That's quite a story , Frightener! It is awesome that even after all that, you still haven't given up.
That's quite a story , Frightener! It is awesome that even after all that, you still haven't given up.
Wow! sorry for all that happening. Things happen for a reason and I hope this is the beginning of great things to come. This is the stuff I'm looking for.. This will help me keep an eye on the things around me not just the haunt itself.
tonguesandwich I too have a great understanding of business that will help me with the that aspect of a haunt. I am in the restaurant business now and also work for a restaurant consulting company where I deal with the the operating cost of a kitchen and the cost of items. The restaurant business is one of the toughest businesses to be in. 9 out of 10 fail within the first year. Your input is useful as-well, so I thank you for it
There are a lot of problems with the go big off the bat business theory. It ends up in failure all the time and that 10% that say they are still at it, have simply chosen it to be a lifestyle rather that that thing that is going to let them retire early.
There are lots of problems with 2 year or 5 year break even scenarios because in todays world of everything being fractured and lots and lots of competition, You can't just assume spending money is going to make it happen. You have to develop your clientel with lots of little experiments. To get feed back that what you are doing is crap or wildly successful or at least broke even.
If using the restaraunt scenario, you could have a hot dog cart and just a few events to make sure people are wild about your hot dog and fixings or it is impossible to compete with some corporate vendor strategy. Whereas it isn't simple to say that there is a sucker born every minute, now everyone can find what ever on the internet for free. As you mention some or lots of people are tired of haunted houses that exist and the new generations could compare you venue to either small live bands somewhere in an underground location or to a movie that has a 300 million dollar budget.
You can't just say a partner with no previous track record is going to fix that or just spending $1 or $3 per customer is going to make it happen. More like it takes 3 years of smaller stunts to get noticed, have a social network that is solid and then you can go medium or go home. If you go big and fail you have ruined your lifes access to resources. Sorry.
If there are partners they need years to develop the skills specific to the location. Actors evolve over several years and return but then 5 years down the line kind of get lacks because the have earned the right to just show up or something. And it all comes down to you. Pieces of a haunt I got were floating around for sale because the guy died. The guy who layed out the wonderful life of haunting in a big way died. The two guys from my business that I felt would be a great match for doing a haunt as a second business, one died on his motorcycle, and the other one in a different scenario also went into a coma from bouncing his head off the aspalt on a motorcycle. Those two I have never been able to replace in capabilities. But, I had a remodeled haunt. Then the location that we had been doing events at was lost in the landlords divorce.
SO my haunt became a charity event where there were lots of people that could and would do things. Except for actually telling anyone they had a haunt opened. It still made money. BUt in the mean time some younger guys with advertising backgrounds started the first pro haunt in the area. Their charity dues went on for 3 years where they basically used the charities advertising budget and the characters they created to develop a following where it was sort of understandable that they had a real segment of clientel that would come to a haunted house, people would want to be actors and people would want to set things up and make things long term even if it paid nothing.
After a few decades there are some zen principals.
Lots of people die at an early age and it seems to be from working themselves to death because there is a deadline or they have to have it now and in excess.
Lots of bitches seem to think they need mood altering legal drugs and go nuts and cause divorces.
There is an astounding number of people who can't do shit.
So that leaves you alone with how much can you put up with. So you start super small even if that is an entirely different angle on the haunted house experience. Have people following you for years wondering now what is he doing. In a way, I did that too, it became second nature to do something different.
So I'm supporting things like Frighteners mobile attractions because it may take a few years but instead of just whipping out $200,000 no one actually has or can borrow, you have earned it and know when pay day will be 4 or 5 years down the road and then you have a break even first year event.
A couple years of being a mobile hot dog vendor completely understanding the tastes of the locals. Like who knew, here instead of mustard and relish it is miracle whip and relish. Disgusting but if that is what they want, heres freaking miracle whip on your hot dogs. So you are the guy who isn't a cookie cutter franchise that doesn't have miracle whip or thinks relish is expensive so you get shitty little condement packets if you want that only by special request.
So you end up with a complete knowing of your market, not Bob is our marketing guy and he is going to pull all this amazing crap off starting the week we open this year for 50 cents a customer.
You can't get a loan for $200,000 since you haven't already done it and proven you can make $200,000 but you can get $3 per customer having a halloween party. Then in a city like Philidelphia, you probably will have to spend $3 per customer to do it, so you save the $3 per customer and spend their money to get them to come support the big thing. You already have several groups on social marketing, email lists and become a character of sorts and you are just cashing in on the big album tour. That is the proper other people's money scenario. Indivviduals having been inexpensively entertained funded your deal and the money went to send them a personal invitation that they already paid for and are highly likely to respond to.
Some haunts have taken 15 years and 20 years for this automatic fan base to develop. So the trick is to have as much haunt as the fan base deserves and actually supports. Not Just 50,000 SF or go home. Not when you can just have a scary bag of tricks that is a total of 2 SF.
So then in the bigger picture you still have the mobile hot dog stands not making much money but not costing money out there being your advertising media. So many companies after the fact have service branches that are a lost leader but necessary to keep finding the new customers. You don't stop the mobile activities, or go back to it as an after thought, it is part of the program. Then it doesn't matter what other haunts are doing one bit, you have qualified YOUR customer that still has life in them and is intrested and hasn't just been expected to be a good consumer.
So you have to pace yourself and do little experiments that prove yours and other people's theories. Just finding a partner doesn't work because they have no idea what works either. It is more than throwing money at it or serving that one customer that will only attend the big $20 show or nothing. You want the young people who have no idea why this big $20 spectacular is supposed to be anything or developed into this thing where they are all the same. When a haunt can be quite an intimate experience for 10,000 people per year. That doesn't happen with come tonight and save $2!!!!
It comes from hey, I saw that scary clown guy before on TV and the internet, it is hilaroius. Lets go check this out.
It is going to be kind of a tough sell having a gorey haunt when there are pictures on the news of someones legs blown off and the bones sticking out. But getting back to it could be haunted stories have held the test of time. The true wonder of the worlds other dimensions or phenomina and the young people that aren't totally sure if there are vampires or not.
I'll just bet the ones everyone is tired of has butcher scenes and body parts. When the world these days is supposed to be interactive entertainment somehow. What are people not doing, what condement do the customers really want. Then slowly all those customers are coming at least once over the course of many years.
There is no 2 year break even, there is more like 20 years later you have everything and then the market takes a nose dive or someone with different vision took the market. So be the guy that took the market. That is also a use of someone else's money. I have a competitor that wildly advertises and spends lots of money and goes bankrupt every so many years and changes his name. The potential customers call around and everyone says I'm okay and that guy isn't really doing the right things for anyone. They call a dozen places and they get the same general advice so I guess they need to talk to me. I don't want to talk to them until they have made that realization. No one is guarenteeing I will get paid for educating the customers. I don't bid on things, you either want me or you don't. If it is a competion, you don't know who I am yet so give me a call if you ever figure it out. It can be zero marketing dollars by reputation. But you have to do that for years and let the market come to you.
So you have zero dollars and that kind of matches how much it can cost so it is a win win way of operation.
Maybe, Frightner was married to a whore, who else thinks this?
Attachment 16241It currently is completely modified, sold as the second attraction called the Void at Terror Nights in Tyler. It was in Noonday for 5 years as a triangular grid and out door trail and prior to that was a roving gypsy haunt doing biker events of various sizes in the form of large 1500-3000 person private one weekend gatherings. It was portions of Castle Dragon reconstructed and added to considerably. It has been indoors as one unit and outdoors as 17 seperate sets on a trail.
Some of it was circa 1979. We have done things for Terror Trails in Yantis Texas, Phantoms when it was at the State Fair of Texas, did a facade for Mayhem Manor that was at Mountasia in North Richland Hills a long time ago, and at Hangmans as a 3rd attraction.
There are another half dozen haunts, event planners and investors I am an advisor to including all of the above are on going support efforts for us. Some are free for information sharing and some are on commission and under non disclosure agreements. For some we are an on call set up crew for the old style mobile attractions.
Even though it was called Vampire Safari, no event used that name in their marketing or reference material. Who ever we supported is who got the credit.
If it was cool, it was inspired by Verdun Manor, Mayhem Manor, Castle Dragon. A triangular grid only with lots of detail, props and actors. Whereas Mayhem Manor had painted walls to look like a house and mostly just a big maze with few props and few if any actors. I'd have to say Alex's Dungeon of Doom has a very similar look and vibe to what I came up with only mine was torn down and hauled off every year and could be put up and detailed in 2 weeks, taken apart and taken out in 3 days. The wall system was also used as a fire and rescue training house off season.
At any given time it could have been a 1000 SF side attraction or usually 3200 SF indoors with 2 acres wooded trail. Currently at Terror Nights it is down to about 1500 SF of actual haunt in a 3,000 SF building. Our usual bay was 42 by 75 and now it is in 50 by 60 with central corridors and about half the interum walls taken out to comply with the fire marshal requests.
The noonday haunt now has a different square room wall system and even more roof coverage but ended up with most of the props and costumes and power grid and lights. Of course over time things rot and break and wear out.
I make more money from consulting than the haunt made percentage wise for charities and small events so I sold it. When it gets right down to it, it isn't how cool my haunt was or is but, how I have greatly effected the east texas market and all of these haunts now have expecting community around them in actors and patrons. I have been involved in taking area wide patrons from about 2300 when the market tanked to about in this town to 17,000 and in other areas from nothing to 16,000. The investor group is in yet another location in the country and is into 3 larger cities now.
Some of my props over the years are in most haunts you know in Texas. Originally I didn't even have a haunt and was making and buying/selling props. I sold lots of stuff back in the day never thinking we would actually have a haunt and be more than a scenic design and set up crew. I bought lots of used walls to have on hand for scene building and moving in entire detailed rooms instead of full haunts. It was never actually my goal to have a haunt but it happened just because I had enough stuff to just set one up.
Also my commercial concrete overlay business seems to have the same busy seasons as the haunt conventions and halloween season and being one guy made that kind of tough to do all of that. I became aware of haunts in the first place from building outdoor concrete caves for a wooded trail and for some water parks. Real ground zero was our first biker halloween party only had 80 people for a one night event, then having a doctor buy all the props for his backyard party.
I have a couple of haunts I do sort of a mystery shopper thing for, posing as a customer and report on the performances and where improvement in the haunt design could take place or be re-engineered to meet entertainment goals and suggest what would attract more customers.
With a haunt set up seasonally, for me it was an open gallery of props that could be bought or the whole haunt or specific rooms were for sale and could be viewed. So to me, the addition and support of the many more haunts was not competition, it was the inspiring of a customer base to sell even more props and set design. It ended up being a consulting business I don't even advertise. To me it ranges from costumes to hearses that are prop quality to 24 foot by 80 facades to 16 foot tall concrete skulls or volcanos.
My newest venture is painting giant penises in the bottom of Olympic sized swimming pools that can be seen from air craft. I'm very busy and not looking for any work right now.
I did all this stuff and all this work and I'm still facinated how 2 guys took 3 props and 20 walls and made $2500 outside a lame Jaycees attraction that could have been $10,000 at some of the haunts I deal with using the same set up. I could have taken my haunt apart and had a dozen of these things at a dozen different haunts with very little overhead. So if you were industrious and hard working that could be $120,000 right there but everyone asks for numbers and descriptions to fill out some magical business plan where Ed McMann will show up and hand them a check for $150,000 so they can get started. Except Ed is dead too.
In previous posts, mindset has been mentioned. My mindset see places all over that have memberships of 3,000 or as many as 1 million people per month where something simple could make money. All I know is carrying lots of haunt walls and moving big props will literally break you back. SO you better make it before you get old and busted up, leave clean underwear. And pace yourself because it is possible to work yourself to death. It doesn't matter how much money you made if you are dead.
It was cool. I did what I could. It taught a lot of people their own capabilities and enjoyment of life.
THE BEST HELP I can think of is Alan Hopps.
Check out all his youtube videos.
And take as many haunt seminars as possible.
I am glad Greg did only his short answer. Lol. Greg you are the best.