View Full Version : A Vanishing Breed?...

Warren Vanderdark
02-12-2007, 05:09 AM
In light of the recent closure (and pending sale) of the long-running Florida haunt "Skull Kingdom", does anyone else get the feeling that the freestanding year-round haunts outside of amusement parks are becoming extinct? Save a few like the Ripley's attractions (which are more of a corporate franchise, when you think of it) and some smaller independents, I'd be hard pressed to think of that many that are left...

Jim Warfield
02-12-2007, 05:30 AM
I wonder if 9-11 helped it go by-by?
I seemed to sense alot more general fear and depression in people since that day. Confident, fun-seeking people usually frequent haunted entertainments. I believe.
People from third-world countrys are very uneasy in a haunted house. Going to bed hungry, not knowing if tonight is the night the dictator's troops come, your Father out of bed and he just dissappears?
It can be a whole different "ball Game" in other countrys.

Hell American Freak
02-12-2007, 07:32 AM
I believe it's more of a matter that they can no longer bring in the revenue needed to operate said attractions. They've got some pretty big competition sitting next to them.

Raycliff Manor
02-12-2007, 09:23 AM
The way property values have risen if you lease your property, it would probably be hard to recoop the expense in a high profile area. If you own your property it would be terribly tempting to sell. Let's just hope that some of the people who have chosen or been forced to close decide to re-establish themselves in a new location.

Another consideration for those near amusement parks; with the amusement parks getting in on the haunted attraction action, it would be really hard to compete with their budgets. :shock: I guess there are so many possible variables it could be a completely different scenario with each incident. :wink:


02-12-2007, 09:28 AM
Trust me when I say that only 2 chains of parks actually deliver a product that's hard to compete with... Knotts and Universal. Every other park haunt I've seen is mediocre (sp?) and believe me when I say that ALOT of private haunts are better than some theme/amusement parks. -Tyler

02-12-2007, 09:34 AM
I think a few things led to Skull Kingdoms demise. #1, to keep a place like that going year round, you need mass numbers of people going, and you are not going to get a ton of people going to a haunt in the off season. Sure you will get a handful of people going, but not 1000 or so a day. #2, I went there two years ago and the place was not very good. Broken props, and maybe 2-3 actors in masks. That kind of word gets out and it will kill an attraction.

Raycliff Manor
02-12-2007, 09:40 AM
I've only been to Knott's Haunted Attractions when I still lived in CA and they did an awesome job! Can't say that I've seen the rest. I'll take your word for it. Maybe it'll take time for the public to realize that the others aren't delivering, as far as the haunts are concerned. It would be hard to compete with an amusement park providing both rides and haunted attractions though. At least until the public realized that the "outside" attractions are delivering a better quality haunted attraction show. As the haunted attraction industry continues to receive more spotlight, it'll be interesting to see where things go. This is one of the reasons it's so important to have a strong professional association to help us stay ahead of the curve and grow as an industry! :wink:


02-12-2007, 10:19 AM
Trust me when I say that only 2 chains of parks actually deliver a product that's hard to compete with... Knotts and Universal. Every other park haunt I've seen is mediocre (sp?) and believe me when I say that ALOT of private haunts are better than some theme/amusement parks. -Tyler

I second that. Six Flags(in Dallas) used to have 3 haunts going every season, and everyone said-"Oh wow, Six Flags- we gotta go!" Six Flags just has that budget to make the biggest and best in the area, but they always fall short. On the down side though, with the high priced admission to Six Flags, many people dont go to other Haunts, because a)they've already spent enough money this halloween, abd b)they've already gotten their fix this year on being scared this year. Lately, Six Flags hasnt done tto much at Halloween, and it seems that Haunts in Dallas have seen a rise in attendance.

Finally, Pro Haunts prosper over Amusement park haunts!!

Duke of Darkness
02-12-2007, 12:23 PM
I think that it is hard for a traditional walk-through attraction to operate year round for a few reasons. One is that you can't put through the same kind of numbers night in and night out that you can during the season. This leads to several problems. One is, with fewer people coming through, how do you keep your actors at a high energy level. When they are acting year round the roles get old. Having fewer groups comes through increases the boredom, and the quality of show suffers.

Then there is the matter of how many actors you can support with those smaller groups. Fewer actors again affects the quality of the show. And a lower quality show, leads to fewer patrons. A cycle of death to the attraction. I am not saying that this is what necessarily happened to Skull Kingdom -- I have never been there -- but my experience with actors leads me to believe this is reasonable.

That said, it is my goal to eventually open a year round attraction. It will, by necessity, be a different model than that of a seasonal haunt. Look at what Jim has been able to do with Raven's Grin Inn. He puts through smaller numbers, but the come night after night. He doesn't spend a fortune on advertising. He doesn't have 50 actors. And his audience it entertained.

I live on a farm. I am hoping to eventually plant grapes and build a new building. It will be themed as a haunted winery/vineyard. We will host dinners, ghost hunts, theatrical seances, business meetings, parties, weddings, and more. We will have hayrides, bonfire, and ghost stories in the summer. All with a haunted theme. Sometimes subtle, sometimes not so much.

This is my long term retirement plan and it will be years before I am able to put it into action. I have, however, been researching this idea for a year and a half and I firmly believe that it is a viable business model.

So, is it the end of the year round attraction? I certainly hope not, but for an attraction to survive it will have to evolve and adapt.

Just my two and a half cents worth.



Greg Chrise
02-12-2007, 04:31 PM
I think it is real simple. The people that are running them have had enough. The same people that were there in the beginning quit or passed on and the new bunch just didn't have the same heart. Some of the places were family owned and 50 years in the family was enough.

It's tough sometimes when the little convienence store guy is driving a Mercedese and you have an old truck or a hearse. You start to wonder.

On the same token many businesses make only enough the make a mediocre living, pay the utilities, the help and pay the mortgage and then taxes take away what you thought was the profit. The only asset that isn't worn out is the land.

Buildings only last so long before they need major maintenance. The larger they are the more big money it takes now. Especially in Florida with Hurricans every year ripping everyting apart. The insurance must be impossible. When the ice caps finish melting Florida will be mostly underwater anyhow. It's a good time to move.

It would also be difficult to have to raise prices from what worked 10 years ago with out it being a nice sanitary experience for the customers.

You never see a haunt washing guy in the buyer's guide.

There's my niche, have pressure washer will travel. Does your haunt ressemble a public gas station rest room after years of patronage? Are you affraid of future pandemics and present day unidentifiable viruses?

Give us a call or contact us at HauntedScumAway.com

02-13-2007, 06:12 AM

Greg, you might be onto something there.

Funny how we work so hard to make things LOOK old and distressed and think it looks great, but the REAL stuff just makes the place look crumby.

02-13-2007, 08:55 AM
A lot of the problem with Skull Kingdom was mistaken identity.

Not a lot of people drove past it and knew what it was. We were constantly telling people that we weren't a dinner show, and that we were a walk through attraction.

The castle also started off on the wrong foot because the people involved with the concept and the construction wanted something different than what the people that went through it wanted it to be, if that makes sense.

It was originally going to be a self-guided tour, ala Ripley's, with some creepiness, but no big scares, and no actors. It never worked that way. The people wanted something to compete with Terror On Church Street. That's not what they got.

So the overhaul began, and that's why so much money was spent and why it was so over budget. Basically, the entire show had been built twice, if not three times!

There were a lot of people involved with the management end of Skull Kingdom that had NO haunting experience at all. But all of the actors did, and we knew what was wrong, but unfortunately, we didn't have the pocketbook. The place didn't know what it wanted to be. And the outside showed it.

The last manager there frustrated everyone so much, that a lot of the original cast members, including myself, left, knowing that it would only be a short time before what just happened, happened. It's sad to see all of our hard work go down the drain, and it's said that it didn't go for more, but I expected nothing less than what happened because of the person that was running it. I'm not trying to throw anyone under a bus here, but I know for a fact that the owner doesn't know the first thing about Haunting or haunted attractions. And that's why he just got $35k for a building that was probably worth a lot more.

Oh well. That's my story. I'll be there hopefully when the wrecking ball comes down on it.


Warren Vanderdark
02-13-2007, 09:24 AM
My condolences to you and the other cast members of Skull Kingdom. I'd imagine that the only thing more heartbreaking than being associated with a haunt that closes is working for haunt management that choses to remain oblivious to what was needed to be done to turn things around.

To add insult to injury, he only got $35,000 for a building THAT size?!? After a screwing like that, I hope he at least got a complimenttary cigarette and a promise they'd call him later...

02-13-2007, 11:48 AM
He only got that much for everything inside. The building itself wasn't for sale. Even that should be worth more!

Warren Vanderdark
02-13-2007, 12:26 PM
Based on what I'd read in an on-line article from the Orlando Sentinel, the building itself apparently doesn't figure into the appraised value of the sale, since the property itself is what's really being sold. The building is due to be demolished and replaced with condos and a few retail properties...

Jim Warfield
02-13-2007, 01:22 PM
Several years ago I took a big chance (for me) and redefined my basic show here. I may have alienated some previous customers, I seemed to have gained more/better customers as judged from audience responses.
Pleasing your audience is important, pleasing yourself may have to often be the first priority though, then everything else falls into line.
I wonder if Skull Kingdom did and /or paid any attention to exit surveys?
Maybe what was needed to make everything really work was something hard to define, something much more intangible?
Learning from other's failures and successes can be a valuble thing because nobody has enough time (on this planet) or money to make all the mistakes themselves, I know Skull Kingdom must have been doing a fair number of things "right" to have survived as long as it did.

02-13-2007, 02:36 PM
They did do exit surverys, once. And we knew what the results were going to be.... scarier, longer, more actors.

All of that is $$$, which we didn't have a lot of.

We did do things right, for a while, at least, but not enough rights to turn it around.

Oh well. I'll have fond memories and friends from that place, if nothing else.


Jim Warfield
02-13-2007, 03:58 PM
When they say ,"Longer", I'm not sure this is always a viable suggestion or complaint.
Most tours here take 90 minutes and even though people usually know this, some of them still drag their feet (and other body parts) and for some unknown reason, try to make the time here even longer!?

Kevin Dells
02-13-2007, 08:59 PM
Hey Duke,
Key in on pumpkins lots of pumpkins if your near a metro area and sell them for a decent price, people will come.
We have a pumpkin farm near us that does really well. They sell buy the size and their reasonable if not cheap, this draws a big crowd. They started adding in the smaller attractions and they got really big.

The prosper because all the nursery's that sell pumpkins near us sell them by the pound and you pick a medium sized pumpkin and take it up and bam your looking at a 12$ pumkin! Uh no!

For years i went to a guy and i would tell him i want lots of pumkins for my outside display. I would say i have 25 bucks what can you do and he would sell me five huge pumpkins 50-60 lbs+, my kids could fit inside them.
I would go back three or four times and get more pumpkins until i had the edge of my whole roof lined with giant light pumpkins,a bunch in the yard as well.
A well placed pupmkin farm can do well.

02-13-2007, 09:39 PM
They are a dying breed but small independent year round haunts in year-round touristy areas seem to do well.

Bill Nehring's Dungeon of Horror in the Wisconsin Dells (water park mecca) and a few other haunts in the Dells (not to be confused with and no relation with Kevin Dells) :wink: have been there since I was a little kid (almost 30 years?!?!)... Wisconsin Dells has been increasingly a year-round destination now that alot of the resorts have indoor water parks. Their haunts in the "off-season" are still open on weekends. They aren't as detailed as many haunts here - they are situated in a busy downtown strip full of fudge shops, arcades, tourist trap stores... and are built for more a quick "cure the curiosity and run em through" more than to awe/entertain. ...but yet they've been there since the first waterslide went up in that town.

The Pumpkin Farms in our area are a dying breed (Milwaukee-Chicago corridor) - they are being bought up for housing/subdivisions - the farmers/families are getting older, it's too much work, and their property is worth hundreds of thousands if not millions - so they sell (and I can't blame them). There are only a few BIG ONES where (as Kev said) you pay through the nose... and there are THRONGS of humanity there any given weekend in October. Not the little cute intimate rural pumpkin farms of yore. Sigh.

Duke of Darkness
02-13-2007, 10:23 PM
I have thought about putting part of the property in pumpkins. The pumpkin farmers that I know don't make big buck on that end of things. In fact, they often do better by building pumpkin launchers as an event than in the sale of pumpkins.

For me though, the big problem with pumpkins is that they are seasonal. The don't lend themselves to a year round attraction, which is my ultimate goal. And, in the short term at least, I am running a haunt in town in October, so won't be on the farm to run sales. Unless, of course, we were to somehow sell pumpkins through he haunt.

Thanks for the suggestions guys.


Jim Warfield
02-14-2007, 12:12 AM
Replica pumpkins, made out of durable concrete.
Just be carefull not to over-stress the pumpkin launcher!
I always wanted a concrete pumpkin , just for those pumpkin vandals to get hernias from.
Or the vandals that baseball bat or kick pumpkins too.

Kevin Dells
02-14-2007, 04:44 AM
I got a hernia from stealing a cement pig from a bar when i was a teenager.
We thought it would be cool for the yard so four of us grabbed hold and carried it to the parking lot and put it in my buddy's olds 98 trunk.
Big Problem! The pig was so heavy it went right through the rusty trunk when we let go of it. It was then stuck half in and half out so it took six of us to get it back out and into the back seat!

Jim the concrete pumpkin will work, it's round harder to carry, the pig had all sorts of places to grab on to.

No im not a theif anymore, i took up crossdressing for a bigger rush! :shock:

02-14-2007, 05:35 AM
We've been talking about planting pumpkins in the back yard. We even saved the seeds out of our huge pumpkin from last year. (My yard is about a 1/2 acre.) I've been wanting to plant a veggie garden back there, but my hubby always says that the dogs will tear it up. The Pumpkins would be sort of a 'test drive' to see if my furry children will behave.

Jim Warfield
02-14-2007, 09:59 AM
Kevin! Are you SURE that your'e not a theif?
You aren't stealing guys away from their girlfriends with your cross-dressing now are you?
I guess you had some "clothing" plans for that concrete pig, didn't you?
I put Bermuda shorts on my Pteradactyl skeleton hanging from the outside of my house. Ever noticed their pelvic bone design? It looked pretty suggestive, and this was a publically displayed item here with a 23 foot wingspan, 9 foot tall, it covers alot of wall.

Kevin Dells
02-14-2007, 10:41 PM
Jim, you bet im stealin all the hunks away!! Hubba Hubba!

And if anyone asks it's a coconut in his shorts and mine! It was being used for the bra but kept sliding down, I"ll try duct tape it fixes everything!

Jim Warfield
02-14-2007, 10:48 PM
One roll of good duct tape = 6 months of a handy-off-the-roll birth control product applicable to either gender.
Total control requires the usage of more tape, also covering the eyes to thwart those feelings and desires from even getting a toehold to start with.

02-18-2007, 03:21 PM
We published this list of haunted attractions open outside of the traditional Halloween season in the IAHA Haunted Attraction section of the September/October Issue of TAP (Tourist Attractions & Parks) Magazine. I thought some of you might be interested... there are a good number of attractions open most of the year.


Scare Up Some Fun All Year Long

Many of us in the haunted attraction industry find it difficult to visit other haunted houses in September and October because we are operating our own attractions. However, there are over two dozen haunted attractions scattered across North America that are open all or most of the year. Many of these haunted attractions are in tourist rich cities like Myrtle Beach, Orlando, or Niagara Falls. However, some of these haunted attractions are a little more off the beaten path; Raven's Grin Inn owner Jim Warfield jokingly claims that the Mississippi River is the nearest tourist attraction.

When you are on vacation this year, whether you are traveling to a big tourist city or maybe somewhere a bit smaller, take this list with you and make visiting a haunted attraction part of your vacation plans. And donít forget, there are over 100 darkrides across the United States, both free standing attractions and those on boardwalks and in amusement parks. A comprehensive list of dark rides is available on the Darkride and Funhouse Enthusiasts website at www.dafe.org.


Fright Walk
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
400 Beach Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 423-5590

Van Helsing: Fortress Dracula
100 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, CA 91608


Skull Kingdom
5933 American Way
Orlando FL 32819
(407) 354-1564
(Closed November 2006)

Haunted Grimm House of Old Town
5770 West Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway
Kissimmee, FL 34746
(407) 397-2231


Raven's Grin Inn
411 N. Carroll St.
Mount Carroll, IL 61053
(815) 244-4746


Guntown Mountain Haunted House
I-65 Exit 53
Cave City, KY
(270) 773-3530


Nest of Monsters,
Edgar Allen Poe Witch Mansion,
& the Hollywood House of Wax
Pickering Wharf
Salem, MA
(978) 745-7283

Gravity House
Haunted House on Hill Street Wax Museum
211 Hill Street
Hannibal, MO
(573) 221-2220

Haunted Adventure
Hwy. 13, Branson West
Branson, MO 65616
(417) 272-0411

New Hampshire

Los Bravos Silver Mine
Storyland Amusement Park
Route 16
Glen, NH 03838
(603) 383-4186

New Jersey

Curse of the Mummy 3D
Morey's Adventure Pier
3501 Boardwalk
Wildwood, NJ 08260
(609) 234-5810

Haunted Halloween House
Land of Make Believe
352 Great Meadows Road (Route 611)
Hope, NJ 07844
(908) 459-9000

Hollowgraves Haunted Manor
Funtown Amusement Pier
1930 Boardwalk
Seaside Park, NJ 08752
(732) 830-PIER

New York

Dr. Morbid's Haunted House
115 Canada Street
Lake George, NY 12845

House of Frankenstein Wax Museum
213 Canada Street
Lake George, NY 12845
(518) 668-3377


Ghostly Manor
3319 Milan Road
Sandusky, OH
(419) 626-4467


Enchanted Forest Haunted House
8462 Enchanted Way SE
Turner, OR 97392
(503) 363-7616


Pirateís Cove
Waldameer Park
220 Peninsula Drive
Erie, PA 16505
(814) 838-3591

South Carolina

Ghosts and Legends Theatre
Barefoot Landing
4818 Hwy.17S.
North Myrtle Beach, SC 29582
(843) 361-2700

Nightmare Haunted House
918 N Ocean Blvd
Myrtle Beach, SC 29577
(843) 626-0022

Ripley's Haunted Adventure
915 N. Ocean BLVD
Myrtle Beach, SC 29577
(843) 916 8971.


Haunted Helen
115 Escowee Drive
Helen, GA 30545-3101
(706) 878-0072

Mysterious Mansion
424 River Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
(865) 436-7007

Ripley's Haunted Adventure
908 Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN 37738-3104


Ripley's Haunted Adventure
329 Alamo Plaza
San Antonio, TX 78205
(210) 226-2828


Haunted Fun House
2500 Atlantic Avenue
Virginia Beach VA 23451
(757) 422-1742

Haunted Mansion
700 Birdneck Rd.
Virginia Beach, VA 23454
(757) 422-6419

Haunts of Richmond
11 N. 18th Street
Richmond, VA 23223
(804) 343-3700

Nightmare Mansion
20th Street & Atlantic Ave
Virginia Beach VA 23451
(757) 428-FEAR


Adventures In Time
& Mass Panic
Wisconsin Dells Parkway (Hwy. 12)
Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965
(888) 413-5946

The Castle of Terror
Extreme World
1800 Wisconsin Dells Pkwy
Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965
(608) 254-4111

Dungeon of Horrors
325 Broadway
Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965
(888) 413-5946

Ghost Out-Post Haunted House
633 Wisconsin Dells Pkwy
Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965
(608) 254-2127

Haunted Mansion
112 Broadway
Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965
(608) 254-7513

Haunted Shack
Little A-Merrick-A
700 E. Main Street
Marshall, WI 53559
(608) 655-3181

Loony Bin
633 Wisconsin Dells Pkwy
Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965
(608) 254-2127

Old Kilborne Haunted House
Old Kilborne Amusements
633 Wisconsin Dells Parkway
Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965
(608) 254-2127

Top Secret
527 Wisconsin Dells Pkwy
Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965
(608) 254-6700


Castle Dracula's Haunted Castle
4933 Clifton Hill
Niagara Falls, Ontario

The Haunted House
4943 Clifton Hill
Niagara Falls, Ontario

House of Frankenstein
4967 Clifton Hill
Niagara Falls, Ontario
(905) 357 9660

Nightmares Entertainment
1215 Government Street
Victoria BC
(250) 388-4024

Screamers House Of Horrors
5930 Victoria Ave.
Niagara Falls, Ontario

Jim Warfield
02-18-2007, 06:38 PM
The shortest distance between Chicago and the Miss. River is Rt. 64 , which passes right by Mount Carroll, home of Ravens Grin Inn.
The Palisades state park ocverlooks the river with a panoramic cliffside veiw of three states and slightly downstream, the widest spot in the entire river, 3 miles wide! (You can stand upon a 2,000yr. old indian burial mound right there also)
According the US Army Corps of engineers the Miss. river from 50 miles south, on downstream is considered a dead river and huge efforts are underway to preserve the natural wildlife still surviving in our portion of the river.
This last week we drove 18 miles to lock & dam 13 and watched at least 200 Bald Eagles feeding in the only availble open water (not frozen) churning up from the dam, quite a sight! Quite some bird!
Bird watchers, deer hunters , boaters all find this part of the world a tourist draw, as do many others.