View Full Version : Haunt Drama Advice

04-17-2008, 11:57 AM
I need some advice, to see if anyone else has dealt with stuff like this.

Our show is 100% volunteer driven, made up of people from all walks of life, and we usually are running a pretty tight ship, with very little room for losing people due to personal differences.

And while we do not tolerate negative behavior while people are at the haunt, either during show hours or otherwise, sometimes 'drama' becomes a problem, with some people bashing others on blogs, myspace, and crap like that...

And when drama happens, and people come to US (the owners/operators) complaining about so-and-so did this and now I quit because I don't feel safe/respected/involved here anymore, what do you do about it?

Do your shows deal with this garbage? I know it's going to be pretty impossible to get rid of all of it, but where would you start? Overall, we have a pretty great culture, and have a lot of fun, but a couple times a year some really big thing comes up that causes a lot of heartache, not just for the people involved, but for the owners as well.


-- I

04-17-2008, 01:27 PM
Unfortunately, whenever you get a group of people together there will be drama. If you do not have the ability of teiing the drama queens to leave you are in a no win situation. I do think many haunt owners do not run their haunt professionally. I have done much theater in my day and have worked for many directors and they always let you know they are in charge. During my haunt I always tell my actors I can not deal with BS when I am running the haunt and to leave that stuff at home. Maybe try to keep offending parties far away from each other. Worse case, if you have 1 person that causes you grief every year, you have to decide how badly you really need them. I had a very cute girl working for me a few years ago but she was a spoiled brat and decided she was going to try to play mind games and pout when she was not placed where she wanted to be. After not finding her at her station 5 times during the 1st hour we were open, I fired her on the spot... Sometimes having an actorless scene is better than dealing with the drama.

04-17-2008, 01:43 PM
Whip them and beat them! It keeps them in line! lol

I have a very similar situation. Unfortunately, drama is going to always be part of the game. Humans canít seem to help themselves, and haunting tends to attract the dramatic.
During the season I have had to remind people that we are there to entertain, and not squabble. If they canít get over whatever it is that is ruffling their feathers enough to continue to do the job they volunteered for, then I donít need them there.
To alleviate some of the problem I keep the group together during the off-season. We get together for fun activities, acting games, or go out to eat. It strengths the bonds between them, so the drama doesnít become a major issue. Also, I listen to them. I listen and watch them, and I have gotten a pretty good feel for which ones can work together in an area, and which ones should be put on opposite ends of the haunt.
But, I still lose people to drama on occasion. I wonít have a few back this season, most likely, due to drama. It is just the nature of the beast.
Also, evenly spread encouragement and praise seem to go along way.

04-17-2008, 02:33 PM
LOL Lurker, how does the saying go: "The beatings will continue until moral improves."

04-17-2008, 04:40 PM
Don't use volunteers if you can. We refuse to let volunteers work for us for several reasons including the one you are talking about. By paying our employees we are able to do a few key things that prevent this issue for the most part. They are as follows:

1.) Demand Professionalism - Because we pay people our staff shows up to a job at a place of work. They know they are not showing up to hang out and have fun and start drama (although the job is fun). They also know that they will be let go if they cause internal conflict that damages our image or bottome line. Because its a job we find our staff has a certain degree of professional respect for one another.

2.) Place Expectations on Behavior - We outline at the beginning of the season behavior that will and will not be tolerated in and around out place of business. Those that don't accept or don't follow these guidelines are either not hired or given warnings, and if the problem persits they are let go.

3.) Outline Consequences for actions before they happen - Again, before we begin the season we make sure all of our employees are aware that if the rules or guidelines setforth are not followed the consequence could be not having a job anymore. We also tell our staff why we have these rules so they understand that we aren't trying to be awful employers, we are just trying to run an efficient company that provides a respectful place of work for all. We tell them that in itself is more imporant than any one staff member.

You can of course try to implement these ideas without paying people but it has been our experience that it is really hard to get people to do anything or follow any rules unless they are getting paid. Otherwise they face no real consequence, other than not being able to "show up." Without a paycheck there is nothing really motivating them to do anything or follow any rules.

And as a side note we find that typically the "Love" a person has for haunting that seemingly motivates them to volunteer and follow the rules always takes a back seat to a hot date on a Saturday nigh potentially leaving you both "screwed."

Overall, try to implement some good company and work place policy with your people. If you find no one listens or it doesn't work its probably because they aren't getting paid and there is no realy consequence for their actions.


House of Torment

Jim Warfield
04-17-2008, 11:18 PM
It's 7 pm, the parking lot is full of customers, everything is turned on, ready to begin and a helper standing next to me wants to tell me all about a tv show he saw????

The house is full of customers a helper runs into the room half a house away from where she is supposed to be, wanting to find a shoulder to cry on about her boyfriend who is supposed to be working that same room with her!? (Wants to break up!)

We schedule a husband and wife to lead tours together. They get here, we tell them this and the husband loudly says for everyone to hear:"I don't want to be in the same room with that Beeetch!" And he means it and is very serious, not an ounce of jest.

A brother and sister both working here have to be placed well away from one another because they can't stop fighting with each other (There are only two kids in this family) They are a jr. and sen. in high school.
Twenty minutes after we close and everyone has left, the girl reappears and asks to talk to my wife, the girl has her hair hiding half of her face.
Once they got home the girl was cooking something and without so much as one word between them the brother walks up to her and punched her in the eye very forcefully.
(Later some other kids in school with these two tell us the "word" around the school was that the brother was forcing his sister to have sex with him)
No, we Never have any "Drama" around here.

04-17-2008, 11:57 PM

Shock collars.

04-17-2008, 11:57 PM
Thats the hard thing about being a haunt owner, trying to keep everything professional. As a business owner, you want to be their boss, but sometimes you also are torn to be their friends. Many of the people that work at a haunt are "social outcasts" I think Cydney Neil called em her little misfits people that do not fit into the norm of society (thank God lol).

They need a haunt cause for many of them, a haunt gives them a chance to be part of a team, gives them a structure and many of my cast call me their "dark Father" Personally I worry about many of my cast members and think about them in the off season. Wondering if they are OK and if they are making stupid choices. Some of my cast have made bad choices. 2 got pregnant, one of those decided to abort the baby. The other is only 17 and she is keeping it. Poor thing, 17 and the father of the baby wants nothing to do with her cause he is just 17 too. Another kid bounces from one poor choce with her life to another. Last poor choice was she fell in love with a guy who set up a meth lab in their home & who talked her into doing some ID theft. Now she is walking around with an ankle bracelet and looking at some time in jail and a record. Another kid is a great kid, but very Goth and a satanist who has problems respecting any athority except mine so he can not keep any job. So I love my cast, accept their quirks, and try to give them something to do and try to give them little lessons in life that may eventually help them find a better way to live.

As a haunt owner though, you have to again walk that thin line of remaining their boss, but gettting them to understand you do care about them......

04-18-2008, 11:28 AM
Yeah, it's a constant struggle, isn't it?

Regarding paying people, we decided against that for two reasons:

1) Every show we have ever seen where people are *paid* versus volunteering are far worse than I would expect them to be. (And I haven't seen your show, Torment, so you may be the exception to the rule, so please don't take offense). My theory is that those people are just there to pick up the paycheck, and not for the love of it.

2) The few times someone was on board that expected something preformed much worse in all activities than the volunteers. Again, I think it's the same reason.

Instead of paying, we are rewarding people differently, and have established growth paths for people. We're constantly working to improve the program, and our top people are rewarded with things that have far greater value than money to them, like the ability to 'roam' the haunt as thier characters instead of being stuck in a spot, or having special areas that is off limits to everyone but them.

Additionally, for the people who come to me (or one of the other members), and ask what they can do to improve at the haunt, we are brutually honest with them regarding the skills they need to develop to grow at the show, and most of these skills are valuable outside of the haunt as well (people management, how to communicate well with your co-volunteers, willingness to develop new skills, etc), and we will go above and beyond the call of duty to help our people grow personally, as well as professionally at the haunt.

Unfortunately, I've noticed a few things. Our biggest drama causers all meet this critera:

1) They are under the age of about 24 (again, not a hard and fast rule, but they at least *act* like they are 16, even if they are biologically 34)
2) They are less involved than most others
3) They tend to have developed skills that I consider "toxic", eg, not great with other people
4) They yell before they listen.

And I hate to turn anyone away, but I can't risk losing my good people who work hard, love the show, and excel in everything we give them, for a couple of bad ducks.

I guess my next step will be to implement a "warning" system of sorts, and 3 strikes your out. I never wanted to do this, but there has to be limits.

Thanks everyone, I'm glad it's not just us!

-- I

04-18-2008, 04:07 PM
Originally Posted by imax
Unfortunately, I've noticed a few things. Our biggest drama causers all meet this critera:

1) They are under the age of about 24 (again, not a hard and fast rule, but they at least *act* like they are 16, even if they are biologically 34)
2) They are less involved than most others
3) They tend to have developed skills that I consider "toxic", eg, not great with other people
4) They yell before they listen.

And I hate to turn anyone away, but I can't risk losing my good people who work hard, love the show, and excel in everything we give them, for a couple of bad ducks.

This is what the audition process is all about.

Jim Warfield
04-18-2008, 04:32 PM
Auditioning would be a great idea if the Ravens Grin had any sort of a population base to begin with.
"Beggars Can't be Choosers". The number of local "warm bodies" available to choose from is limited via the age of the citizens of this town and county. This is the leading Illinois county as far as the percentage of it's people being elderly.
I have a core group of excellent people for the last many years who drive 60 to 70 miles to get here to work for us.
When I first started I had two local older guys who helped out with sometimes meager, sometimes very funny results.
The one guy was sort of a diminished capacity individual, the other one usually hated everybody and a great many of the female population here were afraid of these two even though they were both pretty physically helpless as far as being able to attack anyone.
Some local teenage girls were really terrified when they discovered that they had been almost alone in the wine cellar with the one guy.

04-19-2008, 08:07 AM
Nice to know everyone else has this problem.

7:59 (Que orchestra)

The curtain rises and the Opera begins

Soprano: My boyfriend loooooooked at another

Tenor: No I diiiiiiiiiiidn't

Baritone: That bastard's selling pot!!!!!!!!!!!!

"Dramatic pause while haunted house slowly sinks into the red"

Orchestral interlude.

The Opera continues...

Jim Warfield
04-19-2008, 09:57 AM
Along with the aforementioned "Drama" problems..what do you all think as far as hiring someone, do you have better luck if the person working for you has a job or do you have good luck with the terminally unemployed(versus "Unemployable"?
I have seemed to find that if someone has to leave Mommy's couch to come to work, they usually have trouble leaving that couch on-time if at all. Maybe it's because they already have "IT" figured out? "HHMM? Jim paid me for working in his house for a few nights, I can coast the rest of the winter! Where's the remote Mom?"