View Full Version : Full time employment in the Industry

Chainsaw Charlie
10-03-2007, 12:22 PM
Was wondering if anyone had suggestions about breaking into the Industry.
I'm currently a Yard Haunter w/ actors, fog, lighting, sound, etc... and the show has been pretty popular in my area.
I would love to move to the next level though, but not quite ready to own my own haunt. Any thoughts on how I can make a living at this business while working for someone else? I want to learn the ropes, I've worked as an actor at the Headless Horseman in Ulster Park NY, but I also have a full-time job.
Basically I'd like my full-time job to be in the Haunt biz.
Appreciate any input you folks have, you are my mentors.

aka Chainsaw Charlie

10-03-2007, 12:51 PM
If you figure it out Charlie please let us know because most of us would love to do the same thing! LOL

10-03-2007, 02:15 PM
That is a hard thing to accomplish. Many have, and many many haven't. I would say shoot high, but don't lose your butt. I would say a reasonable goal would be to work part-time and haunt full time.

But there are success stories out there so don't get discouraged.

Chainsaw Charlie
10-05-2007, 07:13 AM

Thanks for the encouragement. I know the road ahead in the industry is not paved in gold, but it's what I love to do. I mean I plan and think about it all year.
So I might as well try to do what I enjoy doing.
Thanks again for the thoughts.
It's an honor getting replies from folks such as yourselves.

I love the show, I listen to it at work every Monday.
Keep up the good work.
Thanks again,

aka Chainsaw Charlie

10-05-2007, 08:24 AM
Well, I didn't think my reply was all that encouraging but let me add a few more serious comments:

1. Keep in mind that the haunt industry is very small so full-time careers are hard to come by.

2. Those that have made the jump to having a haunt related career that actually pays the bills usually have done so by finding a niche product or service and gradually building that into a business.

So if you are as motivated as you say you are, find your niche and work hard to grow it. Either as a vendor, or a service like our convention, the one thing this industry always needs is people willing to work hard, for usually little money, that offer a good product and excellent customer service.


10-06-2007, 10:05 AM
If you live near a theme/amusement park that does a Halloween event, try to work there all year. Most of the time, haunt planning at these parks begin in Feb./March. and last through Nov.!

You may have to do some other stuff.... like effects for shows, lighting and sound... but you'll also get your foot in the door to full-time haunting! It's ALOT of work too... expect some weeks to work 70 hours! I've done it many times this year! -Tyler

Greg Chrise
10-06-2007, 06:43 PM
I haven't really had a job since 1985. Well there was that stint for 4 years in the 90's when I was burned out and let someone else tell me what to do while I barely existed. Then I decided it was time for me to have my own play ground again.

I found a condemable building and began paying rent and fixed it up while I still had a job and then having a job made no sence at all finally. I picked a condemable building because I could afford the rent and no one could say I screwed up the building. I perhaps have the opposite advice as Barry with only completely reasonable goals. You have to make your own rules though. No one in their right mind is going to put money in the way of major maintenance into someone else's property for fear of the rent going up or getting kicked out because you hustled the landlord over and over to take some of your input off the rent. Make it cheap enough and all your stuff ready and able to move to the next location when things change.

In our case, the first location lasted 12 years and ended in a divorce by the landlords selling the property out from under us at about 4 times what it was really worth. Then we moved to a real warehouse and yard that seemed affordable and a great deal but, just enough more of a financial burden that it limits adding things to the haunt.

Your current home haunt is a form of phianthropy to the community where you are providing a seasonal event (probably for no income) and doing so out of your own pocket with the help of friends. There isn't much difference in having a pro haunt as to some extent even the million dollar per year events can spend every penny.

Larger events have other seasonal gigs which would be a big distraction from the one good one, Halloween.

Even the top 13 haunts though don't necessarily have someone on the payroll 52 weeks per year. They bring in people for month long or several month projects and then there is the operational season. Generally no unemployment.

I would suggest using the home haunt as a vehicle. I had no home so I had to go pro. I would suggest the co workers at your current work are the network for potential customers. You just need a bigger place to put on the event at some point. Every years diplay is added completely new and put away for the big haunt. Several years of storing and you have a haunt.

Most of the haunt owners have some kind of other business and the halloween season is indeed something they think of all year long but, it is more like the yearly big pay off rather than the main means to sit around all except one month per year.

If you are a contractor type business, you see it as the one of 30 or 50 projects per year you never got paid for. If you are a big business owner you think of it as a tax write off giving to the community. If you have a job, you think of it as that expense that is similar to how others spend $4,000 to go to Aruba or make payments on a Harley or a jet ski. Those things don't really pay you anything back but the experience good or bad.

Then after decades of weirdness you have permanently warped you perspective. If someone put you out in the street September first in your community with only $12 would there be a haunted house that year? How would you do it? Where would you do it? Who would you ask for help or involve? What would you walk away with in November? Was it worth your time if you compared it to the dollar figure a job would pay? Or did it not matter about the money. When the last customer left did you feel a big sense of loss?

With losts of research you will also discover the real good haunted houses have been doing some form of what they do for 20 years before becoming big media sensations.

At every stage you just be the best you can be. If it was to be a "job" it would be like painting things black for food at 14 different haunted houses. The guy that does have 14 haunted houses only pays $6.50 per hour. Hence walking up to a haunt owner and asking for a job, he might look confused.

Jim Warfield
10-08-2007, 01:02 AM
"Making a living soley from haunting"??

Well let's see?
The last new car I bought was in 1973. It was $3,200.00.
I met a couple who once owned a Victorian house. They said, "We could have done what you did with our house...but we sold it, used the money to buy a new Toyota."
Sometimes it's all just about "Priorities".
Maybe the television told them to buy their Toyota?
Maybe they possessed no innner compulsion of their own so they went with Madison Avenue's sugestion for finding happiness.
Are they now "Happy"?
Sure they are, that's what they get told.

Greg Chrise
10-09-2007, 01:10 AM
What is a living? As I drive around I see all sorts of business that are really two businesses in one location. Air Conditioning and Taxedermy, Auto Repair and Craft Supplies. Restaurant and nick nack sales. Driving around reading the signs in front of places you can try to make up the whole story of these people's lives. It can be really funny but, it is also very sad.

How the wife also needed to make an income, How the seasonal business was a tough market and so the other season needed some income. My own thing is mainly putting swimming pool texture on concrete decks. We were asked to try to put our stuff on a wire frame to make a large cave for an outdoor haunted trail. This introduced me to other places of note. We used the same materials to make facade stone and brick details which got us into greater detail designs and treatments that came full circle to antiquing and faux finishes for architectural problems.

Then I got the idea that we could be using our bad weather days to remodel old haunts and sell already detailed rooms or displays. This stock never got sold but became our first haunt as we were asked to set it up at an existing haunt as what we had was better. Origionally it was to be our stock to build from when a haunt gave us a project.

Every helper I have had has learned to do something on the side as well for themselves that they can charge more than an employees hourly rate. Many have gone off to do that full time. We had a network of people that had their own start up going on and would come work with us when they were in between jobs. This sucks because I have been so good at helping people that I find myself the only one getting ready to go to a job way too often.

Eventually they figure out that they need to be making $30 per hour and working for $10 or $12 per hour is like suffering a major loss when they should be focusing in on their own market. Or if you can go out and sell a line of products and make $800 in one partial day why would you have a job at all? Apparently in this day and time $100 per hour is more the goal and you would still be broke for the most part in some markets as a balance of how much work there is to do.

Meanwhile, in India if you and your family can agree to stop eating for a month or so, you can raise $160 that will install a well and pump so you can irrigate crops and yeild $1000 per year instead of only $150 per year. The season is only 3 months to 6 months and you have to crash that $2 a day barrier to be somebody.

But, if you have a job, you might go through the routines but never really have done everything there is to do what ever it is the company does. More experienced people do their jobs and it looks easy but there was a skill developed over years and it isn't easy to replicate.

Pretty much, there is very little to do around a haunted house or the industry that doesn't take that starving artist mentality to invest materials into something for an end goal or pay off. Or even on the over night success level having finally turned a profit after a decade of starving and sacrifice, the proceeds get reinvested toward the next best thing or that one more haunt.

But, the school system in America taught people to do your homework so you can get a job. Go to college so you can get a good job. The school system sucks because the foundations of being able to read, write and carry out the new things you were told to do was formed by the likes of Rockefeller, Carnegie and Ford. They were looking for good employees to give jobs to. Now McDonald's pays $9.95 per hour and gives benefits after 180 days. Walmart too.

Would you be able to start your own burger chain or retail franchise from having learned to ask do you want fries with that or how may I help you?

So, what do you love to do?
What are you best at?
How can you market what you love to do and are good at?

If it is a job, well the word all by itself means you probably won't love being told what to do and you probably won't become the best at what you wanted to do.

So, I wanted to learn what people needed in great facades so we did them for free or at cost to show off our talent. We took on things we didn't know and expected little compensation until we knew we had something different and above par to what was being done in our region.

How much do I make? I get to eat once or twice a day sometimes where ever I want. I don't take a paycheck and pay the bills and invest if I can. Is there a retirement plan? Yes, who ever falls down dead, you get to go through the other guys pockets before calling 911. They always think they will be going through my pockets.

If you talk to people of serious money, they say they will never be able to retire as they owe more money than they will ever be able to pay back. Are you a billionare? No, I owe a billion dollars. Then they die.

Did you have a good time or were you a laborer. Did you labor on something you loved to do? You don't always get to just sit around on the payroll figuring out how to sculpt things from clay for 3 years, not even in a government job.

As a helper, when the season is done, for some reason you find something else to do that is either better or takes up so much time or energy that returning doesn't make sense.

But, if you develop a skill or have a product to sell or just plain have amassed a whole haunted house then the phone rings with opportunity instead of asking if there is some opportunity out there.

One of the old haunted houses we remodeled, I had no idea how it bolted together or how to lay out the floor so I went and worked for free setting one up 6 hours from my home for two days to see one just like mine. I helped put the marks on the floor so I understood. If I had called the guy up and said I would like to fill out an application I never would have been able to walk in to the first large building and set mine all up in 2 days and think nothing of it. Or what would be the other alternative? Pay the guy a $2500 consulting fee to give me a floor plan and instructions?

Haunted houses are one of the few things where you can learn new things very cheaply and immediately be at that $100 per hour figure (before expenses and of course probaly only co many hours per year) Generally everyone works for free all year long for that seasonal happening. The industry is also one of the very few that people will be happy to tell of their accomplishments and how they did it.

The fat guy that owns the Subway franchise will give you an application and doesn't want to tell you how he spent $375,000 and has been reduced to sandwitch artist so many times he could hang himself.

So what's wrong with you? Do you want to run away with the circus? Keep your normal life. Don't do it! Save yourself! Just Go! Leave me behind and get out of here! If you can send a keyboard that actually has the letters on it. That's all I ask. Keep your day job. Buy a Toyota. Give out candy to tricker treaters. Have Halloween parties. Have freinds over.

When it becomes a business, the only friends you will have will be on these boards. (repeat warnings in previous paragraph)