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Thread: Your History?

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  1. Question Your History? 
    #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
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    IL
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    508
    I always like stories/movies when you get a persons back story.. SoÖ Why did you get into haunted attractions? Where did it all start from? Whatís your favorite part?

    I remember decorating the house as a little kid (3-5 years old) and getting a rush from building dead bodies from garbage bags, masks in stores and drawing roller coasters. The first Halloween even I went to I was maybe 7. Dave Link had the ninja turtles, Et, Gizmo and an amazing animatronics show which completely blew me away (Still have it on VHS, now on DVD) Ever since then I knew I wanted to do something like that. So thank you Dave for implanting the Halloween Seed into my brain so early and my parents for letting me go nuts on their house back in the 80ís.

    Anyone else??

    Peter T
    FS
     

  2. Default I Liked Those "Bio" Shows 
    #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
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    Ravens Grin Inn, 411 carroll st.mount carroll ill.
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    But did you ever notice they never really tell you how a guy went from owning one restaurant to owning 35 of them? Someplace between one and the next 12 he owned ,somebody made a decision or two, loaned, begged, borrowed, inherited, to make the turn in that corner, but they never give you that info I noticed.
    As a small kid my mind was usually within itself, self-entertained. Entertained by things that required some input from me, like listening to the old radio shows where your imagination had to fill in the blanks, TV ruins this requirement.
    My Mother read alot to me when I was very young. I only read what interested me but usually I was too busy drawing strange things and having adults and kids tell me I was "weird", "strange", whatever?
    I was born in 1949 so I was the fresh audience for all of those wonderfull old Sci-Fi movies that filled our leisure moments and dreams. AND the Atomic secrets were going to be further unlocked and make all of our lives fantastic!!
    My haunted house in my parent's basement when I was maybe 10 showed me some of the fun available in such a setting and that a setting could be physical or mental.
    Almost every week people who come through my house will say how much imagination I have!! To which I point out, well, I'd better have something because I've never had any money!
    This last Oct. somebody dumped off a large piece of a car body, all flexible plastic and it Does resemble a big shark mouth w/ eyes, and that it will be right here waiting to startle people when it attacks them! Next spring.
     

  3. Default  
    #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Mesquite, TX
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    2,788
    This is a re post from another thread but it tells alot of my back story.

    This post gets me thinking, sorry to throw it off track if I do but I'm a little worried about all the young posters on here. This has been on my mind for a while. I would assume that if you are on the professional haunt chat list that you would own, manage, or at least act at a haunted house. Many of the people on this board who spend alot of time helping out by writing responses actually own a haunt. We are able to help because we have learned through trial and error.
    I suppose it is best to learn from the experiences of others, but I also would like the people to at least have worked at a haunted house before. I have frequented the list on and off for several years leaving and swearing off of them due to drama or bitterness on the lists. I believe you should spend more time actually haunting or building props than you should talking about haunting.
    This is going to sound like a "I used to have to walk to school uphill both ways" kind of post but I don't mean it that way. We all have our different styles and there was not a resource like this for Haunters to get together and share our strategies. The internet has changed that, and I'm thankful for it. I also don't want folks to call themselves haunters if they have never acted in or run a haunted house.
    Floor I owe you an answer to your question. Take business and marketing courses, and call you career path entertainment. However to be a real haunter in my eyes you will also have to become an electrician, carpenter, plumber, scenic painter, actor, sculptor, set designer, promoter, human resource person, recruiter, and accountant. There are also 20 or more other jobs that you will have to learn in order to be successful. I should also mention that successful is a variable term. I consider myself successful in the haunted house field. During my career I have lived in my haunted house (and other peoples haunts), had to learn to manage money as I was paid once a year and that was really hard. I've had to have off season jobs up untill a few years ago. All the off season jobs were me trying to learn something I needed to know, sign shop, radio shack, roller bladeing wolf-man, home depot, electricians helper, carpenters helper, and in super lean times, even fast food.
    I began haunting at the age of ten, a haunted house was open in my grand mother's neighborhood and I volunteered. They removed a ceiling tile and I dropped a fake spider on a fishing pole into the group to make them scream. For the next six years I worked as an actor in various haunts. Typically I would show up with my wolfman costume in a duffel-bag and talk to the owner during set up, It was all volunteer then. I became a part owner of a haunt at the age of 17. It was in a strip mall and I learned alot and lost my burger flipping job I had kept for almost a year.
    It was a decent show but also had its share of disasters, learning from them really helped me.
    The week I graduated high school I moved to Orlando FL (From Maryland) to work at Terror on Church St. (I arranged that while on a road trip the previous summer). I made $7 an hour starting there and lived in a neighborhood where I was the only one who spoke English. I could not afford a car or TV, but I was doing what I loved and learning a ton there. In Orlando, I picked up a side job of handing out fliers for a nightclub downtown. I wore my wolfman costume and roller blades in the middle of downtown Orlando (Did that for 3 years). It paid three times what I made at Terror on Church St. The cast and show support there were amazingly talented and I learned a ton from them.
    Skull Kingdom opened four years after that and Terror was on it's way downhill. So I jumped haunts and worked at the year round Skull Kingdom and was actually helping to build it before they opened. They made a ton of mistakes and I was there to learn again, and even help smooth out a few things. I was hired as a stilt performer because thats what they were looking for, so after I was hired I bought a pair of stilts from a pawn shop and taught myself how to walk on them before work the next week. While there I learned about airbrush make up (they had the best and fastest team I've ever seen). Skull was year round haunt acting work and in October I would always take time off and go work at other Haunts around the country. I worked a season at Spookyworld in Foxborough, MA and I learned from Ed and the team up there, several seasons at Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights FL, and several other haunts that I arranged.
    Each show was different and I learned different things from each one. Spooky World had great sets and had guest flow down to a science. In 2001 I went to Texas to be a stilt performer and the director of actors at the Addamsville Terror Complex. I learned alot there about what to do and what not to do. The park had several haunts on it and several owners who sued the crap out of each other after the season ended. One night in 2001, I met my wife. She came through the show taking pictures and I had a security guard give her my email so I could get copies emailed to me. I ended every email with a question so she had to write back. After the season was over I went back to FL and continued emailing my future wife.
    In January I moved to Texas, (working and living at) Addamsville for the time. I learned alot there and also got closer to my future wife (my devious ulterior motive) 2002 was Addamsville's last season (before being repurchased by one owner two seasons ago) as the owners at the time countersued and feuded with each other. I was never paid for any of my work there for the 02 season despite a contract. The weather was terrible and attendance was poor as well as legal fees so I saw no point in trying to get money out of them. I don't mention that because I'm bitter or pissed about it. I'm pleased in general. They couldn't have given me anything better than the wife I found on their grounds. I mention it to show that this is a business that people may try to rip you off in, like all businesses I suppose. That year I had to enter costume contests in order to pay my actors, In two contests I won $2,000 and was able to pay my actors.
    2003 I started Creature Crates, a mask and stilt costume company with a partner and sold pretty well at the Transworld show. Our arrangement was that I sculpted and helped design and sell at the show and he would do the production work. I flew back from the show and he and other staff drove. He fell asleep behind the wheel and hit a semi. He was hospitalized for three months, so I ended up doing alot of production work. We barely got orders out on time. I worked with him on Creature Crates for two more years and then gave him the company. I saw it could support one of us, but not both. He still runs it to this day.
    At the show I met some people who were doing a haunt in Allen TX and they asked me to be the general manager of their haunt. It was another park with four attractions one being a Hayride where guests shot monsters with paintball guns (great concept a nightmare to execute). The land the haunt was on was sold into development and the haunt had to move. While scouting locations for my wedding which was occurring in November, I found a ranch that would hold my 04 haunt and my wedding the month after it was over.
    That season was terrible. It rained 10 out of 11 nights and very, very little money was made. The haunt owner did not give any money to the ranch owner as they had agreed to profits as opposed to ticket sales. So they needed to move again. I did not move with them.
    I opened my own haunted trail at Screams Halloween Park in Waxahatchie, TX. Like every haunt year before that I learned alot. Mine is an upcharge attraction. They have 4 haunts on site plus mine. Last season I became Artistic Director of the entire park and started an actor training program. The Parks ratings went up last season and they are keeping me for next year as well. Even the job I have now is only 6 months of work a year, I have a spring attraction at a renniasance faire that I also do and between the two I get by. I'm not rich by any means but I'm doing all right and doing what I love. Thats the answer to how I got to be here.
    In the beginning of my post I mentioned the often questioning young on the boards as of late. My advice to them is to do as much as you type about haunts. Build stuff, take up sculpting, servo projects, anything that will help, anything that will help you contribute to the boards as much as you take from it. And go work at a haunt. Work for free for now and then get paid when you are good at it. Work at as many haunts as you can before you open your own. In haunts its not dream it then do it, its do it, dream it, and then do it right.
    I'm glad that there are young people interested in the haunt industry. Talking here won't get you good at it though, you need to do as much as you can.
    Allen H
     

  4. Default Allan! I did. 
    #4
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    Aug 2003
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    "Mount" Carroll, Ill. is where you walk uphill going to and from school.
    I worked for 15 of my adult years in the heating and Ac trade, sheet metal fabrication, building stuff as a kid and I got into the haunt as an adult because I had Nothing else, so I had to make it work. Long hours, putting up with a lot of crap from people, just smiling and saying nothing as I put their money in my pocket to pay my bills, "Come back again! Thank You!"
    Having no options freed me to do what I had always wanted to do. I pushed myself hard, worked very long hours doing all kinds of strenous work here which meant I had no trouble falling to sleep each night! Sound asleep by the count of 3! Opps, here I go again, "1...2...zzzzz3.'
     

  5. Default  
    #5
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    Apr 2009
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    Near Charlotte NC
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    Allen, you need to write a book on your experiences...
     

  6. Default a little more.. 
    #6
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    Mar 2009
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    IL
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    508
    I feel I should give more of a background then a couple years ha haÖ Ill pick up from where I left off. Around 10 ish..

    I visited as many haunts as I could when younger. At least 5 every year. By the age of 12-13 I was volunteering at the Asylum in Berwyn as an actor. Around 14 I started working at a youth program. We would hold a local charity haunt a couple weekends during Oct . I volunteered there as an actor one year. I designed the show the year after. Then the next 3+ years I ran/designed and acted when needed. I left that because I started college, a band and we wanted to tour ( I was in mechanic school, Love cars, just not working on other peoples crap). During this time I took off from halloween kinda to tour ,I learned how to record music, set up lighting for concerts, stage and big prop building, wiring and a big one promoting. You can have the best band ever, but if no one comes to the show to buy a shirt or cd you donít eat so the motivation was there. ( I actually meet my wife at a show about 7 years ago)

    After the music and a couple tattoos later I realized I have always had a passion for horror. So I got a couple side jobs in Indi movies around Chicago as audio, set design and SPFX. Zombies, throat rips, blood squirts. Lots of reading, videos, trial and error. Lots of error. Welding classes and many nights starting my pants on fire (You know youíve been there B4). After molding my first couple masks and props I starting tossing the idea around about starting a haunt. I loved running the charity one but I want to do it on a bigger scale now. Purchased lots of magazines, dvds and books. Formed the LLC. Started talking with people in the industry, building props, buying props lighting, concept designs, layouts, marketing, actor training the list goes on I feel I am ready to start the haunt this coming year 2011. I enjoy working at other peoples, building and break down but its time to really work on my own.

    Hopefully this is just the beginning and Iím glad to share it with everyone on here. I feel in many ways we all have a lot in common and each person will have an amazing history. I hope everyone has a great Holiday!

    Peter T
    FS
     

  7. Default  
    #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Aberdeen, MD
    Posts
    235
    Not too many of you know much about me or my haunt other than the rare posts I submit to the forums. I am a 3rd generation sod farmer, and grew up on the farm. We produce high quality turf grass to housing developments, sports facilities, and golf courses. My father, Mike, is the owner of the business, and he manages more than 1000 acres of farm ground. I started working for my father when I was 12, responsible for maintaining about 35 acres of grass/flower beds/ and a park-like lake on the family farm. From the first day, he held me to incredibly high standards, and never allowed me to slouch. I worked for him through high school, then summers through my college career. During my college years I directed my focus towards entrepreneurship and small business management. I spent the better part of 3 years of school developing a business plan for a multi-lingual safety consulting company to educate foreign workers on safe workplace practices. The business plan was submitted to the school's business plan competition, and won, and worked its way through the national competition (where it didn't stand a chance against MIT, Chicago, and other Ivy league grad students' plans). I was quite serious about starting this business, but hit a few snags upon planning to launch. So I returned to work for my father. I worked my way from the ground-up to being a full-time equipment operator after graduation . I came home from school with ambitions to change everything by using all these methods and ideas I learned in school. I went from 8-10 hours of daily mind-grinding college work... to coming home and running a tractor for 8-10 hours a day, working at a distance from the business side of the farm.

    :::back to 1992::: a haunted attraction production company came to the family and offered to rent the farm for their haunted hayride production that year. I was 8, and a little too young to participate. My father and uncle (owner of the business at the time) worked loosely with the production, but lent them the tractors and wagons they needed to run the operation. I think they ran for 6 nights, and they had a tremendous turnout (at that time tremendous was probably 2000-2500 guests). I had my first haunted experience at this show... I was scared S**tless and vomited in the back seat of mom's car on the way home. Ever since, I have been a haunt fan, but not a frequent flyer. After that season was over, they skipped town, didn't pay all of their bills, and they stuck quite a few people with the tab.

    :::back to 2006::: So I'm now 22 years old riding along in my tractor at 3mph going through thousands of thoughts in my mind, when somehow the old haunted attraction came to mind. I spent days or weeks thinking through the business plan of the haunt. I had never worked at a haunt, nor had I been to too many haunts. I presented a make-shift business plan to my father, and he seemed very interested. We spent the better part of October 2006 going to other haunts and working up a business plan to start the show. Due to the nature of the sod business and big public image we wanted to attract, we started the show as a for profit/not for profit partnership with the local Y. We sectioned off nearly 70 acres of the farm to devote to the haunt. We started with a 1 mile haunted hayride with 45 actors and a 1/2 acre corn maze with 3 actors.

    I started the haunt with my wife, who is a writer, actress, and English teacher. She wrote the original story and script of the production. Our mutual friend, a haunt fanatic, was our creative director. My bother-in-law was the builder. My father and I handled the business end of things. We even picked up a few of the actors from the original show in 1992, who are now house directors for our tent haunt. We had absolutely no idea what we were in for... we just knew we wanted to be different... run a story-based haunted hayride production... and we went feet-first into the business w/o retaining any of the business knowledge available on haunt world or other haunt forums. However, 2 months before production, I was at a horror movie trade show where Leonard Pickel hosted a 'so you want to own a haunted attraction?' seminar. We had most of our bases covered except for one thing... his $3/1customer advertising strategy... and it saved our ass! So we tripled the size of our marketing budget from the go... and it saved the haunt from 1-and-done.

    Through the last few years we have grown exponentially, and we are constantly tweaking our operations to be able to produce a quality show with growing volume. Because we have sectioned a large portion of the property to the haunt, it allows us to diversify into other business plans. The main business includes overflow athletic fields (mainly soccer). We have teamed up with a local soccer foundation to help host massive regional soccer tournaments where our facility provides up to 7 soccer fields. The fields were originally intended for sod production, but they serve as both soccer fields and parking for the haunt. We promote the hell out of the haunt during the soccer events, and have had some pretty good success with soccer tournament players coming to the haunt (most are staying in nearby hotels etc.) We are now looking into other year-round events and productions.

    Throughout my brief career I have made a ton of mistakes, but learned from every one. The longer I am in this business, the more I realize how much I really don't know. I have been a smart-ass to people I shouldn't have etc. etc... But I have so many people to thank for their insight and information including all of the people who have helped build our show from the beginning and the haunt owners (both big and small) for taking the time to answer questions, and send us in the right direction. I hope that I can help other haunts start out just as much as others have helped me.
    Patrick Barberry
    www.legendsofthefog.com
     

  8. Default  
    #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Virginia
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    1,588
    Allen,

    It sounds like a it was a fun time to be a haunt fan back when Terror on Church Street and Skull Kingdom were around. It sucks in Orlando now when I do I am always in the mood to see a great haunt but there are none now...


    DA
     

  9. Default  
    #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
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    Mesquite, TX
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    By Allen's wife who is typing for him while he is under some serious pain meds...

    Patrick,
    I really want to see you haunt. Im thrilled that there is now an awesome haunt in Harford county.
    Maryland was where I grew up and began to love haunting and acting. All of my wolfman in a duffle bag days were there, often driving over an hour each way to work/volunteer at my haunt for the season. You are providing so many people in that area with the same (better actually) oppertunity that I had.
    It was great to share the bus with you guys at MHC and talk about the area and the haunts and "hauntholes" (my term for asshole haunted house people) from there. Im proud of what you are doing for the industry in the area, great job keep it up.
    Allen H
     

  10. Default  
    #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Virginia
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    1,588
    Mrs Hopps, I sent you a pm Hope Allen feels better soon!

    DA
     

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