View Full Version : What do "you" think?

Mr. Haunt
01-31-2007, 08:36 PM
Non-profit or Profit? I cant make up my mind about this? I wish I had a partner to go profit.

01-31-2007, 09:42 PM
GREAT question. Within the next two years I'm going to have to make this same disision... I found benefits to both... What are others opinions?


Jim Warfield
01-31-2007, 10:24 PM
20 years ago when I was trying to buy this house (and had no money at all) several people suggested that I seek a partner, and one was suggested to me, a retired tradesman, a local man.
I approached him concerning this, he said that he would have to discuss it with his wife. She said , "No thanks."
I was So Lucky!
If I had this partner I am sure my efforts to make this place as unique as I have would have been an up-hill constant battle.
More risk, alot more work, everything took longer to get done, but I did it, I own it, the "buck" stops with me, if you like it or hate it, look to me.
As far as charity or for profit haunting?
I think this would greatly depend upon what you really want.

Greg Chrise
02-01-2007, 12:15 AM
Profit versus Charity

With a for Profit event, you will be paying for the location, the physical haunt and it's realated equipment. Any help for set up, assembly, operating and tear down or moving to and from storage will be expected to be paid. This all implies you are able to pay someone right now if they walk up and say pay me.

With a charity, you may get a discount on all of the materials to build a haunt, volunteers will paint and assemble it, volunteers will act in it all as part of the fun component. You may with mentioning the storage company in advertising be able to get discounts on storage as it is for charity. The over all outlay can easily be off 60% of what the expense would be if you proclaim it to be for profit. Other people will gladly loan things you are short on.

Charity might be defined as giving anywhere from 10% to 80% to charities, either one or several. Chances are you will not be allowed to operate on community land unless it is for charity or somehow otherwise benefits the community. Operating on 20% is pretty much working for free and hoping to be able to pay the off season storage. But developing this on the job training of a crew is essencial. Although hard to put a dollar figure on it is being leveraged to develop a crew and have everything be routine in your area.

Operating a charity haunt allows the core people to learn the entire process until it is second nature and it is obvious that this could be done for money and you have the talent required and now the facilities. It also confirms who will be continueing and who will not. Charity events unless created by an organization as a fundraiser tend to fizzle out over a few years. Volunteers no longer want to volunteer, suppliers no longer like being weaseled for supplies, authorities begin looking at the cost of wear and tear on the facilities and weighing out how much damage was caused versus how much it really helped the community.

So down the road you have assembled the tools to operate a for profit haunt very inexpensively and have the talent required and gone through all the motions to make it a successful event. Further, there is little risk as all you have is the land lord to satisfy, the haunt is already paid for and the actors can be paid. If you have all the tools, you just go to work. If it is a "how are we going to do this thing" it will not be long lived when all the for profit bills come due and promises have been made.

Further you are both developing and seeing first hand what the market for a pro haunt is in a given area at a greatly reduced cost. No speculation.

02-01-2007, 09:49 AM
is the transition form charity to profit haunt do-able? is there much complication?

Mr. Haunt
02-01-2007, 10:32 AM
I to would like to know if the change over is hard?

Duke of Darkness
02-01-2007, 12:04 PM
A couple of things. First of, keep in mind that there is a big difference between giving a portion of the proceeds to a charity (something I think haunts can and should do) and being a not for profit, legal/tax wise.

My opinion -- which is not worth a hell of a lot, I freely admit -- is that if your long term goal is to run a haunt and cover the cost and/or to support a charity, then it may be worth it to set up a not for profit. If your ultimate goal is to create a professional, for profit haunt, then form a for profit company and go that route from the beginning.

I believe that you will be risking a lot of good will in the community when they see that you have only been using the charity haunt to build a business for yourself.

There may also be some legal concerns about transitioning from a not for profit haunt to a for profit business. All those walls and props and equipment, built with donated labor and supplies, will not belong to you, but to the non-profit entity. Each state has rules for disposing of those items, but you may have to sell all of the equipment. You may be able to buy it yourself, but there are possible traps there as well. I would talk to an attorney in your state before going forward in such a plan (yeah, I know, I am always saying that).

I am all for charity haunts. I am a huge believer in giving part of the proceeds to charity. Strategic partnerships with charities can create win/win situations for everyone.

To me, however, you should not pretend to be something you are not. If you want to run a business, run a business. If you want to do something to benefit the community or a specific charity, do so. But don't pretend to be building one, while actually building the other.

Okay, I will get off the soapbox now. I hope that I have not offended too many of my friends here on the board.


02-01-2007, 02:15 PM

This thread really cutts me down deep. I'm still trying to understand why anyone would want to be a charity haunt for business sake. :(

Doing anything for charity should come from the heart and soul. It should be a cause you believe in. Otherwise, why would you put so much work into it? Beginning a charity should not be used to benefit someone's business, but rather benefit those who have the special needs the charity is suppose to be setup for.

There are a lot of haunts in the industry who donate to charities and call themselves charity haunts, but that's not true. A true charity haunt is one that is setup, started and run by a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and all the proceeds go to their program(s) to benefit others.

Are there benefits to being a true charity haunt? Definitely. Is it easier? Nope!

Gwendel Rodriguez
ShadowBox Theatre Company
Founder/Executive Director
"We Scare Because We Care!"

Greg Chrise
02-01-2007, 03:22 PM
In my specific case, my haunt is being used by a fire hall as a fund raiser. It isn't going to stop world hunger or cure some disease. It was a determined opportunity and they have the credentials to be a charity and do what ever their purposes for the funds many be. So it depends on your connection.

On the same token, it would be very simple (and the fire hall does otherwise make money) for them to decide to build their own facilities and send me packing. The other point of attrition would be that the current ages of the fire hall staff will become such in a decade that they decide it IS too much work for what it is bringing in or what damages it is doing to it's facility running the public though.

So it is likely that it has a limited time and several years later I am alone with a haunt that has been built up and have to find another opportunity or I may decide to donate the thing and opt out of all of the physical labor and storage charges (because of my age and physical condition) and go pro.

So wether this is the haunt I'm building or wether I will be building several for me later is all a level of comfort and capability, not some underhanded ploy to be something I am not.

I understand the plight and service this fire hall provides but have no intention of being a fire fighter or reporting to their board of directors.

It all depends on your prospective. I was building a haunt first and this is giving me the motivation to add about 1000sf per year and multiple haunts only because it has a purpose.

Going pro in my case is simply paying for a location, calling my advertising guru and going to work. And having all the stuff to set up.

If you are truely believing in a cause that you are willing to dedicate a decade or two of your life to, I have nothing but love for you. My situation is simply providing the community with better tools for the time being until they can provide for themselves or decide wether this "new" more pro approach is worthy the effort in this location.

The reality of my charity support is that I am taking $5,000 per year out of my non seasonal company and getting back $1000 which does not quite make the storage expense. If I did not have some other motive and felt so grand about giving, I would just go in there and hand them $4,000 every year and save a butt load of work.

Anyone wh has worked for a charity and provided the physical haunt or detailed scenes does it a very short time and I seem to hear the same complaints I have observed.

When setting this thing up and tearing it down I seem to be alone alot and it is alot of work and it is on a time table. The charity acts like they have hired a pro who is getting paid thousands of dollars for this service and they need not lift a finger. Twice now I have torn it down and taken it off with my own helper and the bigger it gets the more of a chore this is.

I will say in the last year they did help set up about 3/4 of the walls and I let them decorate it all having learned my lesson. I also got shorted $600 per customer coming through the door as it was some kind of promotion I did not agree upon before. And I have yet to achieve how much the storage costs out of ticket sales.

It is not yet what I would consider a super pro offering yet and may not be for several years. It is not magic. And when it is something to be proud of I will have to consider making my investment of all the years back.

We are talking very unproffesional here. Most charity offerings are real sorry to say unless they have been at it for 20 years and even then it is all set up to take advantage of people all in the name of fun. I get a phone call on September 1 st or 30th and am expected to deliver what ever they want and make it work for no profit and no prior input. I'm either amazing or a total fool.

Everyone here seems to think the later, as they are the ones who come help me retrieve our belongings when no one else shows up.

So basically know that working with charity is not really all that hunky dory and has not been for anone that has done it. I consider it a temporary step for your personal education and confidence, not the be all to end all.

Now, some grand old charities with proper world saving goals have been formed. For example Hangman's House of Horrors raises $350,000 per year for charity and it is a large attraction with many elements in Fort Worth Texas. Over the past decade Rocky Point has donated more than 500,000 to the Boys and Girls Club and several other charities.

We also have Reindeer Manor which benefits several Boy Scout troups and sees upwards of 25,000 people and has now 3 attractions. Perhaps developing youngsters is a grand goal.

But, that was never my intention. I wil have a pro haunted house that completely replaces my day business once I have everything to make it a success. Perhaps the firehall staff will have the opportunity to work one haunt at my permanent location if they do not replace me anyhow before hand.

Greg Chrise
02-01-2007, 05:03 PM
And as I recall, Emperess was a little miffed last year at how difficult it all was and she was in charge of where the funds would eventually be going.

I would like to add that I am on some kind of goof ball personal mission. I don't make a lot of money and was told by an ex friend that I could not have a haunted house like I wanted because I have no money. Well, I'm out to prove him wrong.

The fact of the matter is if your income is $250,000 just give some of your money to charity. If you a billionare philanthropist, I hear you can hang out with Bono and Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie,Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and occasionally with Paul McCartney.

I think a lot of people are attracted to haunted hauses because it has a potential of making something from nothing. Not every one or maybe no one thought that for $40,000 and hauking anything of value you would be buying the Disney Haunted Mansion.

And in fact the true story I have found from personal interviews is that a great number of haunts began 20 years ago and the now succesful people were homeless, jobless and didn't know what to do. Jobs were demeening and non existant and charities were making money raising funds. I still to this day have not gotten a straight answer about what the Jaycees do with their money? So what is this organization? They have taught the community children and helpful adults to be suckers for a greater goal? So kids can go to camp and not go to the ghetto too early in life? What? So the town can have a big fire works display? Who gives a crap.

However, now 20 years plus down the line there are venues that are truely a specatacle and qualify as a neet evenings entertainment. It keeps kids off of Myspace for one freaking night out of the year. Who gives a crap again. So it must be the fun of haunting. The positive experience of providing an engaging and interactive show that both patrons and performers seem to fing exilerating.

On the bigger picture do you really think $4,000 would stop world hunger or buy a microbiologist's life to cure diseases that big corporations make billions of dollars providing medicine for? Will it stop global warming?

I think a majority of people attracted to haunted houses are trying to match the skills they have to something that will one day make money or at very least give a few weeks of annual emotional release. Or it is a seasonal job. How many people are going to their job for free?

How many people are trying to break from the total thing of having a job and are looking to have a business? Well, a lot of businesses are really jobs in disguise. People hire a service as they don't want to or can't do it themselves but outside of that one service call you are on your own.

The conditions to have a haunt that pays a salary require a lot and many of these factors are built over a decade of patron support, not a one night deal. A real haunted house of superb quality takes years to cultivate and like wise, the people engaged in it for either professional desired or for charity, have lots of dues to pay before it is a success.

The entire industry promotes people having grand ideas and ripping a mass of people off to achieve it's goals or be burned in it's failure. Attracting people with no means to be somebody someday with a seasonal event.

You can make it as complicated as you want. You can have a board of directors, youcan have legal status, CPA concensius, you can have $25,000 marketing studies, you can research the demographics. It comes down to being one job a year that could be considered a business. If it is a charity it means a lot of people will be giving up hard earned and limited funds to achieve a goal. It isn't a real smart goal unless at some point the made money is more than was put into it. This takes time.

At one of the diners, Leonard reaffirmed to me, you know if you don't make any money you can't play. Bullshit, if I want to spend what little money I have rather than go on vacation or buying a fishing boat, that is my personal preference. Currently the materials are either a donation or a tax write off to my regular business. If I didn't do the haunt I would be giving that money to the government and THEY would be telling me how it was spent or wasted.

So when you are young do you really have the knowledge to dig down into your soul and understand how things work? I would suggest maybe the peace corps if you are a giving soul and don't know how to apply your back muscles and you could always write a book or two later to supplimnet your trust fund.

Quite simply haunted houses are poor people. If you have alll kinds of money get into real estate or laundromats. And so a person does what they must do. Setting up 3,000 SF means several chiropractic visits for me.

Poor people have worked themselves to death doing this and injured themselves from over work over and over. Poor people can only afford to give so much. So, having a charity haunt will show you just how giving your community really is, who will and won't lend a hand. Its a temporary situation at some point wether you have a legal non profit charity status or not. There is a check box on that form that says "no longer active" Which translates into: I discovered I am too poor to do all of this for free and no longer wish to abuse myself any further but, now I know what I'm doing and will do it for money.

There is no true helping out here in my town. There is no wanting to know your neighbor and having a haunted event will bring every kind of "you go with that" that is available. It is a tough road. If you are going to give the money away for the next 20 years I will be glad to help in any way I can as long as it doesn't cost me money to post here.

I'm poor. I work like a slave even though I "own a company" and I'm helping the community in my limited way. What do they do with the money? They are scrapping people off of the hiways in great number because they were judgment impaired or pulling them out of their house that caught fire because they couldn't maintain their house. Poor people helping poor people. It could solve world hunger if they would feed the crash victims to others who had nothing to eat?

So being poor and having the responsibility of storing a bunch of stuff that fills 6,000 Sf, who are you Paris Hilton to have so much stuff? You better have an alternate plan. An alternate goal. This isn't like a little storage garage of old couches that the dog peed on, you missed a storage payment on and they sold it out of your storage garage.

If you read my blog, I go into detail My first haunt cost $475 and made $4210 for the charity. My second year cost was about $1600 and made more than $5,670

I hear stories that first time pro haunts cost $10,000 and made $8,000 the first year. I hear $10,000 to start and made $30,000. But, I'm poor. I really should have bought a better pick up truck for work or replaced this 1968 TV set with coat hangers for an antenna and a loud hum coming from the speakers. Instead I helped the firehall raise money. I could have had a satellite connection instead of dial up.

It is also my goal that if you are retarded or illiterate you don't need to be on these boards and fascinated with helping the community, you will have enough problems taking care of yourself as I apparently do.

But, see everyone will say they have income of great proportions and it isn't a problem. Everyone will say they have all these highly developed skills and goals and they really understand how making money will change the world. They really don't know but do it any how. They are really poor but aren't about to let that be known. Their haunted houses all see 15,000 people and would like ideas on how to see more. They don't.

02-01-2007, 05:17 PM
five years ago when De wane Asylum started I had a zero dollar budget and maxed out my parents credit cards on lumber and what not. We made roughly 6,000 that year. Far less then what we spent. The following year we did a little better and cost was done some but we still lost money. Same goes for the third year. We keep gmaking more $$ and cost kept lowering since we didnt have to buy much each year. The third year we decided to donate a large portion of our profits to a charity even though we didnt make enough to cover expences. (that was out my of pocket.) Finnaly last year (our fifth year) we made $3,000 profit! We decided to save that $$ for next year so we have little out of pocket expense so the haunt will be pure profit. That raised a question for me. Do I go profit, which then I have to pay for our proerty, taxes, insurance, ect... everything left is the company profit. Or... Do I go non-profit and sell the haunt to say like the Lions club and let them handle all the insurance, taxes, money and what not. I would of course get a contract signed stating they had to contract out to my company to develop and run the haunt and pay me x amount of $$ to do so and the rest is their $$ to do as they please. Both have benefits and both have downfalls...


02-01-2007, 05:32 PM
And as I recall, Emperess was a little miffed last year at how difficult it all was and she was in charge of where the funds would eventually be going.

Recollection totally incorrect when you say about where the funds would eventually go. There is no seperation at all when it comes to that. The funds go to our Gift of Hope Sponsorship program. That program is our funding of field trips and social outhings for kids with Autism. Not sure how you recalled that or where it came from, but let's just nip that in the bud right now, shall we?

Now, when it comes to me being totatlly overwhelmed by the duties I have incurred for the haunt, with that I will agree. The responsibility is great! BUT, I do this because not only do I love to help these children and their parents, I love to haunt, as well. I think I'm very lucky that I have found my purpose in life.

Greg Chrise
02-01-2007, 06:25 PM

I wan't implying other wise, I know you had your cause as motivation. I just didn't have the specific name of your charity in my head.

But, I'm assuming in order to reach your goals it has been a sacrifice of majorly you and your family. That most of the physical haunt and has come from your investment?

Duke of Darkness
02-01-2007, 06:54 PM
Greg, - I really don't think any of the comments were directed at you. Mine certainly weren't and I am well aware of your situation. I am also aware of some haunts that are not for profits (501(c)), that are not created to support a given charity but to provide for a safe and fun seasonal activity for the community, to provide for acting and acting instruction, and -- in short -- to run a haunt. I really don't think that there is anything wrong with that, and I think that it parallels your situation to a high degree.

It is another situation entirely when one opens a haunt wanting be become a viable business, but decides to start as a charity event because the feel that it is somehow easier or that the public's expectations may be lower. It is that plan that I advise against. I think that it is unfair to the community and unfair to the reputation of those like our own Empress who put their literal blood, sweat, and tears in to creating not only a great event, but also to supporting an organization that they strongly believe in.

I knew that the topic was going to arouse strong feelings in some, and I hope it does not create hard feelings.

Empress -- What you do is wonderful and I have nothing but the utmost respect for you. That said, please don't minimize all the good things accomplished by the non 501(c) haunts in this industry. Many, many for profit haunts give a significant amount of their proceeds to charity. It is one of the few industries where so many of the businesses are so generous. I think it all goes back to the roots of the industry being born in mainly charity haunts. I hope that the majority of haunts continue to do so. I know that I will. It is, in many ways, having the best of both worlds.

The bottom line, for me at least, is that there is nothing wrong with being either a for profit haunt or being a not for profit haunt, but be honest about what it is you are trying to accomplish.

Passing the soapbox. Next...


Greg Chrise
02-01-2007, 07:07 PM
I have been just thinking out loud for some comment.

Greg Chrise
02-01-2007, 07:29 PM
I think there IS different expectation by customers deciding to go to a pro haunt vs. a charity haunt.

Competative pro haunts are spending $100,000 to $250,000 per year on upgrading, getting on Good morning America claiming a technical arms race of animatronic props. Charity haunts have actors fighting over three year old latex masks that I'm not real sure if anyone ever washed them or not.

One industry observer is wandering around saying that charities are history and these high dollar attractions are what the industry is today. Of course his attraftion is exactly like mine so he might be jealous.

You don't get 80 moving displays in a $10 charity haunt that starts out with little or no budget. You get a stuffed cat that comes at you on a string. Even the really big charity haunts will rely on 75 volunteer actors and no animatronics. A pro haunt is making the decision of whether the props are cheaper than the labor or more effective. If the labor is realatively free all the money goes to the charity rather than an animatronic company.

Jim Warfield
02-01-2007, 07:54 PM
As far as simply monetary considerations go in owning your own haunted business and the like, it wasn't that many years ago that everytime Jan. and Feb. rolled around I would find myself second-guesing myself as to why I spent all that money on advertising in the fall?
I decided I would rather have that same dollar in my hand come Jan. & Feb., so that is where that dollar stayed. Business didn't decrease in the fall at all and I had a nicer financial cushion in the winter.
How much do I spend on advertising per/customer?
Very, very little. Another advantage to being in the same location and being open year-round.
Becoming self-employed is wonderfull if you can afford it.
A few years ago I heard that the state that has the most of it's citizens self-employed is also the state that leads all others in the smallest percentage of it's population having medical insurance. Could there be a financial correlation? I sure think so.
Send me money, lots of it, today! And I will tell you where to find money anytime you need it! (look under "M" in the dictionary!) Duh!?

Greg Chrise
02-01-2007, 07:57 PM
Once or twice a year we go through this with someone new to the boards not knowing what resource level they are going to start out at.

Jim Warfied usually starts out with just find an open field and dig a grave and tell a story about it.

I usually start assuming and then some kid claims to be a major land barron or owns a major mall somewhere and is highly offended by my crap.

So in retrospect if you are going to have a pro haunt. You need to go with animatronics and attend Transworld. If you are going charity you better start weaseling everyone.

Greg Chrise
02-01-2007, 08:06 PM
I just figured out you can say bullshit on here and it doesn't get turned into we love jesus!

Life is good.

Jim Warfield
02-01-2007, 08:11 PM
But Gregg, you darn well that Jesus WILL make you pay for taking "Bullshit" in vein, as explained thoroughly and often by someone that you know well.
(Would a screwgun and screws keep her coffin lid closed better?)

Greg Chrise
02-01-2007, 08:22 PM
Nope, she is a force to be reconned with. Today I was told she could still "take" me and put a bar of soap in my mouth for saying one bad word.

Later on I heard her say freakin and said ooowww that's a bad word and she proclaimed it wasn't.

Greg Chrise
02-01-2007, 08:25 PM
I might have to move her to one of the metal coffins. The one near the welder.

Jim Warfield
02-01-2007, 08:26 PM
"Do as I say, Don't Do as I do."
13th commandment?
Everyone lives by the 11th and the 12th, no need going into them here.

Greg Chrise
02-01-2007, 08:28 PM
And we might be running low on soap pretty soon.

Jim Warfield
02-01-2007, 08:49 PM
Its just a waiting game. soap goes in one end , comes out the other, eventually.

Greg Chrise
02-01-2007, 08:52 PM
I think I'm going to need a coffin all triangular made out of 3/8 inch steel with a submerged arc bead on every seam. Then put it in one of those booby trapped rooms like in the movie Dracula 2000.

02-02-2007, 04:53 AM
But, I'm assuming in order to reach your goals it has been a sacrifice of majorly you and your family. That most of the physical haunt and has come from your investment?
Greg, if you have ever told the truth, you definitely told it then. Sacrifice is a word that describes what I've had to do when it comes to keeping the nonprofit going and making The Scream Extreme a reality. BUT, I knew it would be tough...at least the first five years. We're at year number three.

Empress -- What you do is wonderful and I have nothing but the utmost respect for you. That said, please don't minimize all the good things accomplished by the non 501(c) haunts in this industry. Many, many for profit haunts give a significant amount of their proceeds to charity. It is one of the few industries where so many of the businesses are so generous. I think it all goes back to the roots of the industry being born in mainly charity haunts. I hope that the majority of haunts continue to do so. I know that I will. It is, in many ways, having the best of both worlds.

Dave, I don't believe that I was minimizing anyone who gives. But, if it sounded as such, it was not my intention. Anyone who gives from their heart holds a special place in mine. :)

Competative pro haunts are spending $100,000 to $250,000 per year on upgrading, getting on Good morning America claiming a technical arms race of animatronic props. Charity haunts have actors fighting over three year old latex masks that I'm not real sure if anyone ever washed them or not.
You don't get 80 moving displays in a $10 charity haunt that starts out with little or no budget. You get a stuffed cat that comes at you on a string. Even the really big charity haunts will rely on 75 volunteer actors and no animatronics. A pro haunt is making the decision of whether the props are cheaper than the labor or more effective. If the labor is realatively free all the money goes to the charity rather than an animatronic company.

WHAT??? See, it's this idea of charity haunts that I totally want to change! Nope, we don't have the big bucks. Yup, we started on a shoestring budget, but please tell me you think I have more haunted intelligence than to try to scare people with a "stuffed cat that comes at you on a string???" You really don't think that just because we're called a charity haunt, that we have no animatronics and "actors fighting over three year old latex masks that I'm not real sure if anyone ever washed them or not?" COME ON! That is soooooo stereotypical! :evil:

Ya know....I think the reason our customers have such a good time at our haunts is because we suprise them. We deviated from their preconceived ideas of what a charity haunt is. We're not nearly where I desire us to be. No way! I look at Netherworld, The Darkness, TOTF, Dream Reapers...Oh, heck..who am I kidding....I LOOK AT ALL OF YOU and say to myself, "Will we EVER get there like them?" There's so much more yet to learn which is why I come to HauntWorld. But, is my constant looking, comparing and placing my haunt below those I've named good for us? Is it giving my charity haunt a chance to flourish on it's own? To be what it was meant to be?

With that said, what I'm going to do is unsubscribe from this thread after I post this reply. It has touched a nerve and something within me that I know I can never get across to anyone unless they are in the same boat as I.

Mr. Haunt, good luck in your decision to go profit or nonprofit. I came here to give the side of nonprofit and I've done that. Now, if you will excuse me......

Mr Nightmarez
02-02-2007, 05:19 AM
:shock: :shock: I'm almost afraid to answer, but I will tell my history.

I started out charity 100% Yes I gave it all away. :wink:

I use to be on the Volunteer Event Committee for 2 charities. I Chaired several events and finally brought up doing a haunt. Because of my long history w/ the charity they agreed. They got the space donated, I hooked up w/ 2 sponsors $10k and I put in about $10k of my own money on props etc.
My deal was that all expenses to be reimbursed and they get the rest!
So in reality I was getting all the props, for putting on the event. (So in reality I got paid)
I did this for 3 years and it worked well. We raised over $70k in three years. I had a lot of props, walls etc. (So I had to buy storage and Trailers)
Our 3rd year the charity backed off their support. They did not advertise or bring in the volunteers that were wrote in during our initial agreement. I met w/ them and decided to spend my money on advertising and I had to beg and drag kids to help keep the show alive.
After year 3 the charity board of directors tried to do a hostile take over. The original board was gone that I did the deal with and this board saw there biggest fund raiser being ran by someone outside.
Needless to say I was easily able to find a new charity and the old charity lost $20+k a year!
We have worked great w/ the new charity (and we worked in a 15% clause to help buy new props each season and pay for awards etc.) We were unable to open last year - the charity promised a spot and came up short - they located a spot - but not until Sept 20th (NO WAY) So we focused on 2 profit haunts/consulting last season. This Season we return w/ the charity (we are meeting w/ them soon) to re-negotiate a long term contract and probably increase our portion to 20%-25% to keep up w/ the profit haunts in the area. We will still be donating over $20k per year...

I could not afford to do a haunt on my own. The free spaces, advertising, volunteer staff are priceless! Our volunteer staff can literally run circles around my paid staff... why - because they love what they do - my paid staff 1/2 do it for the $$.

Working w/ a charity can be beneficial if you believe in the cause and you have a contract stating the length of the agreement and percentages involved. (I actually did a seminar on this @ Hauntcon a few years ago and talked to Leonard about bringing it back this year in Detroit)

I have been involved w/ charity way before haunts and I love being able to give back to the community. Our Halloween Store donates costumes every year to less fortunate kids and this year our profit haunt will do a 2 day charity event where the charity receives every $$ made. (No it's not opening weekend!) :shock:

I would prefer a Charity Haunt over a profit haunt any day... But the reality of me wanting to quit my day job has me using sources to make enough 'profit' so I can continue both ventures. Charity haunting and Profit Haunting.

One last word of advice - When working w/ a charity make a foothold on where your money is to be used. Our first charity pulled our money into the budget and portions were used for salaries etc. - :roll: We now focus our money on programs and building funds etc. so it can not be "wasted" as some Management persons bonus... (I do understand they need salaries, but take a close look at the percentage that goes to salaries w/ your charities... you might see there are some charities that focus over 40% of money donated toward that...)

**Everything above is OPINIONS only** Please feel frre to e-mail me if you have an issue or want to know more.


02-02-2007, 07:45 AM
I worked my first 13 years in the business at a charity haunt. Yes it's true that we had only a shoestring budget. We had to be very creative with our scares and had to rely on the actors to do a good job. It was a very good show and one of the most popular haunts in the area for many years.

5 years ago I opened my "for profit" haunt Deadly Intentions, once again on a shoestring budget. We have a great haunt that is very well attended and loved by our customers.

I do not spend 100k - 250k per year on upgrading and I never will. In fact, we have only purchased one inexpensive animatronic over the years. We have made a couple of animated props ourselves though.

Our haunt in many ways resembles the charity haunt I started out at. We rely on a creative cast and crew to come up with original characters and scares in our haunt. We have created a very intense, old school haunted attraction that our customers have appreciated since our first year. We change everything in our haunt every year so that our customers have a completely fresh, new show to look forward to every season.

There are a couple of haunts in the area that have put hundreds of thousands of dollars into their haunts. We hear comments from our customers that those shows are pretty to look at but have very little "scare factor." I am not knocking the other haunts. I have been through their attractions several times and I think they are amazing in their design. But customers want a variety of haunts to choose from. Over the years, we have been honored with high reviews and awards from several independent local haunt review web sites and media sources. Even receiving the highest ranking in the state from the most respected review site the last 2 seasons. That's as high or higher ranking than the houses who did spend a fortune on their shows. Our best recognition is from our loyal customers who have voted us the scariest haunted house in Metro Detroit the last 4 years in a row.

I guess all I am saying is that whether you are a charity or for profit haunted attraction, you don't have to spend a million dollars to put on a great show. Just be creative, hire good people to work with and treat them well, do the right amount of advertising and make sure to give your customers a fun night of entertainment, and you can have a successful event without breaking your wallet.

Just my 2 or 3 cents,

Howie "Slobber" Erlich
Deadly Intentions Haunted House

Jim Warfield
02-02-2007, 08:02 AM
I could never have broken my wallet here at the Ravens Grin Inn because I didn't have the money to finance a wallet search using a rented electron microscope!
Fish line, old hinges, old springs, stuff built using very old materials, scrap metal cut from old appliances, pop-riveted to make a bigger piece of metal, dryer lint, (Faux-mouse covering)I used brand new garbage bages to scare with, one Dixie cup prop was finally replaced for me by a concerned repeat customer who really wanted to do something "nice" for me.
Somehow, someway I have managed to entertain , and sometimes frighten enough people that I made a business here.
Working at this one day at a time,one nail or screw installed at a time, one small shovel of dirt dug at a time to make an impressive exit tunnel from the basement.
What is having a haunt worth to you?
It will still require "work" no matter how much money that you might borrow from Gret-Grandma's purse!
36 years ago, last December I was living in a concrete tube under a county highway, I didn't like it much.
I was walking many cold miles to the discount grocery store looking for the old-priced cans of soup at the back of the shelf, living on $3.00 a week for food was also no fun.
Now that some of you have had a good laugh, guess what? This is all true.
No fiction.

Mr. Haunt
02-02-2007, 10:38 AM
I had no idea that this would be such a HEATED TOPIC. I thank you all for your opinion's.

Greg Chrise
02-02-2007, 01:27 PM
I'm so glad others have offered their true investment honestly. Now that Empress has unsubscribed we can really tell it lie it is! Just kidding

I was not questioning anyone's intellegence and somehow everything I say strikes her as a deep cut but, I have a few more years of really asking why this and why that. Having the Darkness and Netherworld are great accomplishments and they must have done many things just right and continue to do things just right to have such a show.

But, in reality, I know from a previous statement that Empress didn't make $5,000 just like me. So it might cut away te fantasy world. People that only make somewhere around or slightly above $5,000 from their haunt and give a majority of that money to a charity are not going to Transworld to buy $2500 props.

Transworld is certainly something to see and be familiar with but if you are running a for charity haunt, unless you intend to spend sponsors money on animatronics you better be building them yourself or consider all effectrs with volunteer actors.

Now a for profit haunt like the darkness or Netherworld or Verdun Manor, these guys went to Transworld and saw opportunity. You buy the coolest of toys, people want to see what's new every year and try to absorb the great detail, many come over and over in the same season and they make money. I don't know the history of Netherworld but I do know that in a way, the Darkness and even Verdun manor were taking over someone else's attraction that perhaps had not reach the proper potential. They came in as new blood with a spurt of what ever finances they could muster and a decade later they were somebody.

Our latest philosophy has been developed to say sometimes if you have to ask how it works it doesn't.

There is nothing wrong with only making $5,000 from realtively nothing. Would you rather have a bake sale or a garage sale? Perhaps go door to door taking orders on cookies? Especially when it is open less than 40 hours. It may have taken thousands of hours to build but it was only accepting money a very limited time frame.

As far as being smart? Yes our first year our only moving prop was a cat on a string. It freaking worked. Year two we had Two lame props that cost $1500 that I didn't buy. My money went into the haunt itself. The only thing I will get to keep from the experience. Props have a real tendancy to work only one season and then no one knows how to fix them or replace specialized little crap. If you built it yourself you know where to buy this or that.

In fact at some point, I had to realize do I want to travel the planet going to conventions where I can't or shouldn't buy toys or would that money be better spent making sure I don't miss a storage payment. It is just reality.

If you haven't made a big jump into some situation that is already working, you have to continue with the day job and not be a slacker. You still have to spend hours shopping and doing laundry and taking care of family needs and sometimes the sacrifice is not a good thing.

However, if you can pool a bunch of people together it will work. In a charity 30 people come together and do because the end goal will be met as best as possible and walk away with nothing but a grin. Possibly even a tear that it is over. Going for profit with too many partners means everyone is going to be disappointed for years. In this case you have to be like Bill Gates where origionally Microsoft was founded and funded by 16 people that all eventually bailed or were bought out and now he is a billionare. He didn't do it all himself. All the others pretty much got what they wanted out of it or lost faith or wanted to have a life that wasn't quite so consuming. This principle holds true when you are at the $1000 income per year level too only far more people will bail as it might not be worth it.

So tell me, how am I being so offensive here?

Hell American Freak
02-03-2007, 10:57 PM
I just figured out you can say bullshit on here and it doesn't get turned into we love jesus!

Life is good.

That one made me laugh...