So to try to summarize my dysfunctional haunted history, the outline of what to do is to make props, buy things that can be repurposed into props, cheap at trade days events, garage sales or even garbage day or dumpster diving. There is are a couple people who say if you are still doing that you aren't a success but one of my face book freinds you all know and love just found a bunch of manequin forms in a dumpster. I think he is kind of a success.
The argument is when you are a success you will only go buy $18,000 distortions props because that is what people want. Far from the truth in how often that really happens. SO you make things, repurpose things, like an artist would. Like Allen Hopps Videos show so many things you can make that certainly provide the proper level of entertainment and eye candy any haunt really should be using for detail. Only Allen is so successful that he seems to have an addiction to shopping at Harbor Frieght, Home Depot and Tandy Leather supply. He also knows where ALL the suppliers are for professional materials. Yet with thinking a bit and watching for sales, and close outs, you accumulate all the raw materials to dress out a haunt. This is actually the time consuming part. Collecting costume bits and masks or make up and so on.
Despite the other wildly held opinions that things from seasonal halloween franchise stores are all crap and are below standard for a proper haunt, these things are in lots of cases just fine and can be embelleshed to become part of a better costume package and personalized and upgraded if you will.
It takes hours and hours to make things and some how hours and hours to earn money to buy things already made by a pro is somehow just magically in a budget or you shouldn't even proceed, there is no difference in hours making instead of hours earning the money to buy already made and marked up to hell items. Even if you were mister money bags, you will find it takes hours and hours to shop for things and worry about their timely delivery and still have to modify things to fit your overall look to a themed haunt. You can spend $7,000 for a proper costume or come up with time and a couple hundred dollars in materials. So where do you start is developing your own look. How does that happen if every haunt in the market buys this years newest thing?
Or you do want to support vendors that make one of a kind custom items that are individual works. You spend more time planning themes and costumes and the customer interaction yet forums seem to only repeat over and over who bought what at Transworld, how do you make walls, write a business plan and deal with a fire marshal. So because we started out with parties, theming and decorating on an almost nothing budget it all came to be. The budget wasn't nothing because we were broke! We could pull of super cheap parties because it was part of the fun to make everything and lots of things and dummies posed and monsters and things flying in the air made out of crap and things popping up outdoors and giant dragons made out of freaking 2 litter pepsi bottles, covered in bondo, with detail carved and added and airbrushed with underpaintings and scale dimensions. It cost like $10 and 75 cents in air brush paint and was round different shops for like 10 years getting rave reviews and was built in maybe 2 partial days.
It seems silly but you can do a model of your haunt or room set ups in paper or cardboard and your monsters are army men and space men toys and if it is hay ride you buy a kids farm set to have a tractor and hay wagon and plan out your scenes to enough of an extent that is going to flesh out your show.
It isn't what haunts have become in the last 30 years and you need to aspire to that. I go to lots of haunts and come out realizing I have seen this crap before and the overall style came from the original Jaycees one kid in a room acting some crap out play book. There are a tremendous amount of haunts that have been doing it wrong for 30 years then if that is the recommendation. So if there are 20 haunts, go see them and flood your head with what is cool and what is not and attempt to do the better things. Some time you just can't afford to do the cool things in the beginning so you don't and plan for years down the line it might look like this or that. And the money comes from the customers. If the first set of customers doesn't respond you get some new customers! Either a slightly different kind of show or an entirely different location. Everything evolves.
Still at some point you have to stop all this imaginary crap that you have to change the show a lot every year and spend the big bucks to keep up with the Jones haunt and make a living. It would look cool if this or that or the other thing was all pimped out. Well, make me a shit load of money and we'll do that. Until then this is what you got do something with it.
You have to do enough research to understand you aren't just being told you need $250,000 or don't even start or that is what "they" want to see. Really? That's 3 people out of 300 million in this country alone. Find your own customers and meet their entertainment needs. Perhaps your crew that started with nothing is the top haunt prop maker or gizmo designer or character actor 10 years from now. Even if you did nothing for 30 years was developed people's skills and life trends that they truely wanted to follow, you are a success. It isn't just 60,000 people showed up and bought the combo VIP ticket for mega bucks and that is what success is.
Back in the day, people in haunts all said they were inspired by the Disney haunted mansion. Well that took millions and millions of dollars and is larger than 100,000 SF and took 17 years to build. In the real world it might take 17 years to build but you open as soon as you can not two decades from now when it is ready. There are lots of Universal movie tour fans too. Still not what an intimate haunted house evening with no travel package can be. So it is an entirely different animal. You can scare people jiggling a plastic bag at them or having something with teeth go for the belt. How does that cost $250,000 to do something cavemen were spoofing each other with 40,000 years ago.
First you develop the overall feel of what the routes of your show are and how these simple things become performance art and you test these things out any way you can in any venue you can afford and if it was riteaous you make someone money. Either you, some other established haunt or charity. If you can make people money, you get to be part of the bigger picture and are rewarded. It doesn't have to be step one, have a fast car to drive away with the ticket money on the busiest night and disappear and start a new life in Venusuala. It can be that the customers were wildly involved and intrested and then formula marketing can be lessened to a great degree. If you develop an enthusiastic following you don't have crap that sounds like a used car commercial cheapening your art. You still do well, just you might not impress other haunters by saying "my haunt's name is blankety blank, did that make you horny or did juices squirt around in your brain when I typed out the name of my haunt?" It really doesn't and it is the customers I care about.
Even seeing pictures of other haunts is some kind of pathelogical end satisfaction. No reason to build your own because you spent the evening looking at pictures. Like Haunt porn. The haunt pictures are better than I can make so I'll just look at pictures as they come up for 10 years on some dorky forum. No make things...do small events, develop an enthusiastic cleintel and then get the walls and electric system and lease.
Another fabulous post from the U.S.Department of Wild Imaginings, now in spectaclar stereo, sponsored by the Adhesives and Sealants Council, suggesting ways to stick things together since the 1800s. Not fabulous in a gay way. Your results may vary. Illinois residents add 8% sales tax. These posts have been made by professional post makers, do not try this type of posting on your own without extensive training, lovely assistants and a trusty clown horn.