View Full Version : Questions for outdoor haunt owners

03-08-2012, 08:45 AM
So we are looking into some property at the moment - 69 acres, and the guy had started building a western town on it - right now there is a 2 story Saloon, a barn, and 3 small buildings that have a western look to them.

The land is about 10 miles outside of the city I live in.

Here are the questions I have:

Do I need a building permits to build the various structures I would want to add for a haunt?

Do the sprinkler laws still apply? I would assume they do - I plan to keep most structures under the 1,000 sq. ft. limit, but I know the saloon is over 1,000 sq ft.

Do you run electric, or rely on generators for power in the further reaches of your attraction / trails?

Is it wise to create covered walkways to help negate the possibility of rain?

Do you recommend lining your walking paths with gravel, wood chips, etc.?

Thats it for now - I am sure I will have more as I give it some more thought - Thanks for your time and any advice you may have.

03-08-2012, 11:01 AM

Building Permits...typically NO. You can always double check, but I've never had to deal with that in the previous outdoor trail I was at.

Sprinklers, NOPE. Unless you are actually building a building and putting your structure within that building, no, or if you are roofing it, maybe, it depends on A) Can water still pass through your roof (is it cheesecloth, jute, or camo netting?), or are you actually going to roof it with wood, you may need to, again, just keep it under 1000sq ft.

Great thing about trails is, you can grab a couple car batters and run some wire basically EVERYWHERE, and slice in wherever needed and you can put in mini LED spotlights on your props WHEREVER you want them. And just place strategic generators where needed, or hire an electrician to come send you power from wherever you would be tapping in to. But those car batteries will last all season running those LED's.

Covered Walkways, I would, whenever possible, but HIGHER up, run a tarp or canvas about 4-8ft ABOVE your walkway.

Walkways- obviously smooth them out, don't have any exposed roots, holes, rocks, or other hazardous items in the way. What has worked for me in the past was taking logs from the woods (or 2x4's if you wanna be REAL fancy) and just cover them in a latex based white paint, white paint is dirt cheap and will cover a LOT of logs, and in the dark, that bright white paint stands out as if it were actually a light, but it's not powerful enough to throw off your scenes or scares, definitely something to look into.

For lighting you may want to even consider a roll of LED light strips, I'm experimenting with them this year, even though we'll be indoor.

03-08-2012, 11:33 AM
Great points - Keep them coming.

We are definitely going with 12volt Led lighting - we used it last year and it was awesome!!

03-08-2012, 01:16 PM
Plus one on that. I think once you classify yourself as an "Outdoor" haunt, it opens up a WHOLE lot more freedom doors. Not that it's unsafe or anything, just that, typically your buildings are so small that, even if something did happen, folks would be able to GTFO in a hurry, ya know? But that 2 story building sounds iffy.

Sounds cool tho man! YOu can do a "Cowboys and Zombies" theme :D

03-10-2012, 07:25 PM
You will definitely need to check locally on permits and fire codes. You don't want Fire inspectors and building inspectors throwing their weight around on opening night. Local and state regulations can differ on what you are zoned for too. Farms can get away with a little more then just a commercial zone, in many states.

You might be able to light a scene on battery power, and in many ways less light is effective, but even that can depend on theme. Animatronics, safety lighting, fog machines and music will not work on battery. Generators can help, they can also be useful to light some of the more remote areas of an attraction, but depending on them solely can be an issue. We have had generators crap out in the middle of shows, and they can get temperamental depending on temperature and humidity. The more power the better, but even the largest attractions can have issue with circuits cutting out and general gremlins. The more reliable the equipment, the better.

If you are completely outdoor, you are reliant on the weather. If it's a bad night with rain, you are not going to be open. The worse nights are the iffy ones. On a mist night with showers, you can have cover every 10 feet but people might not venture out in the first place. Concentrate on comfort areas for the crowds, near concessions, ticket lines, and any queue. Remember to protect your assets form the rain. You can't pull in animatronics and electrics and sound every night, and actors need a little shelter on hard cold nights between groups.

Path footing depends on the land, and drainage. Being a farm we have woodchips available, but back behind our trails are swampy areas. Without culverts and cutting the trails the right way entire sections of the attraction can be a soggy muddy mess no matter how much stone or wood chipping you do.

Greg Chrise
03-11-2012, 02:05 PM
Out on the trail you can have facades to walk by that are not actual buildings or sheds you enter into. You build things like caves made out of concrete products and steel, you have things made of metal, all intrinsically not fire hazards. Basically made out of junk. You can have cars and trucks with out the gas tanks in them, metal or plastic drums and such as a toxic waste dump. You can even build outdoor vortex tunnels and storm hallways.

How the place is laid out reflects the cost of electric runs. As well as how far your actors have to travel or how far you have to travel to deal with some problem. So even if you have 69 acres the trail might only occupy 18 acres and be in the shape of a flower. Customers all travel the various loops of the pattern while actors and what ever infastructure makes one run into the place and is centrally located. Customers have no idea they have traveled a certain pattern but, this makes managing the large space possible. From year to year you can adjust the shapes of these daisy leaves and it is a toally different set up.

The concern for sprinklers and over all safety concern is handled by actually having a committed fire truck and a few hands sitting there at all times. Paying what ever fee or donation might be required to have them there and you are helping the community at large with that donation. If they were needed they can rn down the stem of the daisy just like any other actor access and take care of minor problems. This central coridor is generally wide enough to drive vehicles down an if you decided to evacuate the place, everyone can walk up that access path.

Generally for time and simply how much torture the customers must endure, you don't want the tour to be more than a linear mile. If possible much less distance with greater impact per scenes. There is a point where people are satisfied with your offering and then beyond that is a degrading experience that takes away any possible fun that might be had by the group on tour. Smaller tours are more likely to be repeated the same night or following nights if the over all event is no such a physical chore where one would say they did it and that is over with.

Every additional structure may threaten your agricultural tax base and so less is more. Trails that have had the money to install permanent electric runs spend so much more every year repairing it as off season the animals eat everything.

Generators are noisy and actors in the cold tend to want to stand around them for heat. Of course they end up breathing exhaust fumes for hours and are near death instead of working the crowd. So what seems like a temporary situation must be walled off for sound and to keep everyone away from the machines except for the attendant to keep up the fuel. The car battery idea is great until you really analyze the cost per station and have to have double the units to replace as you operate from night to night while some are eing recharged. Plus you just created a job of hauling around objects that weigh 40 to 50 pounds that are all over the place that only a certain some one knows where they are located and might have to find them in the dark.

So, 12 volt transformers should be used run off the 110 volt generators of which you can usually have several and a back up used if one does become a piece of crap. Consider renting these even if you must travel and haul it in from the next city.

Most of the ones I have seen either have none stop walking through things in a smaller couple acre area where the actors can come out of nowhere because they have central access and ways to crawl through thing or the long spaces in the dark are used to walk from scene to scene. Just walking outside in the dark is something peope just don't do these days so it is enjoyable. Perhaps a light to walk towards every hundred feet or so, even regular bulbs you paint over to dull them a bit. Ropes along the trails to keep patrons from wandering off into the places they aren't supposed to be.

A nice trail event doesn't have to be that big. I have seen smaller ones do the whole thing with few actors that work a few areas. Off season you have to figure out where all this crap will be removed from the trail and stored. Generally far away from the actual site so tools and equipment are not left out to vanish.

If you have that much land, it may be that you must walk quite some distance from the front before entering this daisy chain. The stem can just as easily come in though one side or the other as opposed to right down the center.