View Full Version : Starting to panic...

Duke of Darkness
10-07-2011, 01:17 AM
Let me be clear upfront, I am writing this rant largely to vent, any advice however, would be appreciated. Also, I am not blaming anyone in particular here. The idea is not to air dirty laundry, just to vent my frustration.

I had been out of the haunt industry for a couple of years. After some fits and starts I had a partner pull out at the last minute and decided that it was time to move on to other pursuits. I opened a security company and threw my efforts into that. The company got involved with schools and that let to us forming an anti-bullying program. We decided to roll that off into a separate non-profit. About that time, I went to bid on the security contract for a large haunted attraction and they asked me a big question that I did not expect, "we have an extra space next door, would you be interested in building something in there?" And so it began. They made me an offer that I could not refuse: "between our locations we are already spending tens of thousands in advertising, there will be TV commercials, radio commercials, buses, billboards, the whole deal. The rent is already paid. You will be co-located with one of our larger attractions. All you have to do is build and run the attraction and pay us a percentage at the end of the season." It was (and is) a great deal and an opportunity that I simply couldn't pass up. Sure, this was the middle of August and I would have to build on a limited time and budget, but I had a stack of walls and some really good props in my barn, so I decided to go for it, this could provide the capital that we needed to really kick off our charity in a big way. It was also to serve as the first of many annual fund raisers.

We busted ass to get the thing built and open on time. The haunt is small, but we put together a really good show. The people who have gone through have raved about it. The problem is that there have been way too few of those people. The haunt with which we are co-located fell behind on their construction schedule. Many of their vendor shipments didn't arrive. I won't go into the drama that led to all of the problems, but the larger attraction has not opened and people are pointing fingers at each other as to why. We, the small secondary attraction, opened our doors on time last weekend. We opened them to a dead mall. We did 46 people Saturday night. That was scary and bad enough, but it has decreased each night since. Tonight we did only 5 people! Our investment is not large by haunt standards, but I am looking at a major loss here. The bigger haunt is opening tomorrow and a carnival is coming in for the last couple of weeks. Maybe the season can be salvaged, but I am beginning to wonder if we are going to be able to recover. The marketing is out there, but this is a new location and people just don't seem to realize that we are here. I have kids in the local high schools working to drum up business for us. We are passing out flyers by the score. I am at my wits end and out of time and money to mount a separate marketing campaign. I guess all that I can really do is cross my fingers and hope that things improve. I have been involved with haunts for over 20 years and have never seen anything like this and it scares me. Please wish us your best.


10-07-2011, 04:10 AM
Well I would say this, the haunted house business is a tough one. When you partner with other haunted house owners you really really have to be careful. There are more and more questionable "business" people entering the fray here. For the most part it's a cash business and that attracts people with intent to get rich quick. I'm sorry for your loss but I have a bright spot for you.

Since the haunt is now going to open and their ads are finally out there you will see business pick up. What you are doing in the local schools is fine but add the following to your mix:

Website youtube video
Website coupon
Facebook, tell your actors with them to post to their friends. I video can go viral this way.
Put fliers in Taco Bells (they never turn you down, at least around MI and OH), gas stations, local colleges
Don't waste a dime on radio
Press releases to local news, paper and even online free press releases.
Blog if you have time
Print business cards with coupons (very cheap) and leave them everywhere

Those are my thoughts. I think you'll do okay. It's still early in the season. The biggest crows are the last 3 weeks of October anyway. Diehards come out to play early and your real audience will come the week of the 17th and the 24th then expect it to die off. Halloween isn't a big night as you would expect, there are just too many offerings to split your crowd.

I wish you well.

Haunter Stu

10-08-2011, 08:11 AM
I would recommend that all owners research guerilla marketing. Great info on inexpensive marketing ideas. I use to believe in radio but things are changing. Social media is cheap and effective. Best of luck!