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Thread: Need suggestions, please

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  1. Default Need suggestions, please 
    #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    7
    Hello haunter's, I have a few questions for some of the veterans. I have been throwing around the idea for the last 5 years pertaining to opening my very first haunt. After going through the phases when I was younger (building haunts in my basement, garage, etc.) and most recently having yard haunts for the trick or treaters in the neighborhood, I have decided to maybe take that initial step and have been researching it for the last few years. (traveling to various haunts outside of my locale, creating ideas, subscribing to hauntworld mag, etc.).
    My first question pertains to "location". I live in a small town, but within an hours drive there are actually numerous large cities and towns. The plus I see with a small town would be less expensive real estate, less "red tape", and a more rural setting ( which some city people already find frightening!). Business people I have spoken to have said that I need a better location (those people are not in the industry), I say "if you build it they will come" or am I mistaken?
    The second question is "size". I know that everybody loves the 60,000 sq. ft. haunts, so do I, but would they be necessary to turn a profit? I have seen some pretty crazy haunts set up in just small farmhouses and am just thinking of starting small and building my clientele and haunt over time, is it feasible in this day and age to start small and build from the ground up? I don't want to sacrifice quality for quantity. Thanks for reading and would greatly appreciate any suggestions that you may have!
     

  2. Default  
    #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Tyler, Texas, United States
    Posts
    2,614
    Small and affordable is the way to start. It is entirely possible to do hour long versions of entertainment out in the boonies and make it work. Even though gas prices are high, now so many are avoiding the eating out circuit and the movies have to be really up to be par. An event that is a limited time you have to do it or wait a whole year has a sence of urgency to it. Also to some it is enjoyable to have a destination out of the city where it might be a little less hustle and bustle.

    size comes down totally to available resource. I have seen very energetic and succesful draws happen on the other side of the reservior in a pole barn behind grandpa's mobile home and smiled the whole way through.

    The trick that those business men have not (or haven't yet ) had to learn is how to social network and market.

    For example. On my myspace page, a band wanted to be my friend. The comment that came with this request was that they are from California and are playing in my town on a certain date. I didn't add them as freinds but, I am now aware of this gig. So, I scope out their page and it actually has even TV clips of them describing the tour and how they use facebook and myspace to just the week before ask EVERYONE reguardless of their presumed demographic that has a page in the next town to be their friend with this notice. If their music that was there to sample didn't suck I might have gone out of my way to support them by going. They have the marketing part, all being done on the road from wifi connections out of a dodge van with a trailer on it.

    So, they can fill a place for a night, sell some lame Cds. and of course there have been other methods of advertising by the venue locally I'm sure.

    Then there is this word of mouth thing. I just told you because it was kind of creative and if their music didn't suck and we were in the same town, it would be hey dude lets go pay a cover charge and check out the babes that think these guys might be cool.

    Of course if their music sucks only deformed chicks will show but, that's who buys records right now tonight if you sign their copy.

    On the first part, I'm all about operating with in your means and letting the customer base catch up or having the tools and waiting for the customers to prove some patronage. Just do the best you can to provide some facilities.


    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.
     

  3. Default  
    #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    7
    Greg, thanks for the reply. I forgot to mention that there is a large haunt (hayride + house) that is within 15 miles of my town. The haunt is actually pretty cool except for the 4 hour waits in line, the way they rush everybody through in large groups (usually 40-50 people in a group, how scary is that!), a half ass hayride, but the house is killer. I would say on an average friday or saturday night that they are pullin' in at least 6000 - 7000 people per night at $15 per head. ( yes I have actually stood there and counted) now don't get me wrong, I'm all for makin' a little money but it seems like they don't really care about your experience, just your money. Whenever I visit a haunt I look for the attention to details, you can notice right away when people cut corners. I love detail but do you think that it is important to the average visitor to your haunt? Do the majority of visitors pay attention to the small details? These are some of the opinions that I need from the veterans. I think that I could pull off a smaller haunt but the larger one's are definitely out of my grasp. It's definitely good to know that starting small is a big plus and thanks for the info. If you guys have any more tips, please, I would love to hear them. Thanks.
     

  4. Default  
    #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Tyler, Texas, United States
    Posts
    2,614
    It is not automatic that starting out at any location whether in the big city or in the middle of nowhere is going to pull big numbers in the first few years. You are probably seeing the accumulation of more than a decade of word of mouth about that other event being the place to be.

    I know of haunts set up miles from ones seeing 60,000 people that saw only 800 for various reasons. Which leads into things like detail. Detail is just one style of offering or ivestment that is indeed appreciated by making the customers mind wok and try to see. Then it is easy to scare as they are looking around at the enviroment or indeed even blocking the view of being able to see all the detail means repeat visits by customers that want more.

    It is tough and years and years to have such detail in a large haunt and most do not. You generally get 30,000 SF worth of plywood and two scenes because it got too big too fast rather than the show was developed and added to over years.

    It simply takes time to add each element properly or a really big budget with the risk of still seeing low beginning customer count. So small and detailed is good with a little growth each year with complementary detail that all matches.

    My favorite sucky haunt decor is seeing book shelves represented by a poster of books glued to a wall. It would be better to have a blank wall than lame offerings that detract from the experience. Detail would be books that are at least fashioned in a relief that have titles written on them that even though you pass there is only time to sort of read two book titles even though there are 50.

    Part of this same year or year after year patronage is devoted to inventorying such little detail, embrassing what is in there and how it is used in different years.

    But, to some it is more stupid than that. Hey they actually have walls in there! Some one spent a lot of money! Not really but, some locations customers are easier to please than others. It is better to start with something where anything you can offer is appreciated.

    I've been watching what is going to be a new haunt in my town, helping in any way I can as all the haunts together are building a market or killing a market. This one actually has a budget to buy wall materials and have the skills to advertise but, have overlooked how many hours it really takes to fashion every piece. Lots of things you can't buy.

    Still you should if you can run what you have as soon as you can to begin the money cycle and the word of mouth cycle and to learn what is expected in your specific location. It might be what the customer really appreciates isn't as much as the stress of the vision and how are you going to do that is in your head.

    If it sucks, you can always make it better. If it was gazzilion hours of investment and only two people came it might still be the greatest evening ever but, not the same as this magic 6,000 people a night. It depends on what it took to satisfy or entertain the customers and not really any specific formula that will work anywhere. If it is too generic like following traditional scare books, your customers will be all 10 year old kids. If there is engaging detail and story, it will get the college set.

    Do you want to be an event that people will advertise for you by talking highly of your offering to anyone they see, or a McDonalds play ground just keeping the kids busy for a while. Some times a haunt is a little of both but it is bad to be only one of those. Anytime it fills only one demographic is bad. It gives the people with kids an excuse not to come or it give the college kids the idea it is for kids.

    But, beware that how ever it first is outfitted will haunt you. You go into a town and ask about a haunt and the local middle aged woman tells you how it scares the children and is great fun. That was 10 years ago and now there is 20,000 SF of great haunt and bizzare acting but that old woman kind of poo pooed it as being something worth spending $12 on. Even though she spoke highly of it and fondly it was for the kiddies. Those looking for something good to do judge that local advice and take it for what is is worth.

    So you have to imagine like some one describes a haunt I still haven't made it to, it looks small on the outside but, you can't believe al the stuff inside, you really have to see it. It does look small and I can't see inside and it has my curiosity way up from just this personal review, it is just too far away. Sometimes we work in the area but to travel just for that is a chore. Maybe I don't want to break the vision of what must be in there by actually seeing it. The stuff in my head is probably better.

    But, if two people or three told me it was a must see, I couldn't resist.

    Or this is the magic? I know some of these videos I'm seeing are thought to be stupendous by haunt owners and they are actually suspending any fantasy in a bad way. Just like I sampled that bands music and it sucked so it ain't happening even if I was 20 years younger.

    It's a match of what is right around your location too. If the college is 50 miles away and it is primarily young families where you set up, that is your customer wether you lke it or not. If your town has 400 churches, that is your customer wether you like it or not. If your located on an Interstate it would be entirely different or if your bill board was there raking them in off the highway.

    The higher the age you can satisfy the more will attend and the more they can spend. Even though they might want to, 10 year olds can only accumulate handfulls of change and generally can only drive a car a few hundred feet before being stopped. A 40 year old will make it an evening and bring 5 others from 150 miles away.

    The bottom line is it isn't the size it is how stupid is it? If there is nothing but a VFW hall and a bowling alley, stupid might be fine.

    True story, I heard one year that middle age womans story about how the children really enjoy halloween and that haunt is such a hoot and didn't go there for 4 years, drove by many times 40 mles from here until another haunt told me there were some great things in there, give a try. It was great. In the exit survey they were trying their damdest to figure out why after 20,000 SF and 20 years of tremendous building and detail they were only seeing 2800 people per year.

    How often does another haunt owner tell this other one is inspiring? They had three problems, that lady was the best spokes person the general public might run into and that might fly for a day care recomendation, the parking lot was good for about 20 cars total and if it was full that meant it is too busy to even go there so lets go hang out at Sonic. The third thing was they presented themselves in only free advertising as benefiting a charity that sounded a little hoity toity theater group instead of simply saying it was a great haunted house event.

    Lets see, for $12 you go to a day care and they use your money to buy scripts for shakespear plays, bringing culture to a has been rural town. Really, who gives a crap. In reality it is a bad ass haunt with great scenes, every known kind of maze invested and huge, it could be three haunts. well worth the money but, who knew. My only complaint was having to have an exit survey at all (kind of a demanding cry for help) and that damn poster of books to pretend it is a book shelf. Because I have a hearse I parked on the front lawn but, I watched so many cars slow and take off. It took me years to figure out the limited parking thing. I didn't learn the parking thing until we went over capacity one night the second year. That is our high number per night like it or not.

    And of course I wasted an hour of my time in the parking lot good haunt telling them to lose the shakespear tag and day care reputation, make it into 3 haunts and use a little free internet advertising. You would have thought I was standing there declaring them all incurable mutants. They had this identity they built for themselves they would never think of changing. It was who they were, even though it wasn't who they were, it was who they told themselves they were.

    The perception has to be what do the customers want. What information or lack of information will appeal to a wider audience. If the advertising suggests it benefts the fire department of a town of 538 people you will only get those families that have the picture of throwing money in a boot as someday they might need a fire truck. You never in the beginning even began to have the kind of social crowd that even tells others anything.

    Suckiness by association. Now cover your left eye and read this again.


    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.
     

  5. Default  
    #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    7
    Greg, you don't appreciate the poster book shelves wallpaper? Ha, Ha, those are definitely funny. I personally love the dimestore skeletons or the props from Spencer's at a major haunt, there's nothing like professionalism. Although I don't have a haunt just yet, I have been a fan for the last 27 years and have (what I think) pretty high standards when I go to a haunt. Fact is only 25% actually impress me. Now don't get me wrong, I can appreciate all the hard work that goes into them, but you definitely can see who is just in it for $$$. and that hurts the industry in general. The part about the parking is so true. I don't know how many times we had turned around because either the line was too long or there was no where to park. Now what is your opinion on a timed entry (ex: you buy tickets in advance for a specific time.) It seems the plus side would be shorter lines, plus you don't need alot of parking. the down side would be a limited amount of patrons, plus the hassle of buying tickets in advance. I personally hate standing in long lines. We actually have only been interested in haunts that offer a vip (no waiting) pass. But that's just us.
    As far as advertising goes, you couldn't be more right. Truth is I have a degree in commercial art, 15 years experience in the sign/screenprinting industry, plus I own a kustom motorcycle painting/airbrush business. I definitely know the value of advertising. the funny thing is I have alot of the resources plus talent to create a haunt in my area, just not alot of $$$ if you know what I mean. I'm not out to make a gazillion dollars overnight, hell if I turned a profit within the first 3 years I would be happy, I just would like to get something started from the ground up and see where it takes me. something that I believe in. As always, thanks for the suggestions, I truly appreciate them.
     

  6. Default  
    #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Ravens Grin Inn, 411 carroll st.mount carroll ill.
    Posts
    12,813
    Gregg should have gotten the Shakespheres so upset that they should have been "Shaking Spears" at him!?
    THEN they'd have something!
    What is it about the charity angle that good shows have to overcome?
    Is it the entitlement aspect of it? Or the poor-mouth attitude ?
    "Give us your money, we deserve it, oh, I forget to say "Boo!", There, now give us your money."
    Customers inspired to empty their pockets!!! ...of small change.
    Figuring out people is not easy. Defining what motivates them, besides a swift kick, is not always evident.
    This weekend we saw large groups of teenagers here who have a regular dose of adrenilin, so much so that my kind of a show was not their "cup-of-tea", probably because it takes time to boil.
    They are moto cross racers , they outnumbered my usual crowd who are simply cross-dressers. But at least they can sit still long enough to listen...
     

  7. Default  
    #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Tyler, Texas, United States
    Posts
    2,614
    No one ever does this timed ticket thing like a movie theater but, I it would add to the urgency. A movie is only going to be there for a week or tow and the 9:30 show is sold out, you can buy a ticket for 11:00?

    Versus the chaos that is 350 people in line not really amused.

    It is so hard to make change to people who have been making groups stay together without industrial adhesives since the early Jaycees days.

    My haunt can really be run by about 6 people letting lose groups of 3 to 6 unguided every 60 seconds or so. They can't really hurt anything but, the charity I set up for that actually operates it has to have guided tours, 15 minute breaks that are announced to the 350 people further pissing them off. Then they tell them to be careful the walls might fall on them (which they won't). How stupid.

    We end up with 20 or 30 volunteers in there and "pushing". My haunt could do 350 people in one hour rather than over the course of 5 hours.

    Actually selling tickets would relate to some kind of occupancy limitations like only 240 people in this room with 4 exists to get out over an hour and a half with access to 0.4 bathroom holes and 8 fire extinguishers.

    Probably everyone lets them come as they will hoping for that 2,000 people per night haunt but, for a lot of places this is an unrealistic number. In this day and age of having to make double trips because it was sold out and you have to come back later might be a big negative, like if we leave we aren't coming back but certainly VIP tickets could be sold at this paced attention. Basically having a staff member or two specifically tending to the VIP progress and not the long line.

    I'm sure attendance overruns over the course of years and then you can't change it. "it was never like that before?WTF?How are we supposed to know?"

    This is also the problem with a larger sized haunt. Somehow the overly theatrical obsessed director feels they need 10 minutes between groups for everyone to get back in place and to reset all the sophisticated DVD players? Who gives a crap, just let the machines run and don't have actors follow the crowd an eigth of a mile down the trail.

    What do you think would be the reaction if you stood in line and got up to the counter at a burger joint and then it was announced we are now taking a 15 minute break. I'm pretty sure I would be throwing condiments all over the place, pushing buttons on the cash register, breaking into the kids toy display, keeping the "employees must watch hands before returning to work" sign in the bathroom as a souvenier.

    Certainly everyone would always be too early or too late for the time they were allotted but there is no reason for 300 people standing in line. It is all idiocy and a real good reason why people don't want to go subject themselves to standing outside at night like that. Sure going to a haunted house is maybe exciting and different but, It really shouldn't be a chore for the customer to endure.

    Just incase you are keeping track I have indeed thrown a tray of drinks and food back over the counter because they said I would have to wait 5 minutes for french fries and they would bring them out to me after being told by the same key puncher that they had them right now no wait that's $7.56 Now I go to Arbies and bring my own damn fries fom MacDonalds. No one asked me if ONLY having curly fries worked for me either.
    Screw them all!

    On another note, Chopper, where's your shop? I used to do a lot of air brushing and gold leaf for a motorcycle shop until I moved to a bigger shop 2 miles closer to town. Now they can't just walk it over that 100 feet. There are probably bugs living in my air brushes. I got into events as there was a biker gathering for Halloween night that sometimes would have 3,000 people , of course in my front yard. Then I found out about trails and more professional scream parks.


    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.
     

  8. Default  
    #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    7
    Greg, my shop is about an hour south of Pittsburgh, Pa. The reason that I brought up the timed entry was because I had never seen it utilized until last year at a haunt in Moundsville state prison in Wheeling, Wv. My girlfriend had won tickets from a local radio station and when she contacted the haunt the woman told her just to show up and they would put us through. Needless to say
    when we arrived they knew nothing about what was going on. Then they informed us that they go by reserve (timed entry) tickets (which we already knew, that's why we called!) So, after driving for an hour and a half to get there the best time that they could give us was for 11:30 (we arrived at 6). After about 10 minutes of complaining ( and me giving them B.S. that I was a reporter for a pittsburgh area newspaper) they decided to give us a better time of 9:30.(gee thanks) anyway, after hanging out for three and a half hours I did notice that the parking was limited (the prison is literally surrounded by houses on every side) there was always parking within just a few hundred feet of the entrance and most of the people in line behaved themselves quite well. They took about 100 people every 15 minutes and you know what? It actually seemed to work! But like I said, the only downside was the limited number of people per night. (but at $20 a head for a so-so haunt I'm sure they weren't complaining!)
    I've worked at a few haunts over the years and been to countless others, I try to look at the business side of things and do realize that a halfass haunt still requires a fair amount of work, but that's not me, my haunt would have to be killer or I just won't do it! I have to take that initial step that's why I'm asking all these dumbass questions. Thanks again!
     

  9. Default Ravens Grin Ticket Procedures 
    #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Ravens Grin Inn, 411 carroll st.mount carroll ill.
    Posts
    12,813
    I encourage people driving a long way to get here to send a check a week in advance, then show up (on time).
    Others buy tickets when they arrive and get to enter when the time on their ticket comes up. If someone is stuck at a local bar and forget to tell time or something, we have stand bys waiting to take their place so every tour is filled (no use wasting time on half-groups, it wasn't our screw-up it was theirs.)
    The Johnny-Came Laters" get in "if and when" after this, my wife keeps some open spots for walk-ups without advanced reservations, this keeps her from getting some abuse from grouchy customers. (It gives them "Hope")
    Most people driving any distance to get here at all are almost always 15 minutes late, whether they run over a deer on the way here or not.
    We have a very large population of auto-suicidal deer here.
    We don't sell any kind of VIP tickets because I don't want to make any of my customers feel belittled or insulted or stupid. Those qualitys and short-comings are reserved for me.
     

  10. Default  
    #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Tyler, Texas, United States
    Posts
    2,614
    I'm origionally from Pittsburgh, Pa and worked at a secret government facility just south or east or west of Uniontown for about 6 months (1985ish). A month ago I became aware of Google streets and cruised the area in my new Chevy Colbalt courtesy of Google. It all looks the same. Kind of bleak yet things come out at night when it all looks different kind of thing.

    When I left, a neuvo rich told me he saw nothing but opportunities. All I saw was boarded up 60 year old buildings that they want a million dollars for. Yet, I remeber there was ALWAYS something to do, somwhere to go. In the general area you are talking about anything entertaining would be highy appreciated and patronized.

    The airbrush eye is what attracted me to all of this possibly and the biker connection means instant network of customers as they are all good people mostly with families to tell about it. Sounds like all you need is to get out the sketch book. You have the tools, the talent and everything.

    I was in the begining more worried about getting too many customers and still worry about people getting slammed out on the highway slowing down to wait for a parking space. I think in your area it will be just right and more of a community event feel that will grow at a pace you can control and contribute to just at the right level, that isn't a big burden to your existing deal.

    Mine did kind of pull resources (time and money and physical pain) from where it shouldn't have but, we just go make more money right?

    Stop by and say Hi to Fort Necessity for me.


    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.
     

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