View Full Version : Advice

09-25-2006, 01:07 PM
Here is a situation I am dealing with. This is my 20th year running haunts and I am very familiar with all the codes, permits and licenses that are required to operate. I not only adhere to all the rules but go way beyond the requirements in regards to the safety of my haunt.

Last week I had my Fire, building and electrical inspections. We passed with just a couple small changes that the building inspector requested. They are coming back this Wed. to re inspect to make sure I made the changes that they requested. No problem! I even changed a few things that they didn't love but were not going to make me change.

While they were at my haunt they mentioned that a haunt down the street had not yet called them to come and inspect their show. In our city you must have the police and fire dept. signature on the business licence application before it can be approved. So I wondered how they would be allowed to open without being inspected and without pulling the proper permits.

Needless to say the other haunt opened on Friday night. I sent some friends through the house on Saturday to see if they were following all the required safety laws. They video taped the entire event from their wait outside all the way through the haunt. I was shocked when I watched the video later that night.

There is visquine (Black Plastic) covering most of the attraction which as I'm sure you all know is a big no no, there are no clearly marked emergency doors if any emergency doors at all, there are pathways less than 44" wide, which is the local requirement and no self illuminating directional arrows 8" from the floor. Also on video we have one of our group asking if there are restrooms available, which is also a requirement. One of their employees said "No, if you have to go, then you'll have to pee between those two trucks" which he pointed to in the parking lot.

Now this morning when I went to pick up my business licence which to my surprise went up over $600.00 from the last 3 years. I asked the licensing dept. if the haunt had their business licence prior to opening on Friday. I was told they picked it up Friday afternoon. However, the Building Dept. told me they still were not approved to open at 5:00pm on Friday. The Fire Dept. has still not done an inspection on the haunt. Which is required in order to get the business licence.

This haunt is not safe for the public and is breaking several codes that I can see on tape. Apparently, the city is allowing them to operate this way.

I have to pay for inspections, building permits, a surety bond, insurance and a business licence. They don't have to do anything. Is this right?

Haunts like this one, are the reason why we pay more every year for insurance. Why it is harder to find cities that will allow a haunt to operate. These are the haunts that have the potential to injure or kill patrons.

I have already contacted my attorney. I am thinking about going to the newspapers and letting them know how unsafe this attraction is. Should I just drop it and mind my own business?

The bottom line is that I do everything the right way. I follow all the rules. I pay for all my permits, licenses and inspections. It is not fair that for whatever reason this haunt is getting away without having to follow the rules and endangering the safety of the public.

What do you think?

Howie "Slobber" Erlich
Deadly Intentions Haunted House

09-25-2006, 03:20 PM
I'm pretty familar with the Michigan Haunted house scene, is this a new haunt or an established haunt?

09-25-2006, 03:23 PM
Hey undertaker,

It is an established haunted house. They have been open in Warren the last three years.


09-25-2006, 04:23 PM
Care to be more specific? Is it the Fear Factory?

09-25-2006, 05:01 PM
I don't care to be more specific at this time. I am not posting this to bash other haunts. I was just curious what other haunters felt about this matter.


09-25-2006, 05:35 PM
Well to answer your question to put it frankly it's a load of BS. How can your haunt one haunt get around the whole fire inspection and all that. Not only is it unfair to you and the other haunts out their but it's awfully unsafe. Sorry to go off topic but have you heard anything regarding the release of the Fear Finders? Are they already out?

09-25-2006, 06:06 PM
Yes, the Fearfinder Newspapers have been out for around 2 weeks. Ed and his crew have once again done a great job producing and distributing the paper this year. I am proud to say that our ad is the first one you see when you open it up. It is a full page color ad on the inside cover.


09-25-2006, 06:33 PM
Yes, the Fearfinder Newspapers have been out for around 2 weeks. Ed and his crew have once again done a great job producing and distributing the paper this year. I am proud to say that our ad is the first one you see when you open it up. It is a full page color ad on the inside cover.


Ok thanks. I'll have to try to track one down.

09-25-2006, 07:14 PM
When I hear stuff like this I immediately think one of two thingz....
Either payola. Someone somewhere iz takin bribez (or iz a relative of someone)...
Or discrimination.

Equality means we all have to abide by the law and when one person doesn't have to do that it creates an unfair situation for otherz in the biz.
Not to mention the danger it placez the public in.

I say raise holy hell bro! You have every right and you're doing a public service too!


09-25-2006, 08:46 PM
Thanks for the support Bonesaw!


Greg Chrise
09-25-2006, 09:11 PM
I would do nothing. Creating a stink will back fire in public opinion at the customer level. You have no idea what connections the other haunt might or might not have. It is great that you have covered your own and I would continue to do so from year to year even if the authorities become more lienient over time with your opening process.

In fact if you force their hand to have to do something you will never be given any slack. Someone that lives by the code dies by the code sort of thing.

It would be a consideration if this was a charity event as apposed to an individually owned and profit oriented venture though. If it is charity and you challenge their status the city might likely outlaw any haunts in their county as a form of settling any future dispute of fairness rather than making the other haunt comply.

John Coen
09-25-2006, 09:19 PM
I agree with Greg. Although it is unfair it could bring negative vibes onto your attraction and make future dealings with the authorities even worse.

Greg Chrise
09-25-2006, 09:27 PM
Let's see, which forum am I on?

You are absolutely correct about the danger of black plastic yet for the past 25 years this has been the standard and only on these forums are there those properly concerned with erradicating this practice, the use of plastic and such.

I have turned this into a super mini cottage industry. Hey I noticed you have black plastic. Would you like some fire retardent treated wood walls that can really be detailed out? For a price of course. Instead of attacking it is opportunity. It becomes educating and benefiting. This helps the world safety at large if someone provides a service rather than just calls someone out.

I would rather haunters police our own ranks than the MAN tell us what to do or that the whole idea of having a haunt is wrong.

09-25-2006, 10:23 PM
Interesting views and opinions from all.

I think I have decided to drop the issue for now. Mainly because I need to stay focused on my haunt and making sure we have another great season.

I will always provide a safe attraction for my customers. I hope that this haunt and all others will comply with the safety codes in their communities. They are in place for the protection of your patrons. I know that I could not live with myself if anyone got seriously injured or worse in my haunt because I did not do the things needed to keep them safe. I pray that no one gets hurt at their event this year.

I am still upset that I am forced to pay thousands of dollars each year for permits and licenses that they are not being made to pay for. I will just keep telling myself that at least I'm doing things the right way.

I am still interested in hearing from other haunt owners on this issue. I would love to hear about similar situation and how you dealt with them.

Hope everybody has a safe and successful haunting season,


09-25-2006, 10:48 PM
I wouldn't say a word.

But then, I am of the opinion that the safety requirements for haunts have long since passed the point of reasonable safety and are rapidly approaching the ludicrous. We aren't manufacturing high explosives or serving drunks with cigarette lighters flamable liquids, we are just running people through a series of spooky rooms.

But then, black plastic IS increadibly dangerous. Perhaps they are using the fire retardant black plastic?

09-25-2006, 11:13 PM
It is not the flame retardant material. While they were going through they were able to actually snag a piece that caught them in the face. They not only cover 75% of the haunt with it but use it as curtains between rooms. I lit the piece and it caught right on fire, melted and burnt my finger when I pinched out the flame.

I am curious Smacky why you think the safety requirements are ludicrous?


Jim Warfield
09-26-2006, 12:31 AM
Maybe a standard for flame resistant plastic should make it all have to be colored dark green, then everyone would know immeadiately what was going on if they saw black plastic again.
(Unless you were color blind?) OOPS!

09-26-2006, 11:05 AM
Personally I'm not one to take crap and play dead when someone does me wrong. It just encourages further abuse in the future.
The weak will always be abused because the abusers think the weak will just roll over and take it.
Screw that!!! :x I don't take crap from nobody! If I have paid my money for a service I had better get it.
Fact iz that other haunt iznt safe. How are you going to feel if someone getz hurt? Knowing that a little effort from you may have prevented it.

09-26-2006, 01:07 PM
I am the same way and have always been. I always stand up for what I believe. But, sometimes you have to ask yourself is it worth it? I agree that public safety should be the number one priority. But for whatever reason the city does not seem to care if someone gets hurt there.

I have voiced my concerns and pointed out the safety violations to the city. I have posted a warning about unsafe haunts on my web site. On Friday I have a live 45 minute interview on a local radio station. I plan to bring up the topic of haunt safety then as well. Our media night is next Thursday and I will bring it up again to any of the media that is interested.

I don't want to have to get my lawyer involved. I also don't want to cause any bigger rift with the city than I already have. I still plan to open one more year in this location.

I can live with myself. I can sleep at night knowing that I run a safe attraction and that I tried my best to notify the city of one that is not. It is the other owner and the city that should feel worried about what might happen if something goes wrong!


09-26-2006, 02:24 PM
Hey you brought your concerns to the city and if they don't do anything about it then there really isn't anything you can do. The scary thing is are their any other haunts like this. Both you and i Howie know that Michigan has tons of haunts. If each city in Michigan allowed 1 haunt to open without a fire and other inspections for some reason whether because of negligence or cause they are friends with or related to the owner that could prove to be a huge problem. All it takes is one accident for the haunt industry to get a bad rap which in turns leads an increase in the prices of insurance and all that which means taking more money from haunt owners pockets. Which in turn may drive up haunt prices for the customer and it may eventually reach a point where the customer figures it's not woth it anymore.

09-26-2006, 03:03 PM
There is a haunt in my area that I think is unsafe.
I'm really worried about it.
Does anyone have any suggestions on how I can put them out of business?

09-26-2006, 04:46 PM
Hey haunter112,

Your goal should not be to put them out of business. With my situation, all I want is for them to be made to follow the codes and and to have to follow the same set of regulations that I do. It would also be nice if they had to pay for their permits and lisences just like I do every year.


09-26-2006, 04:46 PM
Another thought about safety....

I think it would be a great idea if haunts made their actors & staff get first aid & CPR certified.
Could even be a good selling point for the haunt! :)

09-26-2006, 06:47 PM
:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

09-27-2006, 05:37 AM
I agree public safety is paramont. While regulations can be excessive and over the top it is often in a knee jerk fashion because of these cretians.

When people buy something or hire a trademan there are certain 'industry symbols' that carry a lot of weight and can add credibility.

Perhaps this is something you can do to make you stand out from them and make them look like rank 'cowboys' who gambling with their patrons lives rather than than tackling them head on.

You know you are in the right and playing by the rules.

Make sure your customers know it too. On your website and your promotional materials make it clear using symbols and statements that you are 'insured' (these bozos may not have insurance either???), have saftey precautions and have been inspected. If you belong to a group or industry association then use the logo as well and let the group know.

Perhaps this industry could have different acreditation levels as sort of self-policing to help you? Just like a website can have a triple A accessibility rating? This obviously won't come into play this year but is something to think about because it could help us all! I wouldn't mind having a 'haunted attraction' seal of approval or 'Firemarshall certified' on my website!

Insurers should insist on them being inspected or the insurance is invalidated

It only takes one accident.