Re: Is there ever such as thing as too far? –
Originally Posted by Xeverity
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,
"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