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Have we as 'haunters'' considered this?

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  • Have we as 'haunters'' considered this?

    I read about needling the next thing in haunted houses. New marketing, hi-tech, more national exposure, pushing the envelope, over the top gore, nudity etc.
    Last season, on average, haunt attendance was down. We claim our audience is desensitized by video games and movies.

    Forgive me if I missed a discussion, but have we considered that the thrill is no longer a mystery? Read on.... Before I got into the haunt business, I was blown away by the dancing ghosts in Disneys Mansion. Of course, I knew they weren't real, but the "how did they do that" was so intriguing to me. Once I learned how it was done, it was still 'cool', just not as cool.
    At TW last month, we brought a guy to help in our booth ( I am a buyer and now 2 nd yr vendor) . He does magic. He had people scratching their heads at dinner in the evening. Wait! Let me rephrase that...he had ALL of US scratching our heads. I knew there was a trick to each performance, but I'll be damned if I could figure it out.
    Later that night, I got him to show me how one is done (a cardinal sin in magic, shhhhh). Wow! So dang simple! It's still a cool trick/magic , but now that I know how it's done, well, ....ugh, just not as cool.
    So we have websites like this one for us haunters. As we discuss topics amoungst each other about "how to" , challenges, plans, ideas etc., the whole general public can see it. They can link to vendors and watch videos how things are done. We have people (typically and respectfully, not haunt owners) running around TW filming and taking pics of all our latest and greatest ideas and inventions to WOW our customers this fall, but these people have it all out there for the world to see by 5 pm Thursday, opening day of TW. "They now know how the peppers ghost is done".....Not quite as cool.
    I'm not hammering on HW, but why is a forum for Professional Haunters open to the public?
    Why are so many people who aren't buyers walking the trade show floor?

    I feel, in my opinion, that the mystery is slowly being diminished by exposure. I don't think it's the sole reason, but it's something that should be looked at. Not that we can change it.....

  • #2
    I have thought about the same thing, but I would be hard pressed to find a single one of the customers who come to my haunted attraction who even think about it, let alone research it to find forums and you tube channels with haunted house secrets. The one who do, are probably the ones who come back the following year wanting to work here.
    Brian Warner
    Owner of Evilusions
    Technical Director of Forsaken Haunted House
    Mechanical Designer (animatronics) at Gore Galore


    • #3
      I agree with the "desensitized via exposure" idea, but as Gadget said, the ones who are doing the research are typically the ones who either want to work with/for you or want to start their own venture. I get people ALL the time at my show who provide links to me about things they believe is "new" and I've seen forever ago, just based on my level of haunt life immersion. I probably ruin it for my friends on facebook who want to come to my show, but it's kinda like the "spoiler alert" thing...if you wanna know, the info is out's up to your will power to remain in the dark or to ruin the "magic".
      O'Shawn McClendon
      Creative Chair -- Operator: Cayce-West Columbia Hall of Horrors

      One mans junk is another mans kick-ass new prop...


      • #4

        Good post, guys!

        I would say it definitely depends on the individual...sure you'll always have that A-hole kid at the magic show who blurts out "I know how you did that" and ruins it for everyone. But I think that the bread and butter for a haunt is really the people who easily scare, and have friends who know it. I don't really scare in a haunt...I'm an engineer, been a haunter for many years and I go to haunted attractions for 2 reasons; 1) to check out all the cool stuff and new ideas people come up with year after year, and 2) to see my wife and friends get scared.

        One of my goals in my haunt is to take things that people have seen 100 times in other haunts, and kick it up a few levels, or turn it into something unexpected. I don't want to have whatever the next guy has; I want you to think I do, but then it turns out to be something else. And i think that you'll always get people wanting to bring their easily-scared friends, but if you can also instill a little of that haunted mansion-esque awe into people through detailed scenery, a few clever illusions to act as distractions, and really good actors, then I think you get people who aren't there for the scare coming back for the cool-factor.

        Its entertainment. The same thing will not entertain all people the same way so I try to mix it up to try an appeal to different tastes, when I can.
        Chief Engineer/Co-Creative Director
        HUSH Haunted Attraction



        • #5
          I think I away your right Thehauntgr , it goes back to us needing to reinvent the way we haunt/scare. When the first guy pulled a quarter out of the first ear everyone was amazed, now everyone knows the trick and how it works. Same with haunted houses , everyone knows our trick. We just keep pulling the quarter out of different body parts but it's the same trick. I think it's just time for a new wheel.



          • #6
            Thanks for the feedback, good thoughts.
            TerrorKnight, this is exactly what I'm trying to say. Remember when changing portraits were IT? Now you can get them in a dollar store, per say. Motorized rocking rocking props? Forget it...Home Depot of all places had some!!! Let alone the mass selection at Spirit and Party City etc.

            I love all the silicone masks....they are game changers. Within a yr or two they will be imported from China and sold at Target (or similar).

            No pun intented, but it's scary folks.


            • #7
              We All Do What We Can.

              We all have our own limitations , Time, money, Ambition and other numerous factors that tend to keep us somewhat down a level, if there is such a thing? Me being a one-man show most of the year I probably tend to spoil my patrons with a very personally tailored show fitting their needs, likes, dislikes along with their own time considerations.
              We ask questions even before we sell them a ticket to help us to make it a better experience than it might have been if we had not asked those questions, not exactly something easily implemented if 3,000 people a night go passed your ticket booth!
              I can actually pick and chose who within a group gets the SCARE! Passing it around within a group does make for a more memorable experience not leaving anyone out of either place, the victim or the laughing audience.
              As far as my house, I have also always tried to make it a trully different experience for anyone, everyone.
              The same-old, same-old does not qualify as "Entertaining", does it?
              Does "Stepping it up a notch " leave some customers out?
              I think it often may do just that.
              But then what the heck do I know? Just what my periscope can see over the corn when it's tall!
              I have been open almost every night now for approaching 27 YEARS!
              Maybe within another 20 or so years I might have something figured out?


              • #8
                Another theory on the diminishing attendance...

                Very interesting topic!

                I think another possible explanation for the lower attendance levels we're seeing could be the quantity of haunts in any given market. 10 years ago there were maybe a third or a half of the haunts that are out there now, and perhaps we're just reaching a point where supply is extending past demand. From what I can tell, haunts are becoming more popular and more people are going to them, but perhaps the number of events themselves are growing faster than the number of people attending. Thoughts?
                *Sigh*I can't wait til' October


                • #9
                  I have been trying to ...

                  Define and figure out the whole "customer" thing since before "Day-One" of me wanting to have a haunt.
                  What has changed over the last many years? Everything! How many hours do our potential patrons spend looking at a computer screen or playing computer games or simply watching 87 channels of TV?
                  All of it kind of takes "Time" doesn't it?
                  I was recently in awe of two customers who told me that during October they go see 70 HAUNTS!
                  The money and time that this quest would require go beyond my ability to "cypher".
                  My first really big Halloween happened because I managed to get a lot of extra "Ink" on the Haunted House page in The Chicago Tribunes!
                  My phone did not stop ringing for several days!
                  Two or three years ago I was in the Trib again, long article, many photos and as far as we could tell. not ONE person showed up here from that exposure.
                  Of course I had to drive 30 miles(one-way) to even find a Tribune to buy, since "paper" is not where it's "AT" anymore. Kind of explains it, doesn't it? Who reads papers? People in nursing homes?
                  How many people in Nursing homes ever been through Your Haunt? I have had some....
                  Remember the news story from maybe three years ago that , was it Burger Kings some had closed because their mainstay customers were young males who had quit buying burgers because they were unemployed?
                  Who is the mainstay of the haunt ticket? I personally see it being much more female than male with my house.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Pumpkin King View Post
                    Very interesting topic!

                    I think another possible explanation for the lower attendance levels we're seeing could be the quantity of haunts in any given market. 10 years ago there were maybe a third or a half of the haunts that are out there now, and perhaps we're just reaching a point where supply is extending past demand. From what I can tell, haunts are becoming more popular and more people are going to them, but perhaps the number of events themselves are growing faster than the number of people attending. Thoughts?
                    That's a very interesting and good point. 10 years ago, we were the only haunt in the area, but now there are several more that have sprung up. Some have done quite well, while others have the reputation of "not worth it".

                    Back to the original post, I think, rather than viewing the desensitizing as an obstacle, we need to look at it as a challenge. When I am working a room and see the cocky kid or big "tough" guy, I like to go after them. Anyone can make the cowering person scream - but bring the guy who looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger to his knees in fear - THAT'S success!
                    Chad Portenga


                    • #11
                      It does Work Like This:

                      You charge $10 for your haunt ticket, everything is working out well for you. Next season a haunt springs up in the old woods next a park. they only charge $3.00.
                      I want to see a Haunt! Jr. begs, pleads demands.
                      Where will the Parent take them? spend $50 for 5 admissions when they can satisfy "Jr." and his little friends for only $15.00!?
                      "Money "Talks" shit walks... Sure they may complain later when they feel ripped off or their friends at school are bragging about that cool haunt that cost $10.oo! By the time this information might make the rounds, the season might be over (for another year)
                      Too late! "Maybe next year we will take you to the $10 Haunt." (But the Parent is already betting that they can bambozzel those kids again!) Maybe they might have to drive a little further to the $6.00 haunt, forgetting the $3.00 one. but it is still justified in some Parent's thinking, because they are still saving $20...The kids are still complaining but oh,well?
                      It won't be til the kids are old enough to drive and have some spending money that they will invest the time and money required to find out just what they have been missing. Can you wait that long?


                      • #12
                        Its the total experience!

                        We put our focus on the total experience. From the time they get out of their car, the sounds fill their ears. Not any sounds, but carefully selected audio tracks that add to the total experience. When they enter the queue, the ambiance is designed to start setting the stage. We dont show music videos, or anything like that in the queue, because in my mind it doesnt add to the total experience (queue actors are critical here).

                        When they enter a room, there may be effects and there may be just atmosphere. Either way, they are expectant of the unknown, and that is what keeps them on edge. My job is to create an environment that scares people without even adding the actors. Then when we add actors and animatronics, well, it goes to a whole new level.

                        I think with this approach we dont have to worry so much about them wondering how something works. Its all in the presentation and the experience as a whole in my mind!
                        Travis "Big T" Russell
                        Big T Productions Inc

                        Owner and Operator of "The Plague" and "Camp Nightmare"

                        Customer Quote of the year: "Damn, I pissed myself"