View Full Version : Very low turn out, please help

11-02-2007, 02:28 PM
allright, first off let me tell you that we build our home haunt primarily for our annual halloween party, now every year i get frustrated at the fact that i spend 3 to 4 months building this haunt and its only open for like 45 minutes to an hour.
We are always open and ready to go on HAlloween night, except we get practicly no trick or treaters, i think we got 10 people this year, very lame,.
IF i decide to advertise and promote my haunt, what would happen if someone where to get hurt in my haunt, are they allowed to sue us. Given the fact that it is free. They chose to go in.

I guess my first question is - how can i increase the number of people coming on halloween night without just straight out advertising. i dont think their is any way
Second question is - what is my liability with a home haunt and what will my insurace agent say about this. I dont really know what to do,

11-02-2007, 02:52 PM
This year our home haunt was free too. What we did this year is we did flyers as an invitation to our family haunt with the hours on it. We handed it out to all our neighbors and people we knew. We did not advertise as a haunted house, we said Haunted walk-thru. That's how we get the word out without getting too commercialized and putting ourselves on a limb without get the general liability for seasonal haunted houses.

You need to check with your homeowners insurance in respect to the liability. My company says as long as they are invited and it is not a business it is covered to the General liability limit. Remember every company is little different so check with them before you go bigger or start getting more people.

We will soon have to purchase the separate insurance for haunts in the future because we are increasing our size (structure & people) and may need to charge. That's when you need the separate insurance. I check with my Homeowners policy already they said go to a commercial company to do it.

11-02-2007, 03:37 PM
Maybe not enough people are aware of your haunt. Possibly a remote location?

Have you thought about putting signs and/or fliers up around town with a website listed that has pictures, dates you are open, hours of operation etc.

You can also contact local newspapers to see if they're interested in doing a story about your haunt. If not, ask them if you can submit a press release with information about your event.

11-02-2007, 04:21 PM
if i do what gravestlaker says, how liable am i ,

if i dont charge what are my limits

11-02-2007, 07:40 PM
I would check with your home owners insurance , but there should be no problems because these are guest and they chose to be there , at our haunt we post all rules and another board posted saying that we try to insure everyones safty ,BUT you enter at your risk! and in doing so we are not liable. And guest sign in a disclaimer saying they read all rules and understand this.
Now about getting people to come ,on a weekend we had about 250 come out this year and about 150 last year.
and we live on a little county road in Alabama .We promote by having a big sign at the end of our drive that a school bus passes , we pass out flyers, have a few road signs, and we do the MYSPACE thing.
I hope this helps

Mr. Haunt
11-02-2007, 07:45 PM
Your property needs to be zoned comercial before you can charge people to go through your haunt. It's a legal thing, but it's true. Most times though when you live in a residential area you can NOT re-zone your property. You would also have to go to the city council with your rezone plan and get it passed by them, as well as pay for it.


11-02-2007, 08:29 PM
Your property needs to be zoned commercial before you can charge people to go through your haunt.

While this is definitely true in most areas, there are still some municipalities with very lax zoning laws. If you live in a small, rural community, you may be surprised at what you can get away with.

Check with your local zoning board to make sure.

************************************************** *****

Some home-based haunts get around zoning issues by asking visitors for a donation.

I've even heard of one haunt that simply sold t-shirts. As a "bonus", anyone who purchased a t-shirt was granted admission to the haunt. The whole thing sounds misleading and it was probably illegal, but they actually got away with it for a few years.

Greg Chrise
11-02-2007, 09:17 PM
You will not want to use traditional methods of advertising to get 8,000 people to come to your house. Not only have you possibly been irresponcible making a residence owned or rented a traffic and safety concern but the little ears of the authorities are tipped off and will watch to see if outrageous attendance occurs or if neighbors are inconvenienced. They will figure if you have money to advertise, you will have money to pay a citation.

So like everything succcessful you talk about it every single day to as many people as will listen. You create reasons to have conversations without really soliciting. There is nothing wrong with accepting donations for some charity or having a raffle of small sum or even having a party that has a cover charge on private property. Hence it becomes actually how good is your display? How much did you really put into it for those 4 months.

Something as stupid as business cards instead of fliers, a myspace page on the card or even a cheesy website on the card. This gives parents the option of pre viewing wether this is something worth driving to that their kids will be entertained by.

On TV I'm hearing haven't we had enough with Halloween as a society? Should we really be teaching kids to beg for things? What are we teaching them?

On the real side of things fewer people want to leave the house. Those with children would rather have a halloween party in the basement or den where kids bob for apples rather than roam the streets next to cars in the dark. They might wish to attend the churches fall festival or harvest day. Possibly in your town (we have no idea where you are) You have this kind of competition?

You want conversation? Drive a hearse. Wear haunted T-shirts from every where you can buy them. Decreatly put your website or myspace info on your car with some Halloween oriented image. Those who it appeals to will find you.

By having a charity which it doesn't matter if you only got $35 in donations, it could be any cause from the local fire hall to a family that lost their home or had a major hospital stay and no funds. The home haunt although lots of work is only the vehicle to the cause that would be far more acceptable to the public to support than some weirdo wants to play show and tell with his decorating of his yard.

Turn the whole ambition into a block party and competion to who has the best decorations. Not only is the whole neiborhood either with you or against you but, if they are with you there are perhaps another 10 homes to see so it isn't a waisted trip. It could just plain you offering some dollar amount as the prize or everyone putting in to a pot. The customers must vote and who ever wins gets the money no matter what the small dollar figure is, even if it completely amounts to $20.

The display must have a sense of humor instead of death rendered in the medium of cardboard and tempra paint. This gets the word of mouth thing happening and possibly even brings the TV crew?

With a myspace page, you find others who have an intrest in Halloween perhaps with in 5 miles. When it is on, you send out a bulletin, hay everyone it is ON! We have such and such candy and you can have your picture taken in a coffin to show grandma! That requires a $1 donation to cover the polaroid?

This whole matter is sort of like, if you solicit and pay for things to happen for some benefit it is evil. If somehow the attaction and resultant attendance is grown organically, it is just a happening.

I have had pumpkins on the tops posts of my front 10 foot high gate for two years and no one came for candy. That's good because I didn't have any and I don't want anyone here. All the trick or treaters go to the mall for mall-o-ween which I think retailers give candy and there must be some thing going on. They go to the high dollar neighborhoods for candy and completely by pass regular little neighborhoods where there might only be two houses out of 20 with the porch light on.

If your neighborhood already has a ho hum reputation you will have to change that. Plus only on Halloween night might not be the thing, perhaps Saturday is when people want to be out and about with the kids. Perhaps Halloween night only has the mindset of get the candy.

Then it is also a mandatory every year thing. No slacking off.

I have no idea where you are. How do I find this stuff? Why would I leave the house or redirect my travels to come by your house or neighborhood.

Study how garage or yard sales get people in your area. Little signs on all the streets pointing the way from busier roads, days in advance. Put an add in the paper looking for volunteers to act in you small attraction. Out of 62,000 people you might get one phone call and they decide they aren't intrested but at the same time 20,000 people saw and read the add. 2,000 people thought it intresting. 800 people actually don't have alzheimers and plan to have the kids see this. 400 actually drop by. However, you will want to be open several nights from say 7 tp 9 so 400 people are not all there within an hour and a half followed by 4 police cars wondering where the fire or car accident is at that has cars blocked up.

I'm not going down that street, it's just to stop n go, get cigarettes and milk and back home.

11-03-2007, 02:50 AM
Are you concerned about being sued by one of your party guests? You are just as likely (possibly more - if you serve alcohol) to be sued by someone who gets injured at or as a result of your Halloween Party. Also, what if a Trick or Treater is startled, slips and gets hurt on your property - don't you think you can be sued?

I am not sure how inviting guests makes you less liable? In fact, if you weren't invited you're trespassing and I would hope that would limit liability. Someone please enlighten me here. I'm not a lawyer, but this doesn't seem to make sense.

If you are worried, you can take out additional liability insurance for the days you plan to be open, but that doesn't prevent you from being sued - it just gives you more protection from losing everything you own.

I agree with Greg that it's your butt, but isn't it always. Whether you're pro or amateur there's always risk. Just because you're a business (charge admission)doesn't mean you can't be sued and go to jail when your negligence causes injury or death. I would do my best to minimize that risk, by providing a safe venue. I would make sure it is clear that it's enter at your own risk and warn of effects you are using -strobe, startle, fog that may affect those with medical conditions. Have guests sign waivers to that effect.

You have to ask yourself: Do you really want better turnout? If so, use the web, let people know this is a free halloween event for trick or treaters. Put a sign out front w/your display - noting hours of operation. Be a good neighbor, by keeping the number of days and hours of operation limited.

11-03-2007, 03:16 AM
You are potentially liable for anything, invited or not. Take out a haunt insurance policy. For the number of guests you might have it will be cheap.

As for your attendance numbers I don't have any real advice other than to be different and detailed. Back when I ran my home haunt I averaged about 300 people without advertising at all, and I was at the end of a cul de sac. I don't know what your display looks like, but I suggest staying away from anything cheesy and go for kid-friendly realism -- meaning low gore. You might try smoking the neighborhood as well (light the smoke and notify the fire department of what you are doing before you do it). I boarded up the house windows (make sure people can still get out), built a graveyard in the front yard and dug graves, put up cemetary fencing, and did as much of the work as possible at night when no one was looking. My naighbors probably thought I was mad, out there dugging craters at midnight then filling them in.

My cememtary was up October first.

I also started acting well before Halloween so the kids would talk about it. I would go out during the day while they were playing and scold the kids for digging in my graveyard, then make a big show of filling dirt back in the holes. I put up "No Digging" signs of course. During the off season I removed the headstones but placed little markers to help build the impression that it was a real cemetary. Yes, my wife is very tolerant.

Obviously lighting is very important. I can't count how many house I spent outside in the middle of the night tuning the lighting to create exactly the effect I wanted. The show lights were turned on only on Halloween night.

11-03-2007, 07:14 AM
Well if anyone was on our street they couldn't miss our house- spots everywher- we fog the whole street (depending on that dang wind). ANd if you cant see it you can sure hear it. WHen peopl are within a house or two we starting makng some noises from within the haunt of some of things that will scare them- ie we turn on the cirucular saw, scream a little bit, drop from drop down panels, bang some trash cans. ON top of that we have hallowen related music playing over a huge PA- that can be heard for blocks, but not too loud when you are right next to it.

NOw i dont know about you but that means to me that we have some pretty lazy people on our block. THat they cant come on over and check it our, they cant ignor it.

Also the thing with advertising is that even when we have a garage sale, my parents say they feel the same way- what if someone gets hurt.
I have contacted the township i live in and the insurance agency and i am waiting for a response.

So if i advertise and people show up is it considered that i invited them. If so i believe i am fiine.
Also where can i get haunter insurance.

11-03-2007, 05:59 PM
We had 1050 people go through our home haunt over two nights this year, we put out a donation jar and if people want to put in money they can. (they do) It pays for the off duity cop and the port-a-potty and candy. This year we even got Harveys SuperMarkets to sponser us. We pass out flyers, send a letter to the news papers and have a web site. People can sue you, he// the guy that checks your ele. meter can sue you if he gets hurt. Now how far that sute will get or what , if anything that they will get is some thing else. Our home owners insurance says we are covered as long as we do not charge. You would have to check with yours. I'm not sure where you are but we are out in the woods, lots of parking on the right away and the few pepole out here look forward to the event. That may not be the case in your area and all it would take is a phone call from someone that does not like what your doing to have them shut you down for the traffic you are bring into the area. Just check with everyone that it will impact and get them on board. Good luck.

11-04-2007, 08:26 AM
yeah, we only have one neighbor that wouldnt like us doing this
But we could have had them arrested for harrasment years ago(long story short- their insane)
ANd the house next door is up for sale, but we know them and as long as its still for sale they will let people park their, so will the people acrross the street, But thats really only like 50 people worth of parking,
they can park in the street, along our house and we might open up half of our front yard for people to park, depends.

Greg Chrise
11-04-2007, 01:59 PM
A drop panel sound is kind of like a guilotine, not an inviting noise.
A chainsaw these days sounds jut like a gas powered weed eater.
Rumbling trash cans just sound like raccoons are having a party.

These aren't necessarily inviting sounds. They aren't even the sounds that might make the next door neighbor wonder what you are doing.

The strategy should be things that are inviting and other worldly portions of entertainment. Music, fog, strobe lights, things that move. Things that are back lit in reds or blues, even like those programs we are now seeing on you toob where it looks like ghosts are flying about the home.

Also, due to the drive thru mentality of today, many will do a drive by and have no interaction directly with you and not think this is stealing your soul or anything. So maybe there are inviting things like free hot chocolate and apple cider, a reason for a small crowd to hang and discuss the season. If others are hanging people are somewhat inspired to think it is worth stopping and checking out.

If you go buy a scrubby restaurant and there is only one car, you move on to the next as it is either closed or should probably be closed if no one is partaking of the fair or have been possibly all poisoned from being regular customers.

In a way you are in competition with all public experience in shopping and going out. Why would we want to get out of our warm car and stand outside for some time? In a way, a large commercial scream park has a few things going on in this department reguardless of how cheesy the haunts are. They have acres of cars outside so there must be something of excitement to see (even if it is seeing other people). They get big bucks like $20 or more dollars based on this potential experience and once beyond the gates, ususally there is lots of stuff to see and explore keeping the large crowds there for a whole evening. So the cars are out there to display the excitement.

So how much does hot chocolate cost? 25 cents per customer buying your long term patronage every year. So 800 customers would cost $200 but, if your display is groovy enough at least one in 5 will throw $5 or $10 into some kind of donation box for the local charity. So in a round about way, you got ahold of $800, recouped your hot chocolate cost of $200, pocket $100 for general princaple and donate $500 to anything. Coats for kids, Toys for Tots, the food bank, a thanksgiving meal to families.

Why are you doing this? Are you having a home haunt because you are just a weirdo with a passion for things geeky and halloween/horror related ? to be a public problem of somekind ? to flaunt your private property extreem decorating rights that our fore fathers have fought to preserve or to provide something positive for the community like a social gathering, a comforting hot beverage and something that benefits the community.

If your event becomes something good, more people will partake. An invite becomes something that sounds inviting.

Greg Chrise
11-04-2007, 02:46 PM
If you have a positive reason for doing this, then you get on TV for free, come see the yard display and give money or coats for a worthy cause on such and such street. This prenotifies the authorities that you aren't someone that will one day be part of the criminal justice system and they are into helping direct people toward you rather than, yeah we have been watching this and out forensic people have not submitted a report as yet regarding possible future community problems from this "event". The board may be meeting to see if this kind of thing should be allowed in out good town.

I just the other night heard that hunting season has opened here, big retail stores as the free advertsing back drop interviewing customers as to how much they spend to go hunting. By time you get the clothes the gun, all the camping gear, you can easily spend $3,000. So this activity beyond a couple people perhaps getting together or families going together to have some kind of memorable time is yet another hobby that people in this nation do for some undisclosed reason and spend big bucks.

People will have $80,000 into a bass boat and truck to pull it to catch a $3 fish. People will spend $4,000 per person per year on a get away vacation. They will spend $40,000 on a motorcycle, clothes and chrome to be able to get with a thousand similar people in an open field out in the sun for $10 to trade information on with bones they have broken and how many people they know have been killed by not wearing a helmet or how many have been killed because the helmet whipped their head off.

There is nothing wrong with a hobby. Even those that can only afford a piece of twig with a string on it get to go fishing but aspire to getting a boat. They buy a basket case motorcycle and $200 a year in magazines dreaming of the day.

Even a home haunt can have a sponsor even if it is you. A miniature version of grass roots philathropy. You spend $300 to $3,000 per year on the physical assets that are your hobby and it raises more money that the $3 fish for the community.

A large coven of ex fellons on motorcycles wants to prove they are just normal people by having an anual toys for tots motorcycle parade that ends in going to a location out in the wilderness where there is drinking and eating and other terrible things. Everyone is an individual, you can tell because they are all dressed alike.

In my case, I take a pro haunt to a rather large building that normally houses 9 large fire trucks and set up outside and inside the facility for a percentage of the ticket price. Ultimately the money is being raised for more equipment or making sure they have bottled water at a fire or they have a Christmas dinner all together or what ever. They have gun doing and then there are people that will donate over and beyond the ticket price another $10 or $20 because these people have been profoundly been effected in a good way by the service this particular fire squad has provided be it a medical emergency or fire. I don't get a part of that donation and I myself and my haunt really had nothing to do with why this event brought them there to donate. I rather focus on the fact that those donations over and above can be more with more investment and this brings more ticket purchasing customers and everyone is happy.

Otherwise, even being on a road that carries 80,000 cars per day, it is pretty easy for everyone to just keep driving by at speed unless there is an overlying reason to stop, feel welcomed and be apart of the community at large. If it wasn't for this event I might not know so many people in my own community. But, even being a weirdo, for some reason I have even in my secret location on the hiway fire trucks and ambulances that beep as they go by. motorcycles that rev differently and people I don't know who they are because I don't know what new car they have trying to say hello. This is real world social marketing, not putting faith in people jumping out of their chairs from hours of turning themselves into mental zombies looking at 400 Myspace profiles.

When there is an even, people come. Some 500 from this community, 80 from that, 4,000 from there, and combined with the 30 other peoples social networks that are acting and running the event.

Advertising is more than getting on TV or radio. It is more than fliers and coupons, it is even each individual that comes there or is an actor or a builder of props having a certain positive buzz that they will share with others that this event is happening. If people are not proud of their involvement or can't see a benefit for greater good, the event will not do well.

The power of even a home haunt can be increased in word of mouth by asking for help and sponsors. The local lumber yard gave us 3 sheets of plywood, these three restaurants involved themselves to provide hot chocolate and snacks, a gentleman from the local live theater let us use this cool lighting all to bring something of benefit for the community in our small way.

Greg Chrise
11-04-2007, 03:42 PM
In a very small event, even the act of going around asking for things when they say no, you still haven't wasted your time because you have notified/personally invited another potential patron and their family to come check it out.

Every time you run an add for anything from looking for volunteers or donations you have notified even if no one calls.

Every person that thinks you are a weirdo goes and asks friends if there is something wrong with you or not. They have been notified and notified others.

Every other home haunt or pro haunt you go to see and talk to in your area now has some other place to offer patrons that want more.

Every neighbor that bitches publicly gives you the opportunity to disclose why you do this to help the community.

Watching these home haunt videos on fearnet.com left me with a few questions about why two generations of people, each with an extra 45 pounds of undigested meat in their gullet, think halloween 365 days per year is cool. How do they really help anyone but themselves? Just because they can all fit into a Ford Pinto and make it to Mac Frugals to buy Hallloween crap does it really make them somebody? Oh, the children love it. Really? Or is it the parents love abusing the children exposing them to weirdos with consumption issues and fake blood in a limited one night per your life time frame? What's wrong with this picture?

Sure there is a learning curve here, an enjoyment through doing, some sense of accomplishment but what is the over all end purpose? to bring Chinese recycled raw materials fashioned into crap to the local landfil? To entertain? To have something to do?

I'm just trying to be objective and see this phenomina as others would. If you have an answer for these issues and can communicate it properly then you are somebody and your event becomes something. Like, you make all of your own stuff and it is not only unique but, is a physical activity that keeps you fit, physically and mentally. It helps more than just warping a few undeveloped brains and your own psycological inferiority issues.

Maybe it inspires others that if they invest enough time, they too can also do things that are ultimately positive. Which intern keeps people off the streets abusing substances and welping on each other for free stuff.

Somehow, there must be somekind of a glimer of something that proves you aren't broke and retarded even if you are. Broke and retarded with a good heart, that's good. Resourceful and creative, that's good. Developing skills for something bigger, thats good maybe.

11-04-2007, 03:44 PM
you kinda lost me, but i think i get it.

So what you were talking about in one part was that the more people you get working on it the more of a turn out you have. That depends however on how good the people working on the even fel the evenr is. IF the people helping think it is stupid then they wont invite their friends, but they will more than likely still help out.

I get it, but i would still like some liability questions answered. If i open to the public and advertise i am as liable as if some one comes up to my hosue trick or treating. Now thats good, but if you advertise you arnt getting kids coming up to the door you are getting adults and stranger, teenagers. Normally people that are up to no good.

Did any of you get security at your haunt. How much was it.

Greg Chrise
11-04-2007, 04:58 PM
I think I lost myself there too, I'm in the broke and retarded catagory these days.

Recently I have seen reports where people fall at a store or someone's home and think they will be sueing for millions. It is not so. They are in some regards responsible for their own ability to walk. The insurance industry of course isn't going to support this information as their product is to get money for something that will never happen.

It is less expensive to just be prepared in some manner that if someone gets hurt somehow you can to some degree tend to their needs. Most real claims even at major events are nothing more than minor scrapes usually far below what the deductable of any insurance policy would be. You would spend say $1200 or slightly more for $300,000 in liability insurance or an additional $300 event insurance attached to who ever ownes the homes policy. The over all trick is indeed to make sure there is indeed some policy in place but chances are there won't be the ability for anyone to recieve money on any real claim as your event charged no money, or was for charity.

All you have to do is make sure that there are no slides, steps or places that you crawl through. The patrons walk through the entire time in an upright position and as a result are not being introduced to harm by others or your event. If you have something happen, be prepeared to render aid to the extent of making sure someone can get to them with the hospital even if it is their own party. If they do not need a hospital visit, a simple first aid kit is generally enough. Making sure they have time to recover somewhere and are offered assistance.

yes, to follow up the more people involved and positive the better the event. You can make sure one or many of your volunteers are experienced EMS and have all of your emergency numbers known in advance.

Paying for security and such is also a function of cash flow. If only 10 people are attending, you don't need to be spending $300 per night for security. You ARE security. When a home haunt gets large enough to require things like this you have bigger problems like zoning and being raided for wrongfully operating an event that is said to be for a cause but might not have all of the legitimate papers and permits. If it is a freindly neighborhood event it flies under the radar as something you have the freedom to do on your own property.

With anything, every area and township has different levels of requirement and enforcement of township rules. Believe it or not there are places that have no police force, no dedicated ambulance service and everyone is on their own. Places that have all of this infastructure coming from your tax dollars will have all kinds of reasons to justify their existance and that they are doing what they are supposed to do.

The purpose of home insurance is on different levels and different stacks of policy functions. One is liability, another is property value, another is damge to the place by others, another is the value of the contents, another is an event or party at your home, it can go on and on, it just depends on how much these things are worth and how much you have to spend on a regular basis.

11-04-2007, 07:28 PM
Yeah you need insurance to run a public attraction, store, etc.

If you're gonna advertise it, you have to find out first: a demographic. This is a home haunt and I take it that you don't have many actors or sophisticated props, scenes, etc. right? Or do you. If you do have a good amount of actors, props, themes, and scenes then advertise it more as a mature haunt and if not then as a more family haunt. Or even if everything is good, you decide how much scare goes into it.

So: Insurance, Audience, Advertisement