View Full Version : What makes a bad Haunted House

10-15-2008, 08:54 PM
Reading Larry's article about what makes a good haunted house got me thinking. What makes a bad haunted house?

I am opening up this weekend for the start of just my second year. What traps or mistakes should I avoid to speed up the learning curve.

10-15-2008, 09:27 PM
Seveal things...

1) Doesn't look organized
2) Doesn't include video and photos
3) Doesn't provide all the information that someone might want
4) Not easy to find the information you are looking for
5) Cheesy graphics

Couple other tips...don't load your links page up with tons of links, only link companies that make you look better, or link back to you or who have nice looking banners. Who you associate your business with tells your potential customers a lot about you.


10-15-2008, 09:36 PM
^ that's on the website end of it.

But I think what makes a BAD haunted house... and I may get YELLED at for this:

-black plastic
-Wal-mart bought props/animations
-movie monsters
-more than 2 chainsaws
-overpriced with no real 'value'
-haunts RELIABLE on animations
-horrible acting and/or make-up

I can go on and on! hahaha... -Tyler

10-15-2008, 10:50 PM

My question was geared more toward the physical haunted house and or the actors, set-up, etc.

Any thoughts on this?

10-15-2008, 11:34 PM
I believe actors are what make a haunted house come alive! Full of energy, aggressive, great make-up/mask etc. If you have crappy actors just go Boo and hide back in there dark corner again right away that could make you be a bad haunt. That's my 2 cents

10-15-2008, 11:37 PM
Tyler pretty much nailed it down pretty good.

A few things I'd like to add though....

If you a in a good size city with other haunts- if you have a haunt set up like Tyler described, then it can look "bad" or"cheap", compaired to other larger haunts in the area.
If you are in a smaller town, with no other haunts neardy, or maybe just one haunt, then you could probably get away with this, if you are on a small budget.

Now whether or not there are other haunts around, if you have the extra money to buy an Anatomical Chart Co. skeleton rather than a Wal-Mart skeleton, you should do that.

One basic rule of thumb- the more realistic looking, the better.

If you keep it cheap and basic every year, you would lose attendance little by little every year.
If you spend that extra little bit to get started, and try to improve on it every year, you'd be surprised at how much your attendance will increase.

10-15-2008, 11:39 PM
its a few things for me when it comes to walking through a haunt:

- If I've seen the mask or costume on the store shelves, then it will not scare me
- cheap props ( at least repaint or redone )
- poor timing animations
- strobes, strobes, strobes
- actors talking/not ready
- actors water bottles/drinks in the scene (at least hide them)
- extremely cheap makeup (poorly painted with 99 cent cream)
- guides that wont stop talking

Killer Katie
10-16-2008, 11:18 AM
I agree with just about all that has been brought up so far, but i think the BIGGEST sin in haunted houses have to do with scene design. You need to design a scene with actors in mind. Meaning, design it from an actors perspective. You can have the best look, the best animatronics but if the scene just exists and doesn't have a "purpose" you are screwed. I've seen it happen, and it sucks. :)
And you can do great things on a cheap budget - you just have to have the talented staff on hand to make the cheap come alive. It's amazing what can be done with a can of great stuff, paint, cheesecloth and an imagination! We had made these gorgeous banshees out of coat hangers, newspapers, cheesecloth and left over foam scraps - and they looked awesome! When I go shopping for Halloween decorations, i alsways look at potential, not the product as it stands before me, because, as stated before, if I've seen it in walmart, it's not going to be scary.

10-16-2008, 11:23 AM
I agree with just about all that has been brought up so far, but i think the BIGGEST sin in haunted houses have to do with scene design. You need to design a scene with a scare. You can have the best look, the best animatronics, and a great actor, but if the scene just exists and doesn't have a "purpose" you are screwed. I've seen it happen, and it sucks. :)

You mean you can't design and build the haunt, not thinking ahead of time about the scares, and then add 47 drop panels to every house?

*Katie and I have both seen this, togther, way to many times at our own haunt, unfortunately we had no control over it.*

10-16-2008, 12:47 PM
Whoops I thought you meant website... whoops.

You say haunted house...hmmm.

1) lack of theming
2) too many Freddy, Pinhead, Jasons running around

Those are a couple.


Haunting Copy
10-16-2008, 01:01 PM
. . . i think the BIGGEST sin in haunted houses have to do with scene design. You need to design a scene with actors in mind. Meaning, design it from an actors perspective. You can have the best look, the best animatronics but if the scene just exists and doesn't have a "purpose" you are screwed. I've seen it happen, and it sucks. :)

That is probably the most insightful advice I've seen!


Killer Katie
10-16-2008, 07:54 PM
Sarah, I have been called a great many things, but I think that's the first time "insightful" has ever come up, Thanks!!! It's sad that people forget that concept, you know?

Haunting Copy
10-16-2008, 08:10 PM
Sarah, I have been called a great many things, but I think that's the first time "insightful" has ever come up, Thanks!!! It's sad that people forget that concept, you know?

Forget it? Hell, I hadn't even *thought* of it, LOL! (But I'm not a haunt owner - yet.) ;)

Killer Katie
10-16-2008, 08:22 PM
So now you're more prepared for that day when you do open a haunt! You are ahead of the game!

10-16-2008, 08:31 PM
A lot of people have had some great thoughts here... and here is my list... of average thoughts..... :)

0.0) ANY haunt that thinks its special because they can freak out a 14 year old girl. This is the ultimate sign your event is lame. Make the 22 year old college football player, or the 40 year old tightwad scream, drop, or freak out. That, is a sign things are good in your event.
1) I think several people have hit on a common issue and that is bad set design. Not cheesy set design, but set design that doesn't support good acting.
2) An over use of animtronics. ANY special effects person will tell you the hardest thing to do is mimic a person. Why? Everyone knows how a person looks and how they move. Yet almost EVERY electronic fails in this regard as they all try to mimic bipedal human type movement. You know, one or two in an event, fine, people will miss it. If you have many of the medium and large size animtronics people get bored of them. The all move in a similar way and they all mimic human movement, badly. People begin to notice repeatability flaws. Too many animtronics makes the physics of the mechanism noticeable. People might not "know" how it works, but they KNOW its fake. And fake makes a bad haunt.
3) Non-custom masks, props, sets, costumes, or makeup. Essentially if you don't have anything that is unique to your event you have an issue. Come on guys, go to good will an bloody up some zombies. Sure zombies are not unique, but yours are yours...
4) Bad acting... though, acting is a combination of all of the above. A good setup, with good costumes and makeup will make many people transform into being good actors. Cheese laden sets, Wal-mart or bad costumes, lame makeup, repeated themes force even a great actor to struggle to add value to your event.


Haunting Copy
10-16-2008, 08:36 PM
Sent you a PM. :)


10-23-2008, 09:11 PM
To add to the list:

-Using mask that are bought at a store and not modifying it... I hate seeing f**king Slipknot masks, wal-mart masks, etc. etc... if you buy a cheap ass mask it looks like you have a cheap ass haunt! Please, modify the mask to NOT look like it's from the store! DAMNIT!!!


Jim Warfield
10-23-2008, 11:24 PM
Weasels, rabid weasels running around, wearing Wal=Mart clown make up makes for a bad haunt.
The weasel actors always muff their lines too. Hard to ennunciate when your cheeks are packed with corn. (Front cheeks, that is..)

10-26-2008, 01:17 AM
The worst I've been to had a drunk guide who kept stopping at every scene to find his hidden stash of alcohol so that he could have a drink. He ruined the haunt for everyone and should have been fired.

10-26-2008, 02:50 AM
A drunk guide? So you've been to the Raven's Grin Inn then?

Just kidding Jim!

10-26-2008, 10:20 AM
What makes Jim terrifying is that he is blind stinking sober!!!! Just ask him... that is as every day as the guy gets. He doesn't fake normal the other 334 days of the year... that show is creepier in June than it is in October. I think its his summer madness....

10-26-2008, 11:45 AM
its all about timing.
personally if you got an amazing looking haunt and spend 50 times more that everyone around you. You need actors and animatronics to be right on the money.
You want them to go off right on cue, cause if you dont scare anyone it dosent matter how good the haunt looks.

George Maser
10-28-2008, 09:04 PM
The only thing worse than going to a haunted house that sucks is owning one.

No matter how good you may think your design is you should do a written exit survey. The customers will write what you should do to make your haunt successful long before they will tell you to your face. They will also come back next year to see if you took their advice.

damon carson
10-29-2008, 09:09 AM
Poor themeing or none at all. Bad masks, costumes, makeup. Blood everywhere, nothing but gore throughout. Wal-mart or local store bought props and nothing but that. Lack of any props. Poor actors jumping out saying boo and then just stand and look at you. Believe me there are countless haunts in this area like this. Its like stepping back into the 70's. Its really sad!

10-29-2008, 11:53 AM
I evaluate Haunted Houses on a number of categories, and I find unfortunately, a lot of the ones I evaluated this year rated very low in a lot of these categories:

1) First Impression (outside the haunt)
Lack of any theming outside of the haunt sets the stage poorly. Is there a facade? Is there music? Actors entertaining people in line? Is there something or someone helping to set up the storyline or theme? I think this gets overlooked a lot of the time, and can pay big dividends when done well, as people enter the haunt more in the mood. Most haunts I've hit this year have had a lack of outside setting, or have had kind of a clash between the setting outside vs inside. The one with the big clash at least had something outside, but consistancy could have made it that much better.

2) Actors
Actors are a huge part of the success of haunts, and the range is unbelievable at times. On one end I went to a house haunt run by teenagers where each actor worked hard for multiple scares. On the other hand, I went through a haunted corn maze, where actors were chatting with their friends and one said, "Oh man, I just screwed up" when he saw that paying customers (my group) came around the bend. In the middle were haunts where people would pop out to say boo or something similar, but they had no range beyond the startle scare, and there wasn't character or setting supporting the scare.

3) Use of Senses
Most haunts use visual cues well (although some actually detract from themselves with things like excessive use of strobes.) Using sound, smell, and even tactile senses as well really adds to the immersive experience. The more ways you have to add to the frights, the better in my mind. Doesn't mean to overdue things, as it overload is bad too, but variety keeps things interesting.

4) Special Effects
For me, I don't get scared in haunts. I get enjoyment watching others get scared, but I'm also there for the wow factor. Having something memorable, whether it's an animatronic, spinning tunnel, pnuematics, or digital compontent can really add to the next level. I include this on my list because it's part of my rating criteria and I want to be complete, but I really don't think this one makes a bad haunted house. This is more the kind of thing that can go from the middle to good or good to great when used correctly.

5) Theming and storyline
For me this is huge. This is what makes is so not all haunts are exactly the same. A random collection of scares will do it for some, but I love to see a consistent package, especially if I can follow a story as I go. Too many haunts don't have this at all, and some have a "theme", but then throw in elements that don't fit it at all. That killer clown is great in a circus themed haunt, but why is he in the cemetary or radioactive spill?

6) Fright Factor
How are the scares? How many are there? This one is obviously huge, since no scares is really a failure. There are many different approaches to scares including startles, gore/gross scares, or settings that just illicit terror. I think limiting to startle scares is a bad sign for me. I can only take so many chainsaws or teenagers popping out to say boo, especially if I go to 8 haunts in a month, and all 8 are using those same two tactics without more depth.

So I guess ranking my 6 categories:
1) Actors - Bad actors make a bad haunt quickly
2) Scares - Lacking scares makes you wonder if it's really a haunt at all
3) Theming - Lack of theming is the quickest way to be just another haunt
4) First Impression - Setting the stage is important to happy customers
5) Use of senses - Doesn't make you a bad haunt, but can keep you from being great
6) Special Effects - A lot like use of senses, can separate the great haunts

I guess my theme is that a bad haunt is one that after going to several haunts, I'll have nothing memorable about that particular haunt to set them apart from the others.

10-29-2008, 05:46 PM
Several of us who have been in haunts for years were discussing this while mulling over the lack of CreaturesCrypt this year. One of the comments made was an all black haunt with pin spots and kicka@# actors would blow the doors off of 99.5% of the haunts out there.

Thought I would share that since its something I think a lot of haunts overlook with props, sets, and SPFX items. A hands down vicious actor really does trump all. Hell, look at Jim, its not the house, or the sets, its Jim that makes his show so amazing.

10-29-2008, 11:46 PM
with pin spots .

What is a pin spot?