View Full Version : Tours vs. Walkthrough

Old Tree Studios
11-16-2007, 10:20 AM
Not to throw a Molotov Coctail into the room, because it's not my way, but I'd like to get input on the topic of tours from you folks. This issue has been addressed in various ways already and Larry wrote a great article about it. But still I'm hoping for some practical experiences from you "in the field".

To put my question in context, we are plotting and 8,000 sq. ft. haunt and are counting on doing a guided tour. The basic advantage of the tour is to be in control of the "creep factor" in each room and maximize the effect with music, actors and storyline.

We of course realize that this has an adverse effect of "GPM" but we are willing to make the sacrifice in favor of quality. Walt wouldn't comprimise quality for profit and we don't wanna either if we can avoid it.

Back in the day ( too long ago) I was a tour guide on Disney's Backstage Studio Tour (when they used to HAVE a walking tour) and there was a rather ingenious method of keeping people moving through the rooms that we fully plan to exploit. Details can be provided if you're interested.

So I suppose it's not so much of a question, but rather an appeal for you folks to pass along your experiences regarding the positives and pitfalls of a theatrical style guided tour.

Thanks folks. Looking forward to the tales.

11-16-2007, 02:29 PM
At our haunt we have always used tour guides. This method does slow down the number of people that are able to go through each night, however allows you to control the speed in which your groups are able to proceed. We use this to our advantage we like the heavy story involvement and in your face scares that a walk through does not allow you to do as much. If you are in a heavy visitor area and expect large crowds each night you may want to steer away from this methods.

Ricky Jordan
Ball Ground, Georgia
Talmadge Brothers

Jim Warfield
11-16-2007, 04:45 PM
A guided tour is safer with someone always nearby to respond to any kind of an emergency.
Guided tours aren't needed if it is just a bunch of sheer walls with nothing to grapple onto, yank loose or steal.
If your floorplan has no plaace else a customer can possibly put themselves except in the "path", then turn them loose I guess?
I think most more adult customers want to pay for entertainment from people versus a dark hallway, the 14 year olds? They often like a track meet, run through as fast as their feet can move.
I began personalising my house tours almost from day-one, trying to create a unique experience that may avoid duplication by others, I know I am sure not duplicating anyone else (that I know of), life's too short for that.

11-16-2007, 05:50 PM
My haunted trail , in its third year uses guides but, next year I'm going to put the guides in robes and put them in key places along the trail. This will give guest a feeling that they are on their own. The guides can move people along if need be and keep a eye on things. I find myself needing more guides every year, this will let me keep it the number needed down also.

Greg Chrise
11-16-2007, 07:29 PM
Wear and tear on tour guides having to travel so many paths in an evening. With proper actor training, each is a guide of a specific section and it is more like a relay race rather than one out the whole course over and over. However I find some places will just never give up that "control?" or "being responsible" for each group method.

It depends on your cast. The places I have enjoyed the most had no obvious guide yet actors pretty much directing your attention and highly detailed sets and animatronics. With slightly wider halls, only in a few places you have the advantage of actually allowing a group to pass another that may actually be just standing there looking at a detail decorated scene and thus each gets the experience they have created or want for themselves.

Some want to take an hour and look at every detail and appreciate all the work that went into it, some have been pretrained to go through in 2.5 minutes in the exact same haunt. Or with the same haunt and return customers, a haunt that is highly detailed and things shifted around from year to year even one group of patrons will perhaps one year be the slow group and then later the mid speed group and even in the same year back for the third time be the 2.5 minute group and has thoroughly enjoyed each visit and ultimately paid each time.

And so, relative to speed of the group the actors do different things. The very slow observant kind just gets a lot of monsters looking at them very much like a que line scare, actually blocking some of the detail so they must come again to see if they can check it out better. The mid range group enters into the actors begin startel scares and slowing them to become obstacles. The really fast group is not chased but given a birth to go through safetly and occasionally scared back.

All the same haunt, many different ways to play it and to percieve it relative to what customer expectations and desires may be. Further different rooms each have a certain pace realtive to pace. No show is ever the same.

Outside the haunt the customers trade entirely different appreciative experiences and keep the word of mouth alive.

From the very first time I stood in line for an hour and a half, knowing and talking to the designer, I wondered why they have to have some major reset in between each group. Some of them are ridiculous like a half mile trail with only 3 groups actually out there. Or 300 people in line and only a maximum of 6 people inside the haunt. Supposedly for the quality of the show.

What the show IS is inside the customer's head, not how much control or power you put over the customers. They are going to have an element of entertaining themselves, let them do just that for your ticket price.

There isn't any difference between having 4 pushers vs. 4 group leaders sectioning a haunt with a number of actors in their charge only that the customers aren't getting the same treatment all the way through and the pace offered by each different style ultimately makes the experience something that can't be defined, hence enjoyable.

If there is one or a few theatrical scenes it is fun to have ghouls tell them to stop and obey. Especially when they have gone thinking they were free to roam for some time.

Once a group gets 60 to 100 linear feet send in the next group. Make the haunt design twist and turn so there is generally never more than 12 feet stright and this breaks up the line of sight for even a congo line that forms for repeat scares. Have something going on ever 12 feet. Don't have where you walk 50 feet to the next room where a presentation will be observed. That's good for a 2 hour wait and the customer wondering wether standing that long was worth it and wether they would do that again. Do you like going to the bank on Friday in the late afternoon? Sometimes you have to but, if you had a choice as you do in entertainment you would avoid going at all on a busy night (if you were the customer) once you have experienced this a few years.

With low through put you are giving the customers reasons to stay on the couch watching TV.

Excuses to not give you money.

1) drive and hour or more
2) stand in line outside and hour or more
3) give them money
4) have them tell me what to do
5) have them tell me what I should think is important to see

vs, the drive is unavoidable and worth the experience as it is different and exciting no matter what I have in my mind when I get there. The wait time is always appearing to be moving with no crap about the actors are on break right now or we are resetting the show and just get over it because we have your money. Let them experience what they want to experience by being reactive rather than proding cattle or being the Mister bullhorn guy at a protest rally. Allowing them to experience what they want will make them think afterward what other things they would like to know or see or try in experiencing your event.

But, that's just how I roll. I love seeing people having gone out of my haunt having just come from a seriously great theme park type haunt and look at my event with their head cocked like a dog heating a weird noise as they are trying to figure out why our show rocked even in comparison.

By engaging the customers brain you get rid of potential complaints like they made me hang onto a rope, or they made me walk half a mile and nothing happened except they told me what to do and the pay off was pretty lame. As opposed to I came around a corner, saw this and that happened and it was totally unexpected or they got me even though I saw them do it to the person in front of me.

Greg Chrise
11-16-2007, 07:37 PM
Please send donations for a key board that actually has letters on it. I'm sure I would spell better then.

Jim Warfield
11-16-2007, 08:51 PM
Gregg, A new keyboard could have tons of letters on it, all over it and it still willnot make you smell better!

Oh, did you say "spell?"

Old Tree Studios
11-16-2007, 09:40 PM
Thanks for that interesting post Greg! See that's just the kind of input we need, tho I hope you aren't experiencing any symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from the typing.

You confirmed something we (my team) were discussing. And that is everyone has there own way of experiencing these things.

Speaking for me personally, it seems I am unable to be "scared" or even creeped out by haunts where you just walk through at your own pace. Oh sure, I can be mildly startled by someone hiding around a corner, but I can be just as startled when my mother-in-law walks around the corner at home and not have to pay $10. I think there's a fundimental difference between "scared" and "startled" and we really want to reach the scared benchmark.

We all just recently attended Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando. We were blown away by the "exteriors" (built inside on a soundstage), but were underwhelmed with the haunts themselves. And this is Universal here! But the reason was, it was basically an endless line of people being ushered through the houses with your basic garden variety teenagers in rubber masks hiding behind doorways. Just not scary for me.

However, I suppose it's important to factor in that there are, in fact, many people who are scared by this style and do enjoy it.

Maybe the answer here is in focusing passion. That is to say, designing a style of haunt that would scare you! In other words, folks like Greg are very passionate about that style of haunt, and as a result, he's focused his passion and created a great one.

So thanks for that post! Ok... others? Any other experiences with guided tours that worked or didn't? I knew we could count on this group!

Greg Chrise
11-17-2007, 01:42 AM
It happens that having been through so many you train yourself to even be un effected by the wildest in your face chainsaw dance. Yet I can pretty much grade any haunt by how big a smile it puts on my face or doesn't.

There is a startle that will get anyone or two and they are both available with a tour of the Raven's Grin Inn. One haunt I am associated with, I taught one guy something that gets to me, he went back and taught everyone. When I went through, they got me about 5 times.

At the Ravens Grin Inn, among the other 40,000 creepy and scary things, is what could be called the taco bell scare. Another scare is done with something that costs less than 25 cents.

At one scream park that isn't really that great after waiting in lines for 2 hours, I followed someone that had been in haunting for decades. I watched the chainsaw guy try very hard to make him flinch or react at all. He did not. Then cam my turn and he tried every thing short of hurting me and I was able to not really be effected by it. The chainsaw guy and I looked at each other in the eyes wondering what we had learned. He was indeed really good, even knew where to strike toward in close quarters. Of course now he had been really primed up with all the moves and the people behind us were not with our party and I could hear sheer terror and mutiple bodies hitting the walls.

This level of being effected if carried through to customers, perhaps a hard day of work has rendered you customer slow enough to physical assault that it can be easily ignored yet the detail and things said by actors will be highly entertaining. Or a prop or detail will be profoundly appreciated or even seeing the reaction of who they came with is enough.

Some of our older actors prefer to be toward the front of the haunt and if they get a reaction or figure out in a timely fashion what effects people, they may pop up in several places through out the haunt on those customers. Something I don't really advise and haven't seen anywhere before was one of our guys waited for a group of kids to all get in the suburban and he came up to all the windows. There was a sea of movement away from him and screaming. Then he opened the door and went inside and went down the middle of the 9 passenger seats plastering kinds up agains the windows going after I guess one specific kid.

If there are 17 rooms, there may be 17 different opportunities to get to the customers. It should perhaps be orchestrated that which portions of the haunt will use what specific lines and tactics and intentionally not use the same scare all the way through the performance. The 17 different things come from direction of assault, speaking, screaming or no noise, a clown horn, strobes, fog or other lighting effect, wether they are a monster or a detained victim. Some times just a motionless person sitting on the floor will totally creep people out doing absolutely nothing.

There is no end to what can be done and perhaps each of the 17 rooms has a list of 6 things to do per group, different paces, different skill levels of the actors, you have something sort of alive and entertaining. This makes scares down the course more effective as well as there is nothing really predictable. This continual development even through the season keeps the whole thing highly entertaining for the actors too and as a result you have something going on.

I have gone through a great number of haunts over a decade, sometimes the same haunt 30 times over years with different groups brought each time. I made notes on what I liked, what sucked with no intention to cut anyone down or make any of my findings public. Many things suck because the available clientel is too high, the resources are too low and no one spent 20 years in preproduction making it just right. Yet, if you can recognize what works that is simple to provide, you can do great things with in your resource level. It is actually better to do great things with nothing than to do nothing with great resources.

Not every one you decide to be an actor is going to be Anthony Hopkins. Yet, a 10 year old can freak out another 10 year old and make a 50 year old laugh coming out of a Willy Wonka door.

Wow, I'm almost like Thomas Edison, I'll quit there. There it is, Thomas was not neccessarily a genius, he was a manager that took limited resources and conducted 40,000 experiments. Maybe 15 of them turned out to be something over a 40 or 50 year period. There was not neccesarily any way for Thomas to predescribe a business plan or known rate of success. More was learned from the doing and failing that was never made public as it had no merit or was only a stepping stone to something else. Plus they were kind of privately held secrets.

In reverse engineering a haunt from all that is good everywhere, even the actor as a curious individual can't put a finger on it all as they only developed 1/17th of the experience.

11-17-2007, 06:55 PM
In my opinion, guided tours are better. But just having guides bring you through something that you could go through on your own is not what i am talking about. The best style haunts i have been to are the ones that bring you into a room, you stop, have a little storyline, and then it ends with a scare. Nothing can beat that. The guide is part of the show. After that room, you go through a hallway or two to another room where another "skit" or "scene" is played out. The only place where this is done is by the jaycees. That's right the JAYCEES. When it comes to haunting in my area (massachusetts) i have not witnessed a greater haunt then them. They are set in an old camp, so there are 7 cabins, each with a different scene. They put on an incredible job. And in my opinion, it beats by a long shot the high tech animatronically advanced haunted attractions. I went to spooky world a couple years back, and even though they were supposed to be the best around- the jaycees were better. Whenever there is just a long line of people going through the haunt- it is not scary. So i'm trying to say, if you want great quality, creative, well thought out attractions, that is the style i would go with.

Old Tree Studios
11-17-2007, 10:25 PM
Yeah Ben, that's what we were thinking... By having a tour guide who is part of the storyline and having "control" of his/her group we can better utilize the storyline and involve them in a more theatrical way.

I wanted to throw out an idea that we are considering implementing to improve traffic flow.

When I worked for the Mouse, many years ago on the Walking portion of the Backstage Studio tour, we obviously had to handle massive amounts of people, but in a guided tour situation.

One of the things that made it work nicely was the use of "Block Lights". Each room or stop on the tour was roughly scripted to last the same amount of time. Each room had two lights discreetly out of group view. A red and a green light.

When the group enters the room, the tourguide hits the blocklight button, turning the light RED in the room before, indicating to the guide behind you that your room is in use. Likewise the block light in your room is RED, indicating that the guide in the room ahead is doing his thing. When the light in your room turns from RED to GREEN, you know the room ahead of you is clearing. In theory you are finishing up as well, so you hit your blocklight button turning the Green light on in the room before you so that guide knows they can come on in.

This method pretty much kept the tour moving together at the same time. When it's not busy, its pretty much green lights all the way through and not an issue. But when its busy, it seems to really maximize efficiency in keeping things moving as quickly as possible.

The nice thing about the Block Lights is that they are discreet (small LED's) and the audience doesn't even realize they are being used. (No peeking through doors to see if the next room is clear...)

Anyway, thought I'd throw that out there. It seems to apply pretty well to this situation. It was a guided tour that had to shuffle through enormous amounts of people and maintain a reasonable que time and it seemed to work pretty well.

11-18-2007, 08:49 AM
thats a great idea. When i volunteered for the jaycees in 04, they utilized this strategy somewhat. In different cabins they would have different lights or even props in different places that would show if it was time to go through or not for the next group. So basically each cabin had a different way to let the guide know they could go through. But what to do if there is a group in the cabin ahead?? Well, they called them "walkbyes". Between each cabin, there were walkbyes, which were mini scenes that could end quickly, or take two minutes to get through. In 04, i ran one of the walkbyes. When the light was green in the next cabin, i knew i could end the scene. When there was no light at all, i had to keep going. We must have had a two minute script, but were able to cut it down to any length depending on the availability of the next cabin. It is really a great method. Good Luck next year.

Greg Chrise
11-18-2007, 01:38 PM
This repeating of go through a hallway or two, hear/see a theatrical presentation, get a scare, lather rinse repeat any number of times from 10 to 20 times has been done since the Jaycees sent pamphlets to ever Jaycees Organization that you can make money with a haunted house since 1980. For Christs sake that's nearly 30 years of lather rinse repeat.

This limits your potential building of customers to: well, it is pretty lame but maybe the kids will like it.

Perhaps if you are a Jaycees Organization it is keeping the tradition alive but if you are not the Jaycess it better be much different. Like add a conditioner and have multiple formulas for dry to light hair.

Greg Chrise
11-18-2007, 01:47 PM
30 years of lather rinse repeat just makes you lose hair. No one is impressed by how much hair you have been able to shed.

Jim Warfield
11-18-2007, 01:53 PM
We have some pretty creative guides here and when in the middle of creating and entertaining time can slide right by by the wheelbarrow full , so Jessica bought small plastic stop watches on strings worn around the neck because having the entire tour take a certain amount of time is important "in season".
Allowing the guide all the time in the world will slow down everything too much often times.
Watching and waiting for a little led to turn from red to green could seem like eons sometimes when dealing with some types of customers.

Greg Chrise
11-18-2007, 02:34 PM
This plastic stop watch and a whistle could become a haunt character! Penalty! improper use of theatrics!

Jim Warfield
11-18-2007, 02:52 PM
I like the striped uniform, whistle, stop watch, all official looking and ready to kick a troublemaker out of the tour!!!!!
"Unnecesarry distracting verbage! Non-stop idiotcy, 15 yards and lost of the tour, Out You GO!"
"TWEET!" Stop the clock, time out." (Must be time for another beer commercial? )

Greg Chrise
11-18-2007, 03:01 PM
Yeah, something with the Coors Light Twins!

11-19-2007, 08:04 AM
Great thread. This is an issue we are considering. Our background: fund-raiser, guided trail in the woods approximately 5/8 mile, staff of 100 (includes guides, actors, concessions, - everybody), tour takes about 30-35 minutes. We have "scare stations" that are skit-driven with several actors and more extensive props along with "stand-alones" that are 1-2 actors for more of a "boo" effect. Keep group size to 10 or less, although sometimes customers insist on keeping their larger groups together.

2006: 10 nights, 11 scare stations, +2000 customers, averaging 200 per night. This was our first year.

2007: 6 nights, 14 scare stations, -2000 customers, averaging +300 per night for our second year. Became much more efficient in getting the groups ready for the tour. Better turn-around for the guides.

I really want to integrate the "no guides" into our trail to remove some of the customer "security" to make them feel more vulnerable. I know we have to keep guides to some extent for safety, supervision, and to keep them moving.

We used a different location in 2007 from 2006, but we expect to be back at our 2007 location in 2008. We won't cut the new trail until the Spring of 2008, but I can't wait to see how I can integrate your suggestions of assigning guides to a specific part of the trail. I think this might help our less talkative guides create a role if they only have to work a particular area. Also, we have a few guides who get a lot of requests that can't always be filled because they're already on the trail with another group. This would let every group spend time with every guide and create a more polished (I think) performance.

I'd be curious to hear more from those of you that have used this type of partially guided tour, particularly outdoors.

Greg Chrise
11-19-2007, 05:53 PM
Once a group gets the idea that they will be walking and set a pace, they will keep that pace and try to stay together. It is human nature. So, you guide them with wide trails that have ropes to say you have reached the side and occasionally from the dark (under trees with little or no moonlight) you have some dim bulbs come on as the groups target. They will go to the light rather than just stand in the dark.

The next level of preparedness comes in setting up the lay out of the trail. If you imagine your hand, anywhere from 4 to 6 fingers, tracing the outline, the groups go in big irregular loops and back to the center where ultimately this is where the scares, things that require power and group monitoring is done. They have walked a strange un predictable zig zag and are un aware they are coming back to the same general zone or zones.

The back of one facade is actually another facade on the other side and to the customer it looks like they walked hundreds of feet to a completely different building. Wonder how they can walk for half a mile and that same guy pops out 5 times? Are there 5 guys? Is he evil? a Clone? Really athletic and inspired?

Plus if there is a real emergency, one need not travel 5/8 of a mile, they only have to go a few hundred feet down onw of the fingers. The layout can get more complicated than this and even cross over here and there and from year to year places that were behind the scenes are the show side this year and juggled about from year to year.

11-19-2007, 06:38 PM
Me likey the traffic signal idea for guided tours as well. Works out for theatrical scenes. Tentative is the rope guided method which is nice because it cuts out vandalism completely. (10 foot rope, bout 5-6 p[eople per group, guide leads in a wedding walk speed, guest hands must stay on rope at all times. As a bonus, if anyone falls, they are hanging on the rope so it is a soft landing...

11-19-2007, 06:57 PM
This repeating of go through a hallway or two, hear/see a theatrical presentation, get a scare, lather rinse repeat any number of times from 10 to 20 times has been done since the Jaycees sent pamphlets to ever Jaycees Organization that you can make money with a haunted house since 1980. For Christs sake that's nearly 30 years of lather rinse repeat.

I find going to these haunts that all you do is walk through hallways with guys just hanging out in different scare spots is more lather rinse repeat than the jaycees. Maybe the jaycees you went to as a kid or what not were not the best, but the jaycees i was familiar with put on a hell of a show that beat any for profit haunts. They bring in an incredible crowd of people and i have waited in 3 hour long lines, cursing at the damn jaycees the whole way through the line, then when i finally exit the haunt praise them for how much it was worth it. Maybe the for profit haunts around me are not that good either. Come on, how many more haunted 1 story warehouses do we need? The jaycees were set in cabins deep in the woods which already provided a creepy atmosphere. And lastly, CREATIVITY. They are creative. Anyone can purchase an animatronic. These guys beat that 100 times over.

Jim Warfield
11-19-2007, 07:11 PM
Well, Gregg, now that you have shown him the "Finger", I'll "moon" him.
Take a look at the calender for next year, check out what sort of moon phases your haunt nights will be having, then go check out your location in the early spring before the foliage pops out and see what it may look like come fall with leaves leaving the branches and this may give you some new and better ideas as to using natural shadows, ex cetra when you cut those trails for fall.

11-19-2007, 07:27 PM
both have great pros and cons a tour is nice if you have a good host to guide you. a walk through is great if you have good staff to get out and perform thier scqres the problem with a walk through is your scares and such must keep the patrons moving and you now how important through put is to a haunt MONEY MNEY MONEY.

so both are good and a haunt should be designed with the particular method you have in mind.

just my two cents not worth even that.

Jim Warfield
11-19-2007, 10:38 PM
..but how dilligently will your haunt designer work if you just pay him that measley 2 cents?
"Jeb! You mean to say that you spent the family's last 2 cents on a haunt designer!?"
"Why, for 2 cents I'd give you a good thrashing!"
"But I now know that you ain't got that 2 cents! I'm finally safe."
"But I can call that haunt designer to tell him to design a nice room just for you, the spanking room!"
"Can I bring my little ape too?"
"He's not a little ape, I know he's a full-fledged Monkey!"

Greg Chrise
11-19-2007, 11:14 PM
Great, your Monkey just ate my coin collection.

Jim Warfield
11-20-2007, 06:44 AM
Then by all means feel free to spank my monkey.
that'l learn him!

11-20-2007, 11:17 AM
Where I work we have floaters who serve as both scares and guides.
They are the first scare groups get, usually jumping out in the lobby from behind the ticket booth or through secret doors before they even enter the haunt. The floater then decides, based on their reaction, how they will act towards the group. Sometimes they'll guide them all the way through. Sometimes they'll use secret passages to "disappear" for a few scenes, or in some cases for the rest of the haunt. We get all sorts of "uh dude...are you coming back?" and "But I can't find my OWN way out!" type reactions.

This gets rid of any dependence on the "and to your right you will see a headless horseman blah blah blah" formula, but also allows us to utilize it should a group react well to it.

11-20-2007, 09:16 PM
it appears as if some people are "pushing" their guests through faster so they can get in more people therefor making more money. I agree bringing in money is very important, but so is giving the guest the best show you can! Make sure your not taking away from the guests entertainment so you can make a few more bucks every night. Trust me in the end you will be alot richer if you keep the show at 110%.


Jim Warfield
11-20-2007, 11:05 PM
A few years ago some different people had said that in their states the law tells them they must have guides leading the people through their haunted houses.
It can't get much safer than that.
Unless of course your guides are escapees from an instituion for the criminally insane, or the ex-husband of a woman in the tour?

Old Tree Studios
11-21-2007, 12:01 AM
Sean, I think you probably hit the nail on the head. I suppose in the end it's about harnessing your particular creative energy to create the best show that you can.

If you are particularly adept at creating a "self guided" walkthrough type haunt, then use those skills to make a great one.

If you are talented in the area of scriptwriting, storyline, and have access to great actors, then a "tour" is the way to go for you.

Doesn't sound as though there's a right answer here. It's about the direction of the creative energy of you and your staff and how it works best for you.

Once again, as a "newbie" to the forum, I'm impressed by everyon'e ability to rationally present differing opinions.

I've worked in other genres of entertainment, and im comparison... well... it ain't pretty out there.

Gosh, we're great.