View Full Version : Best Haunted Houses of ALL TIME
12-30-2011, 04:42 AM
I'm doing an article that I'm writing which will be along the lines of the article I did a couple years ago about the top things that have occurred in the haunt industry... game changing events. That article was very historic from my standpoint because it really outlined how we got were we are today. Now I'm going to do a follow up article to that... no bull, no politics, no one paying a dime to jump on the list, nothing...
Still open haunts, amusement parks, closed down haunts, haunts you may never have heard of to the biggest haunts in the business today... what are the best haunted houses of ALL TIME??????
Each haunted house must have played a huge roll in the development and success of this industry. Terror on Church street ON THE LIST FOR SURE because of what it brought to the table to jump start things, the original Spookyworld, Rocky Point, you tell me what do you think? This article has yet to be written but once it goes up on my websites it will live forever...
So here is your chance you tell me what you think. When I write this article it will go down as a historic piece because you'll learn the history behind the attractions and what they meant to our industry from the standpoint of how they changed the rules.
Silo-X was it a top 20 of all time... first haunts to franchise at one point opened in like 10 or 12 markets at the same time. No one has ever done that not before not since... does that make the cut?
You tell me!
This article will go in Hauntworld Magazine issue 30!
12-30-2011, 08:48 PM
Great idea - will make for some fun reading and offer some crucial insight into the history of our industry. I might suggest changing the focus from "BEST" of All Time to "MOST INFLUENTIAL" or something along those lines because some of the game changers that really helped shape the world of haunts might not necessarily make the cut for "BEST"...SILO X is a perfect example...one the Best of all time?...Not by a long shot. But a Game Changer...absolutely. Agreed that Terror on Church Street makes the list either way but in other cases it might not be so cut and dry. If you are talking about influential, sadly the Haunted House at Six Flags Great Adventure perhaps has had more impact on our industry than any other. I would think "The Best" and "The Biggest Game Changers/Most Influential" are likely two separate lists...but with some definite overlap (ex: Disney's Haunted Mansion).
Netherworld Haunted House
Mad Wax Sculptor
12-30-2011, 09:05 PM
How about Verdun and cutting edge both from the DFW market. I know I will not have to explain why either should qualify .
12-30-2011, 09:44 PM
Not when measured by financial success on a major scale of things. Is it the best as an "Industry Leader" or a tradeshow favorite thing? No. (Maybe I'm "leading" but not marking the path too well? I will now wander in dizzy, incomprehesible circles! Try to follow! hahah!)
Here are some things that make it singularlry unusual though. We will be seeing our 25th year, this year. OPEN almost Every Night of those 25 years plus Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
Ravens Grin Inn was an "Inn" from 1865 to maybe 1900.
Believe in the supernatural or not? It really doesn't matter because this house is still "Haunted"and has been ever since 1925 that we have heard of from elderly citizens of this town who tried to talk me out of buying the house .. "because it's HAUNTED!"
I got the credit and praise for some very cool special effects here that nobody yet knows how to achieve. No, I'm not able to make a woman appear in the corner of an underground solid stone room , then float across the room, then fly up and vanish through a 9 by 11 inch vent hole in the middle of the stone arch ceiling. I don't know how to make that happen, but my patrons remain impressed by what they saw those times! (And we have lost some good October employees after they had supernatural experiences working here! (If I knew how to do that, don't you think the odds would be very good that I just might be doing that little trick , at least once and awhile "someplace else"? Like maybe Las Vegas , New York or Hollywood? "NOOO! I've been right here almost Every Night for the last 25 years.. Boy, "October" is a Long Month!)
Some other qualitys found here as possibly peculair to the rest of the haunted house industry: I have done probably 95% of ALL the work in this house and property over these last 25 years- myself....
I have a very short list of those who have ever helped me do anything here including me doing 99% of all the plain old grunt work , the sweeping, lifting , mowing the grass, cutting tree limbs.picking up the cigarettte butts in the city parking lot that surrounds three sides of my house.
The majority of the house tours I have done by myself with nobody on-duty or on-call to assist me,which does make for a true "learning experience" when it comes to handling and dealing with the public. The content and style of my tours are very "Jim"-Heavy", not really a quality very easy for most haunt actors and haunts to immitate for numerous reasons, the first of which will be "Throughput". I determine "Throughput" based upon the success I feel I am making or not making in impressing the customer as their tour is in progress. The first room here with me illustraiting the history of this house might see 45 minutes or more going off the clock as a great many things occur in that dark and semi-dark room to their screams and laughter.
If I see 300 customers but only favorably impress a mere handfull, I just wasted my time and theirs and just signed my own financial/business death warrant. I just lost possibly my Only opportunity to create a very favorable impression, which would have sustained my livelyhood.. because impressed customers will talk, will have to talk and share their strange, fun, experiences with most of the people they know or they come to will meet.
I sure can't be an "Industry Leader" since I have designed and built almost everything here myself and don't have or use most items commonly found within a haunted house's confines. The "Make-Up" I wear is the all- natural aging foundation from my now 62 years of living, smiling, laughing, frowning. The costumes I have ever had were also made by me 98% of the time.
I blend humor with startles. Apprehension with peculair experiences and unusual thoughts allowing plenty of room for laughter, I have always tried to not copy the things I have ever seen or even heard of in other haunted venues. Many times people wil not know if I am "acting" or not? (Yet another thing for them to contemplate)
Another uncommon point: I quit spending almost any money at all to advertise this house many years ago with no drop in the business. I feel this worked because I have obviously remained in the same location and had steady nightly -weekly hours of operation, but more importantly , people like the show here and remain impressed with the experience for many years, often telling everyone they meet to come here. Achieving national notice for a little haunted house in the middle of "nowhere" was actually seemingly very easy for Ravens Grin and several things contributed to allow that to ever happen. I believe the two most important items along this quest was the outside "look" of the house, it tapped in to people's old mental images of what the term "Haunted House" might be, the other major factor.. simply, I was here to answer the phone when they called, I was devoted to this occupation full time and took it seriously as far as being commited to making it a success.
I have never done a gory show or an aggressive show or ever tried to terrorize any customer or intentionaly pushed a customer so far as to make them run away from the house or mess themselves, yet, or maybe because of these things, I have developed a very steady business that has been my sole support now for most of these 25 years in a small village in the center of a rural county with a small population , three hours from Chicago.
Yes, I was told by numerous professional haunters who I met over 20 years ago that I was doing almost everything wrong... they were "right", but I'm still here. I inherited or won NO money, I had no money at all when I came by this house.
I might have begged from 120 people before I finally found the man who believed in my ideas and loaned me the money to get started with, that is what it took to begin to see my dream materialize here. Yes, I paid him back many , many years ago.
So, the question was asked, I responded. I really don't know much first-hand about this industry other than what I have mostly read on-line and I am very inexperienced in a great many "haunted" things , but I seem to have figured things out in my own way and made them work , here, for me.
Jim Warfield-The Ravens Grin Inn-Mount Carroll Ill.
12-31-2011, 11:14 AM
Haunted Happenings at the old G-Fox building in Hartford was one of the best I've ever seen. Way ahead if its time.
12-31-2011, 11:50 AM
G-Fox is now Lake Compounce.
12-31-2011, 03:42 PM
I would think the House of Shock would be on the list. Embracing the negative publicity, not dispelling rumors of "Virgin Sacrifices", or talk of being run by a satanic cult makes them unique. Started in Jay's Grandfather's backyard as I understand. Not your run-of-the-mill operation nor are the operators. Yes I am partial since they are friends of mine. They are amazing though. Massive stage show out front with video and pyro.
12-31-2011, 03:57 PM
Billy is 110% right here... actually that is how I meant to portray the article in fact. I'm well aware that Silo-X isn't nor was it ever one of the best haunted houses ever as he pointed out... however as I pointed out it was the first haunted house that ever got franchised. Not only that but it was one of the first haunts that put the focus strictly on marketing not the show itself. It paid off making several owners a lot of money. We all learned from that approach...
Yes Billy I will change it from best ever to actually how you described because how you described is exactly in the end what I was doing... hence bring up things like Silo-X or closed down haunts like Spookyworld, and such. You are 110% correct in how it should be done and that is the end result create a new history lesson for this industry so as we trudge forward we don't lose ourselves how it got this far...
A lot of people paid a lot of hard knocks dues to build up to environment that many enjoy today... when I started people saw haunts with all the typical stereotypes like second rate entertainment, only for teens, devil worship, you name it but especially just movie copy cat haunts. Who didn't have Myers, or Jason, or Pinhead? C'mon now...
I agree House of Shock, I agree on Haunted Happenings, whats funny is most people probably don't even know what Haunted Happenings is...the owner Arnold Chase was a multi millionaire who spent more money on his haunt than anyone in history. The guy bought everything you could imagine... in fact many might not know that he was also one of the first men in the country to run a full blown Christmas show as well which he later sold. Does anyone know if there are some old YOUTUBE videos on this show???
If you dig out some OLD HAUNTWORLD MOVIES you will LEARN about Haunted Happenings.
Terror on Church Street OMG YES... where is David Clevenger now?
Haunt owners who strives for something more ended up doing so much good for the rest of us even if you thought of that owner as arrogant or whatever... one haunt that comes to mind is Rocky Point Haunted House... even before the web came along if you opened a haunt you heard about it! How about the legend of the 13 story haunted house... where did that come from. I KNOW!
This article will put things in perspective and it will take a long time to write, but I really want to ultimately leave behind the knowledge I have for whomever comes along later. No one lives forever, and no one will do this forever, and I'm pretty much sure that this site will live on forever 100 years after I'm dead and these articles will be searched and read well into the future.
So again if you have some opinions and thoughts pass them along I want to hear it all... I have already developed a list but if you can think of something that opens my eyebrows I want to know.
BILLY THANKS ... that is the type of reply I was looking for. House of Shock, Haunted Happenings ... dead on the money.
12-31-2011, 04:31 PM
Last I heard, I think David Clevenger was working for Universal Horror Nights there in Orlando. That was a ways back so I am not sure. Drew Hunter might know.
The Nightmare Factory
12-31-2011, 06:21 PM
I'll jump into this conversation.
Pirates of Emerson, Baron VonGoolo's, The Nightmare Factory at the Oregon School for the Deaf (we are gearing up for year 25), Knott's Scary Farm, 13th Floor in Utah, Scream Apocalypse in Vancouver Wa (new last year, but heck yeah! they rocked it!), I am sure there are many others.
I still have the video that they made for the auction, just watched it a few weeks ago with some of the new crew who never had the pleasure of attending. I think if you write an article on Haunted Happenings you need to talk to Jim Grievas, the owner of the now defunct Stage Fright Studios. Jim worked very closely with Arnold Chase on the construction of the attraction. Kevin McCurdy also did a few of the scenes. I remember the lab scene had like 50K of just crackle neon, plasma globes and a huge tesla coil.
I think Spooky World would have to be all-time number one based on the following:
Multi element attraction.
Successfully franchised the attraction to MN
Use of celebrities
Licensing of name currently with Nightmare New England
Partnering with the New England Patriots
How many of us would kill to have the opportunity to partner up with a NFL team?
Whether you liked him or not, I believe we all learned a great deal from David Bertilino.
01-01-2012, 02:35 PM
Think you mean MLB team as Fenway is the home of the Red Soxs.
I meant NFL,
The Patriots and others NFL teams are starting preseason in August/September, the Red Sox are ending their season before most haunts open barring playoffs. David Bertalino had a deal with Robert Kraft to run Spooky World at Foxboro Stadium (old home of the Pats) and was able to use the old horse barn and area behind the stadium.
Regardless of whether it's NFL, MLB or NBA we as haunters can benefit from the mainstream popularity and appeal they have. My point was that Dave took the gamble and it appeared to payoff. How many other haunts that have closed have been able to license their name still today? There may be some but to my knowledge Spooky World was the best at it.
These are my opinions, I offer the facts to support my views.
Owner Tombstone Productions
01-01-2012, 07:09 PM
Not to blow our own horn, (something I am told I actually don't do enough of!!) but I would submit Asylum/Hotel Fear haunts in Las Vegas. Why?
I consider us a gamechanger. Until we came along, hardly anyone had even heard of a haunt being done in a Trailer. Because of the several articles and seminars that I have done, coupled with the fact that the haunts are actually good, we have pretty much single handedly made this a viable haunt concept!
We have never claimed to have invented the concept, just put our own spin on it, believed in it and promoted it. Now it is a real attraction alternative that is being embraced more and more as situations change in many market places.
If this acrticle is focusing on haunts that have changed the haunt industry, then this is a perfect example.
01-01-2012, 09:04 PM
Haunted Happenings at the old G-Fox building in Hartford was one of the best I've ever seen. Way ahead if its time.
I would have to agree with Wayne on this! I was just looking through my video that Norton made when the attraction went on the auction block back in the late 90's.....WHat an awesome attraction with lots of animations from VP productions and Stagefright Studios!
01-02-2012, 08:55 AM
I have to agree with Dan, Spookywoods will be hard to beat. David really knew how to operate a world class attraction but more importantly he knew how to grow it. Who can forget the Tiny Tim wedding that was on The Tonight Show? I also remember the tie in Spookyworld did with the Patriots for their commercial using QB Drew Bledsoe, as seen on the old Hauntworld video.
Also, it's GUERILLA marketing as opposed to the primate Gorilla marketing, I've seen that written here many times.:p
Personally, I am not too thrilled though that one of our best and brightest stars in the haunt industry made the transition in to the Adult industry as David did once he solf off Spookyworld. To each their own I guess....
01-02-2012, 09:01 AM
You have definitely helped to advance the trailer haunt concept. I think though that it would have been well into it's growth and much more common through the 90's and through to today had it not been for the deadly fire at Six Flags back in 1984.
01-02-2012, 04:12 PM
I agree that the GFox "Haunted Happenings was a quality production - I have a copy of the auction video and it has some pretty advanced sets/scenes. Spooky World was definitely a game changer in New England with the whole Horror Themepark concept
Haunted Paws - I am pretty sure that Lake Compounce began as a yard haunt, evolved and moved to Lyman Orchards. It was later moved to Lake Compounce.
01-05-2012, 09:38 PM
Edge of Hell I would say should definately be on the list just because of all the history going back all those years. To this day all 4 haunts run there are all incredible and still have that awesome old-school feel to them.
01-07-2012, 05:36 PM
The results are in... thank you all for your help. I'm writing the article NOW. Couple things... some haunts are very important but just don't make my list and I'll explain why. It was brought up about trailer haunts, its a great concept but its nothing that has really caught fire nation wide, to the point where everyone is making them. I do think if done right like Rich does, they are great and a way to work around a location. In one city they are very popular the rest of the country not so much...
You take other haunts that back in the day made a lot of sizzle and today they don't hold up and seem to be more fizzle. Some haunts didn't keep up with the pack as things changes and evolved while others made such a huge impact while they where open people are still influenced by them today.
This list isn't just about haunted houses its also about any type of event that pushed the whole concept of visiting a haunted house like Knott's Scary Farm or Universal Studios. Disney's Haunted Mansion must rank HIGH on the list because it in many way is the original haunted house, and today although its not nearly as good as some of the haunted houses we open and operate today its still the most widely visited haunted house today.
So look for my list coming soon!
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