View Full Version : looking 2 go pro?
04-26-2008, 10:39 AM
Hi my name is Taylor! im a high school senior and have been scring people with myyard haunt for 2 years now. last year we (my freinds andme)had over 150 people come thru. i ran the chAinsAw and made 10 people wet themselves and one was a gron man!! i think he migt have pooped!!! LMFAO!!im going pro in 2009 but dont no were to start? any advice! thnx!
04-26-2008, 01:37 PM
I would say start by finding a pro or charity house and work with them for a couple of years to learn the business. Get a copy of Kelly's book "So You Want to be a Haunt Entrepreneur". Also, make sure you spell words correctly and use proper grammar when writing up business proposals. Text message lingo is not yet acceptable when trying to get money from banks and sponsors.
04-26-2008, 01:46 PM
Dont listen to this Guy hes a smartass know it all. Its not how you spell or act here to be successful hell look at me I am proof of that . Its whats in your heart and how you feel about this business. Give it all you got talk to other haunt owners here InFormTek is not one hes a B rated vendor. I will be glad to give you any adivce you need as well as there are many other good Haunt owners here who will be glad to do the same for you. Its good to see young guys getting into this Industry. Good Luck. Shane Graystone Manor
04-26-2008, 02:19 PM
Take Shanes advice.. But first learn to read and write...
04-26-2008, 04:56 PM
This post has been deleted. It broke a major tenet of mine because I was angry.
Taylor, please learn to write better. It will serve your purposes better in the long run.
04-26-2008, 06:34 PM
If and when you go pro there are so many things you need to consider, location?? VERY IMPORTANT, what kind of budget do you have?? you should be looking at around $350,000 to start out "THIS INCLUDES very little advertising and not that big of a haunt" I think its better if you just give me a call verse writing this all out!!!!(440) 392-2666... oh and by the way what i am saying is my own point of view and does not mean i am correct.
Just some random dude
04-26-2008, 06:53 PM
I really care about all haunts, and also the people who care about the season, but i guess my question is why are you guys fighting over the internet, we are on the same team are we not??? everyone has a personality some you may like and some you may not but never the less understand it!!!AHHHH F#@!#@! IT lets get ready for round two!!!!!!!
Just some random dude
04-26-2008, 07:54 PM
You are exactly right thats why I removed my previous post we all should be on the same page and have each others back in good and bad! Shane Graystone Manor
04-26-2008, 08:13 PM
One other thing Taylor. you might want to get involved with your local community theatre. You can get some more practical knowledge about acting, makeup, set design/painting and lighting. Plus, it can be a pool of talent to draw on when you go pro.
IF YOUR 555
04-26-2008, 08:14 PM
Infoamtech, I was born in Pomona California, I now live in Alabama.This is a fine state with fine people. That was pretty weak of you to take a shot like that.
04-26-2008, 09:04 PM
Hey my fellow Alabama haunter where you at in bama? where is your haunt? Shane
04-26-2008, 10:35 PM
I would be surprised if the majority of people in this industry started with $350,000.00 or more budgets, but I certainly agree that would be a great amount to have! Actually, if I had that much, I think I would RETIRE! But then again, I'm not in a major metro-area. In a giant city, you would need a giant budget.
But one of the neat things about haunted houses (in typical towns) is that you can start out small and GROW over time. I actually prefer the haunts that do not use all Industry standard props, but instead, build their own home-made variety (provided they are good). I loved the Scare Factory stuff the first several times I saw it, but by the sixth time, it no longer surprises me any more. And when all the expensive haunts have the same props and exact same air controlled tricks, it gets predictable. So in some instances, the smaller haunts with originality and creativity can still out preform the deep pocket haunts because they are different.
This is just my personal opinion, mind you, and I understand others might feel differently. I saw a very professional haunt designed for $120,000.00, a big one that was 12,000 square feet in size. It was pretty darn good. Across town, we started our meager 6,000 square foot one for just $6,000.00 ($500 of which paid for the temporary rent for the closed resteraunt building). We grew in three years until they sold the building and tore it down... then we took over the 12,000 square foot haunt that went bankrupt because they couldn't make back their $120,000.00! So I know there are oppertunities to start out small and still improve over time. Because haunts are one of the few businesses where ideas and effort can still trump assets.
That being said, I thought the first advice given on this thread was also valid: Before investing a lot of money, get involved with other haunts and learn everything you can. You can save yourself a lot of grief learning from other people's mistakes. The how-to-haunt books are also helpful, though reading several is better than just relying on one, and none of them make up for pratical experience. I'm not saying you can't make it work by just jumping into it, because that's what I basically did, but I didn't have other local haunts to help at that time.
I remember reading advice somewhere to try to save as much money as possible by using used materials and recycle everything. That seemed like simplistic advice, but I also think it was correct. We dumpster dive the theater's stage building department's trash all the time to find useable lumber, and we reuse nails, and get used drywall (sligtly busted) donated to us--- anything to keep the Home Depot bill down, and that can be hundreds if not thousands of dollars "earned" each season. I'm sure I'm not the only haunt guy who frequents the Goodwills and Pawn shops as often as I consult the prop catalogs. Haunted props are expensive, usually two or three times more than they seem worth! But I realize it is a small market and they don't have the volume to make back their investments. (Still, I suspect many of them cater more to the deep pocket Amusement park operators and the like, because I would rather pay someone $6 an hour to jump up out of the chair than pay a vender $2,000 for an air controlled dumby to do the same thing. Granted, they don't need bathroom breaks, but still!)
But all those big budgets certainly have their place. Truth is, I'll go to and enjoy about ANY haunted house, big or small. I certainy have a special appreciation for the underdogs though. And as far as advertising goes, I DREAM of the day I can spend tens of thousands on it, but in the meantime, the internet is a Godsend for cheap advertising, as is YouTube (allowing you to host your own internet video ad), and those cheap flyers that you can leave at costume shops and the like. (And don't forget the posters, xeroxed if you have to!) And getting free newspaper coverage is VERY helpful. (You usually need some sort of angle though, like a new technology or special charity cause.) People trust the articles far more than they do the ads (though if knew how flawed the reporters often are... but I digress.)
Our best advertising is the return customers who bring in new blood each season. About 6 to 7 out of ten of our costumers are returns. Unfortunately, you don't get many of those your first year!
Anyway, those are just some thoughts, free comments worth what you paid for them.
04-26-2008, 10:59 PM
Please don't listen to Screamline. If you invest $350,000 the first year you open your haunt you will go bankrupt and you will hate the haunt industry you've come to love. Now lets be realistic here. It's not going to be cheap starting your own haunt. But all the top haunts started off small for the most part and you can too. The costs that are going to be involved in starting your own haunt are
-Advertising (this includes your website, flyers,etc.)
-Actors (unless volunteer)
-Signs (sign before you enter parking lot and sign on building)
-Food for concessions, media events and workers
-Sprinkler System (unless it's all outdoors)
-Building Materials (Wood, steel, nails etc.)
and so on and so on. You may be able to get free materials if you have Home Depot Sponsor you. That could be the cost of sponsorship.
When it's all said and done it should cost you around $30,000-50,000 to start off small and over the years you can improve with the money you make off your haunt. But to make a profit depends on how you market your haunt, your location, the quaility of your haunt and so on and so on. Make sure you have great parking and aren't in the middle of nowhere. The closer you are to a major highway, the better.The only reason you would need to invest $350,000 is if you're planning on buying lots of animatronics and are really trying to promote your haunt the first year. But what I would suggest is be creative, advertise anywhere you can such as online, festivals, parades, cross promote with other haunts etc. You don't need a TV commercial, a billboard or even a radio ad. But you could get one created to add to your website for under $100.
You need to have enough knowledge of how things work in the industry before you begin your venture in the haunt industry. You can't think that it's going to be as easy as your home haunt because it's not. It's going to take a lot of dedication and you'll be making a lot of mistakes that can either make you or break you. But be smart with how you spend your money. Your first year you should use volunteer actors, use mostly masks and cheap makeup to save on time and money and just be creative. Make sure your haunt has an interesting back story and theme your haunt so it matches the back story.
There are many haunts out there that are actor driven and rely very little on props and fancy sets. Buy old furntiure for scenes from flea markets, yard sales or good will. Get your friends and family involved so you can save on the costs of workers. But make sure they are reliable. Find a good company to design a really nice proffessional website with a nice banner included and advertise and exchange banners with sites.
There are many haunts out there that don't have huge budgets, but have a big following. Just be creative and smart on how you budget your finances and please make sure to advertise cost effectively and learn whatever you can about starting a haunt from anywhere possible. There are a lot more things that I could suggest you do, but my fingers are getting sore from typing. I know haunts that have started off on a $10,000 budget and have made nearly $100,000 their first year. It just matters how wise you are about what you do and focus on the right things.
04-27-2008, 12:16 AM
Great advice Noah! Reading Kelly's book and attending Transworld would be a good start on your quest for knowledge about the haunt industry. Also be prepared to work harder year round than you ever have in your life. Noah is right about not needing a huge budget because you can get pretty far with creativity, it just may take a while to build up a solid following. Good word of mouth can be your best advertisement as long as you keep improving each year. In my case I just kept making my home haunt more massive each season, all the while learning more about the industry. When it was finally time to go pro the transition was relatively smooth because we were already running the home haunt like a commercial one. Safety should be your top priority along with insurance and necessary permits.
04-27-2008, 04:38 AM
Far too many times we have people dishing out advice that stares pretty much anyone can get in the haunt business. They say anyone can start small and then build up. Years ago, I would have to agree. But times have changed my friends!!! Remember a mere year ago damn near ANYONE could buy a house. Fog a mirror and you qualified. Now the housing market has gone to hell in a hand basket.
I really believe the days of investing $5,000 to $10,000 and making it in the business are gone! Not only have costs sky rocketed, but location availabilities have dwindled, codes have become more stringent, sponsors have all but disappeared and the audience has become more sophisticated.
I went pro over ten seasons ago. It cost me over $30,000 then. Now I own two attractions outright. It STILL costs me about $30,000 up front just to get on site EVERY year, and that’s NOT including any improvements or work done on the haunts!! Rent, insurance, transportation, permits, set up costs, advertising, power,…. the list goes on and on. All of these are up front costs. You pay them in full before you ever get one paying customer in the door.
I think it is a great disservice to tell people they can get in the business for a couple bucks and a little creativity. I am sure as soon as I post this someone will jump in and claim they got in the business for $1,000. I would like to see their attraction. I used to spend that much on my yard haunt every year!
People think they can get in the “business” for a song and they fail. This is a BUSINESS, period. WE have to treat it as a real business, city officials surely will. New regulations this year will probably cost us $5,000 to $10,000 just to submit our plans for approval!! This is in addition to the normal permits. How is someone supposed to open a haunt for $10,000 if it costs him that much just to hand in the plans???
Audiences have changed. Things that worked ten years ago are ridiculous by today’s standards. Just look at the movies. Even special effects in movies five years ago are consider “hokey” today. It used to be hard to find even one kid on the block that had ever gone to Disneyland, now it’s hard to find one kid who hasn’t!! They have grown up with animations and Hollywood special effects. They expect them in their haunted houses. Kmart masks and “pizza-pizza” don’t cut it anymore.
I am NOT here trying to squash Feargore’s or anyone else’s dreams, just trying to inject a little bit of reality. Unless you have a HUGE allowance, I don’t think anyone just graduating high school has an extra $100,000…heck even an extra $50,000 lying around to invest in a haunted house! Now maybe I’m wrong, you always hear of some 18 year old kid who owns some internet business now worth millions! Be real. These are the exceptions, not the rule.
I started business ventures when I was in my early 20’s but times were different then. Even then, I apprenticed when ever possible. I volunteered and attached myself to a “master craftsman”. I would follow them around like a shadow trying to learn anything and everything I could. Today someone gets an idea, and considers himself an “expert” the next day! Several people have suggested you work for someone else for a while. Sound advice. But remember, working for someone else is a lot different than working for yourself! Decisions are greatly different when it’s your own money on line!!
Someone will post that we should let people find out from themselves. I disagree. Every haunt that opens and fails hurts all of us. When we I first started, pretty much anyone could get into the haunt business here and they tried. They did stupid things and then they closed. Those stupid things they did still affect me today. The new regulations I spoke of that will cost us thousands of dollars to comply with are a direct result of those stupid things.
It costs a lot of money to start an attraction today… period. It will take maybe 3-5 years to make back your investment. You should never invest anything you can’t afford to lose. It will take a lot of hard work, money and creativity. These are the cold hard facts. And anyone who tells you different is an idiot, a liar or both!
04-27-2008, 07:56 AM
All very valid points Rich. I was trying to stay positive with my former post and not squash the kids dreams but you are right. I agree a kid just graduating high school has a very slim chance of acquiring that kind of money unless he has an massive inheritance. I also think your location and market has a lot to do with the cost of starting an attraction. If it cost $10,000 in my area just to submit plans I would be bumming. I took the slow route building up my home haunt for years and years before we finally went commercial an I would consider us a very small haunt with a lot to learn. I have long range plans of getting into a bigger building but we can't afford that yet so most of my haunt is an outside trail. If it were not for the partnership I formed with the farm owners for the land it would have been impossible to buy that land on my own. Bad shows do hurt us all and not everyone has the stomach or passion for this business. I figured he would find out for himself the reality of his situation once he read Kelly's book.
04-27-2008, 09:19 AM
I wasn't saying that He should start a haunt with a $10,000 budget. I would suggest $30,000-$50,000, but it all depends on what's involved with your haunt. It's different with you since you are located in Las Vegas. There is a lot of competition such as casinos, live shows etc. So you have to be bigger and better to be able to compete. It may cost more money to start a haunt in another state, but it wouldn't be the smartest thing to invest $350,000 or even $100,000 in a haunt and end up loosing it all and going bankrupt in the process. If you've got the money and can afford to lose it go a head. If it's your passion in life you should go for it.
But for me I would invest a small amount of money your first year to produce a quality show and you'll more than likely get back what you invested your first year. It may take time to get bigger and better, but it will be worth it. It just depends on how smart you are about it and with everything there are obstacles and that includes extra costs, but a lot of that depends on the area your haunt is in. I also said that He should be wise about spending his money and if He isn't smart enough to know that if He doesn't have enough money to start a haunt maybe He shouldn't even consider it. Hell, $100,000-$350,000 might be the costs of producing the type of haunt he wants, but He better damn well sure be able to get back what He invested or He'll be paying off loans for a long time. That sure would suck the fun out of running your own haunt, wouldn't it.
04-27-2008, 09:45 AM
wowowo step back a second guys maybe i should have stated my post very differently but there is alot of up front money we are talking about here granted he may be able to get things donated but still so many things to buy lets see rent,plywood,2 x4s,screws,paint,maybe hiring carpenders if needed,sprinkler system possibly,props,animatronics maybe,set dressings,what about setdesigners??,acting cordinator,make-up cordinator,costumes,make-up supplies,hiring actors, security,maybe even hiring someone to do your web page,or what about all your advertising weather it be print or radio or tv spots this alone could cost alot in your first few years NOT MENTION so many things i did not even bring up. I guess it all depends on the corners you cut and who you know that could cut the cost down, or if you pay your actors?? with the rise in prices going up i am sure that could make a big dent in your budget alone. so i guess you guys are right you could put a haunt together for under $100,000 and i do know that you can grow your haunt to point of having a bigger budget and having more than one house but i do stand firm that you can very easily spend $350,000 depending on your wallet size..
Just some random dude
04-27-2008, 09:57 AM
If the main motivating factor of someone is to make money or make alot of money or to make money easy, well, these things do motivate a great many but to do a haunted entertainment venue you will also need a lot of desire not connected to making money, it is just plain DESIRE!
How physically and mentally tired have you ever been? Now just up and go right back to work diging that ditch, making that tackle, running that 100 yard dash! No excuses! People do these things tired or not because of desire.
If you have been hiding from "overwork" within the confines of a 40 hour a week job and are comfortable doing this then FORGET haunting!
If you are a youngster who has never had to work 65 hours a week for someone else , then getting into haunting with a lot of desire and ambition will teach you what you can make yourself accomplish in the world of work.
If a person had enough money , smarts, luck, maybe you could build a haunted attraction that was a money machine where you just took the money and people were put through automatically and the money was piled up with no personal straining....automation does make many people a lot of money, when it works.
I will never get away from my own personal involvement telling the customer about the Ravens Grin Inn because I like doing this and I think many people appreciate being entertained and interacting with a real person.
Now where did that "real person" go? Did he wander off again?
He chewed right through his new harness and I have customers arriving!
04-27-2008, 02:33 PM
Most haunters have a day job and plan on keeping it, but you do not need truck loads of money to open a haunt. You can build it up , now if you are in the big citys maybe not so much, I live in a rual area. As for spending 10,000.00 just to submit plans, who is scaring who. I think I would move.
04-27-2008, 04:33 PM
There is a big disparity in rent/permit/advertising costs from state to state, county to county, and city to city.
04-27-2008, 04:41 PM
All I can saw is Its going to be alot of time and money spent.
04-27-2008, 07:13 PM
Why are you always angry, lighten up, and cut out the insults, you're making yourself look silly acting that way.
04-27-2008, 07:23 PM
hauntedhousenut, who are you talking to? If its me, I wasnt angry when I posted that, or being mean I hardly ever am
04-27-2008, 07:26 PM
It was meant for Infoamtek
04-27-2008, 07:37 PM
I think its PMS lmao!
04-27-2008, 07:43 PM
It's actually Menopause. LOL
04-27-2008, 09:25 PM
I've been enjoying reading this thread, and have also enjoyed all the different points of view. The bitter insults were...um... different, but I'm relieved we've moved on from those. Overall, some very good information was passed along. I fear we might have scared Taylor off though! He probably thinks he started WW3 and that only rich people can get into this business.
Hopefully, he has realized by now that there is a big difference between starting a small haunt in a small town in a rented space, and letting it grow each year, compared to investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into a permanent location in a major metropolitan city where fire departments and building inspectors make opening any amusement VERY expensive.
None of us want to kill his interest in this, but none of us want to see him lose his shirt either. I guess if he's really that interested, reading a few books on the subject and helping a few other commercial haunts would be interesting for him and very helpful in the long run. It's true that bad haunts help turn the public off of haunted houses in general, but I've seen a lot of very expensive haunted houses that all use the same exact props and scare factory toys, so throwing money at it is not always a good solution either. Who knows, Taylor may get a deal on a location, have some great supporting organization (drama club, or key club, or who knows what) and have some friends who know about construction and electronics. In a smaller town, this could be the only fun halloween event of the season. We shouldn't assume his circumstances are the same as ours, and the truth is, he told us very little about where he is or what sort of resources he has at his diposal. We could be pleasantly surprised how this story turns out.
On a darker note, I was told by someone who contacted me from this forum a very funny quote, kinda cynical, but still fun, worth repeating here. I'm sure most of you have all heard it, but Taylor probably has not, so for his amusement and warning, he goes:
"The Best way to make a small fortune in the haunted house business is to start with a large fortune." Not that everyone loses money in this biz, but a lot more do that you might think. I took over our haunt after two other owners went bankrupt in succession. And every year as the up-front expenses increase, I wonder, "Will I make it all back?" On a happy note, the answer has always been YES (so far). But don't forget the liability insurance, Taylor, because what one hand earneth, the slimy claws of vampire lawyers can taketh away!
And Taylor, if you ARE still out there reading this thread, let us know what you decide and how it turns out. We all want you to make the RIGHT decision, we just can't agree on what that decision is. (So the ball is right where it should be: In your court!)
04-27-2008, 09:59 PM
Briggs Cunningham raced at Lemans in the early 1950's with a hybrid car that had Chrysler Hemis in them, and he said:"The way to make a small fortune in the car business is to start with a large fortune".
Which he did.
One of the Pharohs may have also said something similar though.
I also have a very politically incorrect joke book printed in 1936 with some of the same celebrity jokes printed as were being told 30 years later except the names of the celebritys changed to current ones.
Maybe this is what is meant by "What goes around comes around." (Over and over)
IF YOUR 555
04-27-2008, 10:46 PM
Infoamtech, you can stop with your personal messages since Im going to add you to my ignore list. The funny thing is you will be the the only one on it. I will not get in a war of words with you because its a waste of time and Im 39 years old.You are 52? I would never have guessed. I come to this fourm for the same reason Taylor does for the true knowledge of the pros that I respect and look to for advice and answers.Taylor,and the rest of you, I apoligize for waisting your time and space on a fantastic fourm.
04-27-2008, 10:55 PM
Holy crap can the haunted house industry not give any advice without getting into little squabbles! Tyler buddy..Heres my advice before you jump in heads first make sure you get all the experence that you need. Talk to local charity haunts, Follow a fellow owner around for a season to see all that he goes through. Sure scaring the crap outta people is fun and most haunts do make money, It requires alot to start up. For example, Actors, your going to get all sorts of people wanting to work in your haunt, But Most wont provide there own makeup, Costumes or any sort of training. So then you need to get makeup, a Makeup artist, some good costumes...and it just snowballs from there.
Just my 2 cents worth
04-27-2008, 11:23 PM
I was just reading the post before mine and it can be very true, the small town helping you out.
I had no money at all when I "bought" my house. I did find two local backers that believed in me because they had seen my work ethic for 15 years.
I have always been surprised at the way people around here have thought of me and my haunted house by giving me old piles of lumber and strange objects that somehow made them think of "me"?
A painting contractor used to give me many free gallons of new paint every year, we finally had to ask him to stop!
The local electrician has always been very generous with his knowledge and has helped me in emergencys with never a thought for me to pay him, he even gave me some brand new 100 amp circuit breaker boxes and just asked me to replace them in his inventory when I got around to it.
A man in the concrete business came down here and gave me maybe a yard of concrete off his truck for nothing and at that time I had no money at all, but the need for the concrete was very important at that moment.
I was given a very sound farmhouse to demo for the lumber just for the ripping out and trucking away.
Customers of mine from many times very far away from here have given me often times usefull and neat things including masks that I had never knew were ever made before, still in excellant condition.
Then illustrating the old saying concerning "Taking the bad with the good", when I had no fencing around my yard people would dump truck loads of old appliances and parts of things down into my yard and drive away before I was awake or home. Sometimes much later someone might tell me they gave me these things and they genuinely thought I could find a way to make use of the items.
Yes old micro waves have numerous micro switches in them, but how many micro waves do I need ? No more, thank you.
People can be very considerate much of the time.
04-28-2008, 09:45 AM
I come on here and offer some good advice to the young man who asked a question and I get insulted for my troubles. Nobody says anything about those insults. I reply back with some rather pointed questions (Yes, they were phrased as questions) and make a joke, using Southern stereotypes, that I purposely aim ONLY at the insulter (and Bill Clinton). Realizing that a flame war is not going to help Taylor, I edit the the post out within a half hour of posting it.
Hours later, I'm being lambasted about a post that no longer exists. Mostly by people who have only made a couple of posts before this. IF YOUR 555, you mean to say you're going to cut me and only me off forever because I caught your song title reference and made a little joke about it. (I joked he was 667, the neighbor of the Beast. You know, instead of 666, the number of the Beast. Saw it on a bumper sticker a while back and thought it was humorous). Hauntedhousenut, If you had somebody chasing you around the board, insulting you, you might get a little miffed too. Think about it.
(Please read this next part carefully)
I am not saying this is what is going on now, but in the past some people have created multiple "ghost" avatars that they use to create an illusion of solidarity. The fact that most of the posters who were telling me off, have only a few posts before this and have absolutely no information in their public proflie, could give the impression that "ghost" avatars are being used against me. If this is NOT the case, I apologize to everybody for being a little paranoid. But if this is what's going on, shame on you.
Now, let's get back to helping Taylor.
04-28-2008, 12:29 PM
There is now in effect an ancient curse on those "ghost" multiple posters ."If your post is a ghost , may your next grab of toilet paper for your personal use become a ghost as you reach to apply it!"
NOW you will know why there is always a sink in the little toilet room!
Otherwise no handshake for you, Brownie Scout!
IF YOUR 555
04-28-2008, 12:59 PM
Nope,not a ghost.My name is Brett Meyer and I live in Magnolia Springs Alabama.My phone number is 251 965 3604. Nothing to hide here.
04-28-2008, 01:23 PM
thnx 2 all 4 the replys!!!! this is overwelming!!!!!!!!!!! do i nedd $10000 or $35000 i just dont no but my uncle has sevral old bildings n may-b i mite be able 2 use 1 of his? but ihave news it turns our my freind has Kelly Allensbook and he will let me read it!!!! wat luck! LOL!!!!!!! :)
wOw thanks 4 all the amazing suport! i apreciatte all off youre opinons as i make my journy to go pro!!!!!!!!!!!
IF YOUR 555
04-28-2008, 01:30 PM
Good luck Taylor, I wish you the best!
04-28-2008, 01:36 PM
thnx IY5- LOL!!!!!!
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