View Full Version : Trailer Haunt Confusion

RJ Productions
03-12-2007, 02:34 AM
I have had a call or two questioning me about the booth at TransWorld offering trailer haunts for sale. Not to be confused with R&J Productions, the booth was for a different operator from Las Vegas. I wrote the articles in Hauntworld about the Trailer Haunt Concept and I too am also from Las Vegas ... hence the confusion.

I am the person that has lectured at TW for the last couple of years covering topics such as the Trailer Haunt Concept several times, Getting into the Haunt Business, Marketing, Sponsorship, Hands On Prop Distressing to name a few. I also write extensively for Hauntworld Magazine. People seeing a booth from Las Vegas promoting trailer haunts could of course be confused!

We had thought about building trailer haunts for people several years ago when the articles came out. But the only way to keep the cost down is to build them in used trailers. There would be a huge Product Liability issue building a "new" product in a used piece of equipment. Trying to obtain a manufacturing license and the cost of product liability insurance alone make it prohibitive. Besides, I found out most Haunters are in the business because they ARE creative, so most want to build their own attractions.

We build our attractions in a six trailer configuration, which is about the smallest footprint you can use to give your audience an actual show. If I had a client in the Midwest or back East, the transportation of the six trailers alone could almost cost as much as the attraction itself!!

I have personally designed and created my attractions. I do all the marketing, sponsorship and promotion. I have installed the electric, built the walls, welded the effects, painted the scenery, created the attraction literally from the ground up. This hands-on approach allows me a unique perspective.

To that end, I have recently been convinced to share my experience on a consulting basis. I have legitimately been building and designing the trailer attractions since 1999. Unlike some, I refuse to "pad" my experience. Although I did build and run an attraction in my garage starting in 1963 and charged admission, so I guess "legally" I have been a pro haunter since 1963!!! (WOW 44 years ago..do I feel old!!!!) But I digress!!

So as not to be confused, R&J Productions Las Vegas was the first to bring the Trailer Haunt Concept to national attention. We create our own attractions, can assist you in creating your own attraction, but we DO NOT build Trailer Haunt Attractions for anyone.

We look forward to everyone coming to TW in Vegas next year, but I WILL miss my Chicago trip each year! Anyone want to bring a real Chicago pizza with them next year!!!

Rich Strelak

Jim Warfield
03-12-2007, 07:27 AM
What was admission to your 1963 garage haunt?
How long was your show?
How many sq. feet?
How many empoyees?
People might want to go back this way, bigger is not always better(Girls!)
The basic question I already probably know the answer to, Did you have fun?

RJ Productions
03-12-2007, 11:40 AM
Let's see Jim, I'm not sure I can remember that far back!!!

I think I started out at two cents, but that quickly rose to a nickel I guess I had overhead! By the time I was in my early teens the price had steadly rose to a quarter (yes inflation even back then!)

One haunt was in a 1 1/2 car garage, another was under a huge wrap around porch.

Even then I always worked with volunteers!!! My "profits" went back into the show to buy new stuff (boy if they only had TW back then!!)

By the early teens I had a neighbor's Dad build a specail cart I designed. It attached to the back of a tricycle, two kids stood in it sort of like a Roman Chariot, and they were pedalled through the haunt! This way they could be lined up perfectly for the scares! You know a falling column, vampire jumping out of a coffin.... gee I guess I've designed Dark Rides too!!!

So you're right Jim, the shows were small, but well received!!!

I never did one during Halloween, I was too busy getting candy! I did mine during the summer vacation... a summer seasonal show!! !And most importantly, I had a blast doing them!! And it's still the main incentive 40 + years later!!!

03-15-2007, 02:33 AM
Right now we're re building our trailer haunted house... matter of fact I was out there looking it over today. It should be pretty cool when its all done... I must say that the trailer haunt we have is top notch in terms of safety.

I think the guy we bought it from spent about $200,000.00 or something just buying the trailers, installing all the stuff and meeting all the safety codes. I didn't see the booth selling the trailer haunts... how much was he offering them for?

I know if they're up to code and stuff it won't be cheap... our fire marshall stuck it to us on fire codes for that trailer haunt. Lucky for us we have most of what you need to be safe, but I'm sure the original owner spent no less than tens of thousands to do everything. I know we've spent about 10,000.00 or fixing things related to safety.


RJ Productions
03-15-2007, 05:30 PM
Good point Larry. The safety equipment is one thing you never cut corners on. The units being sold are two trailer attractions. I know they are being done so as not to have to install a sprinkler system. The problem might arise when dealing with your own local fire jurisdiction. Our local FD just instituted a new ordinance last year that created a whole new category called “Haunted House” which now states that a Haunted House requires a sprinkler system no matter the sq. footage!! So even this 2 trailer set up would need a sprinkler system and having the 2 trailers split by such a distance would make the fire system more expensive than what it would cost to put it in a 6 trailer configuration!

These are just a few of the reasons that I myself decided against building haunts as a finished product. Too many variables to create a set product line. But again the major concern is putting a “new” attraction in “used” equipment. You can sell a used car as is. But you can’t sell a “new” car with a rebuilt transmission and used tires! I looked into it and the product liability insurance to try and do that made it cost prohibitive.

Unfortunately we see this too many times in our industry. Someone builds some really cool animations for their own use and then thinks they can manufacture them for the industry. It’s all good till someone gets hurt, then who suffers?? The industry! There are far too many air cannons sold that use converted sprinkler valves. I’m sorry, but that valve was designed to handle WATER pressure of what maybe 40 lbs?? What happens when you push 100 lbs of AIR pressure through them???? It’s just a matter of time until there is a catastrophic failure. If it blows apart who gets hurt? An actor? A patron? Then what happens? That Haunt suffers, the other haunts in that market suffer and then the AP picks up a local article and the whole industry now puts customers in jeopardy!

WOW did I get off on a rant or what!!!! Sorry! But it is relevant.

It really isn’t fair to customers and other vendors. The big vendors carry product liability insurance, they have too. They only use new parts that are designed for that specific use. Because those things cost more, the product costs more. Someone else uses used parts, eBay finds, or modified components so they can offer a product cheaper. But is it cheaper in the long run???

If I can buy a "whole haunt" for a price that someone else says would only cover the cost of lumber, where were shortcuts taken? Am I saving that much if someone gets hurt or something happens and I'm out of business?

Enquiring minds want to know!

Kevin Dells
03-15-2007, 07:50 PM
Rich, Your absolutley right and it really is to bad that there isn't some sort of guidelines that all haunts have to follow nationwide for safety.
Just as you stated some haunts do some really stupid things and one day this will effect all haunts in general.

I have had many chats with haunt owners about some of the things they do that are unsafe in my area and much to my surprise even though they are our competition they agreed and took the unsafe scare out before somebody got seriously hurt.
I"ll send you a PM explaining your going to cringe!

03-16-2007, 04:35 AM
Since the subject is up on the board.

How do you connect the two?

I am eyeballing some of those modular Shipping/Storage containers. done right you can stack store them.

RJ Productions
03-17-2007, 03:30 PM
I worked with a guy from Canada that wanted to do the haunt in the cargo containers. His motivation was strictly financial, he had access to them REAL CHEAP!!! If you have to sprinkle them it’s a bear because they are actually smaller than a regular trailer. They are like 7’6” in width and only 7’ high. They way they are delivered changes some of your design aspects. Advantages are they sit on the ground so you do not have ramps or stairs to build. That is also a disadvantage in that you do not have much façade unless you build up.

Connecting utilities (electric, emergency systems, sound, etc.) can be cheaper which is more involved, or extremely quick and simple which is more expensive. Connecting them together for patrons to traverse involves cutting connecting doorways between trailers. You must be careful where and how you install doors. Trailers get a majority of their inherent strength from the combined structure itself. Cutting into the trailer compromises its structural integrity. Steps must be taken so the whole thing doesn’t collapse during transport!!!