Haunted House Association - Information About the Haunted House Industry
Haunted Fast Facts
Hauntworld.com is the best website on the web to find haunted houses, haunted attractions, Halloween haunted houses, real haunted houses, haunted hayrides, corn mazes and more across America with our haunted house directory. Additionally Hauntworld publishs information about the haunted house industry including a printed magazine (www.HauntedHouseMagazine.com). Are you looking for information about the haunted house industry, from economic impact on our economy or how the haunted house industry got started and or got as big as it is today? Haunted Houses and Haunted Attractions are now a one billion dollar industry and Hauntworld will help you learn all the details here on this page. If you need more information about the haunted house industry contact us today.
This page will help you learn about the haunted house industry and help you understand the impact our industry has on the American Economy! The Haunted House Industry combined with the Halloween Attraction industry will put tens of thousands of people to work each Fall season. Now with the creation of mega pumpkin patch attractions which include corn mazes, hayrides, to zip lines the Halloween and Haunted Attraction industry will combine to generate over 1 billion dollars in ticket renvenue in 2012!
Thank you for visiting the Haunted House Attraction Association serving the haunted house industry and its members. Listed below you will find fast facts about the haunted house industry that you may need for featured articles about our industry. If you have additional questions please contact our media representative Larry, 314 504 3970 or at email@example.com.
Number of Haunted Attractions in America: We estimate there are over 1,200 haunted attractions charging admission fees to their events. We additionally estimate that there are over 300 amusement facilities producing some sort of Halloween or Haunted House event such as an amusement park or family fun center. Lastly there are over 3,000 charity attractions that open for one day on Halloween or one or two weekends in October produced by a local charity group. You can locate most of the attractions in America at www.HauntedHouseOnline.com or at www.Hauntworld.com.
Attendance Figures: The typical haunted attraction averages around 8,000 paid guests. This figure grossly depends on the market and the size of the attraction. About 80% of the professional attractions in America attendance are less than 10,000 paid guests or more than 7,500 paid guests. Less than 10% of haunted attractions have attendance figures over 35,000 paid guests. Some attractions mega haunted events attract over 40,000 to 80,000 guests but those numbers are around 5% of all attractions in America. About 15% of all attractions in America average between 12,000 and 20,000 paid guests. A major amusement park such as Universal Studios and or Knott’s Scary Farm attracts over 300,000 paid guests in October alone. On a busy night the mega attractions can push through over 10,000 guests in one night while a mega amusement park like Universal might do over 35,000.
Average Costs: Back in the early 90’s the average ticket price for a haunted house ranged between $4 and $6.00 dollars. By the mid 90’s to late 90’s the average ticket price had soared to around $13.00. Most attractions choosing $13.00 because of its themed number. Today some haunted houses charge as much as $25.00 while most average around $15.00 per event. Major amusement park haunts charge as much as $65.00 for entry into their events. Over 50% of haunted attractions in America charge less than $15.00 per person, while 20% charge more than $20.00 per ticket. Roughly 50% of haunted attractions charge less than $13.00 per person.
Major Media: The Haunted Attraction industry has been featured prominently on the national media scene. Back in the mid 90’s Tiny Tim married on the Tonight Show at a major haunt in Boston called Spookyworld. Over the past few years the haunted house industry has become as good as or better than most Hollywood horror movies and due to this fact the media attention has increased. Within the past few years many major media outlets have featured MAJOR stories about the haunted house industry such as USA Today, Wall Street Journal, AOL.com, Time Magazine, Washington Post, Associated Press, NFL Films, and many more. Last year YAHOO.com listed sites such as www.HauntWorld.com best places to find haunted houses. The story was produced due to the overwhelming popularity of searching for them on Yahoo’s search engine. The Travel Channel produced a major television show about haunted attractions which aired several times in 200 6. The National Geographic Channel produced a documentary for 2007 entitled “Celebrating Halloween” which featured The Darkness, St. Louis, Missouri. Additionally in 2006 America’s TWO biggest morrning shows did major pieces on the haunted attraction industry; Good Morning America ran a 5 minute piece on the industry as did the Today Show.
This past year even ‘GIRLS NEXT DOOR’ got into the act by following around one of the girls through the annual tradeshow for the haunted and Halloween industry located in Chicago: Transworld Halloween, Party and Haunted Attraction Show. This show aired in May of 2007.
Haunted Houses are now the most popular way to celebrate Halloween in America and the media has followed. Below you can watch the Youtube segment for Good Mourning America’s segment on the haunted house industry. Additionally you’ll find a link to the USA Today story on the industry.
The haunted attraction industry generates between 500 and 800 million dollars in ticket sales. This figure would include most major theme parks that operate a haunted event. The haunted attraction industry would generate roughly 400 million dollars in revenue and the amusement park industry another 200 to 300 million dollars. The industry of haunting supports hundreds of other businesses across America from VENDORS that supply haunted house effects, props, costumes, masks, animations and more. Additionally haunted houses spend tens of millions of dollars on building supplies, advertisement, insurance and much more. We estimate that the haunted house industry solely drive the popularity of Halloween and Halloween retail through the spending of roughly 85 million dollars on advertisement of events. Today Halloween is an 8 billion dollar industry making it the second biggest retail holiday of the year.
Additionally all sorts of new scary attractions have opened such as Zombie Runs where runners pay up to $100 to run through an obstacle course chased by Zombies who pay up to $50.00 for the privledge. Zombie runs can generage up to 1 to 2 million dollars for ONE single day event. Zombie Runs have proven that America is crazy about Halloween and want horror attractions year around not just in October.
Frightening Facts About Halloween:
Halloween is the second largest commercial holiday in the United States.
Approximately one hundred countries celebrate Halloween.
Over seven billion dollars is spent yearly on candy, costumes and activities in the United States alone.
Approximately 90% of all households with hildren will participate in a Halloween activity. The most common demographics for this season are teens and young adults 18-34.
Research shows that people enjoy being scared while in a safe environment such as attending a movie, on a thrill ride or at a haunted house, and they are willing to pay for the experience.
Halloween as an industry will generate more revenue in 60 days than Hollywood will generate the entire year from January to October. Hollywood will need November through December to catch up and pass the Halloween Industry. What does that tell you about America and Halloween?
Haunted House Safety: Haunted Houses and attractions are EXTREMELY safe due to tough safety and fire codes they must all now live by. Most haunted houses inside a building are required to have a sprinkler system, early warning smoke or heat detectors which will alert the fire department, emergency lights, fire proofing of all materials inside the attractions, industrial electric applications, easy access doors throughout the attraction, panic hardware exit doors, multiple fire extinguishers, panic systems, and much more. Most haunts now must also be ADA compliant and have no trap doors or items on the floor that could cause trips and falls. Our association takes safety as a serious concern and creates and publishes many safety articles. Transworld Haunted House show produces seminars for safety and Hauntworld Magazine produced an entire magazine devoted to safety in a haunted house. The industry as a whole takes safety serious and works together to solve common problems. Liste d on this site are a handful of safety articles in our safety section. Please be our guest and read them.
Charity: Over 80% of all haunted attractions across America are operated by a charity or help to benefit a charity of some kind. The haunted house industry helps to raise tens of millions of dollars for charities nationwide. Many fire departments or church groups, produce haunted attractions nationwide. Haunts have worked with major charities like Boys and Girls Club, Children’s Miracle Network, to everything in between.
Corporate America: Corporate America has embraced the haunted house industry with sponsorships in the tens of millions of dollars. Most major haunted events have major sponsorship deals with Pepsi, energy drink companies, fast food industry, cellular phone companies, Halloween retail outlets, to even The Truth (against smoking). A major haunted attraction could attract $10,000 to $100,000.00 in sponsorships from major corporations who want to display their brand, product or service to the haunted attraction demographic of 18-34. Haunted Houses have become a very inexpensive way for corporate America to reach the 18-34 demographic, due to the popularity of our industry. Sponsorships for haunted events are on the rise climbing an estimated 8% per year. The high increase is due to the sponsor World recently discovering the haunted industry within the past five years. Some major attractions have even formed national groups to attract even bigger sponsors like www.AmericaHaunts.com.
Haunted Industry: The haunted house industry much like other industries has their own tradeshows, experts, consultants, suppliers, magazines, associations, education seminars, gatherings and events. Haunted attraction owners spend annually over 100 million dollars with specific haunted house vendors for supplies like fog machines, to scary animatronic monsters, lighting equipment or masks and costumes to assist them in scaring America. There are some major vendors in the industry who have even supplied haunted houses to the Playboy Mansion, or Universal Studios to Six Flags to even Madison Square Garden. The biggest growth for the vendors to the haunted industry is now overseas, where haunted houses are opening at a record pace. People just love to be scared it’s not just an American thing anymore. Haunted Houses is an American product that is now being exported WORLD WIDE! We estimate that over 25 million dollars worth of haunted house equipment, services and supplies where shipped to other countries mostly in Asia and Europe. Some haunted house vendors have now started supplying Hollywood movies such as ExMortis.com who did all of the effects for Rob Zombies movies: Halloween, Devils Rejects, and House of a 1000 Corpses. Ghost Ride Productions recently sold props to Warner Brothers for a Batman movie, to Universal Studios films. Patrick Magee (Magee FX) did all the special effects on a Lions Gate film entitled ‘Dark Ride’. The list goes on…
Listed below are some of the major vendors in our industry.
Note: Much of the data provided above was supplied to the Haunted House Attraction Association by Hauntworld.com. Hauntworld.com is the largest website on the net for providing haunted house information.
HAUNTWORLD.COM IS THE WORLDS LARGEST HAUNTED HOUSE AND HALLOWEEN EVENT DIRECTORY. FIND THE BEST AND SCARIEST HAUNTED HOUSE NEAR YOU CLICK HERE AND FIND HAUNTS BY ZIP CODE, CITY OR STATE. http://www.hauntworld.com/americas_scariest_best_haunted_houses
Haunted Houses have been making America scream for nearly 40 years, and now Haunted Houses have gone global. The haunted house industry is an American export. 100% made in America as haunt vendors design, build and install haunted houses all over the WORLD! Halloween is extremely popular within the US. However, it was not as popular worldwide. Trick-or-treating is an American tradition, and for years it was the primary way most American’s celebrated Halloween, but many things have changed over the last twenty years. Halloween has become the second largest retail holiday grossing over 8 billion dollars. The industry of making people scream is now a WORLD WIDE industry. Today, you can find haunted houses in most countries. People of all nations pay top dollar to enter a haunted house…to be SCARED.
So what makes a haunted house one of the best and scariest in America 2012? There are several things a paying customer might look for in a haunted attraction prior to buying a ticket. There are so many established haunted houses, plus so many more that open new each year, and a lot of over the top (potentially false) advertisements promoting them all in every city across America. At Hauntworld, we suggest attending every haunt possible (of course), but for those of you on a budget, typically you’ll want to steer clear from the brand new haunted houses. New haunts have yet to establish themselves and build up an arsenal of experience to make people scream. Rather, we suggest you visit the established haunted houses, the ones with years of experience, the ones who spend tens of thousands of dollars every year to renovate for each season, and the ones committed to making their haunted houses the best scream factories in America.
We look for many things when evaluating a haunt for our America’s best list. So many haunted attractions are quite different from each other. Many haunted houses like The Beast in Kansas City, Missouri are inside industrial buildings, while others like Headless Horseman in New York are outdoor haunts with massive hayrides, corn mazes and more. How do you compare a screampark haunted attraction and an indoor haunted house? In most cases, the indoor haunted house will have the best attention to detail, sets and special FX. However, the screampark style attractions will offer more variety, longer attractions and typically more bang for the buck.
There are scary haunted houses, and then there are THE SCARIEST haunted houses in America. What’s the difference? Some haunts just want to make you scream, but some haunts go all out with over-the-top efforts trying to be the biggest, the baddest and the scariest haunted houses on the planet. The haunts that have that WOW factor can make their guests scream, PLUS they provide horrific atmosphere creating realism in every scare. They provide a Hollywood movie quality punch to the gut! Who wants to watch horror movies anymore when you can visit a haunted house and be right in the middle of the action? Below is our list of the best haunted attractions in America. These haunts will put you on stage inside a horror movie atmosphere and basically make YOU the scream queen! Before visiting a haunted house, use Hauntworld.com to find the best haunted houses in America, as we boast the largest and most informative database for finding haunted houses. Shop by city, state and zip to find a haunted house near you or around the World.
So which haunted houses are the best and scariest haunted houses in America 2012? Which haunts can make you scream more than any other, more than the best horror movie? Below you’ll read about the longest haunted houses, the oldest haunted houses, and even about the best rides with a Halloween theme? We have it all for you once again in our annual Top 13 best haunted houses in America List. Get ready, turn out the lights, and get ready to scream!...
The 13th Gate is Louisiana’s Ultimate Haunted House! Journey through 13 very frightening themed indoor & outdoor areas where your worst nightmares come true and anything can happen. Crawl through a burning crematory oven, get lost in dark underground caverns, and find yourself standing on a rickety bridge overlooking hundreds of live snakes. This 40,000 square foot haunted house is definitely not recommended for the faint of heart!
New for 2012: Lost Creek Cave: Explore the many dark passages of a highly-detailed snake-infested, anxiety-inducing cave.
New areas in The Swamp include a giant beehive and a monstrous cypress stump. The Keep: The dungeon keep filled with dangerous traps, bottomless pits and a dragon’s lair.
Ever known as one of the best haunts in America, Netherworld offers two new haunted themes in 2012. Banshee: Its Scream Means Death! The Massive Bloody Crawling Eye! Crushed by the Primordial Giant! Portraits of the Undying! The Slime Crawler! Mauled by Crows! The Underwater City! The Beast From the Abyss! Mermaids and Tritons! The Formorian Hordes! The Wail of The Banshee! The House of the Dead! The 21 Foot Tall Tree Beast! The Moray Pits! Feel the horrors of a Halloween gone mad as the sunken city rises and Banshees fill the skies! More repulsive monsters, shocking scares and wild special effects than you have ever seen! The HIVE: They Will Make Your Skin Crawl!
New for 2012: The twisted gore in the Dark Basement of NETHERWORLD grows even more vile with an invasion of giant bugs! Can you face - The Bone Snapping Crimson Hulk! The Colossal Writhing Centipede! Wasp Warriors! The Unstable Cobalt 99 Missile! Cocooned Horrors! Giant Spiders! Live Arthropods! Attacking Maggots! The Hideous Human Blob! More crawling, skittering, bloody insect nightmares than you can imagine!
Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses is a force to be FEARED! Two thousand and twelve’s hayride theme is “The Horseman’s Cult”. . The 20th year haunted attraction celebration will also include: The Lunar Motel, Glutton’s Slaughter House, The Root Cellar, Dark Harvest Corn Maze, Nightshade Greenhouse, The Feeding, Dahlia Blood’s Manor, and new for 2012, Dr. Dark’s Black Spider Sideshow. Plus, resurrecting many of the popular monsters that have haunted the grounds throughout the years: Butcher Joe, The Necromancer, The Bogeyman, Dr. Blight, Dr. Dark, Prisoner X, The Tooth fairy, The Collectors, The Hollowmen and of course The Headless Horseman! In addition, there will be a new Magic and Illusions Show, line actors, stilt walkers and stunt performers. With a sizzle reel for a new reality show in the can and the recently established American Made Monster Studios, 2012 is the year to celebrate at “the #1 Haunted Attraction in American” Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses. Visit Headlesshorseman.com today!
Cutting Edge Haunted House was recognized by Guinness Book of World Records as the longest haunted house in the WORLD! Cutting Edge is located inside a hauntingly old meat packing plant, the perfect setting for a gruesome haunting. Cutting Edge Haunted House features live sets, animations, and hundreds of live actors inside and outside the building. One of the best features of the attraction is all the real meat packing plant equipment left behind from when the planet closed years ago. Much of the meat packing theme has been incorporated into the setting of this attraction making this haunted house in Dallas Fort Worth Texas one of the most authentic haunted houses ever created. Cutting Edge Haunted House is waiting for you…Will you make it out alive? CLICK HERE to read a complete review of this attraction or visit online at www.cuttingedgehauntedhouse.com
House of Torment is widely considered to be one of the most innovative haunted houses in the country. Take a journey through each of its dynamic and ultra-creative attractions: The Awakening, The Slaugherhouse and Cursed – The Howling. House of Torment brings a boundry breaking, heart stopping, thrilling adventure to customers with aerial stunts, award winning sets, mind boggling illusions, and a horde of meticulously detailed monsters are presented in wonderous environments that range from a post-apocalyptic city to a twisted gothic nightmare. Fall into the depths of the Nightmare Dimensions, brave the Dark Decent, fend off attacking fiends, attempt the Sewer Escape, enter the Undead Station and more! The highly revered House of Torment production team prides themselves on creating new and vivid experiences each year for its avid fan base. To read a detailed review of this haunt CLICK HERE or visit their website www.thehouseoftorment.com
Michigan is the haunted attraction capital of the world with more than 70 haunts in a 50 mile radius. Erebus prides itself as one of the most unique haunts in the country by building almost all of their own props in-house. This is not the haunted house you went to as a kid, but the one that makes you scream as an adult. Things will grab you, bite you, and land on top of you. Walk through a swamp. Be placed inside a room, door slammed, and get dumped on by 10,000 balls as you’re buried alive! How long can you hold your breath? Erebus, in Greek Mythology, is the son of Chaos and the brother of Night, this year they are bringing in the "Mother" - Chaos is coming fall 2012. Chaos is unleashing an all-out assault! She'll hit you from every angle with full on fear... and show no mercy. Visit www.hauntedpontiac.com for more haunted house details.
If there is less oxygen, can you scream as loud? Visit The Asylum Haunted House along with 13th Floor Haunted House, Undead Haunted House and ZombieLand Haunted House all conveniently located in Denver, Colorado and you’ll find out. There’s terror in the heart of the Mile High City. These haunted houses offer intense graphic experiences, where attention is paid to every detail ensuring those who visit have a frightening good time. It all begins with The Asylum, set in Gordon Cottingham’s Hospital for the criminally insane. It’s a damp and musty place infested with unimaginable nightmares and coupled with the endless screams of tortured souls. This year guests will be scared out of their minds with an insanely redesigned layout featuring new sets and effects that create a truly mind blowing experience. Then it’s onward to the 13th Floor, where the age-old question is answered…Where is the 13th Floor, and why is it absent in so many buildings? Find out as you board a haunted elevator for a heart-pounding ride to a thrilling adventure on the legendary 13th Floor. Undead Haunted House is Denver’s newest haunt offering an interactive zombie experience, built to scale as an actual farmhouse underseige by the undead. Inside ZombieLand, the city is under quarantine, and there’s NO WAY OUT! These haunting experiences offer the cutting edge of screams! Here you are guaranteed an amazing journey through the most sought after haunted experience in Colorado. To read a detailed article about this attraction, CLICK HERE or visit their website www.getscared.com
The Dent Schoolhouse is a haunted attraction that takes place inside an actual historical schoolhouse with a haunting history. Shut down in the 1950's after a murdering Janitor worked and resided in the basement all the while children were missing. Today, movie quality sets and Hollywood animations, combined with this real legend, makes The Dent Schoolhouse a haunted house attraction NOT to miss! New for 2012, the entire 1st floor of the attraction went through a complete renovation. Guests now get to witness the age of the building. Lockers are rusted shut, dry wall is falling apart, and the classrooms are in shambles. Deadly dissections have taken place in the science classroom and the English class has become a make-shift morgue while the bodies in the basement continue to number. Other new additions to the schoolhouse are the renovated automotive classroom with a rabid junkyard dog and two cars from hell, plus a new ending that has the guests mazing through the school's bus parking lot! Also new for 2012 is the re-themed outdoor maze called Detention Hall. A group of thug clowns have taken over the facility and are ready for the last laugh! Both The Dent Schoolhouse and Detention Hall are included with every ticket. Visit www.frightsite.com for more haunted house details.
The Darkness has been rated the best haunted house in the entire WORLD by many publications and haunted house fans nationwide. The Darkness features four attractions inside two floors of fear. First, venture through The Darkness first floor, an outdoor themed haunted adventure full of ancient curses where fear for your life seems all too real. Next, trek upstairs through the graveyard and then enter the mortuary house. Once inside, you’ll find the graveyard bodies are back from the dead and zombies are flocking the mortuary ready to pounce on your flesh at every horrifying turn. Then, enter Terror Visions 3D Haunted House, clearly the World’s premier 3D haunted clown house. The clowns are running amuck and YOU ARE NEXT! Finally, exit through a Monster Museum of life-size Hollywood props and toys. The Darkness has some of THE MOST amazing and creative special FX of any haunted house with custom one-of-a-kind animations, sets, scenes, and tons of flesh eating zombies and monsters. The Darkness is located in downtown St. Louis in the historic Soulard area. Read more about The Darkness Haunted House CLICK HERE or visit www.scarefest.com
The Beast is one of if not the longest running haunted houses in America and is one of the only haunted houses in America that is FIVE STORIES TALL! In Kansas City, they feature not one but two of the best haunted houses including The Beast and Edge of Hell. Both of these haunted attractions are amazing featuring incredible set design, and one of the only haunts featuring live and very real creatures like a 25 foot long Python, Gators and much more. Both attractions feature a 5 story slide from the top floor all the way back down to the ground floor. Both The Beast and Edge of Hell can be ranked as high as the best haunted houses in the country. The combination of the two makes Kansas City a must stop when looking for the scariest haunted houses in America. Read more about these attractions CLICK HERE or visit the websites www.KCBeast.com or www.fullmoonprod.com
For over 20 years, The Bates Motel Haunted Hayride at Arasapha Farm has been making Philadelphia SCREAM! This event is one of the biggest haunted house events in America featuring amazing props, digital FX, terrifying actors, professional makeup, pyrotechnics and multiple attractions in one location including a massive corn maze, an infamous hayride and a horrific haunted house. The Bates Motel has been featured on multiple television shows and ranked as high as THE BEST haunted house in the nation by multiple media outlets including Hauntworld.com. The Bates Motel dominates the Philadelphia market as well as every surrounding area. People travel from miles away just to attend this haunting event. To learn more about Bates Motel read their featured article CLICK HERE or visit www.thebatesmotel.com
What is the terrible secret hidden within the 13th Floor? Superstition? Conspiracy? Or something much, much worse? As legend has foretold, The 13th Floor Haunted House provides a gut wrenching ride to untold nightmares STRAIGHT DOWN! The 13th Floor Haunted House is a franchise haunted attraction located in multiple locations. These attractions are a true testament to high action, in-your-face premium production value among all haunted houses. Each attraction offers a massive haunted event, one as big as 40,000 square feet and another as high as 3 floors up! Through the wickedness of its massive gothic cemetery and into its horrifically fantastic haunted hotel, 13th Floor customers get to experience a barrage of special effects, animatronic monsters and impeccably detailed sets. Add to that some of the most talented group of performers in the industry, and you’ve got a top notch, first rate haunted house that’s 2nd to none.
To read a detailed review of the San Antonio haunt, CLICK HERE. To read a detailed review of the Phoenix haunt, CLICK HERE.
Located in the shadow of downtown Houston, TX next to Houston’s oldest graveyard, Nightmare on the Bayou is the name people think of when searching “HAUNTED TEXAS”. Nightmare on the Bayou is entering its 12th year in operation and has grown even bigger, even better, and even scarier with every passing year. Featuring newly designed scenes, Hollywood quality props, professional animatronics and dozens upon dozens of the most well-trained and highly supervised actors, CRAZED ACTORS, whose sole purpose is to scare you to death. Nightmare on the Bayou boasts, “the only haunted house in Houston with REAL ghosts,” and with its location right next to the graveyard…I believe them! Ghost sightings are frequent from both customers and employees alike. Additionally, Nightmare On The Bayou is one of the only haunted houses in America with a WORLD CLASS Halloween retail store on site for your ease and convenience. Learn more about Nightmare On The Bayou Haunted House in Houston, TX by visiting their website www.nightmareonthebayou.com
The List doesn’t stop there we continue on with 18 more through 31 best and scariest haunted houses in America list. We feature 31 of the best scream attractions for 31 nights of Halloween!...
What are the top FIVE most OUTRAGOUS, EXTREME, OVER THE TOP Haunted Houses in America? These haunted houses take their themes seriously. These haunts are massive. These haunts are in-your-face with extreme actors, props, animations and more. These haunts make grown men run like little girls. There are several reasons why some haunted houses are over-the-top and to some it might be a good thing, while for others, not so good. Either way, our list of the most over-the-top haunted houses is an irrefutable one.
1. Erebus Haunted House in Pontiac, Michiganwww.hauntedpontiac.com Erebus has uniquely creative sets, animations and so much more. Erebus will touch you, bite you, grab you, collapse upon you and more. This is an EXTREME haunted house!
2. Haunted Hoochie at Dead Acres in Pataskala, Ohio www.deadacres.com This haunted house acts out scenes of gore and graphics. The actors are crazed and much of the attraction is downright disgusting, but for those extreme horror seekers, it’s like heaven! Because of that, they have a unique following like no other.
3. Edge of Hell in Kansas City, Missouriwww.edgeofhell.com This attraction features a trip through Hell itself. How could it not be on this list? Plus, Edge of Hell is home to a python named Medusa, the longest snake ever in captivity, according to Guinness World Records 2013.
4. House of Torment (HOT) in Austin, Texaswww.houseoftorment.com This attraction features very intense actors with an in-your-face style of making you scream, combined with the highest quality updates and upgrades from year to year and HOT easily makes this list!
5.Haunted Overload in Lee, New Hampshirewww.HauntedOverload.com This attraction is way over the top with larger than life monsters and Halloween displays…LITERALLY!
Top Five Longest Running Best and Scariest Haunted Houses in America:
Listed below are FIVE of the longest running haunted house attractions in America. These haunts literally helped to create the haunted house tradition as we know it today across America. The Jaycee organization still has some haunts in operation from the late 70’s, and they too built a tradition, but those haunts in smaller cities don’t create the long running tradition and legacy that the haunts on this list have developed for their cities and for the entire haunted house industry as a whole. Long running haunts have not only withstood the test of time, they’ve built and improved upon their trade making their events 2nd to none. With up 20 to 30 years of experience, FX and more, these haunts are the professionals in scaring! If you want to see how fright is done right, take it from a collection of haunted attractions who combined have been open for over a 100 years!...
1. Edge of Hell Haunted House in Kansas City, MO Open for over 30 years, this attraction is one of the best haunted houses in America and has been in operation since the 1970’s scaring guests. Learn more about Edge of Hell Haunted House in Kansas City MO at www.edgeofhell.com
2. Haunted Schoolhouse & Haunted Laboratory in Akron, Ohio Celebrating 38 and 31 years in operation, these haunted attractions are a true tradition. The Haunted Schoolhouse might be the longest running haunted house in America, and the attraction keeps getting better and better with amazing detail. Learn more at www.hshlab.com
3. The Bates Motel in Lancaster, PA The Bates Motel Is one of the longest running haunted hayrides in America at over 20 plus years of making people scream! This attraction has set a standard for outdoor farms transformed into haunted screamparks. Learn more at www.thebateshotel.com
4. The Darkness in St. Louis, MO is one of the longest running indoor haunted houses in America setting a standard for the haunt industry for 20 years! The Darkness has been featured on nearly every major media outlet including AOL, USA Today and The Today Show, and it has been featured on nationally televised shows like Modern Marvels and America Haunts. Learn more at www.Scarefest.com
5. Headless Horseman in Ulster, NYhas been creating nightmares for 20 years. This annual haunted event is also operated on a farm and has helped to establish a standard in haunted house agritainment. With multiple haunted houses and a massive haunted hayride, Headless Horseman is one of the best haunted attractions of all time. www.headlesshorseman.com
Top Ten LONGEST haunted attractions in America:
The haunts on this list are the scariest haunted houses giving you the most SCREAM for your buck. What are the longest haunted houses in America? This collection of haunted houses is so massive you’ll be stuck in complete HORROR for hours! What are the longest, biggest haunted houses in America we have the list for you right here…
1. Creepyworld Haunted ScreamPark in St Louis, Missouriwww.scarefest.com Creepyworld is a massive haunted screampark with nine attractions in one location. For one price, Creepyworld includes a zombie paintball hayride, Route 666 Drive Inn movie theater, Twisted Torture 3D haunted house, Hornbuckle’s hogs and cornmaze, Silo-X and more! Creepyworld takes well over an hour to complete.
2. Headless Horseman in New Yorkwww.headlesshorseman.com Headless Horseman includes a massive hayride, several haunted houses, gift stores, diners and so much more. This attraction not only takes time to complete, but with all the horrific fun, you’ll want to stay longer and longer with each visit. They know how to pack in the screams AND the Halloween fun, together at one amazing location!
3. Bates Motel in Philadelphia, PAwww.thebatesmotel.com The Bates Motel features three attractions including The Bates Motel Haunted Hayride, a massive corn maze and a haunted house where guests fear for their lives. Years ago, Bates Motel was one of the first haunted houses to ever incorporate pyrotechnic FX, and they’ve been pioneering the way for haunted houses and haunted hayrides ever since.
4. Cutting Edge Haunted House in Dallas Texaswww.cuttingedgehauntedhouse.com Cutting Edge once held the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest indoor haunted house in America. This haunted house is located inside a 100,000 square foot old meat packing plant.
5. Erebus Haunted House in Detroit, Michiganwww.hauntedpontiac.com This haunted house also held the longest record. In fact, it was the very first haunted house to ever hold the World Record for longest. This haunted house wraps around several floors of an old parking garage with intense features around every turn.
6. Edge of Hell in Kansas City, Missouriwww.edgeofhell.com One of the best haunts in America, Edge of Hell sits inside a five story building and their exit is a five story slide straight down. It is believed that Edge of Hell is the origin of that urban legend of the 13-story haunted house. It’s sister haunt, The Beast in Kansas City, Missouri www.kcbeast.com, also sits inside a 5-story building. The producers of these attractions know how to keep the screams coming! 7. The Beast in Kansas City Missouriwww.kcbeast.com Scaring for nearly 20 years, this attraction also features a massive haunted hayride, The Den of Darkness haunted house, Frightmare Asylum and of course, Field of Screams Entertainment with a scream shop, food, games, stage and more!
8. Spookywoods in High Point, North Carolinawww.spookywoods.com Spookywoods features multiple haunted attractions including a huge corn maze, hayride, haunted houses, and even zip lines, plus pick your own pumpkins and much more.
9. Field of Screams in Mountville, PAwww.fieldofscreams.com Scaring for nearly 20 years, this attraction also features a massive haunted hayride, The Den of Darkness haunted house, Frightmare Asylum and of course, Field of Screams Entertainment with a scream shop, food, games, stage and more!
10. Factory of Terror in Canton, Ohiowww.fotohio.com Factory of Terror is a 2x Guinness Book of World Record holder longest haunted house in the World. The attraction features four different haunts inside one building of ongoing horrors: Portal to Insanity haunted house, Massacre on Mahoning, Industrial Nightmare haunted house, and Judgement Day in 3D.
Top 13 Best Scenic Haunted Houses in America:
Which are the most detailed haunted houses in America? Which haunts have the most original props, sets, special FX, and animations? Which offer the most realistic atmosphere? Some haunts have the scariest actors, others have the best make-up, some feature the coolest locations, but which haunted houses have THE BEST set design with the most creative artists and production teams? Which create amazing Hollywood level special FX and more? Are you one of those thrill seekers who want to feel like you are dead in the middle of a Hollywood movie? Well, these haunts are the ones for you!...
1. The Darkness in St. Louis, Missouriwww.scarefest.com The Darkness is an amazing haunted house with unreal special FX, animations and set design and also include the World’s best 3D haunt.
2. 13th Gate in Baton Rouge, LAwww.midnightproduction.com A case can be made that this attraction is in fact the most detailed haunted house in America. The set design is really second to no haunted house in America. Going here is like being in a real movie.
3. Haunted Overload in Lee, New Hampshirewww.hauntedoverload.com Haunted Overload is an all outdoor haunted house and if you like Halloween then this attraction will amaze you!!! There might not be a more detailed outdoor haunted house in the nation!
4. Dent School House in Cincinnati, Ohiowww.frightsite.com Dent Schoolhouse located inside a real schoolhouse has the look and feel of an old abandoned school house filled with fright!
5. Headless Horseman in New Yorkwww.headlesshorseman.com Another mostly outdoor haunted house with the main attraction being a huge haunted hayride. The detail and special fx inside this haunted attraction is beyond belief amazing.
6. The Beast Haunted House in Kansas City, Missouriwww.kcbeast.com The Beast is a five story haunted house with amazing detail covered over five stories of fright. One of the coolest scenes is a massive werewolf forest!
7. Terror Behind the Walls in Philadelphia, PAwww.easternstate.org/halloween What else can be said a turn of the century prison
8. Edge of Hell in Kansas City, Missouriwww.edgeofhell.com One of the best haunts in America, Edge of Hell sits inside a five story building and their exit is a five story slide straight down. It is believed that Edge of Hell is the origin of that urban legend of the 13-story haunted house. 9. The Haunting of Lemp Brewery in St Louis, Missouriwww.scarefest.comThe Haunting of Lemp Brewery is one of the scariest real haunted locations in the country. You go deep underground inside real European caves and caverns created by Germany brewers back in the 1880’s. The location is unlike any you’ve ever seen before.
10. Dead Acres in Columbus, Ohiowww.deadacres.com This attractions is mostly outdoors however it has some of the most detailed sets we’ve ever seen before, with larger than life monsters and over the top set design. Everything looks real including the gory skits the actors perform.
11. Netherworld in Atlanta, GAwww.fearworld.com Netherworld spends an entire year decorating their haunted house and they are one of the only haunted houses that had an actual movie shoot inside their attraction. Zombieland!
12. Disturbia in Killian, Alabamawww.disturbiahauntedhouse.com This haunted houses features every known prop and animation known to mankind! The owners of this attraction spend more on their haunted house than any other.
13. 13th Floor Arizona in Phoenix, Arizonawww.13thflooraz.com Many of the sets and props come from the legendary Rocky Point Haunted House one of the most detail haunts in history. In addition to all the new sets added this is clearly one of the most detailed in America.
Top 5 Scariest REAL haunted houses in America:
Are you looking for a haunt location like no other than follow this list of haunted houses and you’ll find the scariest real haunt locations in America. Beware what you wish for because you just might encounter a real demon, ghost or something supernatural.
1. The Haunting of Lemp Brewery in St. Louis, Missouriwww.scarefest.com The haunt industry toured this event during a Halloween show and deemed it the best location they have ever seen for a haunted house. It is deep underground and turn of the century caverns built in the 1880’s. You must take a spiral staircase down deep where no one can hear you scream.
2. Pennhurst Asylum in Philadelphia, PAwww.pennhurstasylum.com This attraction is inside a real abandoned asylum filled rotting hallways, and the souls of the forgetting.
3. The Mortuary in New Orleans, LA www.themortuary.net The Mortuary is inside a real turn of the century funeral home with one of the biggest and scariest graveyards in the backyard. IF you’ve ever seen the movie Phantasm this attraction is a LIVE version! 4. Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CAwww.winchestermysteryhouse.com What better place to operate a haunted house than inside the largest real haunted house ever built! Live the legend and experience the never ending home at Winchester Mystery House.
5. Terror Behind the Walls in Philadelphia, PAwww.easternstate.org/halloween/ Again nothing can top a real haunted prison built over a hundred year ago! The place is very very scary!
6. The Haunted Prison Experince at the Ohio State Reformatorywww.hauntedx.com This old haunted prison located in Mansfield OH will send chill down the spines of all who enter! 7. USS Nightmare Haunted House in Newport, KY in the Greater Cincinnati OH area www.ussnightmare.com We’ve all heard stories of haunted ships, but this one takes the cake and you’ll know why when you enter USS NIGHTMARE!
8. The Haunted Cave at Lewisburg, Ohiowww.hauntedcaveatlewisburg.com Near Dayton OH, this haunted attraction is located inside a real cave 80 feet below ground in a real abandoned mine. Enough said?
9. Cutting Edge Haunted House in Fort Worth, TXwww.cuttingedgehauntedhouse.com This haunt is located inside a building built 100 years ago, inside a REAL meat packing plant. It’s the perfect place for a good old fashioned haunting!
10. House of Torment Haunted House in Austin, Texaswww.thehouseoftorment.com Once running classic horror movies, this old abandoned movie theater has horror secrets that just won’t die!
11.The Dent Schoolhouse in Cincinnati, OHwww.frightsite.com The Dent Schoolhouse is a haunted attraction that takes place inside an actual historical schoolhouse with a haunting history from the 1950’s when a murderous janitor took the lives of multiple school children and the hauntings continue today at The Dent Schoolhouse haunted house in Cincinnati.
12. Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern in Chattanooga, TN www.hauntedcavern.com Ruby Falls is a natural wonder featuring an unreal natural cave system, down 26 stories underground, just near the depths of hell.
13. Necropolis 13 Haunted House in Baton Rouge, LA www.necropolis13.com One of the World’s biggest catacomb haunted houses with REAL haunted catacombs and tombs. The spirits of the undead are alive at Necropolis 13.
Top 10 scariest RIDES in America:
Are you looking for America’s SCARIEST Rides? We have experienced all these rides with a Halloween name or theme and have ranked them as the scariest rides in America! Whether it’s a haunted dark ride or a twisting, turning roller coaster or a high end, death-defeating action ride, we’ve ranked them. Join the Hauntworld Facebook page here http://www.facebook.com/hauntworldscariesthauntedhousesattractions and debate the list!
1. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey Universal Islands of Adventure Orlando www.universalorlando.com This ride has it all ghosts, giant spiders, scary animations, all combined in an amazing ride that whips you around and makes you feel like you are really flying on a broomstick with Harry Potter himself!
2. Revenge of the Mummy Ride Universal Studios, Orlando, FL www.UniversalOrlando.com This roller coaster combines cool twists and turns with massive over the top sets, pyrotechnic FX and mummy animations. What more can you ask for?
3. Towers of Terror Disney Land, Los Angeles, CA www.disney.com As huge Disney fans, we believe not much can top Towers of Terror? The façade alone is awesome. Plus, there’s an amazing haunted pre-show, amazing sets, costumed ride operators acting their parts, and let’s not forget ghosts and a falling elevator.
4. X-2 Six Flags Magic Mountain LA, California www.sixflags.com I doubt there is a scarier roller coaster in the world than X-2 it simply takes the cake! Many won’t ride it because it’s just too scary. It’s that intense!
5. Indiana Jones Ride Disney Land LA, CA www.disney.com Take your favorite archeologist and mix that with an ancient tomb filled with spirits, snakes, traps and pyro FX, and you have one scary, action packed ride!
6. The Voyage Roller Coaster Holiday World, Santa Claus, Indiana www.holidayworld.com This is a wooden roller coaster that I truly believe… if it were 10 feet longer it would kill you! This thrill coaster is without competition in a league of its own, because nothing prepares you for this screaming ride!
7. Dark Castle Williamsburg Busch Gardens www.buschgardens.com Mix a ride with illusions, special FX and a haunted theme and you’ve made our list of the scariest rides in America!
8. Mystery Mine Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, TN Tennessee www.dollywood.com Nothing can top mixing coaster experience with a haunted house and special FX. This ride has it all to make you scream!
9. Ghostwood Estates Kennywood Amusement Park, Pittsburgh, PA www.kennywood.com In a seemingly quiet town of West Mifflin PA, in a seemingly quiet part of Kennywood Park, ghosts, ghouls, and monsters lurk around every corner. The cool part about this ride is you get to shoot back at these ghosts. This is one hauntingly good ride!
10. Disney’s Haunted Mansion Los Angeles CA www.disney.com We realize this quirky, fun ride isn’t much for making you scream, but how can it not land on a list for scary rides. After all, it’s Disney’s Haunted Mansion! This ride started and kicked off a wave of scary rides, it is the grand daddy of all haunted rides in the WORLD.
12 Things That Shaped Our Industry
By Larry Kirchner
I remember when our industry wasn't even an industry, when it was mainly a few small charity haunts that set up in perhaps an old vacant building for a one night or one weekend event. I also remember when marketing was mainly just flyers on car windows.
The first professional haunted house I worked on was back in 1989, and the first time I owned my own haunted house was in 1994. 1994 happens to also be the first year I attended the Transworld Halloween retail show. One of ours sponsors was a small local Halloween retail store, and when they mentioned something about a Halloween show in Chicago, I jumped in my 1985 IROC Z28 with no hotel room and no real idea what the show was about. I just went.
I remember walking through the show with Jim Kelly and being amazed to find a place where we could buy body parts, skulls and some other haunt related props. Looking back, I can honestly say there was really nothing there that we could or would use today to create a great haunted house, but at the time we thought we had found the Holy Grail!
I had some cash on me, and I basically bought everything I could carry out the door, products from Cinema Secrets, Gag Studios and a few others. I'll never forget that. I wish I had a camera, because we loaded that IROC til the seams were bursting. The hatch was open the whole drive home with props sticking out. Jim even had to sit on props. Heck, I had props down near my feet while driving. And in case you didn’t know, it’s about a 4 hour drive back to St. Louis from Chicago.
1994 was a big year for me personally and for our company, Halloween Productions, Inc. We built The Darkness Haunted House and began a journey that has taken us through more twists and turns and ups and downs than I could ever explain in one article.
In 1995, our company created one of the first ever how-to videos called, "How to Create Your Own Haunted House”. We bought a booth at the Halloween show that year and sold several thousands of videos. We sold more than 20,000 copies over the next few years. The next thing I knew, our company was being hired to build attractions for amusement venues like Six Flags, Cedar Point, Madison Square Garden and more.
Our company was also the first to exhibit at Transworld with animations powered by control systems with air pressure. A couple years later, Scarefactory emerged as did an entire fleet of companies building and supplying haunted houses with every sort of prop, animation, effect and more. Each helped our industry become what it is today.
These days, the haunted house industry is frequently featured on national television, radio and newspaper like Fox News, USA TODAY, The Today Show, Good Morning America, MTV and more. In fact, some haunted houses have been the set for a few major motion pictures.
It’s been interesting to watch through the years as haunted houses evolved from black plastic and some bloody walls to today's highly sophisticated attractions that rival even a multi-billion dollar amusement park attraction found in Florida, California and more. I remember being that novice 24-year-old selling our first video at Transworld wondering if people might think “who’s this kid and what does he know”, to today feeling quite old but also feeling good, because I was there from day one and all the way through. And, I’m especially proud to have been instrumental and helped in many of the positive things that have shaped this into a true industry.
Haunted attractions mainly grew in the late 80's and truly became an industry over the last 20 years. How did this happen? What are the events that helped our industry grow into a billion dollar thriving industry? The best way to plan the next decade is to look back on the last three and understand how it started and what shaped it. I present to you the top 13 things that shaped the haunted house industry over the last three decades:
When we look back at the last three decades, there have been many haunts that stand out as best, providing haunted house quality that we aspire to be like or look to for guidance. Among those are Netherworld, 13th Gate, The Darkness, the now closed Rocky Point Haunted House and more. There are many examples of haunts over the last 20 years that have successfully created their own urban legend. Such is the case with Edge of Hell. But a couple haunts REALLY come to mind as two haunts that simply inspired me as well as our entire industry. These haunts really put us on the map, paving the way for haunts to be noticed as amazing attractions. These haunts have since closed, but will always remain forefront in my mind, and they are Terror on Church Street (owned and operated by David Clevenger) and Spookyworld (owned and operated by David Bertolino).
Terror on Church Street was a haunted house in downtown Orlando where adults previously came to party (prior to Disney and Universal building their own adult night life playgrounds). Terror on Church Street was the PREMIER haunt in the country with breathtaking detail, over the top actors and realistic costumes and makeup, but of even greater impact was how it inspired haunted house owners nationwide. In fact, I’m quite certain it was Terror on Church Street that inspired the multi-billion dollar theme parks to build haunted attractions inside their own parks. This haunt was quite simply the perfect template for how to build a professional indoor haunted house. As Universal and Disney built nightlife segments of their own, the nightlife of Church Street Station diminished, and eventually Terror on Church Street sadly closed too. How many “Terror on Somethings” are the names of haunts today? Terror on the Wharf, Terror on the Fox, Terror on the Ridge, Terror on Rural Street, Terror on 23rd, 36th, 20th, 12 and more. Were these names derived from Terror on Church Street? Maybe, maybe not, or maybe not directly, but either way the name certainly set a precedent in our industry.
Spookyworld in my opinion had the biggest impact of all as the owner, David Bertolino, accomplished things that didn't even seem possible at the time. He had lines that stretched for miles. They had all sorts of celebs like Tiny Tim, Bobby Boris Picket, Linda Blair, Elvira, Mickey Rooney, WWF wrestlers, and more. Spookyworld wasn't just a haunted house. Spookyworld was the first ever haunted amusement park equipped with stage shows to entertain people while they waited in line for hours, and it was the first haunted house to create a national spotlight on our industry when Tiny Tim got married on the Jay Leno show LIVE at Spookyworld! Additionally, Spookyworld sold hundreds of thousands of dollars in sponsorships and even eventually partnered with the New England Patriots! Spookyworld was the very first haunted house I ever visited outside of St. Louis, and it left a mark on me and everyone who ever attended. From the marketing to the sheer size of the event, it gave me the realization of just HOW BIG a haunt can go. There are NO limits to what can be done if you have the drive and passion to do it. I believe the combination of Terror on Church Street and the national fame of Spookyworld inspired hundreds of attractions to open all around the country including some of the biggest still in operation today!
Contrary to what many thought, Haunted Attraction Magazine was not the first haunt magazine ever created. In fact, the first that I'm aware of was one created by Trisha Drain who at the time worked for Transworld. Transworld had an idea of keeping the haunts in the loop, so they created a pamphlet size magazine which featured articles written by haunt owners. Included in one magazine was an article written by Leonard Pickel. Shortly thereafter, Leonard Pickel and Oliver Holler began Haunted Attraction Magazine (HAM). HAM was a very important piece of our haunted heritage. It was the first organized media publication that had us all realizing, ‘we are part of something NATIONAL'. HAM featured articles about haunted attractions including one that featured Disney’s Haunted Mansion. Later, John Denley began Fright Times Magazine. Then, Jim O'Rear started Underground Entertainment. Finally, Scared Stiff emerged which focused strictly on actors. At one point, all of these magazines coexisted, but as time went by most faded away. With its main fleet of writers being the same group that produced popular haunt videos, Fright Times grew in popularity. Writers like John Denley, Rich Hanf, Larry Kirchner, Kevin McCurdy and more, allowed Fright Times to have a fighting chance, but it too faded away. All the while, Haunted Attraction Magazine continued to produce one magazine after another.
Then, Hauntworld.com announced we would produce a magazine. Hauntworld Magazine launched with a new format, to focus strictly on the business side of haunting appealing only to those who owned and operated haunted houses (or those who aspired to). Hauntworld Magazine went on to claim thousands of subscribers and be featured in thousands of news articles, TV shows, and more. It became the more popular magazine. However, it was always Haunted Attraction Magazine that was really the first media outlet for those who loved haunted houses and Halloween. HAM became a defacto haunted house association in a sense, because anything that was happening in the haunt industry was passed along through the magazine. HAM was also the first to bring buyers and vendors together for the first time creating a spot in our industry’s history that cannot be denied. The magazine sought out relevant advertisers which in and of itself helped create the awareness that we are in fact an industry. Oliver would sell his shares of the magazine to Leonard, and Leonard eventually sold the entire magazine and website to John Kennedy.
Technology has changed the haunted house industry over the years. I can remember the days when audio was only in the form of cassette tapes and you recorded the same thing over and over again. You played it and when it stopped, you’d flip the tape and play it again. Later, we found endless loop tapes. Then came CD's on repeat mode, and today we all use digital audio. Even digital audio has changed. At first digital audio repeaters still needed amps and wires. Then, they came pre-amped, and now you can place your repeater right next to the speaker.
More technology emerged such as video audio repeaters and control systems which allowed haunters to control everything inside their haunted house. Plus, computer animation allowed us to create ghosts, high quality TV commercials and much more. Most all technology we use today has rolled downhill from Universal, Disney or Hollywood movies. As that technology became cheaper to produce, it became affordable for haunted houses. Much of the technology originally developed to create 100 million dollar rides 10 years ago is now affordably priced for haunted house use. Much of the high dollar special effects can be reproduced for pennies on the dollar today. The quality in many haunted houses has caught up to Disney and Universal parks as well as Hollywood movie sets, leaving them always in search for the next big thing. Meanwhile, haunted houses lurk in the shadows waiting for the day the new technologies become available to the mass markets, so we too can capitalize on those new effects. It’s a never ending cycle of possibility!
Technology has changed so much about the haunted house industry. High speed internet, the creation of promotional videos, audio advancements, control systems and more have all advanced our industry. In some ways, haunted houses are even more advanced than many rides you’d find in a major theme park as most of those rides where built in the 30 years ago. Today haunted houses have access to technology which at one time or another seemed impossible. Flame effects, multi-motion animation, digital sound and video, advanced lighting, computer animation and so much more is available now. Even their locations have changed. In days past, haunted houses were typically located inside an old abandoned house. Today many haunts are fabricated inside massive buildings and complexes fully equipped with effects, control rooms and more.
The original haunted houses consisted of had black walls and dark corridors with actors roaming around in bloody t-shirts chasing you with chainsaws. Today’s haunts create new ways to use technology to WOW their customers into believing they’re the victims of a live action Hollywood movie. Are haunted houses still haunted houses or have they developed into live interactive big budget Hollywood movies? Which is better to the paying public?...Watching an explosion on the big screen or FEELING, HEARING and SEEING that same explosion just 15 feet away at a live, interactive attraction? Knowing how hard it is to compete for press and dollars during the HAUNT season, Hollywood seldom opens horror movies in October. Haunted houses have surpassed horror movies in terms of value and experience for the dollar. Horror movies are on a screen, and no matter how many special effects they throw out there, it’s still just a screen. A haunted house has live, in-your-face interaction around every turn.
Technology has transformed what vendors can produce for a haunted attraction owner. Each year we visit the Haunt Show and we wonder, “What crazy prop, effect or animation will someone present this year?” We watch message boards on Hauntworld.com and we see just one more modern marvel after another being created. We see the results on YouTube, at tradeshows/conventions and more. We keep wondering, “Is there a limit to what can be done in a haunted house?” Not as long as technology continues to advance our society. Chainsaws, masks, blood, vampires and ghouls will always have their place in the modern day haunt, but technology has sunk its teeth into this haunt industry bringing limitless possibilities.
The history of tradeshows is a long one, and I'd rather not bore you to death. However, ours have transformed many times over the years, and with each transformation, the haunted house industry benefited. Way back when Transworld first introduced the Halloween and Party Show, it was all retail. There was no haunt section. In fact, the word HAUNT was never spoken and nowhere to be found. But haunters eventually began to come, and like a bad rash, we multiplied and spread until the point of taking over the entire show.
Retailers started to notice just how many of their FORMER haunt owner customers were in attendance as we now bought costumes direct at the show. The retail vendors started to despise the catalog collectors among us. Many of those vendors started pushing Transworld to boot the haunt industry out of the show. In fact, one year Transworld came up with all these new rules for haunt attendees. Well that didn't set well with Hauntworld. After all, the haunt vendors and the retail vendors had to pay the exact same booth price, and no one was restricting the retail vendors’ customers from attending the show or certain parts of the show. But new rules were passed anyway. A feeling of being an outcast, a second class citizen, and not good enough, all rang throughout the industry. Many buyers declared they would boycott the show altogether, which would really only hurt our new and growing industry.
During the first year of the new MHC convention, several vendors and haunt leaders came together for a private meeting in Columbus, Ohio, and it was determined that haunt vendors and buyers alike would stand firm to send a unified message to Transworld that this would NOT FLY. Transworld did drop the new rules but instead utilized stickers and colored wristbands, so retail vendors could easily identify you as a HAUNTER and refuse service. This compromise did not satisfy the retail industry. Nor did it satisfy us, because again their message we heard loud and clear, “we don’t sell to your kind.” With Rubies at the forefront, these issues climaxed until everything came to a head. The retail industry (backed by Rubies) would start a new show in Houston, and the haunt industry would take a course that would forever shape our industry.
Clearly a separation was inevitable, because the haunted house industry could not possibly thrive under the rule of the retailers. Plus, the haunt industry needed its own focus so more potential buyers could be found and more relevant companies could be brought in to sell to us. This was a vision I personally backed. If we could break off from the retail side with a tradeshow promoted just for haunt attractions, many would discover our industry is bigger than ANYONE realized. I was told over and over again, ‘you can't make a show out of that small haunt section at the retail show’. To that I would point out the number of retail exhibitors who DO sell to both sides already. Plus, I would drive home the fact that if companies from IAAPA knew it was an ATTRACTIONS show and not a RETAIL show, they would exhibit. After all, a show for ATTRACTIONS would draw a lot more relevant vendors that haunted houses need.
After Rubies set up a new show in Houston in direct competition of the Transworld show, the writing was on the wall. The division inside the retail industry had created a sinking ship that our haunt industry was still aboard. To avoid going down in the wreckage, we flew into action. With Hauntworld at the forefront, we convinced Transworld to develop and promote a new show strictly focused on the ATTRACTIONS of Halloween. Against their initial judgment, Transworld agreed. And with the right focus and dedicated marketing efforts, Transworld has now realized the true potential of our industry. To Transworld's credit, they risked everything in 2008-2009 to produce our first tradeshow, and today Jenny Thaler works on haunts ALL YEAR LONG. She’s created seminar series, haunt tours, events, and more even outside the March show. I’m sure at first Jenny felt like a victim being dragged to her slaughter, but I believe she’s now proud to have “haunting in her blood”.
The job is not done, but Transworld continues their focused effort towards ever finding new buyers, new vendors, new seminar topics and more. Now that Transworld understands the difference between an attraction and a retail store, the potential is limitless and exciting.
Prior to the age of Photoshop, much of our marketing materials consisted of clip art, typeset flyers or coupons and hand drawn logos. Looking back now, how horrid were the old t-shirts you wore at your attraction? A haunted attraction today that hasn’t created its own unique, digital artwork is like a long lost tribe still living in the middle of the Amazon. I can remember one year going to the Transworld Show and exhibiting were two guys who looked like they just got back from Woodstock selling logos. I remember taking their business card reading Brainstorm Studios, but at the time I just couldn't see the value in spending that kind of money for a logo. Several months later, I called. These guys changed our industry to a degree that I think most of us can't even remember what we had used prior. A first impression is everything and the artwork that Brainstorm Studios created took our industry from the clip art realm into the WORLD of Hollywood style movie posters, artwork, custom designs, and so much more.
I remember some haunts telling me that their Brainstorm Studios artwork was so good that some customers complained of false advertisement. After haunt shoppers saw the artwork and the realistically scary environment Brainstorm created, they attended the haunts, and as customers they expected the attractions to match the level of the logos, posters, etc. only to find that the haunt didn’t deliver and in some cases were still stuck in the 80's. How did this artwork really impact our industry? Complaints from customers about not seeing the logo monster from the artwork in the haunt itself led haunt owners to create ICON characters creating costumes to match their logos. Complaints that the theme of the artwork wasn't actually the design of the haunt itself led haunt owners to more creatively design and develop their haunted house into more elaborate set designs developed around a theme and even a STORYLINE in many cases. Today, haunted house marketing is ramped up from television commercials, YouTube videos and websites to the professional photography taken of our attractions. Everything seems to mimic just how Hollywood would promote a new movie. I know prior to Brainstorm Studios no one put much effort into their image but now they do. In fact, Brainstorm Studios was even hired by Spookyworld to redesign their classic logo. Brainstorm Studios continues to put forth amazing artwork specialized to the haunt industry. Today, there are many designers out there, but it all started with Brainstorm Studios. Every web designer and graphic designer selling to the haunt industry has Brainstorm Studios to thank for creating that initial demand in the industry. As haunt owners, we have Brainstorm Studios to thank for re-creating our haunts’ image and the image of our entire industry and for playing a huge role in the new age of record attendance we now enjoy.
Back in 1994 when I first visited the Transworld Halloween Show, there was only a handful of vendors selling to the haunts: Distortions, Cinema Secrets, Gag Studios, Don Post, Morris Costumes, and a few others, but the biggest was Distortions. Distortions mainly created products for Morris Costumes including masks, body parts and props. Distortions was the only company outside of Cinema Secrets which seemed to focus more on horror related products for haunts. (Back then, Cinema Secrets was mainly a haunted house vendor too, but later transformed into more of a costume vendor.) Distortions never abandoned their haunted house roots, and instead expanded it, took risks, and even perhaps gambled everything on the hopes that more haunts would become buyers at the Transworld Halloween retail show. Distortions created an over-the-top, never-see-before, never-attempted-before animated prop. It was something so expensive they themselves weren’t sure if it would draw a single order. This motorized Distortions prop was called "The Electric Chair" and its price tag was about $4500 which was quite hefty especially in those days. Not only did Distortions write more than one or two orders, but they blew the roof off the building selling HUNDREDS of them. I remember installing an attraction in Denmark and visiting a wax museum while there, and low and behold there was The Electric Chair. Another time I was visiting an attraction in Orlando and BAM another one. It was like every haunt from coast to coast had The Electric Chair. Haunted houses like my own made it the staple exhibit in our queue lines and even invited the media to come out to film the electrocution.
Why is The Electric Chair so significant in our industry’s history? It single-handedly elevated haunted houses to new heights, and it brought the realization that haunted house owners were willing to spend a lot of money on high tech items. The idea that there were so many haunts out there willing to dole out tens of thousands of dollars to buy props, animations, and special effects inspired a revolution of new vendors to our industry. The Distortions Electric Chair basically created the entire haunt vendor industry. The credit truly goes to Distortions for this ONE prop. The year following, our company showed up selling the first air-driven scare products including the first air cannon for under $500 and an Attacking Werewolf which we sold nearly a hundred of. From there, even more companies emerged including Hollywood artists and effects people with all sorts of animations and props. Many haunt owners who had been making props for themselves began buying booths to market their props at the show too. Hence, the haunt vendor industry was born!
May 11, 1984, a fire broke out at Six Flags Great Adventure and killed 8 teenagers forever changing the haunted house industry. In lawsuits filed, it was argued Six Flags should have had sprinkler systems, smoke alarms, and other safety devices, and had these devices been installed, those teenagers could be alive today. The attraction was a Haunted Castle style haunted house constructed originally from four semi-trailers joined together, then later expanded to 17 trailers. It was determined the fire was started by a customer trying to find their way with a cigarette lighter. Fire inspectors testified that they had never inspected the attraction since it had been deemed a temporary event. The castle structure lacked a building permit, sprinkler system, alarms and other items. A fire broke out around 6:35pm and was fanned by outside air conditioners causing it to spread quickly to the many flammable materials and props (including foam) inside the attraction. In the aftermath of the fire, several haunted houses across New Jersey and across the country were closed pending inspections. States across America passed new laws for dark rides and haunted houses including sprinkler systems and other safety features along with the requirements for annual inspections. Safety in haunted houses today can thank the sacrifice of Joseph Beyroutey, Nicola Caiazza, Jose Carrion, Tina Genovese, Christopher Harrison, Eric Rodriguez, Lenny Ruiz, and Samuel Valentin Jr. Hauntworld pays tribute to you.
The next time you start to complain about how tough your inspector is or additional safety requirements needed, remember those eight teenagers who died in 1984. Lives were lost to save countless others. The haunted house industry was barely started in 1984 and if ever a lesson was going to be learned about safety, better for it to happen before haunts became so popular. Hundreds if not thousands could’ve been affected. The haunt industry not only survived but evolved as a result. Since then, there have been no fire deaths inside an indoor haunted house.
Hauntworld.com began in the mid-nineties as an online location where haunters from around the WORLD could come for camaraderie, friendship and fellowship. Through Hauntworld.com’s chat rooms and message boards, haunters could share ideas and help each other find and locate products for upcoming projects. Hauntworld was started by me (aka DRFRIGHTNER) and most importantly my cousin, Danny Bennett (aka FRIGHTMASTER). Danny died a few short years later at the early age of 33 of heart attack. After Danny’s death, I dedicated myself to developing Hauntworld.com into something which would honor his dream. Looking back on the day I bought the URL Hauntworld.com, I can honestly say I never imagined the magnitude and impact it would have on the entire haunted house industry.
Hauntworld.com quickly became a place where thousands of people came to chat, share information and debate topics. Hauntworld.com provided information that haunts used to make their attractions bigger, better and more efficient. Many haunt vendor companies got their start on Hauntworld.com by utilizing the message boards to promote their products and services through uploading pictures of products for sale on the Hauntworld Fright Forum. In fact, many of the conventions, events, and gatherings started with using the forums as a place to find haunters to promote their events. Other popular websites like those promoting podcasts, magazines and more used the forums to find listeners and customers.
Hauntworld.com eventually created a wealth of information for the media and used its position in the industry to launch one effort after another all intended to promote the haunted house industry on a national level in a positive light with one goal in mind ... SPREAD THE FUN OF FEAR!
Hauntworld has also created entire series of videos showcasing haunts from all over the nation. Years ago, many haunts were skeptical about letting other haunt owners view their attraction and potentially steal their secrets, but the greatest of all haunts knew that the sharing of ideas is good not bad for the industry and so Hauntworld showcased every major haunt you could think of. Spookyworld, Terror on Church Street, Rocky Point Haunted House, Lance Pope’s 'Verdun Manor' and more all created videos for the Hauntworld video series. In fact, we showcased over 200 haunted houses over a 10 year period. Helping haunts learn from each other...that was the goal! ??Today Hauntworld.com has continued to promote new events, new tradeshows, new vendors, new haunts and the entire industry as a whole. Many people probably don't realize the impact that Hauntworld has had on this industry or how much helpful information you've picked up and/or shared via Hauntworld.com through the years. For us to produce those first Hauntworld videos really opened the doors to sharing of information which has opened this entire industry wide open. The impact is without question, and the credit goes to you all. The mark was created by YOU the haunts who shared, learned and traded ideas, information, video, photos and more. In essence, Hauntworld.com was the Facebook of haunting long before Facebook ever existed.
Hauntworld.com continues today with its popular magazine, haunt directory, videos and of course the WORLD famous FRIGHT FORUM Message Board. We’re proud to be doing the same thing that Danny Bennett set out to do back in the 90's, to communicate with other haunts! “Danny, if you are looking down…Mission accomplished and THANK YOU! Thank you for the day you walked into my house and showed me that silly website you made called 'Haunted Houses of America', inspiring me to take this journey with you.” Danny deserves ALL the credit for everything and I hope when you are ever in St. Louis just maybe you'll stop by his gravesite which has the inscription 'FRIGHTMASTER'.
Before the internet ever came along, or should I say before high speed internet came along, haunted houses relied strictly on local advertisement, most specifically radio stations. Additionally, all haunts relied heavily on answering phone calls from potential customers needing directions or ticket costs or other information. Today, no phones are needed. Instead, haunted house marketing has shifted from traditional media to more of a web-based program. The internet has changed everything for small business owners because we now can reach out to more customers, not only in our local area, but our entire state and even across America. The internet has created all sorts of media attention for our industry. Anyone can start or create a news website, a blog, a review platform etc., and they are hungry for content. The web has allowed our attractions to find new customers, educate customers, and provide readily available photos and promo videos. We can upload video to sites like YouTube where even more people can find, watch and learn about our attractions. Websites like MySpace, Facebook and even HauntWorld allow you to create pages for your haunt that can be updated daily all year round about your attraction. Additionally, you can create another page to stay in touch with your actors and other staff too. The web has nearly replaced old habits like direct mailings to customers with direct emails to customers. The timeliness of direct emails combined with the cost savings makes this switch a huge plus.
Internet has also helped our industry learn and educate ourselves by visiting other haunts’ websites. Seeing other website layouts, watching their videos, viewing their photos and more is invaluable. Plus, having access to these examples and ideas anytime day or night is even more of a benefit. Internet allows us to communicate on a daily basis through haunt forums like the Hauntworld Fright Forum helping us to share ideas and information. We can find used equipment for sale, learn how to utilize new technology better, and bounce ideas off each other all to better our attractions. The web was and is simply a game changer, and creative people continue to find new ways to use the web to promote their business in ways such as creating app programs and utilizing Twitter to promote on a minute by minute basis.
It’s no mystery why haunted houses over the last 5 years have experienced a massive and somewhat overwhelming boost in ticket sales, attendance and media attention. The internet could be considered the biggest evolution for the haunt industry. It enables customers to rate, review, comment, blog and spread the word about products, services and YES our attractions, good or bad. In days past, disgruntled customers could threaten to tell everyone they know not to patronize a business, and one could assume 10 friends could get that message. With today’s Facebook, Twitter, and more, someone could reach 100’s of friends and wreak havoc on your attraction in seconds. Essentially, today it’s all the more important to make your customers scream with fear. The days of fly-by-night, overhyped attractions is coming to an end. Technology of the web has enabled and empowered everyday people with the power to really sack your attraction if you overhype. Today, we are seeing the bigger haunts get even bigger and the up-and-coming attractions growing faster than they could ever imagine. Why? Because if you build it they will blog about it, they will tweet about it, they will tell their Facebook friends and your legend will grow rapidly!
If you set out to build a good attraction today and if you strive to be the best at what you do, your business will GROW by leaps and bounds. You can tweet that all the way to the bank! Internet has changed everything about the haunt industry from how we operate, build and design to how we market our haunted houses. Websites like Hauntworld.com continue to send tens of thousands of qualified customers to haunts each year, just as Google, Yahoo, Bing, Facebook, and so many more. The list is endless. Today a good haunt owner should be spending as much money on his web presence as he does on his haunt. The internet is simply the best tool ever to have helped our small industry grow into a powerhouse of the amusement world.
Back in 2000, I suggested to the then president of IAHA that if any haunted house association was to hang its hat on something, it should be the start of a national public relations program geared towards the promotion of haunted houses everywhere. At the time it seemed haunted houses receive nothing but bad publicity. I pleaded that any negative stereotypes about haunted houses needed to be cleaned up with a national publicity program. No one on the board disagreed with my arguments, but no one wanted to foot the bill for such a program either, nor did anyone really know how to go about putting an idea like this into action, so I decided to run for IAHA presidency myself. Becoming president of IAHA in 2005 drove me into action on this PR program idea. I started planning it and building support from others in our industry. The first thing was finding a public relations company that would tackle the job at a budget the haunters could afford. I found such a company and began to call haunted house owners from across the country who shared my concerns about how the national media doesn't understand our industry or the massive improvements that haunts have underwent over the last several years. The first person to jump on the bandwagon and help support the program was Ben Armstrong of Netherworld, and it spiraled from there. Ben convinced IAHA to donate just under half the money for the program. Several major haunts jumped on board donating money for hiring a national public relations firm. Among the haunt owners involved were Randy Bates, Brett Bertolino, Ed Terebus, Peter Karlowicz, Tony Wohlgemuth and many more. Each haunted house placed their faith in me and Ben to properly manage the national PR program and put the money to good use, and a national public relations program was born.
In some ways this program was the turning point for the haunted house industry, because there was an outright EXPLOSION of media, so much so that two people, three people, ten people could not answer all the media requests for interviews including USA TODAY, Wall Street Journal, Good Morning America, The Today Show, CBS and more. Speaking of which, the most viewed haunted house video on YOUTUBE is CBS High-Tech Haunted Houses, www.youtube.com/watch?v=ig9dhC06nwU, with almost ONE MILLION views! This video came as a result of our national public relations firm pitching CBS and Good Morning America, and later someone thought to upload it to YouTube. What an impact! What a positive message about how far haunts have come!
When pitched the story about haunted houses, there wasn’t a single newspaper, magazine or TV station that turned it down. They all jumped on the bandwagon of educating America about the Haunted House Industry. Next thing we knew, our efforts spiraled into TV shows on Modern Marvels, National Geographic Channel, Travel Channel and Food Network, all wanting to air episodes featuring the haunted house industry. Hauntworld.com was the first website to ever produce a top 13 haunts list, but due to this PR program, suddenly websites across the country wanted to publish one too, because now they know…haunted houses are big news! ??The goal of the national PR PROGRAM was to educate America as a whole that haunted houses have changed and now appeal to adults of ALL ages and that haunts across America are doing amazing things with effects, technology, architecture, set design and more. We drove home the message that Americans who haven’t been to a haunt in several years are missing out and should get in on the SCREAMS. Most would agree the haunted house EXPLOSION started around 2005-2006, and you can credit the first ever national public relations program! Haunted houses became known for something more than fly-by-night mazes which open for Halloween weekend. Now they’re credited as the major amusement attractions they truly are, offering sophisticated entertainment appealing to masses of people. As a result, haunted houses over the last 5 years have seen their attendance climb. Ticket prices were able to increase and ticket sales have soared. This flux has filtered across the entire industry too, because now haunt owners have more money to spend on props, masks, animations and more. Vendors now create bigger props with more technology and on a greater scale. Even a full blown tradeshow specialized for just the haunted house industry was able to emerge and be successful for the first time. In the past, even Transworld doubted whether our HAUNT could support its own show, but today Transworld’s eyes are open to our expanding revenues, expanding attendance and expanding credibility as a legitimate industry.
There was a master plan, and it was explained to everyone industry wide (from vendors to haunts and anyone in between) that this haunted house PR program would benefit all. David Fauchman of ScareFactory agreed and offered to donate funds to the program. As a vendor he understood that if haunted house owners create additional revenue from rapid growth that prosperity would trickle down to the vendors.
I was told by a hundred different people this idea would fail or that it wasn't fair. Many tried to discourage me from doing it at all. Naysayers will always exist no matter what, but after the PR program was over and haunts across the country felt the results, few can deny the enormous impact and benefits of a successful national program like this. Additionally, it should be noted that I actually received a phone call from another industry’s association asking to hire me to help launch a similar PR program for them. It’s obvious the overwhelming success was noticed around the world!
The following year, another public relations program was launched again by Larry Kirchner and Ben Armstrong, and although it was very successful, it was not nearly as successful as the first. Since then, many other groups, associations and more from America Haunts to IAHA all launched their own version of the same, but none even came close to matching the success of the very first one.
It’s because of the effectiveness of the very first program that PR campaigns today have limited success. National media outlets feel they’ve already done that; they’ve already covered the haunted house topic. But that doesn’t change the fact that haunted houses are still feeling the positive benefits through a MUCH higher awareness within both our local media circles and on a national level too but on a lesser degree. Had the first program back in 2005 not been as well received, annual programs would be necessary to continue the message, but the utter saturation of stories over the past couple years has left us in a very fortunate position. We don’t necessarily need to spend those kinds of dollars, not annually anyway. The media is no longer clueless about the advancements in our industry. Haunted house have finally been given the recognition they deserve!
Haunted houses received more attention in the past 3-4 years than in the previous 20 years combined. Now it’s YOUR turn. I implore you. Go out and hire a good PR firm in your market and take the ownership of haunt stories circulating to Good Morning America, Travel Channel, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, CBS, FOX and more. Inside that message, showcase YOUR haunt’s successes and turn them into stories about your haunt where it counts most to you…your town, your city and your state as well as nationally! Doing so will not only impact your haunt business, it will positively impact our industry as a whole!
Where did haunted houses start? Who opened the first ever haunted house? How did this industry find its first roots? Some will say it started with ghost shows, but I disagree. The reality is that the haunted house industry got its start as cheap attractions in small family owned and operated amusement parks, amusement piers and such. Way back when, there were no roller coaster or ride companies to buy an attraction from, so many of these amusement piers simply built their own attractions locally and some built haunted houses, haunted dark rides, and haunted funhouses. Typically, these attractions were cheaply created, very dark, with buzzers and loud noises going off around every turn. Some of these older style haunted dark rides still exists today. One example is located in Knoebels Amusement Park called 'The Haunted Mansion' which opened in 1973. This is what is called a 'pretzel dark ride'. While many would call it outdated, cheesy and in desperate need of a modernization, the folks at DAFE (Dark Ride and Funhouse Enthusiasts) continue to rate this dark ride as their favorite, because it’s a throwback to the past. There are few examples of these old dark rides, because many have been removed, destroyed or renovated. Disney also built a haunted mansion themed dark ride. After all, a haunted dark ride or funhouse was one of the main attractions in most amusement parks throughout the early years, and they continue to be a staple for many.
Haunted houses are clearly rooted in the older dark rides and funhouses, which inside most amusement parks was either a 'pretzel dark ride' or it was a 'walk thru'. Several years later, charities latched onto the idea building the same or similar attractions in their local towns and cities to raise money for their cause. Back in those days, there were really no means to communicate on a national level for promotion of the idea other than conventions. In 1975, one such convention for the annual Jaycees was held in Miami, and it just might have been the start of the haunted house industry as we know it today. In February of 1975, two men of the local Jaycees chapter in Bloomington, Illinois got together to discuss the creation of a haunted house book. Those men were Jim Gould and Tom Hilligoss. Tom's book was well received by the Jaycees printing over 20,000 copies. From there, he decided to purchase a booth at their national convention setting up a miniature haunted house display. Tom's display went over so well he decided to form the first ever haunted house company called 'The Haunted House Company'.
The Haunted House Company went on to hire a staff and due to continued growth hired even more staff to coordinate all activities of the company. Later, The Haunted House Company went on to introduce a line of custom monster masks from Don Post. They became a hit so much so that they had orders from 700 Jaycee chapters in 40 different states. Hilligoss became the first ever HAUNTED HOUSE EXPERT in America helping the Jaycee organization to set up haunted houses claiming revenues of $500.00 for small markets and up to $50,000.00 for larger markets. The first ever haunted house seminars occurred as Tom began traveling to cities across the country to different chapters offering up to 30 different seminar options and workshops. The Haunted House Company even hired a cinematographer and took the first ever HAUNTED HOUSE TOUR of 35 haunts in Colorado, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, and more gathering information and photos for their seminars and presentations.
In 1976, The Haunted House Company expanded to include services to sell four-colored t-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, bumper stickers and artwork for billboards, as well as complete lines of costumes, makeup, spiders, sound equipment, lighting equipment, and lighted signs for promotion. Tom's company, books and seminars showed the Jaycees how to build a haunted house from which scenes were best to marketing a haunted house. He even gave them clip art, coupons, tickets and everything between. The Haunted House Company was so successful that Tom made the following claim...If Jaycees continued to increase and improve their involvement in the haunted house program, someday Jaycees would OWN Halloween! His goal was for people to automatically identify with a Jaycee Haunted House when thinking about Halloween. Tom had the foresight and the vision to realize that haunted houses truly could “own” Halloween.
The Haunted House company would go on to introduce the idea of taking Polaroid pictures to increase revenue, and they even coined the phrase, “We'll Scare the Yell Out of You!” The Haunted House Company had everything going their way. They started it all with books, seminars and tours of haunts across the country. They were the first to bring back information from haunts all over the nation. The Haunted House Company even went on to develop a Christmas attraction called 'Santa's Workshop' and much more.
While most Jaycees lacked the entrepreneur haunt spirit needed for success in today’s market, still Tom Hilligoss promoted the opening of haunted houses across the country even way back when. Eventually, young business minded people in the mid 1980’s picked up and started to open haunted houses of their own. They acquired better locations, relied on a paid staff of actors rather than volunteers, purchased tons of radio ads, spent months not days creating their haunts and literally overnight the Jaycees format was on its heels. No longer would radio stations give out free advertisement for the Jaycee cause, not when other haunts would pay for it. Another dagger in the Jaycees plans was the Six Flags fire, because it nearly wiped out the idea finding an old abandoned house for setting up a haunt. Fire departments started inspecting and requiring costly safety features. These new ad and safety costs had most Jaycees abandoning their haunts and looking for new ways to raise money, but some still survive today putting forth a new quality of event to compete against any stiff competition that crept their way, most inside smaller rural areas, and they still scare people every Halloween. One such survivor is the Huntington Indiana Jaycees who put on a quality haunt event year after year known as The Huntington Jaycees Haunted Hotel, www.hauntedhuntington.com.
I believe the number one most important event in the creation of the haunted house industry as we know it started with a haunted house coloring book created by Tom Hilligoss and Jim Gould over a coffee table in Bloomington, Illinois. A plan was laid out to help create an entire industry of fear that did indeed go onto scare the “YELL” out of Americans.
Yes YOU! You played the most important role in bringing the haunt industry full circle, because it was you who risked your life savings taking leaps of faith and probably quit a very valuable, full-time job to work on your haunted house everyday of the every week. You believed in your passion creating an undeniable artistic expression of entertainment which makes people in your town SCREAM with delight. You signed up for the seminars, attended the haunt tours, bought the videos and magazines, shared ideas with other haunters through the Fright Forums, and simply dove in head first. You made the commitment to improve your haunt and to invest amounts of money against the advice of others’ better judgment, but YOU BELIEVED! No matter what drama filled non-sense might have happened within the industry, you still believed in the haunt industry as a whole. You knew its potential. You stood by the right people. You watched it all grow and become a true haunt industry with a clear path for the next generation of our industry.
When the haunt industry was at its lowest, you stood tall and fought through. When your local fire marshal or building inspector told you “no”, you found a way to turn it into a “yes”. When your family or friends expressed skepticism, your determination grew and you showed how wrong they were. You have taken your haunted house from one level to the next new level and beyond. You've invested, upgraded, listened and learned! Without YOU there would be no industry. No matter if you are the smallest haunted house in the country or the largest haunt vendor in the world, no matter if you are a home haunt, a charity haunt or a professional haunt, we all promote Halloween, and we ALL promote haunted houses in a positive light. We promote the idea that being scared can be more fun than anything you’ve ever experienced. Haunted houses are fun, intriguing, exciting, sophisticated and the rush is just as good as anything you might find inside those multi-billion dollar theme parks.
You did it, and without YOU, we wouldn't be here today with our very own tradeshow, plus conventions, national media attention, TV shows, and more. We own a have a business that we enjoy, a business of scaring people. And we continue to build a local tradition that your children's children can carry on for generations to come!
Thank you for believe in every hair brain scheme I ever pitched! Thank you for your support of HauntWorld and HauntWorld.com. Thank you for supporting our very own tradeshow. When so many said we are too small, we all banned together in attendance
I think I've said this many times over the years…“What we do must evolve.” Otherwise, we'll be left behind. I've been around this industry long enough to know and understand how it started, how it grew in popularity and why it's so popular now. The haunt industry has single-handedly grown the entire industry of Halloween through millions upon millions of dollars in marketing over the last 20 years. The audience grew with us. Haunted houses are NO LONGER simply an 18-34 target business. It's now beloved by Halloween fans into their late 40's-50’s as well as preteens & teens of all ages. As the audience for Halloween entertainment has grown in age, so have the diversity of the different types of attractions. Are we finally starting to see a real challenge to the haunted house supremacy?
I would say YES… The haunted attraction we know will start to fade in popularity as other forms of Halloween entertainment emerge and grow. Ten or twenty years ago our biggest competition was the horror movies released in October and the competing haunted houses that opened each year. Now, we see fewer new haunts opening in the big cities due to the start-up expense of building and marketing a competing haunted house that meets today's high standards. Haunts that try to open without spending the necessary dollars to truly compete, fall victim to the social media World we live in now. You simply cannot buy some radio spots making false claims that you’re the scariest and it hold up. Today, people attend haunted houses, movies, events, whatever, and then flock to Facebook and Twitter to write about it. If your haunt isn’t up to the highest standards, they’ll proceed to level your place in minutes! Before you know it, your new haunted house is being torn apart and everyone knows your event is horrid... game over! It’s impossible to stay ahead of the social Tweets and posts on Facebook. The only solution… We MUST produce a great product!
Have we run out of ways to scare people? Are our customers looking for something new to spend their Halloween dollar on? Possibly YES, and if our industry doesn't evolve again, we may be the second choice of those looking for Halloween entertainment.
If you ask me, many haunted houses have become homogenized, buying the same stuff from the same vendors, year after year, and even much of the hand-crafted pieces are just knock-offs of something else. Are we looking for the next best thing? Do we spend our time and energy being creative and original? Visiting a Halloween show known in the industry as being original and newly creative is good. Attending these haunts looking for direction and inspiration is good. Buying from haunted house vendors is good. But don’t just buy equipment and items that compliment what you already created. Revamp, recreate, and reinvent!
For The Darkness Haunted House, we don’t purchase straight from the tradeshow floors. Rather, we come up with our plans for the following season and then contact vendors to ask about creating custom pieces. You'd be surprised how many vendors are now producing made-to-order products for their clients. Don't get me wrong, each year we go to the Halloween shows and find amazing new products from some of the most creative people in the World. However, we can't all buy the same items and have the same animations, scares, costumes & masks. I will go one further…Some of you follow the paths of other haunts in your market, thereby creating an entire city of the same style haunted houses. In the days of social media, business owners can create quick word of mouth about something new and exciting which preys on the public’s thirst for Halloween entertainment.
Hollywood no longer launches their tent pole horror movies in October, probably because they know the competition is too fierce for PR during October. Additionally, they’ve realized that the public wants zombies, horror & monsters more than just one seasonal time per year, so they now feed that horror entertainment need year round! Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D will be released in January. I Frankenstein will release in February. Carrie (re-make) releases in March, Evil Dead (re-make) releases in April, and the list goes on. Television has jumped on the Horror bandwagon too with shows like Walking Dead, American Horror Story, Vampire Dairies and the very gory True Blood. What does any of this have to do with the haunted house industry? Shows like True Blood helped create a Vampire craze, and shows like Walking Dead helped to create an entire Zombie craze. With any craze, there are people around every corner thinking of creative ways to capitalize, thereby creating additional Halloween entertainment which can and does compete with our haunt industry for the entertainment dollar.
Today, major amusement parks are working closer with Hollywood to promote brands like Walking Dead and Saw. Universal Studios is the proudest example of this diversification towards staying with what’s HOT rather than doing the same thing every year. Right now Zombies are the hot thing, so Universal responds by making a deal with Walking Dead to capitalize on the success of the brand. Trust me when I tell you… Other amusement parks as well as private business owners have taken notice. If a buck can be made, they will jump on it in a major way!
Haunt & Halloween attractions have come FULL circle. What is this form of entertainment really? I'm going to go on record to say it's no longer the Haunted House Industry. With half of every dollar made for entertainment now going to the mega Halloween pumpkin patch attractions, Halloween Attraction Industry sounds better to consider. But let's continue to think about this for a second... With all new entertainment emerging like Zombie Runs which attract as many as 15,000 paying customers, what about the Horror Attraction Industry? It’s mind-boggling with Halloween themed entertainment coming from every direction including massive corn mazes, zip lines, fall festivals, hayrides, even blacklight mini golf attractions with monster themes have emerged. And no longer are the pumpkin patches simply just pumpkins. They now offer full blown attractions and events, spending tons of money on marketing, picking up tons of publicity and drawing in tens of thousands of customers.
Zombie Runs like Run for Your Life, are setting up Zombie obstacle courses all over America and drawing up to 15,000 customers at $85.00 per person, and get this… they even charge the Zombies to be Zombies! I recently attended one of these events and it was very interesting to see the wide range of ages and the sheer number of customers. People lined up for miles to run through a Zombie infested obstacle course, slide through mud, climb up slides, be chased and more! I never thought in a million years that 7000 people would pay high dollar to run around and be chased while major companies lined up to pay for sponsorship of these events. These Zombie Runs are now so popular that I can't imagine any haunted house in the country having the same level of success for a single day’s event. They steal away interest, and they create a new expectation by our guests. The public wants something new and something different. They want the next best thing…End of story!
Will you cut the cake simply with buying some animations and putting your customers through the same paces as last year? Will it be enough to continue sending groups into your attraction with actors jumping out trying to dish out the scares? Will this cut the mustard for the next 10 years? How about the next 18 months? Big businesses with deep pockets are all over Zombie mania, Horror entertainment & Halloween attractions. You can expect to see more and more different types of entertainment being offered each Halloween. I will also add the Scream Park style attractions are trumping the single standing haunted houses left and right. Customers now want more variety, they want the bigger and the better, and they want something new and different. These new types of Halloween & Horror events and attractions are thriving and getting bigger. They offer YOUR clientele a variety that didn't exist before. Your new biggest competition isn't from other haunted houses anymore. Your competition is EVERYTHING that profits from this year round craze for horror. Now is the time to visit a Halloween attraction, a Zombie Run, Universal Studios, a region mega Scream Park and any event or attraction or production cashing in on the zombie & monster craze. Now is the time to evolve, change, adapt & think outside the box.
I don't believe you will continue to enjoy tons of publicity, large crowds, and continued success without putting a spin on your event. Find a way to separate yourself from the status quo haunted house. Find a way to reinvent what you offer. This year, one of my haunted attractions will introduce Zombie Paint Ball to our hayride. I realize now more than ever it's not just about making people scream or chasing them around a maze. It’s about entertaining guests. Your guests want you to take their minds into new realms of horror entertainment. They want more interaction and they want something new and different and exciting. The Zombie Paint Ball was VERY expensive to launch, but I believe it’s something I had no choice but to do if I expect to keep my Scream Park fresh. And it’s a way to capitalize on the new zombie craze at the same time!
Is a Zombie Paint Ball Hayride the answer? For this year it is, but honestly it’s just another stepping stone, another layer of the cake. If I stop reinventing or stop trying to add that next new thing, I could find myself on the outside looking in. The same goes for you. There are more haunts falling into the 10,000 guests range and fewer heading towards the 50,000 plus range. Netherworld is a perfect example of an attraction which continues to find new ways to reinvent. By taking their haunted house out into the parking lot, Netherworld created a new environment. They might have more actors roaming their parking lot than you have in your entire haunted house, and Netherworld is doing more attendance than probably any stand-alone haunt in America. I see fewer new haunts opening, and more haunted houses closing over the coming years as people discover opening a haunt is NOT a huge money maker, and still others will close because they fail to adapt.
There are many things you can do to grow your business and differentiate yourself from your competition. For example, use a different web designer, get different graphics, use new vendors, try getting custom props made, or find that spin to make your event more interactive than ever before. Not only is it time for our attractions to evolve towards entertaining the masses, but also to differentiate from other haunted houses. Do you have similar themes, websites, graphics, props, or costumes? Dare to be different.
My haunted friends, Halloween & horror entertainment is now a multibillion dollar industry and we are no longer alone! As all of these new forms of entertainment gain momentum and popularity, we as an industry must continue to evolve towards something new and exciting, which might not just be about making someone SCREAM!
Good luck this Halloween, and do yourself a favor… Be one step ahead rather than 10 steps behind. Your friends at Hauntworld are merely trying to provoke a debate, a discussion, a thought process about the future of this great industry! The time is now to look around and see what your consumers are being offered and what options are available to them for that same fall entertainment dollar that you once monopolized. Reinvent, recreate and discover what will keep our industry in the driver seat!
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