites vs, having a nice little community gathering. Intentionally shut down at 10 PM or 9:30 as that is about when the police generally show up wondering how long this is going to go on. I'll bet they always say some neighbor has complained but, in reality are just trying to figure out if they might have problems or emergencies on through the night on Their shift. They already have a weekend work load at that time of night and certainly don't need more. You can point to the sign and say everyone will be gone in 15 minutes anyhow. There really is nothing really magical about midnight except the drunks have been out for 2 hours.

They always point down the road and say I can't tell you who the complaintant is, and people just assume, oh, I know it is that old man over there. It's that lady down there that doesn't like my cat. Or what ever. If the complaint is legitimate, you have to put yourself in their possition. How can I watch the news or go to bed to be at work at 5:30 AM with that crap going on. Constantly on edge wondering if someone is going to screw with my house or screw something up and run off.

If you don't make it in time, sorry.

The spirits coming forth at midnight is probably when every drunk in a certain time zone throws up. It's like ringing in the new year. Nw people are throwing up in New York, an hour later they are throwing up in Chicago, then denver then california, then they are throwing up in Alaska and Hawaii. Only thankfully on Halloween we don't have to listen to Dick Clark, stroke victim try to communicate.

Yeah, I said that.

Jim Warfield
11-13-2008, 09:46 PM
Laying there in the hospital bed more dead than alive, quality of life unmeasurable now, tubes and machines cast evil shadows upon the tired old , withered face, having taken too many rides around the sun....
The shrouded figure of Death slides into the room, invisible to the others there.
"I have come to lighten your Earthly burdon, your time has come."
"If you touch me, I'll sue!"
"OK, have it your way."
Death fades from sight.
Three weeks later, still in intensive care the body expesssing more pain than was ever meant to be born by a mere human contraption...Death is called for, begged to come relieve this suffering....but Nooooo! You want to sue me if I touch you to remove your soul and take it to a better plain.
Sorry.
Maybe your lawyer can do something for you?
hahaah!

asanve
11-13-2008, 09:55 PM
The trick is to manage crowds.

I have seen 700 people standing on less than an acre. Other parking lots and open fields used for parking. The fact that you have this number spread out over many evenings is a big plus so they aren't coming all at one time.

I have seen low attendance haunts close at 10PM and open at dark 30 and still get all those people in and out. The shut down was more because people stopped arriving at 9:30. It kind of works out good.

Simple rules are smaller attractions have much higher through put. Don't add things that would keep people hanging out like mid way type games or camp fires. Perhaps even not have porta poties so people that have to go have to go. If there is a party perse, it is limited invite.

Even pro haunts that have had injuries that were unfortunate, the doctor bill was far less than the insurance deductible and they paid out of pocket and stayed concerned for the injured. People say they will sue all the time but, very very few have actually paid anyone $375 and hour to get things done. No matter what harrasment, the $150 per hour lawyers are pretty much just going to run the complaintant out of money for asking too many questions. People that say they will sue have never sued. Of course there is that on in a million guy who is looking for that opportunity. These types might work the car accident circuit but, try to get home owners insurance to pay for even legitimate claims. They don't pay. The attornies pile up a bill but only the victim is victimized. It will cost them $6200 to force you to pay a $150 doctor bill.

Also a great number of people do have health coverage from work or such, if they have a family they generally do so, the are covered, everything is understood to be an accident and life is wonderful. Real jury trials come down to realizations that maybe grandma shouldn't have been allowed to wander in the street in the dark and too bad she doesn't get a million dollars.

Such an ordeal may be emotionally wrecking to everyone involved but, if the event can be throttled back a bit, so much the better,

Perhaps the distinction be tween pro and non home haunt is the intention to drive as many customers as possible to commercal faciltites vs, having a nice little community gathering. Intentionally shut down at 10 PM or 9:30 as that is about when the police generally show up wondering how long this is going to go on. I'll bet they always say some neighbor has complained but, in reality are just trying to figure out if they might have problems or emergencies on through the night on Their shift. They already have a weekend work load at that time of night and certainly don't need more. You can point to the sign and say everyone will be gone in 15 minutes anyhow. There really is nothing really magical about midnight except the drunks have been out for 2 hours.

They always point down the road and say I can't tell you who the complaintant is, and people just assume, oh, I know it is that old man over there. It's that lady down there that doesn't like my cat. Or what ever. If the complaint is legitimate, you have to put yourself in their possition. How can I watch the news or go to bed to be at work at 5:30 AM with that crap going on. Constantly on edge wondering if someone is going to screw with my house or screw something up and run off.

If you don't make it in time, sorry.

The spirits coming forth at midnight is probably when every drunk in a certain time zone throws up. It's like ringing in the new year. Nw people are throwing up in New York, an hour later they are throwing up in Chicago, then denver then california, then they are throwing up in Alaska and Hawaii. Only thankfully on Halloween we don't have to listen to Dick Clark, stroke victim try to communicate.

Yeah, I said that.

Thanks for all the input-I really appreciate it. I have something else I'd like to run by you and would appreciate an opinion on. At next years haunt we would like to do a blood drive on one of our Fri. or Sat. nights. We would contact the American Red Cross and have them bring their mobile blood donation station to the house, and if anyone chooses to donate blood then they don't have to pay to enter the haunt. I don't know if the Red Cross would do something like that, but does that sound like something that might work? Has anyone done anything like that before?

Greg Chrise
11-13-2008, 10:41 PM
Pro Haunts with lots of parking do this all the time. If you have the space it is still best to have such a service during ons of the first two week ends of the month when you can afford to have a dozen or more people hanging around the haunt for periods of time.

I'm really wondering how much space you have.

Perhaps 4 years ago? a big gathering of home haunters had a few pro guys attnd and a really big open discussion proved to be fruitful and we all decided it was best to not advertise your home haunt.

The next little seminar was a big guy trying to talk the very same people into spending $1200 to advertise their haunt in the news papers and radio and how great it would be.

I'm thinking for the blood bank bus to arrive and be staffed they would expect some advertising and suck in so much blood to make it worth running all the equipment. It's a number of percentage. A haunt that sees 18,000 to 30,000 people might provide enough victims willing to give them blood on a moments notice.

For all the things you describe wanting to do, I hope you are on 14 acres? If you are on One Acre or less it's getting a little tight and bound for problems as a home haunt. You can do anything you want on private property but, if this spills out onto common roads and other people's property, it is your doing.

Some times at events a blood bank will give free blood pressure screening under a tent just to hand out information about donating blood as opposed to bring in a mobile unit.

Front Yard Fright
11-14-2008, 01:56 AM
Thanks for all the input-I really appreciate it. I have something else I'd like to run by you and would appreciate an opinion on. At next years haunt we would like to do a blood drive on one of our Fri. or Sat. nights. We would contact the American Red Cross and have them bring their mobile blood donation station to the house, and if anyone chooses to donate blood then they don't have to pay to enter the haunt. I don't know if the Red Cross would do something like that, but does that sound like something that might work? Has anyone done anything like that before?

I would think that if people were to give blood, that would highly increase the chances of them fainting while going through the haunted house? Maybe I'm wrong...

Anyways! We have been doing our yard/garage haunt for 4 years and we grow tremendously each year. As we grow, I continue to worry more and more about safety. This year we added 2 emergency exits and I made sure every room had its own walkie talkie and flash light just in case of an emergency. We also had a few fire extinguishers throughout the haunt.

We only ask for donations... So we kind of slip under the radar, so to speak, about the whole business aspect of it. However, I'm thinking about contacting the city about actually charging admission for next year. Donations are great, but in all honesty, people are just cheap! Last year we asked for $2.00 a head and people were telling us that we needed to ask for more because we did such a good job... So this year we asked for $5.00 bucks a head and got just over $3,000 total. Not bad, but if everyone one of our 850+ attendees would have donated I would have actually made money!

Let me know how your situation pans out!
:).

robos99
11-14-2008, 10:32 AM
Keep in mind that the permits required are different for all areas. You may be able to get away with a lot more in a smaller town that you would in a large city. Your best bet is to talk to the city, let them know what you're doing. Talk to your fire marshall and make sure he knows you're on his side. If you play the game and talk to everyone ahead of time you just might be ok and people are more willing to let things slide. If you decide to try to get by without getting any approvals this tends to make city officials and inspectors mad as they think you're trying to go being their backs.

asanve
11-14-2008, 10:37 AM
Pro Haunts with lots of parking do this all the time. If you have the space it is still best to have such a service during ons of the first two week ends of the month when you can afford to have a dozen or more people hanging around the haunt for periods of time.

I'm really wondering how much space you have.

Perhaps 4 years ago? a big gathering of home haunters had a few pro guys attnd and a really big open discussion proved to be fruitful and we all decided it was best to not advertise your home haunt.

The next little seminar was a big guy trying to talk the very same people into spending $1200 to advertise their haunt in the news papers and radio and how great it would be.

I'm thinking for the blood bank bus to arrive and be staffed they would expect some advertising and suck in so much blood to make it worth running all the equipment. It's a number of percentage. A haunt that sees 18,000 to 30,000 people might provide enough victims willing to give them blood on a moments notice.

For all the things you describe wanting to do, I hope you are on 14 acres? If you are on One Acre or less it's getting a little tight and bound for problems as a home haunt. You can do anything you want on private property but, if this spills out onto common roads and other people's property, it is your doing.

Some times at events a blood bank will give free blood pressure screening under a tent just to hand out information about donating blood as opposed to bring in a mobile unit.

Lots of good points--thanks for your input. I am only on 1-1/4 acres but there is room to park on our property as our house sits back aways from the road and there is a huge cement circular driveway and parking pads. The road we're on used to be a dead end road with only 5 houses on our street (all on the same side of the road). At the end of the road was a big field. It is now open into a small subdivision at the end of the street, but there may only be 30 or so houses so there's not a whole lot of traffic on our street. And across the street from the original 5 houses is a big field--no other houses. (I'm sure there will be one day). I did have another thought tho. I've heard of people parking away from the haunt and be shuttled over to it. The local high school is 3 blocks from our house where people could park and I own a 15 passenger van that could be used to shuttle people back and forth. Is this more trouble than its worth, or is it a feasible option to parking on our road? Also, we know someone at the "Monthly Grapevine" which is a Magazine and Local Pages monthly issue in our area and she is very generous and runs a 1/4 page ad for us for free, advertising our haunt. (It's a $300 ad!) If the blood drive isn't a viable option because we're just a home haunt and rather small, is there another event that we could possibly do to involve the community and bring people into the haunt? Any other ideas would be greatly appreciated.

shawnc
11-14-2008, 11:38 AM
Sticking with the Bloodmobile idea: Many of them have it set up where if you donate blood anytime during a number of drives, or at one specifically, you receive something of value. They give away sports T-shirts and dinner coupons, things that are provided by sponsors. You could give them coupons for free admission to your haunt. That way you don't have to worry about space on the nights you are open, and you get some free advance publicity during the drives. Ebven if someone doesn't donate blood they will still hear about you.

robos99
11-14-2008, 12:06 PM
Running a shuttle might not be such a good idea. I think you're getting a gray area of commercial driving there, and then you need a CDL and proper insurance and all that stuff. I'm guessing that you don't want to deal with that. And it would be extremely risky to run a shuttle without a CDL and insurance. Your regular car insurance won't cover you if they find out you were doing commercial driving. And you leave yourself wide open for a lawsuit.

Honestly, in my opinion, if you're running a home haunt and get into the area of needing to think about where people will park and how you'll shuttle them over...you should expand your operation and stop using your home. Sure it's expensive to start this up, but once you go pro you can charge admission, get the proper insurance, and have a much better chance of getting sponsorships or investors.

asanve
11-14-2008, 06:34 PM
Running a shuttle might not be such a good idea. I think you're getting a gray area of commercial driving there, and then you need a CDL and proper insurance and all that stuff. I'm guessing that you don't want to deal with that. And it would be extremely risky to run a shuttle without a CDL and insurance. Your regular car insurance won't cover you if they find out you were doing commercial driving. And you leave yourself wide open for a lawsuit.

Honestly, in my opinion, if you're running a home haunt and get into the area of needing to think about where people will park and how you'll shuttle them over...you should expand your operation and stop using your home. Sure it's expensive to start this up, but once you go pro you can charge admission, get the proper insurance, and have a much better chance of getting sponsorships or investors.

Good points. I had heard that someone did the parking somewhere else for their haunt and then had a limo service shuttle them back and forth. Guess they used the limo cuz the limo service is already licensed and insured to do that sort of thing. Definitely makes more sense than taking the risk with ones own vehicle.

BruiseMuse
11-14-2008, 11:02 PM
I've worked at haunts that have done the blood drive event, and the one problamatic side effect is that blood donors are often dizzy/weak after donating. It led to a large number of pass-outs and sick customers, so it might be best to have people donate after the haunt or have a waiting area so that they have time to recover from the blood donation.

Jim Warfield
11-15-2008, 01:03 PM
..and if the guy in the blood tent only has the name "Gregg" on his nametag with no last name, then get suspicious....

Greg Chrise
11-16-2008, 02:45 AM
Yes, at Vampire Safari, we have a little different kind of blood drive/donation.

Thanks for stopping by,
Gregg

gregsalyers
11-17-2008, 09:14 AM
For me the trick was making friends with the Mayor....everything is easy after that. He sent the police to do crowd control and shut down the cities Haunted House and the city officially endoreses mine. I take reasonable precautions like clearly marked exits, fire extinguishers, and really good signage to mark any uneven ground or potential trip hazards. I have also been very lucky, my neighbors all think my haunted house is fantastic and most of them participate.