View Full Version : How do I get my foot in the door?

10-21-2010, 10:09 PM
I'm 20 years old, and absolutely want to and would love to open and run my own haunted house. I am working full-time right now...but I am not making very good money, and I know my credit would be nowhere near good enough to get a good loan out.

I would like to start a pro haunt, and maybe start small and kind of build into something big...but I dont even know how to get my foot in the door with how things in this industry are so expensive to do.

Any help/advice/tips for me would be greatly appreciated guys (and gals).

[PS, I know this question has probably been asked before, so I do apologize in advance.]

10-21-2010, 10:22 PM
hey man im a pro haunter in arkansas and i can tell you got the drive and want to susceed so you should start with kelly allens books is a good place to start thats how i started www.hauntbook.com

10-21-2010, 10:30 PM
Yeah, I thought about picking up that book. I wish the library would have it, but that is just wishful thinking. LOL

I already started writing my ideas down in a notebook for a theme, and some of the "special" rooms/ideas, or what have you, that I'd want to do in my haunt.

Allen H
10-21-2010, 11:18 PM
No regret,
This is one of the simplest and cheapest businesses to start. Here is the simplest of plans that I have used before.
Before I lay that out I want to say that you should be working for another haunted house right now, learn how to treat actors and customers on someone elses dime, they will appreciate the help and you will gain experience and industry knowledge.
Look into what you need to start a business, get all of the appropriate liscences that you need for your area. Next find a piece of land that has enough flat area for parking and enough wooded area for a trail. Make a deal with the land owner (be smart) to use the property. Starting in june or early july clear the trail and build a few simple sets. Pick a simple theme and work that through. Werewolves work in that setting, bigfoot, call it forest of fear and you will need very little set work ;).
Tell everyone you meet what you are doing and why, this will gain interest for both help (clearing that trail and all) and for customers when the time comes. A generator and some malibu lights will get you going.
Make ten friends who like the idea of scareing people, get ten costumes for the friends to wear. Take some cool pictures of the friends in the woods in the costumes at night. Build a ticket booth out front and make your signage. Big one by the road and rules and such. Contact every newspaper in the county (and others if they are close) and get listed in their free events listing. Here is a hint for that by the way, the lists are always alphebetical so make your name pretty close to the top of the alphabet they will scan from the top down and based on location they will decide where to go, but even if its a block away they may decide before they get to the "Zang's house of horrors" listing.
Get two folks to work the ticket booth ( perhaps a relative or signifigant other). Make a website and face book page for the haunted trail and charge $5. Pay your people $ .10 for each person who goes through, that way they are invested in your success and the success of your attraction.
Depending upon your budget you might want to make some flyers and posters to put in key stores, set up a phone line as well for info.
This should get you 1,500 to 2,000 customers your first season and should cost less that $5,000 start up, you can do it for $3,000 if you are super frugal.
Then pray it dosent rain when you are open.
start small and never borrow mony to open a haunt unless your quitting your job to do it. You dont quit your job for a hobby and you dont borrow money to do it. In a few years you could have a haunted house on the property and a second trail, and do a respectable 10,000 people a season your price raised to $15 for all three events.
Then you could quit your job. This is one way to go, some will say this sucks and you should borrow 300,000 to open your first year. In my opinion its to risky to borrow that kind of money when it could still rain.
The truth is it takes a ton of work and some money to open an attraction. This was longer than I meant it to be, and "work really really hard" might not have been what you wanted to hear.
Allen H

10-22-2010, 09:38 AM
Thanks for the advice Allen. Yeah, i've considered starting out like that before. There is plenty of woods/farmland in the suburb that I am residing in at the moment.

Eventually on down the line, I would like to pull a Randy Bates type haunt, and do a hayride down to an indoor haunted house...but that'd be extra $$$ that would take a while to save up for hahaha.

Also, I worked at the Haunted Schoolhouse/Laboratory in Akron, Ohio last year and had a blast with it. They named me as one of their best actors in my first year...I got an invite to come back, but I work 3-11 monday-saturday, so it wasnt possible.

I've been trying to contact a few people I worked with there, and some other buddies that I know to see if they'd go in on a haunted house with me...some seemed kinda iffy about it...and I dont want anybody going in on it if theyre not planning on putting alot of time and effort into it.

10-22-2010, 09:45 AM
I'm in the same boat you are, although a bit older. I'm currently a senior in college now. When I'm done, I'll have my teaching degree.

Guess how I plan to spend my summers off?

10-22-2010, 09:49 AM
Yeah Rob I hear ya, I would like to go into things with a partner haha. I think that'd make things easier. Sometimes things dont work out as planned though.

And Allen, one thing that worries me about starting off with a small haunt is the people I would have as actors not showing up half the time.

10-22-2010, 10:00 AM
Someone told me once, "You just do it". As simple as it sounds they were right.

Allen H
10-22-2010, 10:39 AM
how is that different than the actors not showing up at a large haunt? I dont see your logic.

10-22-2010, 10:41 AM

Usually the larger haunts have the luxury of having people try out for positions..and then have people that applied that they can call up to have come in for the evening.

Now, something on a smaller scale, like what i'd be starting with...one missing guy would be huge and I wouldnt have any backups lol.

10-22-2010, 12:45 PM
Allen, that's very good advice...

I've been working for a commercial Haunted Attraction in New Orleans for over 10 years, and I can tell you that I've learned tons of ins-outs-and-abouts ...from how to treat cast and customers, to safety, to permits, to technology, to money management, to marketing, and the list goes on...While I wouldn't want to extend the capital to open my own haunt, it is a dream of mine to accomplish it one day (being as I have over 30 animatronics sitting idle in my shop). Plus, unless my haunt was tremendously successful, I could never quit my day job, nor would I want to jeopardize my credit due to failure or overextending my finances...

No_Regret - if you have a vision, the passion and drive, all obstacles can be overcome. Good luck, my fellow haunter! If you ever need any advice, info on trustworthy vendors (that I've dealt with over the years), the ins and outs of haunting with animatronics or resources, don't hesitate to drop me a PM.

Mr. Haunt
10-22-2010, 01:47 PM

I'm up here in MN, for me it's always been the location thing. I am sure the rest of the haunters would agree, that one of the hardest goals to reach, is landing a location. Thats unless I'm going about it the wrong way, but the weather up here has been perfect for an outdoor haunt in the woods, or what ever. So this year would have been best in the regards to weather.

I'm a 9 year home haunter that has his sights on a haunt some day. Rather it be for or nonprofit, there are just a handfull of large haunts here, and I'm sure that they all do well. I visit them every year, just to see how they are doing in numbers, trouble with me is, I go to soon in October so attendance is lower.

With that said, one big peace of advice, pick a great location with great demographics. AND visit your local haunts to see what they do for business as well as what can YOU do better???

Mr. Haunt

10-22-2010, 05:18 PM

Usually the larger haunts have the luxury of having people try out for positions..and then have people that applied that they can call up to have come in for the evening.

Now, something on a smaller scale, like what i'd be starting with...one missing guy would be huge and I wouldnt have any backups lol.

Not necessarily. Bigger isn't always better. Some big haunts aren't any better than some small ones - they just have more headaches. And being big means that you would have much higher expenses. So if you want to start out big just for the sake of being big, why not take some of that money and set it aside in case you need to pay some workers for your small haunt?

The real trick is to make this something that people want to be involved with. Make it a killer haunt that volunteers have to audition for if they want to be a part of it.

10-23-2010, 07:28 AM
Hey No_Regret,

I think I saw ya post on hauntforum too? Kelly Allens Book is great, it sure helped me a lot. and Allen H's advice is awesome too.

I started as a charity haunt and am still doing it. It is a great way to get things going and will in most cases help you out budget wise. It saved me on trying to find and lease/buy a location and that was huge!

Just keep up the passion, continue to visit other haunts and talk to other haunters and soak up all you can. Eventually you will find a plan that works best for you.

I'd also suggest making the trip to Transworld and taking some seminars and if you cannot go there see if there is another Convention close by to you. I've been going to the National Haunters Con in Valley Forge for the past two years and it keeps growing and expanding and they offer a bunch of classes that would benefit you greatly and help answer a lot of questions you may have.


10-23-2010, 07:51 AM
First off...Kelly's book and Allens advice!
Here's what we did (I'm sure Allen will approve!) :)

We went to the local charity haunt as they were selling it off CHEAP! We were the only bidders...got all the panels/props/lights/costumes etc for under 1,000.00.
Then we tore it down and had a place to store it free. We had a couple people handshake on a deal for a location and they kept not coming through. It took us a couple years before we found a Fire. Dept. that let us build it in their pavilion (2 blocks from my house) and we had 17 days to get it up and 7 days to tear down afterwards. We ended up charging $5.00 and making over double what we had into it (which wasn't much).
Then we moved to a building 15 miles away and spent the money we made on more props/panels and advertising. Still small, but we made 500% what we did the year before. Still small potatoes to the big boys, but in 2 years it was nice.
We matched that last year.
This year my biz partner and I parted ways and I've went into business with another haunter from 20 miles away who split from his partner also. We are having a GREAT year.
It's only been my 4th year but things are looking up and we are motivated to find the land and do the haunted house, hayride, trail, cornmaze, you name it in the future!
Keep your chin up!
You'll get there...the hardest thing was...actually attending the meeting and ACTUALLY purchasing the haunt. Location was 2nd.
JUST DO IT! Smartly.

Hope this helps!

Allen H
10-23-2010, 10:21 AM
Sounds awesome Kirk! Im glad its working out for ya.
No regret,
Currently Im director of a mega haunt. I assure you that it is easier to find ten good actors than it is to find 90. Big or small haunts seems to have some of the same issues. But bigger haunts have more overhead and more liability and more customer wear and tear. I actually wish I could keep my customers in the 10,000 range, but we do about six times that. We also sell alcohol so that ups the wear and tear factor. Im not complaining butcherish your "small haunt" days. You will miss them when they are gone.

10-23-2010, 10:37 PM
I started out very small in my parents garage. Open only on Halloween night charging just a dollar. after 3 years of that I started working for pro haunts as a actor/manager for 10 years. Now I'm pro thanks to this website hauntworld.com

10-24-2010, 05:08 AM
I like this low budget, grass roots type of haunt you are proposing Allen, but wouldn't insurance eat up the entire $5000 budget you proposed? You definitely know more about haunting than I, but I had to ask the question.

10-24-2010, 10:25 AM
Thanks for all the tips guys, this is something that I definately want to do, maybe not next year...but possibly the year after...and keep saving money up for it little by little, and see what happens.

As of right now, my work schedule would conflict with running a haunt badly since I work monday-saturday from 3-11 PM. But I could see about using all my vacation days next year and just break them down into half days and leave at 7 to go start everything up.

We'll see how things go.

Greg Chrise
10-24-2010, 08:31 PM
I have found getting a good insurance rate takes some shopping and a bit of a philosophy. Basically you put forth the attitude that I don't have any money, they are making me have this piece of paper, I have no intention of making any insurance claims and I might not do this at all if it is a lot of money. Every state has lower limits on policies but, shopping will take maybe 6 weeks or 2 months to get the right answer back.

In my description of my business, I declared I am not up on scaffolding or high ladders, there is no heavy equipment running around to get run over by or to do any property damage so someone in the insurance feild is going to have to explain why I am paying what ever amount. The other angles is that the policy is an all year round policy whereas you are covering the building of this thing being a painter and a light carpenter or using high tech tools like a rake and a broom. Then the "event" is an extention of this that might only cost another $300 if there is something to be concerned about, namely crawling, slides, people flying through the air etc.

By being able to shop, be paitient (and intentionally a little whiney) you might get the whole policy for about $600 down and $150 a month (depending on your state) then of course when you do start making money expect to be dishing out a percentage of confirmed gross income. If you are in a hurry and gotta have this to make money right this minute, expect to pay $2500 cash right now for a piece of paper even if you are only expecting to make $500. If you shop you can possibly get a monthly payment that can be handled.

The next step is how to pay these expenses. Well this is where sponsors come up with money that gets used for the down payment in exchange for their banner at the front gate and the monthly payments come from what was actually made from the event or more sponsors! Each of 12 sponsors has to kick in $150 to be on the fliers or what have you or if they want fewer involved, more money buys those spots and gets more services, mentions of various spots in advertising.

Everything becomes a game of the money comes from the customer, not from a bank or your personal savings that you really don't have yet.

You have to think about how other businesses work. Lowes puts there money into a stock car that ends up on TV running around a track for 2 hours. They might have had to buy a $150,000 car or two and pay th days salary for 12 support people compared to 1 million dollars to run a commercial in prime time. They get nothing back beyond the name on the car. The car could get trashed or it can be taken to every lowes loaction nearby once it is worn out just for something to look at.

Instead of adding all these numbers up and thinking there is no way I can save $20,000 and go all of these places and do all of these things that cost money even in gas to go do. Realize that even a total failure in this industry will still bring in money and probably break even while you learn from your mistakes or cost far less than a vacation to Disney world per year.

Education is expensive and it is better to have spent 10 years screwing up and learning what was wrong or understanding how someone else might have done a better job that could be emulated. It isn't like you are gonna come out the other end with a degree in basket weaving and $120,000 in student loans and intrest due.

A lot of this is serious work and it might take you two or three years to actually spend that $5,000 on the stuff that is the raw materials to make your event. ANd so, it might take you several years to come up with that extra $5,000. Plus everything you build or pick up at a flea market might be worth at least $20 then make you some money and be able to be sold to another haunt trying to expand or the occasional person with money starting up or just having a big party. If you don't yet have an event while building this out, you can be like a haunted house rental company to charity events or big halloween events. All those $20's add up over time like it is a savings account. Real savings accounts are only paying 1/2% or less intrest so it isn't like you are making a bad decision to invest in yourself and events you will gain money from.

It also takes several years to develop a market. How many times have you driven by a restaurant and thought some day I might go there. Sure if it lasts a few years that means it might be something.

To me the big problem is always where to securely store all of this stuff in a proper environment where it doesn't all rot. How much a month that costs seems to be the only thing that doesn't go away if you are keeping in control of your own investment in temporary situations. I'm still trying to figure out my last semi trailer might have actually been free because I bought it, put it on land I was paying for anyhow and then when I didn't need it sold it back to where I got it from for the same amount. They delivered it free and were happy to take it away because they needed it. Compared to years of storage garages at $125 each per month plus a shop to actually build things.

10-24-2010, 11:46 PM
Thanks guys, I'm trying to soak as much in as possible...its just a lot to take in.

Is there any way I could go around and ask to use someone's property...and possibly give them a chunk of what I earn? And then once my haunt gets popular enough...go get a place of my own? I dont think i'd want to do strictly an outdoor haunt...but as a start-up, I wouldnt be opposed to it.

Greg Chrise
10-25-2010, 04:35 PM
The reason an outdoor haunt was probably suggested may have something to do with a $25,000 building with a $20,000 sprinkler system, with a $16,000 fire detection and warning control system and oh, yeah building the haunt too, spend $25,000 or equivelant minimum advertising and so on. It can certainly be done but years of surprise big ticket expenses await.

You can either make the money or become partners with a dozen people that have all socked away $25,000 as partners and learn to hate each other when it isn't making the millions everyone demanded.

It is much better to develop mask making skilz, makeup skilz, set design skilz, haunt design skilz, haunt lighting skilz, haunt music silz, haunt marketing skilz that all work in your region, where you have proven to your self it really works and be your own person. Then the portion of the gain after expenses of the customers money becomes yours, not the landlords, the many partners, the fire system guys, the radio ad guys etc. Each of these topics begins at an acceptable base line and is improved every year relative to how many people bother to show up.

Back in the day there used to be auctions of pretty drab looking haunts that supposedly had $165,000 invested that sold for $10,000 to satisfy storage fees. You might only see 800 people your first year. I have seen only a few set up in some town and see 7,000 to 10,000 their first offering. Generally it wasn't their first attempt right out of the box, it was a learned program that works just for them for some reason and isn't totally all about having money to buy things. First it seems there was something to sell, a level of quality, an enthusiasm that captured lots of people's imagination. Every contact becomes a positive spark, every potential employee, every person that helped build something, every professional contact, every social networking site.

Conversely if you had to promise a bunch of people all sorts of things that weren't necessarily based in reality, you get left holding the bag or worse yet, you even owe someone a bag.

The skilz can be learned and they are worth something. It takes time.

Allen H
10-25-2010, 06:45 PM
Insurance for the outdoor event with a 1,500 expected attendance shouldnt run more than $1200 or so. Shouldnt be more than $1500. I would be shocked if it was more than that.,for the month of October.
Greg- we are so on the same page on this one.
No regret- Absolutely you can ask land owners to use their property, that turns it into an asset for them. It helps to look for places that are already trying something, maybe they already have a paintball park, or a bar-b-Q stand, or a fruit stand. Like a haunted trail those are low impact businesses that dont really require alot from the property.
You may also look at area farms that might have the land to do something, they handle all concessions and such and you provide the haunt know how, labor and materials.
I would do everything in your power to work at haunts as much as posible before you open one. Experience is the best teacher and will save you thousands or dollars when the time comes.
Think of who will benefit from your business, is there an independant fast food place or car wash near by, perhaps they will pay to print your tickets and flyers to have their logo or a coupon on them.
I dont claim to be an expert, I learn something about haunts every time I go to a new show and almost every day Im at work. I hate the concept of oweing someone money. So to me, grass roots is the way to go.

freak 'n' stein
10-25-2010, 10:31 PM
Hey No_Regret. I too am 20 with aspirations of starting my own haunt. I don't want to sound like I'm echoing everyone here, but it wasn't until I ordered Kelly's book (only a few weeks ago) that my wheels REALLY started turning. I've been doing a home show since I was 9. From there I graduated to helping a community park with a fundraiser haunt, the next year I worked an amusement park while still working with the community park. The year after that I joined the Jaycees and have been with them for the past two years. I can honestly say that with the Jaycees I've learned the most. I've gotten to come up with ideas, execute them, help run the show during the month of october and hold the same responsibilities that I would have on my own. I also visit as many haunts during the season as I can. If you haven't already, visit the haunt shows too! This past year I went to Transworld and got to meet other haunters. It's always good to pick haunter's brains. Talk to as many industry leaders as you can. When I lived in Ca, I called up a local haunt with about 25 questions and actually got the answers I needed. I also added Leonard Pickel on facebook and picked his brain. He gave me some EXCELLENT advice. Briefly met Leonard at the Transworld show too.

Like I said, my wheels have been turning lately but that is because I've gotten out there and done the leg work. Look for buildings you may be able to save up enough rent for (say 2-3 months worth of occupancy). I also mapped out my whole attraction in Google Sketchup after coming up with the room ideas. I've purchased the url already, gotten the logo drawn up, the name finalized, theme, characters/costumes as well as ideas for marketing the haunt.

Plan, Plan, Plan!! Kelly's book has helped me write the business plan and at any given moment, if I were to be approached by an investor, or vice versa, I feel adequately prepared. I could go on forever, but I digress. Best of luck to you. You clearly have the support of the forum. Oh, and watch as many haunt shows as you can. I have all the travel channel, history channel and diy channel Halloween specials DVR'd. They're always great for inspiration and keeping you motivated when you feel yourself getting discouraged!!!

10-26-2010, 09:03 AM
hello everyone-long time reader first time poster

My family has been doing a front yard Halloween night haunt for 25 years. This is the first year of our Haunted Ghost Walk at our farm!

We do it 8 nights from 7-11 and our turnout is averaging 100 people per night for a 15 minute walk with a ticket price of $7.

Volunteers are 8th graders helping out to make $ for a fieldtrip to Washington D.C.

I think we will profit around 2k, now thinking about next year:

What is the best way to spend that 2k on the walk? Any advice on how to find some really nice props but at cut rate prices? Should I be thinking of making my own stuff-any good book or site out ther that can be reeeally instructive on the technical side of things.Drama and theatre and building buildings I am really good at but electrical/mechanical not so good at "-(

BTW:Everyone that exits walks back up to my mom (she is a ghost storyteller that tells stories while everyone waits for their walk to open) that the walk is really awesome. Of the averaging 100-probably 10-15 per night are repeats that go through again and then come back the next weekend.

here is my farm haunt's website www.autumnwindsfarm.com

please let me know what you think and thank you for any help

02-14-2011, 10:26 AM
Hey guys, havent been on here much lately.

I am thinking about buying that entire combo from hauntbook.com, and trying to figure something out.

I really want to do my own haunted house...but unfortunately, making only about $10 an hour is making it very hard to save any kind of money up to open up even a small haunt.

Hope these books help me out, because this is something I would love doing for a career on down the line at some point.

Mr. Haunt
02-14-2011, 08:01 PM
No Regret

There have been times that I have felt like my dreams are getting smaller. BUT don't let it get to you......KEEP THE BIG DREAM ALIVE!!!

I am 28 and have been haunting since 18 or 19 as a home haunter. I have never worked at a prohaunt, but might consider doing so.

I have read Kells book it's the best ,but most of all it's the people you meet that are special.......I'm talking about the people on this forum. They are those special people!!!

They would not be on here and reply to our posts if they did not care about others wanting to start into the business. WE ARE THE NEXT GENERATION OF HAUNTERS!!!

One day we will be those special people that other young or old haunters turn to for advice.

They all wish they could reach out and take us all under their wings, If we lived in the same town I would say lets hook up.


Mr. Haunt

Greg Chrise
02-14-2011, 09:45 PM
There should be no limitation of age in your head. There should be no limitation for how much you can make per hour to buy what you need.

Even in hard times like now, employees make the same or less and there won't be any raises while those who provide a service even in parts of the country that don't even have capitalism yet, are making $25 to $35 per hour.

A real big part of the transformation you must imagine is being self employed rather than letting the man keep you down. Unless you have some proffessional carreer that is promising that might actually take precident over having a haunted house.

There are black guys selling silly ghetto clothes out of the trunk of their cars making $800 in a couple hours before the cops run them off because they have no liscence to sell in public. The pan handlers are making a prettu good living. Some homeless camps I see look like the entire camping section at Walmart.

It is tough when the rest of the world has been trained that you have to have a job. Telling you to do the same and be thankfull even if it is minimum wage. What do they really know?

Another thing you will need it the time and physical ability to make all of this stuff. The haunt world is full of do it yourselfers instead of just buying high dollar props like some other business plan that says don't start until you have saved 2 years of income while you run your business and have $375,000 in some kind of retail stuff and there is a 1 in 90 shot you will make it.

That is BS too. Somehow people that NEED to make money keep their businesses or services going with no money over and over from the ground up. They just go to their version of work instead of someone elses.

Being young should be an advantage. You will find old dudes with money that are too tired to do anything themselves. You will be able to build things and gain skilz and not kill yourself in the process. The real trick is telling when you have gotten old and then you have no choice but to do what the old dudes did.

The sooner you can make a bunch of crap out of cheap materials and stash it somewhere safe, collect junk from garage sales and plain old things that are being thrown away the better. The biggest trick is having the ability to cruise your area and see what is piled up here and there and imagine what other worldly could be done with those things.

Instead of an apartment you rent a shop cheap not intended to be a retail location where people come to shop. Build an underground community of like people that want to get their hands in plaster to know they can do something.

You are never going to find a self help book that describes or suggests you should f%^K up your credit for life to have what you want. Wonder why business owners look or other people with money? There is a whole economy in the world that has nothing to do with banks. I'm talking still on the legal side of the economy.

You really have to see things like a wanderer. This business here has this stuff left over. That business right over there can take this same stuff and make something out of it but, somehow they never got together because they are wasting their time filling out business plans, credit applications and talking to their loser banker who is also an employee of someone else. They don't know! Don't waste your time talking to real people.

Entire generations went with this imagined crap that if you have a job and do a good job you will make it and save for retirement as you go. Now we are hearing that isn't working out but for 40 years everyone busted their ass. Sorry. Every time I hear someone say they have to take a job with benefits because they have kids, I understand but feel so sorry for them like they just got sentenced to prison for years. Sorry.

Am I speaking English here?

Greg Chrise
02-14-2011, 11:13 PM
I've talked to a lot of old haunters. What probably isn't in your business plan is how some of them have built 25 different haunts to get where they are. Some have other skilz that they do when not haunting. Some sell the props over and over every other year to help others and get recapitalized.

There is one wierd guy who doesn't move every year and builds everything out of 12 gage steel and 9 inch thick concrete.

There are all kinds of construction skills that could be crews of people that work the rest of the year in commercial or residential situations. There are props to be made and sold that might be a side business.

There are advertising skills that pay $100 per hour to other businesses that can be learned.

Gee if you made $25 an hour how many hours would you have to work per week to make it? If you made $100 per hour how many hours a week would you need to make it? What can you do that makes more money even part time. Plus the actual do it yourself process is in lue of paying a contractor $45 per hour to build you something like everyone else pays. Or in this economy they get the $25 per hour guy instead.

When you are self employed you save so much money because it isn't being withheld for taxes. That is easily a couple thousand available right there. Writting things off is not magic, you still have to earn the money to buy those things in the course of doing business but, not having to pay taxes directly adds up to lots of money per year. More money than you can build walls every year. This isn't some subversive manifesto, it is what your employer doesn't want you to realize how profits are made or you would do the same thing right now in some cases.

If you have a pile of junk fashioned into something it it pretty easy to find someone that was just thinking about having a haunted attraction. Guess what, you have one! Or certainly the plans to put one together all well under your belt.

When times are hard there are a number of landlords that will do anything to make a mortgage payment and rent out a big space. It isn't going to go away either as technology has physically changed how much space is needed for everything. Work spaces have been made smaller, retail no longer needs as much space as a percentage is on line or ordered in over night.

Historically all the old dudes and the greatest haunted events started in a down economy for two reasons. One they needed a better job and Two industries and commercial spaces were left to provide the junk needed to be recycled into something else. It was not because everyone figured out how to channel the fat off the land.

When you watch things go down the street you might laugh at the dirty people with a 30 year old truck with dents and the paint not really there with a trailer full of bicycles and refrigerators. Guess what this January the price of scrap metal was up and these dudes were making $600 and $700 per day. Laugh all you want. How much did you make after taxes? $60

How many haunt walls is that? You begin to see tearing down buildings for materials and contents, you begin to see auctions where you can buy the equivelant of 3 haunted houses for $10,000 right now. It is all an underground not widely publicized. Some 2 year college student girl writting how to save money articles for AOL isn't going to figure this one out. After her student loan comes due she might end up in a trailer park with a guy that collects old refrigerators.

And you might have to travel to get what you need so become an ace mechanic. Most of the books published are by people with PHDs that are continueing their study and making an income with a book. They usually come from a perspective of living at some level of privelage that isn't really applicable to the real world. There are tons of books and information on the internet about having a business but, real research into these people generally proves they HAD a business that epically failed and that is who you are supposed to listen to? They are no longer willing to stoop to the level of really working but suggest you can? WTF?

The people really doing it don't have the time to hang out and write a book about made up rules.
Thank you good night, I'll be here every Tuesday.

Greg Chrise
02-14-2011, 11:36 PM
How much of Screams tears down every year or do they cover it up?

Mr. Haunt
02-15-2011, 12:31 PM
Thanks Greg for your wisdom!!!

I'm not sure if it stuck out to you or not, but a "Mans Old Junk is a Haunters new Treassure".

To help keep cost down, do a lot yourself if at all possible. Build your own props and costumes as this will help a bunch.

Have you seen this web site???


Great stuff here, remember creativity can go a long way!!!


02-16-2011, 09:44 AM
Yeah, I am obviously going to have to start small.

I am just racking my brains at the moment on how I want to turn the concept I have, into a cheap, doable first year haunt.

But I am also contemplating on if I want to wait on this concept...and use a different one for a few years to try to build up enough money to do the concept I really want to pull off.

I'm just not sure if I can effectively pull off the concept that I REALLY want to pull off, on a cheap budget. So I have some dilemmas that I am trying to mull over.

It is going to be a year or two down the line before I open up one anyways. But I really cannot wait.

02-16-2011, 05:26 PM
Not sure if this might work for you, but our area does a haunted hayride every year and basically what they do is offer a space to do a skit to anyone who wants to. I'm sure they have guidelines and such, but whoever takes a skit area is essentially in charge of everything for it...the skit, furnishing actors, etc. A few companies and even people like Relay for Life do skits....its a hodge podge of groups and even families.

Customers vote and the winners get cash prizes.

I've been to it a few times and some of the skits RAWKS while others are ho-hum, but the place is always packed with several hour long lines. It might be a way to cheaply start up since they would be responsible for furnishing their skit stop.

Also, high school and college art students and drama majors might help out for free. We had interest from a sorority once because they could use the time for community service hours. Lots of fresh talent for free!

Good luck to you! This certainly is a fun industry! :)

Mr. Haunt
02-17-2011, 01:09 PM

Can you explain more about this skit thing???

Mr. Haunt

02-17-2011, 03:43 PM
Sure! I think a lions club organizes the haunt which runs on unusable ground at the end of a tiny airport runway strip. Mid summer they advertise for anyone interested in hosting a skit. The land has electricity run to each clearing in the woods and it's the responsibility of the organization that signs up for the skit to do all of the planning, decorating, and supplies the needed actors for their skit. They run the hayride three nights. Customers that ridethe hayride get a ticket to vote for their favorite skit at the end of the hayride. They then offer cash prizes to the top three skits. Some skits go all out and others are just a static display, but it seems like it would be a fairly low cost idea to start. One year a group did a wizard of oz skit and melted the wicked witch right into the ground with a smoke screen. It was absolutely awesome!
I'm sure there's a commitee that skit ideas have to be run thru, but it might work!

Mr. Haunt
02-19-2011, 09:48 AM
Never heard of that here in MN, I have tried I think once to contact a local Lions Club to do a haunt with but they showed no interest. They might not have had the money, or at least this as been the issue for everyone I have contacted to partner with.


Mr. Haunt

02-19-2011, 10:08 AM
I got my copy of Kelly Allen's book yesterday, and began reading it last night. I have to say it is pretty motivating, just seeing and reading that someone that has been successful in the industry felt/feels and does/says/acts the same way I do about it.

There are definitely alot more aspects behind opening a haunt than I thought there were, and I am glad that this book has opened my eyes to those things. It is going to be a lot of hard work, and I realize this. I hope that a year or two down the line, I can have my business plan finished, and get up to a bank to try to convince a loan officer to give me a helping hand in making my dream come true.

- I really want to do a haunted hayride to an indoor haunt. Now, while that isnt guaranteed that im going to do the hayride...I do have an idea for the hayride that i've never heard of anyone doing, and think would scare EVERYONE...thats the only reason i'm kinda hung on trying to pull that off.

Also, trying to come up with a theme/storyline that I can do for a hayride/indoor haunt is kind of hard for me to pull off. There are definitely alot of variables to consider, and while exciting...its also alot of pondering haha.

Thank you for all the support and help guys, I do appreciate it greatly....and if anyone else would like to chime in, please feel free to do so.

02-22-2011, 04:46 AM
Dear No_Regret,

I am like you, i have a dream to start a haunt, but right now what is holding me back is the money to start. i have read all the books talked with my friends about it. Friends are ok but not all of them will go for it. Family is good but in my case.. my dad for one, doesn't like the idea that his son wants to start something cool. in other words he just wants the best for me. he would want to see me as a worker vs a owner. I can too talk all day about haunted house stuff. sometimes i think i drive my wife crazy about it. I do have plans on paper, i can see it in my mind. how it's going to be all built.

Now, i am seen it. it can't happen now but in the next year or two yes. this is all on my end, i have to put it all on paper. it's hard for me to get it from my mind to seeing it on paper. so far i have only 60% done on paper. i know what i want to call it. i know what type of price I want. I know what kind of props etc etc etc.. I just need it to get done. it's been hard for me to do that.

i know that i will lose friends over this and i will make more. . but it's something i that i am willing to face. everyone will have to face something like that in there life time. YOU need to know that being a haunt owner can be good or bad, some times you have put your foot down on things that you don't like to do but that's being a boss, owner, etc etc..

as far as running a haunt, you will get a lot people wanting to helping you or give you ideas like there no tomorrow. becarefull of who you want to hang with or be with. i have seen people get hurt over the littlest things. i have seen hubby's and wife's spit so fast over something that they want to do in life. you make shure that you know what you are getting in too. look all in too what can happen, all ways look for the best way to get out of some thing.

when building a haunt, think about the little things too aka nails, papers, actors, light bulbs, etc etc. before the opening night, go off some where and think back to the day that you wanted to start a haunt, think back to the every day that idea came in to mind and see how far you came. you will be happy. I know you will. because you got there. in joy that beer that you are going to have at the end of the first night of being open. and say to your self that you did it. you got some where that few have gotten.

hope this helps in any way


02-22-2011, 08:21 AM
Thank you for the kind words of wisdom HG. Yeah, its been stressing me out pretty bad lately. I know that I need to put off some things til the end of this year. I am going to try to schedule a week straight of vacation in October, so that I can go see how some of the bigger haunts are operating/are set up.

Right now I am planning on visiting these haunts this October:

Dead Acres
Randy Bates Haunted Hotel/Hayride

After that its a tossup- I live near Akron, Ohio, and I am willing to drive a good distance lol seeing as how I am going to have to drive 7.5 hours to see Randy's haunt. I'm going to pick a couple more, and hope that these haunts can help me figure things out a little better.

02-23-2011, 07:48 AM
First of all, congrats on entering the industry! For the most part everyone gets along and we're all good friends. First, let me tell you a bit about myself. I, myself am wanting to open my own attraction in the near future. However, i'm not sure you have this advantage. I already work, for the time being, at a professional attraction and have become close friends with it's owner. I work there throughout the summer and during spring and fall. I help with construction, some design, and distressing. During the season I do makeup, act, and I do other things on nights when extra help is needed outside. But my advice to you, is that you make as many friends as possible. Everyone on this website has some sort of information to give. I read over the repliers to your post and each reply has some very valuable information. I too made a post similar to this and many repliers gave me much information, I copied each post and pasted it on word. I would reccomend the same thing to you. But once again, many, many people on this website has much valuable information they they would be willing to give, you just have to ask.

02-23-2011, 08:16 AM
Thanks Pierce, and believe me if I didnt have a conflicting work schedule, I would most definitely still be doing my acting at the Haunted Schoolhouse in Akron, but sometimes life happens. Working there definitely sparked a love for the horror/haunt genre that I didnt even know I had.

I always liked going to haunted houses as a kid lol, but I didnt really realize how much I loved scaring the hell out of people until actually acting at a haunt. Its one of the greatest feelings in the world lol and if I couldnt get a scare on em, I would change it up and harras em just to get a laugh. Entertainment is key in my opinion.

Its hard not to stress about opening my own haunted house. It should be something that I should be excited about, which I am. But trying to put together ideas for a theme/storyline as well as what kind of scenes I would want to do, while also trying to be original...its a pretty tough task lol.

02-23-2011, 09:44 AM
Adding ScareHouse in Pittsburgh to my list of haunts that I am going to go see this year. It is going to be a lot of driving, but I think it will be a good learning experience.

02-23-2011, 10:54 AM
Some other haunts you may want to check out (each has a different style):

Spookyworld/Nightmare New England (New Hampshire)
Castle Blood (Pennsylvania)
Dream Reapers (Chicago, IL)
Fear Fair (Indiana)

02-23-2011, 11:27 PM
Good thread ... keeps the inspiration and excitment going for me! We're planning on doing a Hayride and having issues of finding good location and considering asking some locals folks with land for the opportunity as many have suggested here on the forums. My question is what about doing a trail/hayride combo haunt where it's 50/50 vs a full hayride. I think this gives some variety and saves money on hayride equipment, half mile trail with half mile hayride, just like some feedback on what yas think?

I crunched the numbers and you definitely have a greater potential with throughput on a hayride than inside haunt it appears. I think just adding another hay wagon of say 30 capacity equivicates to like 10-15 new rooms for a inside haunt, and can always build hayride trail extensions if need to squeeze that addtional wagon if timing is too close between wagon departures, if that makes sense.

For such a haunt if you wanted to compress it all into a smaller area so you don't have 8-10 acres to lease but say only 3-4 acres, what do you think about using the land scaping fabric 8ft width(high) to separate your paths and/or trails vs. building structures. Has anybody done this? I know it's a mesh material but as long as blocks customer's view of future scenes....

02-24-2011, 07:53 AM
Good thread ... keeps the inspiration and excitment going for me! We're planning on doing a Hayride and having issues of finding good location and considering asking some locals folks with land for the opportunity as many have suggested here on the forums. My question is what about doing a trail/hayride combo haunt where it's 50/50 vs a full hayride. I think this gives some variety and saves money on hayride equipment, half mile trail with half mile hayride, just like some feedback on what yas think?

I crunched the numbers and you definitely have a greater potential with throughput on a hayride than inside haunt it appears. I think just adding another hay wagon of say 30 capacity equivicates to like 10-15 new rooms for a inside haunt, and can always build hayride trail extensions if need to squeeze that addtional wagon if timing is too close between wagon departures, if that makes sense.

For such a haunt if you wanted to compress it all into a smaller area so you don't have 8-10 acres to lease but say only 3-4 acres, what do you think about using the land scaping fabric 8ft width(high) to separate your paths and/or trails vs. building structures. Has anybody done this? I know it's a mesh material but as long as blocks customer's view of future scenes....

Hey Spookjj...where are you located? I was thinking about doing a hayride/outdoor haunt as a start-up, and then adding an indoor haunt to the attraction years on down the line after opening, once I had earned enough revenue/profits to do so.

02-25-2011, 08:27 AM
I have another question really quick guys haha sorry I am being a pain.

If I were to do an outdoor haunt as a start up, and then add an indoor haunt a few years later...would it be better for me to follow a theme with the indoor haunt, or could I go a whole different direction and use a different theme?

02-28-2011, 09:26 AM
Hello again! You have a good choice there. Either will do. The attraction I work for is opening a new outdoor walking attraction and we are following a similar storyline that has to do with the main attraction. But I have seen haunts who may open an attraction about a hospital, and open a side attraction about clowns. It works both ways, its really based on how creative you are, and whether you want to or not. -Tristin

03-02-2011, 01:44 PM
I'm 20 years old, and absolutely want to and would love to open and run my own haunted house. I am working full-time right now...but I am not making very good money, and I know my credit would be nowhere near good enough to get a good loan out.

I would like to start a pro haunt, and maybe start small and kind of build into something big...but I dont even know how to get my foot in the door with how things in this industry are so expensive to do.

Any help/advice/tips for me would be greatly appreciated guys (and gals).

[PS, I know this question has probably been asked before, so I do apologize in advance.]

Another way to start out is with a trailer haunt. It can be relatively cheap and you can start small. You wouldn't have to worry as much about the weather. That's what I'm starting up this year.

03-02-2011, 03:05 PM
Ive been trying to find a location for the last couple of years......its tough....everything is ready but location is holding me back.......i think im gonna buy some land and work it off that.......start out in the woods then work to build a big pole barn.....and have indoors and outdoor thing......

03-04-2011, 06:47 PM
Glad to hear you are reading the Kelly's book. I too read his book and found it very helpful.

I suggest you attend his class on Friday, June 3 at the Midwest Haunters Convention in Columbus, Ohio. His all day class is about getting started in the haunt business. There will be a couple thousand haunters there from around the country and you'll find lots of advice over the weekend. It's a great place to socialize with other haunters too and exhibitors will be there selling their wares. It will help you with your financial planning.

You might want to consider going on our two day bus tour to 10 haunts with 19 attractions (June 1 & 2). It's a great way to see a variety of haunts and how some haunts have partnered with other businesses (reducing their cost to operate).

Your question about the theme; I don't see a problem with a theme for an outdoor haunt and a different theme for an indoor haunt. Think about a clown attraction for the indoor haunt. Clown haunts are awesome.

We're moving our haunt in Columbus, Ohio (The Scare-A-Torium) to a new location. We hope to be building over the summer months. Feel free to contact me and stop by to check out our progress.

Everyone needs goals; best of luck with your decision.

Kelly Collins
The Scare-A-Torium
The Midwest Haunters Convention

Jim Warfield
03-04-2011, 07:38 PM
What do you really like about this thing called "Haunting?"
If it is simply scaring people, then maybe this is where you not only begin but also end your future quest.
As the owner of a haunt you will probably be too busy the majority of the time (because "Time" is short and passes very quickly in October!) you will be the Captain of this ship of screamers and ocassional no-shows and the luxury of simply scaring your customers you will not be able to "get to" most of the time.
If you really like the exercise and mental challenges of the construction/building end of things, you will be doing this all the rest of the year, maybe non-stop?
How many hours do you spend looking at things like tvs, computer screens? Better plan upon cutting That time way back to make sure you will have the best possible chance for a successfull haunted enterprise because once your wild ride with all of this begins there will be not alot of goof-off time as the (Successfull) owner.
Some people see the "Boss" as the guy who has it easier, makes all the munny! But the reality of it is you will be directly responsible for EVERYTHING! Good or bad, completed or waiting to be done..
I grit my teeth everytime someone says to me:"You have too much time on your hands'" No I don't. Probably never will have. I find some comfort in the fact that most of the people saying this work for someone else, they have never owned a business (successfull or successfully) and spent maybe 30 hours each week holding down a barstool with their ever-increasing butt!
My house will have been open for nightly tours 9,000 nights this year!
I have alot of fun most of those nights because I am not worrying about employees showing up or doing a good job or the crowd outside... because small groups show up the rest of the year and I get to totally entertain them!
Maybe I have the best of both worlds here?
Most people are impressed by all the extreme work I have put into this property, yet "something" has to be done, fixed, modified, built all the time! Most of these things "needing" will never be noticed or impress any customer either!