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View Poll Results: How far do you go?

Voters
59. You may not vote on this poll
  • Fun for the whole family nothing too graphic

    2 3.39%
  • A good scare but not too much horror and gore

    21 35.59%
  • The usual horror and gore and some torture scenes

    10 16.95%
  • Complete realism and as much gore as possible

    11 18.64%
  • Includes disturbing pyscological torture

    9 15.25%
  • Nothing is taboo including simulating satanic rituals

    6 10.17%

Thread: Is there ever such as thing as too far?

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  1. Default Is there ever such as thing as too far? 
    #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    147
    We have been running a local haunt now for quite a few years now and every year we expand but it always such a big debate on how scary we can be.

    We tone it down for kids and let them come in earlier and then crank it up for older crowds. But even then we have a 'quick exit' scheme where there are doors for people to leave - when they have had enough. Last year only 30% only made it through and we are pretty tame. Especially compared some of you guys in the US.

    It is a big issue is because the ones that do come are in the minority. The set up is that it gets scarier and scarier. The front area is basically 'Wally world' crap. And even then about 15% still can't manage it through the front door.

    For me to comprimise too much and it becomes pointless but the better in my opinion and scarier it is the less people we are going to get.

    The problem for us as well of avoiding potential lawsuits and people wanting their money back and getting angry because we 'scared them' is the potential of negative press.

    We feel as though we are walking a very fine line and I was wondering if anyone has had problems from negative press and pressure groups such as mosques or church's?

    Everyone I know over here basically has to restrict themselves and keep a fun element or face being shut down.

    There are lots of us in the same boat and all of us are feeling a bit constrained.

    Even the London Dungeon had problems and their displays have to delibertly look fake to avoid confusing or distressing people or they would face losing their liscence. They also have signs telling people the 'bones are not real these are simulated'.

    Be interested to know much you can get away with.....

    X
     

  2. Default  
    #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Baltimore, MD
    Posts
    1,487
    Xeverity,

    Are you from the UK? I would have though most people across the pond would be less afraid of gore and torture scenes etc, since attractions like London Dungeons are so popular all through Europe? Anyway, I would'nt always believe the hype people claim about people peeing themselves and throwing up or worse in their haunts. There are some cases where this may have happened but I feel it's bad business to promote it. We have some pretty scary scenes like all haunts out there, but in all reality people know that their in a haunted house attraction and not the real deal.

    I would say that if you want to be very successful in the haunt business, don't make it too scary. It can work in some cases if promoted as such, but families is where the money is. Make it scary, make it fun and entertaining.

    Also, does your haunt have a website? I'd love to learn more about the haunt industry abroad!

    Good luck,
     

  3. Default  
    #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Ravens Grin Inn, 411 carroll st.mount carroll ill.
    Posts
    12,813
    Realism of an actual old structure may add to the fear people feel when in a haunted attraction. What is the basic setting for your haunt?
    I'm thinking if you really had an old castle-looking building that may be 1,000 years old, even phoney looking props may not dispel many people's real fear? Everything and everybody tells them "This is a scary place".
    I do a tour that talks about the real haunting things that have happened here, this is an old building, it actually does have it's history, some people stand outside and their minds go wild, making it very difficult for them to step in the door. Or maybe they are the "sensitive" ones? Sensitive to ghosts and past emotional residues?
    After living here for 20 years and having had several "experiences" , I will not be too judgemental of others because you just never really know......

    I will say that there are a whole lot of adults who will not step foot inside any haunt. Being an adult usually means that you have successfully wrestled some power , money and freedom out of this life and entering a haunt means (to some) that you are giving up your control over events about to happen. Predictability is where it's at for many adults.
    Then there is the 20-something year old who basically lost his haunted house "cherry" 10 years ago and hasn't experienced anything scary since and no matter what happens inside the place, sometimes their ego won't allow them to admit that a rubber ducky going "Quack" scared him (because he certainly had never seen one before and wasn't expecting it!)
    How did 9-11 impact the haunt shows in England? they seemed to have had an effect in the USA from what I have heard and read from others.

    Terrorize most people, embarrass them infront of their friends when they soil themselves and the huge majority of average people will not be back to give you their money ever again to any haunt.
    Then as time goes on, these same people will not be encouraging their friends, relatives to enter a haunt.
    I have met numerous people of all ages who have had these experiences and I have to talk a long time to get them into my door.
    Of course I could be wrong?
     

  4. Default Re: Is there ever such as thing as too far? 
    #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Texas
    Posts
    394
    Quote Originally Posted by Xeverity
    We have been running a local haunt now for quite a few years now and every year we expand but it always such a big debate on how scary we can be.

    We tone it down for kids and let them come in earlier and then crank it up for older crowds. But even then we have a 'quick exit' scheme where there are doors for people to leave - when they have had enough. Last year only 30% only made it through and we are pretty tame. Especially compared some of you guys in the US.

    It is a big issue is because the ones that do come are in the minority. The set up is that it gets scarier and scarier. The front area is basically 'Wally world' crap. And even then about 15% still can't manage it through the front door.

    For me to comprimise too much and it becomes pointless but the better in my opinion and scarier it is the less people we are going to get.

    The problem for us as well of avoiding potential lawsuits and people wanting their money back and getting angry because we 'scared them' is the potential of negative press.

    We feel as though we are walking a very fine line and I was wondering if anyone has had problems from negative press and pressure groups such as mosques or church's?

    Everyone I know over here basically has to restrict themselves and keep a fun element or face being shut down.

    There are lots of us in the same boat and all of us are feeling a bit constrained.

    Even the London Dungeon had problems and their displays have to delibertly look fake to avoid confusing or distressing people or they would face losing their liscence. They also have signs telling people the 'bones are not real these are simulated'.

    Be interested to know much you can get away with.....

    X
    My opinion:

    You are asking the wrong question. It doesn't make the slightest difference what any other haunted attraction can get away. YOUR customers should dictate your level of intensity.

    I would invite you to look at your attraction differently. To help you understand, consider another entertainment attraction, miniature golf. Imagine that you love miniature golf so much that you built your own course and are now charging people admission. You decide that you are not gonna run one of those sissy courses where you can putt it in in only twenty strokes... you want to build the kind of course that you want to visit! So you put more vertical elements, a ball chipper, and on the last hole failure to make a hole in one causes a golf club to smack your guests upside the head.

    Finally, you tell yourself, a real challenge! Sadly, for some reason people don't seem to want to play your course. They aren't up for the challenge, and some even leave in tears of frustration. Of course, a few die hards love it, but they are the minority. And all too soon you find yourself out of business.

    The problem is that you completely forgot what you are supposed to be selling. You thought your customers were paying to play golf, so you gave them an interesting and challenging course. But they are NOT there to play golf.

    The are there to have a good time.

    The same thing applies to a haunted attraction. Your guests are paying you for entertainment. For some small number, fun is the most terrifying thing that you can imagine, but that number is very small, and with every step up the intensity ladder, the fewer customers you will successfully entertain.

    I believe that the besy place to start for any haunt owner asking themselves these questions is to look at their queue and ask what these people want. For example, does that teenage girl really want to wet her panties? Does mom want to puke all over the floor? Does that teenage boy relish the idea of being humiliated in front of his friends (and the girlfriend who drug him there)?

    Hell no, and if you do those things to them they WILL NEVER RETURN.

    If you are not building to the desires of your guests then you are making a mistake. You are the Hollywood producer who wants to make kids cartoons that include graphic pornography; you are the theme park owner who decided that every ride must be an eyeball popping roller coaster; you are the restaurant owner who insists that every hamburger will be slathered with a liberal helping of wriggling squid tentacles.

    Which brings this back around to your question: what do our customers want. I have haunted here in North Texas and Nevada. In both places the customers I have seen are similar. First, in my limited experience the target demographic for ALL teenage oriented entertainment is teenage girls. They are the ones you are most likely to see at everything from go-carts to lazer tag and arcades, and even at haunted houses. I determined this by visiting a couple dozen facilities multiple times (checking all hours and all days of the week), and I saw this at every facility I visited, at all hours and times, without exception. When teenage boys were present they were typically with girls, or more rarely in groups with their friends. Groups of teenage girls are, of course, common. Your mileage may vary, so survey your area before you go too far.

    More opinion: The typical teenage girl wants to have fun being scared. She wants to scream and shriek, and ham it up, and most of all she wants the excuse all that gives her to cling to her (preferrably dry) boyfriend -- assuming she could get him to come -- or girlfriends. Her boyfriend is not really there to be scared, he is there because:

    A. while he would rather be playing video games, she made him come,
    B. he gets to hold her,
    C. he gets to showcase his courage.

    If (as is the case where I have haunted) the target demographic you want is teenage girls, then the entire show should be built around providing THEM an enjoyable experience. This might involve some very high intensity scares, or it might not -- their actions will tell you this. If they are leaving then obviously you are missing the mark.

    Some businesses have been very successful violating all the rules. Generally this is because they saw an untapped market (or the main market was saturated) and they went after it. In general though, your haunt should cater to the largest possible demographic, and you want they to leave smiling. There is a REASON that microsoft keeps dumbing down windows; there is a reason that Disney built a haunt that becomes progressively funner as it goes along and leaves people grinning at the end. There is a reason that "Snakes on a Plane!" has generated more buzz than just about anything else out there.

    To summarize all that long winded nonsense, allow me to go out on a limb and say just this: if more than a few percent of your customers are not finishing your show then you are probably making a mistake. Most people who are forced to leave are probably not feeling great about their experience, and while some might tell their friends, "I paid twelve pounds and only made it thirty feet! It ROCKED!" I think most will feel a little ripped off and are unlikely to return. You want them to return, you want them to return with their friends and family, and if that means running "The Little Mermaid Spooky Adventure" then do it.

    NOTE: some haunters absolutely do NOT agree with anything I have writen above. They believe in doing their best to scare the heck out of anyone who comes through their doors. They want everyone to leave leaking from the top and the bottom, and permanently traumatized by the experience. What I have writen above is just my opinion.

    Just my two cents,

    Chris
    "To be matter-of-fact about the world is to blunder into fantasy - and dull fantasy at that, as the real world is strange and wonderful." Robert A. Heinlein
     

  5. Default  
    #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    43
    Great job establishing a line Smacky, I think your demographic should definitely be a cue to the levels you put out.

    Theres a reason bands change once they get a label, it sells more records and appeals to a wider range of people.

    Making money, as far back in some of our minds as it drifts at times, is a very pertinent component of a successful business, because without it the business ceases to exist.
     

  6. Default  
    #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Portland, OR
    Posts
    270
    Smacky's post is very astute and well thought out. I agree with him, with the proviso that a very scary haunt can be successful. People do love to be scared. But, as he said, you must know your audience.

    That said, it is very possible that the problem is not with how scary your haunt is. In another post, you stated that you try to undersell how the fear level of your haunts and that you don't post warnings or tell customers that they are going to be very scary. Obviously, I can't say for sure, and the only way to know for sure is by surveying you clients, but it is quite possible that is a big part of your problem.

    Let me explain. Part of creating the proper level of fear involves setting the proper expectations. If people are expecting a very scary show and the scares are low intensity, then they may leave disappointed. If, on-the-other-hand, people enter a haunt expecting Disney, and get gore and high intensity scares, then they are likely to bail out part way through. Why? Because they had not prepared themselves to face the scares that you put in front of them. They are expecting light-hearted fun with a dark theme, so when they find terror the fight or flight mechanism kicks in.
    As I said, this may or may not be your problem, but I have found that managing the audience's expectations is a highly important, if under considered, aspect to creating a show that people want to see again and again.

    You might consider making the queue line and front of the haunt darker and more imposing. I know that seems counterintuitive, but it lessons the shock as things start getting scary. Giving guests a back-story before the scares begin can give them an idea of what to expect and help with managing expectations as well.

    I think that you have the right idea about having the scares start small and build. Again, this gives people a chance to build up their courage as they go along.

    Smacky gave you the best advice. Talk to your guests, both before and after they have gone through the haunt. Ask about their expectations going in, and their comments coming out. Especially talk to those who bailed out. Ask them why. You may find that you can make adjustments that will make everyone happy without compromising the intensity of your show.

    Good luck,

    Dave
     

  7. Default  
    #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Ravens Grin Inn, 411 carroll st.mount carroll ill.
    Posts
    12,813
    Talk to the guests before they enter, listen to them as they walk away at the conclusion, I hiding place along the walk way out helps this, or have an employee pretending to be a disinterested by stander.
    Of course the proof will always be found in the money box whether they liked it or not. Consider this a ballot box.
    Written surveys might not really show you anything either. My suggestion box was mostly to give them something to do and basically only five responses were commonly to be found there.
    1) "It's too dark!"
    2) "It's not dark enough!"
    3)"It's too scary!"
    4) It's not scary enough!"
    and number 5..."Jim, go #$**!? Yourself!"

    ..I got Real tired of trying to do that to myself! Hire a professional, don't try this at home!
    I like the rest of the year , I like compliments from my customers almost as much as I like an attentive audience, when I get both it is very rewarding!
     

  8. Default  
    #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Texas
    Posts
    394
    Quote Originally Posted by Theatremacabre
    Smacky's post is very astute and well thought out. I agree with him, with the proviso that a very scary haunt can be successful. People do love to be scared. But, as he said, you must know your audience.

    That said, it is very possible that the problem is not with how scary your haunt is. In another post, you stated that you try to undersell how the fear level of your haunts and that you don't post warnings or tell customers that they are going to be very scary. Obviously, I can't say for sure, and the only way to know for sure is by surveying you clients, but it is quite possible that is a big part of your problem.

    Let me explain. Part of creating the proper level of fear involves setting the proper expectations. If people are expecting a very scary show and the scares are low intensity, then they may leave disappointed. If, on-the-other-hand, people enter a haunt expecting Disney, and get gore and high intensity scares, then they are likely to bail out part way through. Why? Because they had not prepared themselves to face the scares that you put in front of them. They are expecting light-hearted fun with a dark theme, so when they find terror the fight or flight mechanism kicks in.
    As I said, this may or may not be your problem, but I have found that managing the audience's expectations is a highly important, if under considered, aspect to creating a show that people want to see again and again.

    You might consider making the queue line and front of the haunt darker and more imposing. I know that seems counterintuitive, but it lessons the shock as things start getting scary. Giving guests a back-story before the scares begin can give them an idea of what to expect and help with managing expectations as well.

    I think that you have the right idea about having the scares start small and build. Again, this gives people a chance to build up their courage as they go along.

    Smacky gave you the best advice. Talk to your guests, both before and after they have gone through the haunt. Ask about their expectations going in, and their comments coming out. Especially talk to those who bailed out. Ask them why. You may find that you can make adjustments that will make everyone happy without compromising the intensity of your show.

    Good luck,

    Dave
    Thanks. Your advice was great.

    I want to be clear about one thing: I am not suggesting for a moment that a terrifying show cannot be successful. In fact, I believe that a haunted attraction should be scary. However, the level of scare must be matched to the expectrations of the guests.

    You discuss techniques to manipulate the audience that are worth reading. Since this is an interesting discussion, allow me to offer two examples:

    Disneyland's Haunted Mansion: From the time you enter the queue, you begin passing through the mansion's graveyard. Each turn offers you new things to look at: new stones, new views of the mansion, until finally you are in front, and then inside. The show starts from the moment you enter the line.

    Once inside you immediately experience the most frightening things in the entire ride, the scary voice, the strentching room, and the hanging man scrim effect. The voice even tells you that you CANNOT leave. From there it is significantly tamer, but still spooky, until you "exit" the mansion and go outside to the graveyard. Most people don't consciously realize that the ghosts you now begin to see are no longer threatening at all, they seem to view the visitor as one of them. It is the graverobber that is scared, not the guest. The ride ends with a spooky peppers ghost ride along, but even there the ghosts are comic rather than terrifying, and most people are amazed rather than scared. People leave the ride having forgotten their earlier fear.

    "The Sixth Sense" Ask almost anyone and they will tell you that this movie was not scary at all. Invite them to watch it with you, watch their reactions during the show, and you will get a completely different impression. The movie is very scary, one of the best horror movies ever made, and yet the end is so powerful that most people completely forget the frightening scenes. I bet even some of the folks reading this are saying to themselves, "Pfft, it wasn't scary!" To you I say watch it again, preferrably with a non-haunter. It is a textbook example of how to do such a movie.

    I think that both of these examples show that you can scare the crap out of people, and if you control things well, still lead them through the show and have them leave with a positive impression.

    For the haunter in the situation of the original poster, perhaps this means setting things up better beforehand (as you suggested), coupled with better tension relief moments during the show. In other words, scare the heck out of them, then let them relax. Add some humor, downtime, breathing room, whatever. Try scaring them with something that, on examination, turns out to be funny. I do this myself and it works great for me -- my scares are almost always humorous once they take that second look, and I have never had anyone complain that I am not scary enough.

    Again, it is my believe that for many shows, if more than a small percentage are leaving then you are missing out on money. When someone leaves, or indicates that they might want to, try to talk to them and see what you can do to make their experience better. Maybe calm them down and let them try again, maybe even go through the show with them, but treat them as the VALUABLE customer that they are. Even if you fail, and they refuse to try again, they will leave with a far more positive impression of both you and your show.

    Again, I know that this flies in the face of what many haunters believe, but I am okay with that. Everyone has their own ideas and these are mine. We are there to entertain people, and it is our JOB as professionals to do so to the best of our abilities. Car companies offer many different models and a rainbow of colors, and with a change in attitude and a little effort, as haunters we can (generally) do the same.
    "To be matter-of-fact about the world is to blunder into fantasy - and dull fantasy at that, as the real world is strange and wonderful." Robert A. Heinlein
     

  9. Default  
    #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Ravens Grin Inn, 411 carroll st.mount carroll ill.
    Posts
    12,813
    As I am giving a tour of my house I really try to keep my ears open to the reactions and I do try to steer the experience in the direction that seems to be the most acceptable to that group.
    I have made mistakes , misread a group, offended someone, I apologise and we go on to something else, as long as everyone realises that you are trying to create entertainment for their benefit it makes apologising and forgiving much easier.
    Humor can be a very tricky sword to handle because all humor is "risk", you risk not being funny, you risk offending someone.
    I managed to get my customers "talking" from the first ten people who ever paid me to see my house 20 years ago. Good things can snowball and create a viable living, but like all "Over-night successes" it requires years of concentrated effort.
    Within those first ten paying customers was a Doctor a haunt fan, he brought, sent and paid for possibly as many as 200 people here within that first year!
     

  10. Default  
    #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Location
    Providence, RI
    Posts
    39
    I also agree whole heartedly with Smacky. Research is always the best recourse. Check out other haunts, mini golf, etc. Listen , listen ,listen.
    Although interestingly enough, we have changed up and down because some years customers would say it wasnt scary enough and then we'd charge it up and they would want more. In pure monetary numbers keeping it "Little Mermaid House of horrors" is more lucrative, certainly. But, If you keep trying to outdo yourself everyyear , where does it end?
    "You smell like old people...and soap. I like that!!"
     

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