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asanve
11-14-2008, 08:28 PM
When going from a home haunt to a pro haunt, how big do you need to go at first in order to survive? Can you start out small like perhaps a 3,000 square foot building or maybe a couple acres of property and be able to generate the income to pay the bills (rent, insurance, permits)? Or do you need to go huge in order to make it? Does it need to be conveniently located near town, or would people drive a distance to get to it if they've never been before? And how far out of town will people travel to attend haunts? I found a couple of possible pieces of property but they are about 10 minutes out from an already small town. They are located near another small, not-so-desirable town--they are close to a town called Bethel Island (aka "meth isle")!!! It's kind of a white trash island, although there are some really pretty homes on the water in some areas. The 2 possible properties I found aren't actually on the island but are only a couple of miles before you reach it. Property is fairly cheap out there, and with the housing market in the toilet, the prices are even better than before. I worry that the stigma that surrounds the island will keep people from venturing out that direction. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Jim Warfield
11-15-2008, 01:15 PM
Make that stigma work for you! Advertise that only the bravest and most foolhardy would ever dream of coming there.
Sounds like a modern day "Pirate's Cove!"
Almost any situation can be made to "work", it's just how profitably do you need it to "work"?
Begin small, something you can financially and otherwise manage and grow via word of mouth before you worry about expensive advertising because people really do not appreciate being suckered into spending their time and money to see a falling-down chicken coop full of bird poop.
If you can build a robotic fox with a chainsaw to splatter the bird's blood around, you might find a niche market who digs this sort of perverted "Wild Kingdom".
The second "room" might be a puddle full of woman-eating guppies!
Don't forget to rent the rights to play the Jaws soundtrack.
"We drove all the way out here to see this?"
"Well, at least you don't have to worry about driving back."
"What do you mean?"
"The pirates parted-out your car, sorry."

Greg Chrise
11-15-2008, 03:55 PM
Don't even consider owning or operating a pro haunted house unless you are mean enough to disassemble and load a semi trailer with walls ALL BY YOURSELF and give those just watching the finger on the way out the parking lot.

It's kind of like you shouldn't ride a motorcycle until you can lift it off the ground by yourself.

Jim Warfield
11-15-2008, 06:44 PM
"You should only have an engine in your car that displaces the same amount of cc.s as your personal skull.
So most of us would be driving pretty slowly then....
"Peddle, peddle, turn on the gas!"

Greg Chrise
11-15-2008, 09:13 PM
You must be smarter than your moped and totally resist ringing the little bell. If it sputters, it looks totally un professional and not quite as mean if you are giving the finger and it is wobbling.

Allen H
11-16-2008, 02:23 AM
Asanve,
The reason that you havent gotten a straight answer yet is because these are really big questions that cant easily be answered in a 20 page reply yet alone a small reply box. Cheaper than buying the land and "giving it a go" Hit a bunch of tradeshows and attend every startup seminar you can. I highly reccomend the seminars at Transworld and Hauntcon.

My short answers to your questions are...

how big do you need to go at first in order to survive? Can you start out small like perhaps a 3,000 square foot building or maybe a couple acres of property and be able to generate the income to pay the bills (rent, insurance, permits)?
You could have the worlds scariest haunted closet and still make money if your overhead is low and your throughput is high. size dosent matter, to much success has its own problems.

Does it need to be conveniently located near town, or would people drive a distance to get to it if they've never been before?
If you are 5min from a major highway or can be seen from the highway you are golden, thats the key. Your numbers will go up each year if you stay in the same location and deliver a good show.

With out answering each question individually I will say this, If you are going have a small crowd, then have small overhead. All creatures are born small and learn their skills and gain size slowly, we do not spring from the womb full size ready for work plan your haunt accordingly, grow as your audience grows, If your show is good and they get to hear about it then they will literally pay for your growth. I suggest making a deal with a current landowner, that way you can learn the issues and bumps without having the overhead. I recommend a farm or RV camp or some such facility that would benefit from such an arrangement. Low income neighborhoods and those with stigmas are not bad if you control the factors. Dont encourage hanging out, have your show be one time through and then thats it, keep away from concessions and midway stuff that will allow a bad element to hang around. Light your parking lot well and have security in it. Many people make a deal with someone to charge a dollar or two for parking that they can keep as long as they provide a security presence.
Lastly Speak with a haunted house consultant, the questions you are asking tells me you are very new to the haunt business if not business in general, not being up on the business end is the fastest way to get broke, sued, or worse. I can recommend one to you if you PM me. I wish you the best of luck in all future ventures. I hope this helps.
Allen H

HauntedMemphis
11-16-2008, 01:14 PM
Ok, first let me say I'm not an expert. I'm someone who is looking into the possibility of opening a pro haunt in 2010. I'm in research mode just like you, but I'm going to make some general recommendations, as well as address some of your specific questions. Take what you will from my information, but remember my first sentence.

First, I want to put in a plug for Kelly Allen's book "So You Want to Be a Haunt Entrepreneur". This book isn't about scaring people. There are tons of other sources of information for that. This book is about the business side of things. Although it's mostly an overview of the business of haunts and shouldn't be the end of your research, I think it definately should be the start. I'm in no way affiliated with Kelly (in fact, Kelly would have no idea who I am), but I just finished the book and think it would help you a lot in some of these areas. You can find it at http://www.eurekascreams.com/store.shtml.



When going from a home haunt to a pro haunt, how big do you need to go at first in order to survive? Can you start out small like perhaps a 3,000 square foot building or maybe a couple acres of property and be able to generate the income to pay the bills (rent, insurance, permits)? Or do you need to go huge in order to make it?

There isn't a certain size that makes a pro haunt. It all comes down to whether your customers are getting their money's worth. You'll need to figure out what price is worthwhile, and will definately need to compare to other haunt options in your area. Quality is definately better than quality though. There is nothing to say you can't have a fantastic haunt that is only 2000 to 3000 square feet. Just remember that if it's going to be a very short time for people to be inside your haunt, you may want to reflect that in your price. However, if you entertain people enough, they likely won't be worried about the value.




Does it need to be conveniently located near town, or would people drive a distance to get to it if they've never been before? And how far out of town will people travel to attend haunts?

There is no easy way to know this. It depends on your market and how well you tap it. Every single market is different. You need to figure out who it is you are targetting to come to your haunt, and then figure out how far they'd be willing to travel. Market surveys could help a lot, but there are other things to consider as well. I think if you are out of town, your advertising becomes even more important than normal. Having people drive by your haunt is free advertising (well not free, since you pay extra for location), and you won't have that. You'll have to work even harder on how to convince people to come out to your haunt. The web and word of mouth help, but you need to get the ball rolling with radio, print, flyers, coupons, TV, and any other advertising you can to get the word out.



I found a couple of possible pieces of property but they are about 10 minutes out from an already small town. They are located near another small, not-so-desirable town--they are close to a town called Bethel Island (aka "meth isle")!!! It's kind of a white trash island, although there are some really pretty homes on the water in some areas. The 2 possible properties I found aren't actually on the island but are only a couple of miles before you reach it. Property is fairly cheap out there, and with the housing market in the toilet, the prices are even better than before. I worry that the stigma that surrounds the island will keep people from venturing out that direction.

Is it possible to lease to own? Try the location for a year renting to see if it's a good location before committing even more money to it? Sinking too much money in a bad location (and it sounds like there is good potential for that here) could crush your chances right out of the gate. I look at real estate like I look at the stock market these days. Just because it sounds cheap compared to what it was before, doesn't make it cheap.


Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

So my overall advice is to go slow and make sure you get as much information as possible up front. There is a lot of risk here, so you want to base your decision on as much knowledge as you can gather.

Jim Warfield
11-16-2008, 11:58 PM
Make sure you understand how much property taxes on your property will be. Realators play dumb and lie saying something like, "The taxes are only $400 a year."
The place is still owned by Grandma who gets a senoir citizen tax break and the assessor hasn't looked the place over for 25 years.
The value as assessed will be low, say $25,000, but if you pay $50,000 for it (which still may be a bargain) you will be paying tax on a $50,000 piece of pie at the full non-elderly rate.
Around here the taxes are increasing because of the whole country's financial mess.
In Illinois if the tax man feels your business property is under assessed they can legally make a guess at how much business you are doing from that property and add a percentage to your property tax bill, even though this is income and already taxed Federally and state wide. Some crap huh?
Of course this sort of thinking Never ever applies to a physically small law office doing a million dollars worth of business every year..for some reason?

Greg Chrise
11-17-2008, 01:43 AM
So you hide your customers by waiting until after dark. The tax assessor has been by hundreds of times between 9AM and 5PM and never saw a single customer providing an income.

Jim Warfield
11-17-2008, 07:50 PM
Actually the stupidity works the other way. If someone drives passed on a busy October weekend night and sees a whole lot crammed full of customers, then they assume it's always like this every night of the year...so I MUST be making absolutely Millions of Dollars $$$
Of course such stupidity might come from the fact that most of the people thinking this have Never been on my tour!
My tours require "time", usually 60 to 90 minutes, sometimes more.
Great God "Throughput" was dethroned in favor of his lowly Jester Jim.
The rabble seems to appreciate the difference.