View Full Version : 1st year stats and what I learned/pics

11-03-2010, 08:53 PM
About 2.5 months ago I was ready to not open this year as I didn't think I would be ready and it woulld not be exactly as I wanted. Well I put it out to the masses(you) and you said open. I did. Here is what happened.
first let me say I have no idea what i am doing but I do know how to run a business. My haunt is located in Brookings,SD and is called "The Fear Asylum." The theme is a insane asylum. I have wanted to do a haunted house for YEARS but never knew where to start. So after last Halloween I started doing research.
This sent me to Transworld. My head was spinning with all the ideas and products. I bought very little and headed home.
Where to put it...Well I own a hottub business with about 4500 ft. I decided to try and sell as much of my inventory as I could by Oct 1 and use my shop. It worked. I started building like mad. I wanted to open Oct 21st and didn't make it. I opened on Oct.28th-31st. We ran 27 people threw on day 1. Not so good.
I have a degree in marketing and spent very little time on the marketing of this project. I just wanted to open it. Not very smart but I underestimated the time is was going to take to build this thing. I wanted it to be VERY detailed and realistic. I have a base of about 50,000 people within 25 miles. 12,000 are college students. One thing I did buy at Transworld was a gore Galore Bloody mary costume as one of my main characters in my haunt. Kevin told me to use it as a marketing tool. I didn't want people to see it unless they went threw the haunt. Mistake #2. Day 2 we had 71 people go threw. They all loved it. ( I have nothing for competition here besides a few charity things) People around here dont know what a great haunted house is. they have no idea. were not there yet but we will be. With a investment of about $13k so far i need to turn this thing around. I grabbed Kevins costume and one of my actors and headed down town for about 1 hour before we opened. That night we had 147 people come threw. the last night we had 156 people come threw. They all loved it.
This was a financial loss as I only charged $6. But I did not plan on making money the first year. In fact I plan on loosing money next year too. This is a product and it will take me a couple years to get the name out. I am fine with that because long term it will turn a profit.
I believe you need to have a theme of some sort and have characters to match. we ended up with a few characters by accident and they were some of the biggest hits of the show. I am going to now focus on new characters and work on character development.( More product name recognition)
detail,lighting,sound and atmosphere seemed to e way creepier then any gory prop so I think we will continue down that path. (anyone know how to build a remote controlled trike for my doll room)
Marketing,marketing,marketing. That will be a main focus this year and we will really work on a fbook,twitter,etc. following. Not to mention some autograph sessions at the local party store a few times this year with my newest inmate "Johnnie Freaktacular" More on him later.
Quality actors will be a main focus for us. Interaction between guests and cast will be encouraged.
We only had about 2500 ft. of haunt this year and only took about 10 minutes to go threw. Next year we will expand and open up another "wing" of the asylum.
we will also up the fee next year. i did have some people freak at the $6. You get what ya pay for. So I will take a few years to get a name and a following before I worry about big profit or any for that matter. I am not looking for a quick buck. No such thing. I am in this for the long haul. It will now be a part of our annual event calendar. A big part of our annual calendar.
So thanks for the tips and help this last year. maybe this will help someone else out. I consider this a great first year. we had almost 500 people come threw, No one complained, everyone had a blast, 2 people peed their pants, and everyone cant wait til next year. Me? I spent a buttload of money and giggled my ass off for 4 days straight. I am now full speed ahead on next year.


11-04-2010, 12:45 AM
sounds like u learned soemthing! thats awesome! i am gonna be a first time haunt coming this year 2011
one thing i def know about is marketing. seeing how the haunt is going on the 2nd and 3rd floor of the nightclub i manage/partly own and dj at. so i know quite a few things about marketing. on top of that. we already have abase crowd to advertise to... so that'll be awesome as well!

so what do u think u will do differently next year ?

11-04-2010, 05:54 AM
1. We will add about 1500 more feet to the attraction. Detail it further and better and add some more rooms.
2. We are really going to focus on character development. One thing I noticed this year was people came threw looking for a couple key characters that they had seen the night before( I had some people come threw 2-3x and charged every time) I remember 1 guy going threw saying "where is that big thing" (gore galore costume) when it finally came at him he cheered like his team just won the superbowl! My wife played a crazy chick that really interacted with the guests. Everyone loved her and it helped sell the realism.
So we are going to make sure we have really good actors and build on our current and new characters. This year at Transworld I will be looking for great costuming and learn how to do makeup.
3. Marketing is the big thing this year. We are going to do alot of things throughout the year to build a "buzz" about next season. I am going to take Kevins advice from Gore galore and have that Bloody mary costume out doing the 4th of july parade etc. I am also teaming up with the local party store and a couple other business's to cross promote. Believe it or not, they came to me because they liked it so much. Like I said before, people around here have never seen this type of attraction before.
4. Start early. I am going to Vegas in about an hour. When I get back I am going to start on next years layout. It was way to stressful this year to get it all done in 2months.
5. I will be open longer next year and charge around $8-$10.

Hope that helps. Dont underestimate the cost and time involved in this process. And be ready to delegate responsibility. My head was mush doing it all myself.


11-04-2010, 08:07 AM
i think the one thing i learned without even being open is...
i originally was just gonna charge $10 my first year. well... now i decided to charge $13. reason being...
im gonna flood the market with $3 off coupons. this way i can lock in sponsors to set up my display for the coupons in their store.. annnnd people think they are saving big money to come to my attraction!
im gonna see how many people in line actually have the coupons. and depending on how good my haunt looks by the 2011 season on whether im gonna pass out coupons to those people in line :)
i know i will especially do this on thurs and sundays :)
but if u dont have a coupon on friday or saturday and theres a line. guess what... no coupon LOL

just imagine being able to go to a store/sponsor and say every time i advertise i will say to these people where they can get their $3 off coupons lol. retailers will love it. plus... i plan on spending all of september hitting up the mall and other stores just to pass out coupons to the employees. so this way they will leave the coupons in their break room and such :) maybe pass them out to their friends ? who knows....

11-04-2010, 08:29 AM
try having a longer season! maybe 2 or three weekends. Marketing will Help alot! with the school close have a student discount after you raise the price. It sounds like you had a good 1st year! Have a great rest of the year! the Pics looks great!

Peter T

11-04-2010, 01:26 PM
Capt. Chaos.... Just remember, although you did lose money, there are many people (me included) who endlessly travel these forums who are VERY jealous of you. You actually designed and opened your own haunt!! You lived the dream, even if it was only for a weekend. Congratulations!

A few questions: Was already owning a retail location a huge advantage to you? What was your experience with the city as far as permits and fire safety go? How many actors did you use, and how did you find them?

Thanks for your time!

11-05-2010, 07:16 PM
Hay my name is Jessica and I love what your doing. When I was 14 a man said he would share the greatest secret about haunted houses with me only if I promised to share it with the world. "You know your working at a great haunted house when you know they don't make any money that year and open the next." So I got nothing but respect for you and your haunt.

I came up with some asylum costumes that are pretty cool and original looking an easy to make this year. If you want them your more then welcome to them. I would even offer to make them but I'm kinda lacking in a studio to workshop in.

Hit me up and let me know if your interested.

11-05-2010, 08:23 PM
Also on the plus side: That's a pretty good pants-peeing percentage.

11-07-2010, 06:50 PM
I am not going to lie. I am VERY lucky. Owning my own building is a huge advantage but.....I still need to be able to run my business out of it and I cant leave it up year round. I had to move alot of inventory around to pull it off and it did become a bit of a hassle for my staff. Next year will be a bigger challenge because my season will be longer and I am going to use up more of the building for the "new wing" I am adding on my haunt.
As far as the city and fire marshall....once again VERY lucky. I already own a commercial piece of property so I needed no special permits and the fire marshall?
Well I work as a full time career firefighter on top of my business interests and the fire marshall is a very good friend of mine. I DID talk with him before I started building and followed his guidelines but it was a non-issue for us.
My actors...I had no luck with any college or high school drama students so I got about 15-20 friends to help me out. I had so many people have a blast at the house that I have a list of volunteers for next year. Of all my friends that helped out acting about 3-4 were really good. My wife was the star of the show. I will be more stringent next year with my actors and help. this year was just a rush to open and get it done. I would not recommend that. I pd my actors 10 cents per guest. I stole that idea from Allen H. Thanks Allen.
I have been VERY lucky so far and I feel for all the hassle some of you have to go through to open. AS far as "the dream" all i can say is if that is your dream GO FOR IT!! But start small. I no nothing about this industry. The majority of you know way more then I ever will. But I do know how to run a business and am not afraid of research and trying differant things. My main dream was becoming a professional FireFighter. It took me 6 years and I had to compete against over 1000 people to achieve it. I did not make it the first time I tried. I tried more then once but I did not give up. Thats my advice. Thanks for the kind words.


Greg Chrise
11-07-2010, 09:12 PM
I agree with suggestions above to be open way more weekends. The first weekends will have a feel like what you just did but, it should be the word of mouth to multiply for the final weekend. A small town like yours can see 5,000 customers regularly.

I'm kind of guessing your building was originally Service Electric? If so I see a big opportunity where the back right side of the building might have the exterior all year long remain decorated as haunted house and be a billboard for the haunted event including dates for next year. The front of the building and all of the interior remains most of the time devoted to a more conservative spa business show room. People going down the road and shopping nearby have something to look at and wonder. Actually the front exterior never changes from advertising hot tubs and the haunt advertises that core business as well.

Like you say, some characters and some social networking and a little radio and you will have attendance way up there to begin with. Only doing one weekend will stay at 1/10th of your potential.

Also how much you charge is a big indicator to customers of how special an experience it might be. Is it a deal meal at burger king or Outback Steak house with the only difference realy being how much was spent on detailing. What you have doesn't look bad in the pictures. It is ind of like the old saying when someone is charging a lot for something, they must be proud of that. You should be proud and be compensated accordingly. In later years raising the prices may be a turn off. Only instead of upsetting only 1/100th of the population you are effecting 1/10th and their willingness to get off the couch. A little higher price is a bit more exciting.

I sold my haunt last year as the charity I supported decided to lower the price and be open less nights. It didn't seem to do what they expected it to. No one asked me before hand. I sold it to people that in their 3rd year are seeing well above 10% of the population and still increasing yearly. It is now their 2nd attraction in a town that was kind of lame with all sorts of events going on in October that would be competing for that same dollar.

Other keys to marketing become having lots of people a buzz with the doing detailing in the haunt and learning make up and actually qualifying to be an actor. They too see things and learn things they share with anyone they meet and that is better than spending thousands on advertising. It all becomes a serious process before hand where an investment was made in people. It takes time for everyone to be able to communicate to a number of people. You might be able to set the haunt up in a week but the educational process is weeks before that. Training the customers takes weeks also to see the fruits of everyone discussing what they saw and would do again.

11-08-2010, 06:44 AM
Nope Service Electric is next door. I am just to the west of them in the Ecowater/pioneer spa building. Used to be Trading Post years ago. I agree with your advice on people and price increase. Maybe I jump the price next year and charge what i should right away. good advice. Thanks.