View Full Version : Article about Haunted House Hecklers in today's Chicago Tribune

10-30-2008, 11:35 AM
I found this an interesting read:


10-31-2008, 09:33 AM
Nice story. It does always amaze me that customes suddenly think certain things are appropriate to do just because they are at the haunted house (such as the public urination, sex in the maze, molesting actors).

damon carson
10-31-2008, 09:40 AM
Very good article! Thanks for posting! I always hate the loud mouth teenage yelling you cant scare me. And then once inside he is all huddled behind his girlfriend or mommy. Then he comes out and has the nerve to say you didnt scare me. Then you hit him from behind with the chainsaw again. HE! HE! HE!

10-31-2008, 09:49 AM
This was a hit story on Haunts. I was totally mis-represented in this, I spent 15 minutes telling him how GOOD our customers are and how we train them to behave. I considered complaining to the Tribune but for what..... Hey maybe the press will get Dreamreapers more customers, if so that is great!

Lets just hope they don't come looking for Fight Club.

I was in TV news for 18 years and I know how this works. 9 times out of 10 they come to you with the story ALREADY written. They just want to fill in the blanks.
This guy wanted a negative story on Haunted House Hecklers and that WAS the story he was going to write, i.e.

"a 90-minute snake of sullen teenagers smoking and shifting weight and texting"

Does that make you want to go to a haunt?

THIS is why the PR efforts some of us have worked so hard on and spent SO much money on the last few years is SO important. The last three years we have been able to plant the seeds of POSITIVE stories about the industry, and those are the stories that have been written by in most cases.

The Media by in large looks for the negative - These sorts of stories will always rise up.

I am old at this game - but when I say something like " In the past it was like a war between our customers and our monsters, but now...."

And it turns into

"It's like a war out there between the customers and our monsters," says Ben Armstrong

You know it is the same old stuff.

Oh well, Its Halloween, we are rocking hard, as is almost everyone from all reports and life is good!

Just beware when the Reporter starts asking questions that are a little off - expect a hit job.


10-31-2008, 10:42 AM
Like Ben, I've been involved with tv news for a long time - and what's he's saying is absolutely right. The media, particularly local news, likely has the story and angle in mind already before they arrive -- and are most likely looking for evidence and information to support their claim.

To quote Ricky Roma from Glengarry Glenn Ross - "you never open your mouth until you know what the shot is"

Tv news crews, in particular, have very short periods of time to actually turn a story. Unless it's a long-term investigation, chances are that the reporter only has a couple hours to turn around a complete package for 1 to 2 newscasts, write an online text version, and do at least 2 on-site promos for use in topicals.

And yes - the local news media particularly loves fear and negative. I have probably written, literally, thousands of news topicals over the years -- and not one of them ever said "Hey, everything's cool - no reason to watch the news tonight" or "Watch the news tonight to find out why life is better than ever!"

Here are 3 hypothetical pitches to a news director and what - I believe - the response would be:

Pitch: There's a local haunted house with the most elaborate and highly detailed sets we've ever seen!

Director: Meh, maybe.

Pitch: There's a local haunted house that's raising a ton of money for sick kids, and it's actually a very elaborate production.

Director: Meh, maybe that's a B block story or something. We'll see.

Pitch: Local neighbors say the local haunted house is attracting a lot of loud teenagers, and there have been some fights and noise.

Director: There's our lead!!

And if you're curious, here's the likely promo:

"It's a house of horrors filled with ghouls and demons ... as well as drunks, fist fights, and r-rated language! Are local haunted houses putting your kids in danger?"

(reporter name) has the story all local parents need to see!

I'll admit to being skeptical about the national PR campaign when it was first discussed, but having seen it in action I now think it's been a spectacular success. Anything that helps raise the preception of our industry will help prevent these kind of attack stories.

And just so that it doesn't seem like I'm totally cynical and anti-media, here's what happens when a reporter has an angle that's actually pretty positive:


10-31-2008, 12:44 PM
Very good points....but I wouldn't really go as far as saying this was an attack on haunts. Sure this is from a negative perspective, but if anything it makes the customers look bad. They just failed to report on any of the positives.

So is the article wrong? Are "hecklers" not really as big of a problem as the article makes it seem?

Haunted Illinois
11-01-2008, 12:13 PM
Wow, this guy from the Tribune really didn’t do the Haunt Industry any favors, did he? While the story wasn’t a deliberate slam on the Industry itself, he did make it sound like the environment at haunted attractions is generally unsafe for patrons.

After all, would you want to take your young children to a type of event where there are apparently “complete physical altercations… …total throw-downs, where you roll around on the ground” two or three times a night, as the article implies?

"a 90-minute snake of sullen teenagers smoking and shifting weight and texting". You’re right, Ben. That definitely wasn’t a positive comment about the Industry.

One of the actors in the article said “I have been punched in the face and pushed and knocked down and bitten and hit with purses and stabbed with umbrellas and stabbed with pens and shoved”. Is this really the fault of the haunted house environment in general? I have attended this attraction for years and their actors do have a very aggressive acting style. Maybe it’s possible that this particular actor just doesn’t know when to back off?

Ben, when you said “9 times out of 10 they come to you with the story ALREADY written. They just want to fill in the blanks. This guy wanted a negative story on Haunted House Hecklers and that WAS the story he was going to write”, I think you are right, especially in this case.

Why do I believe that? Well, this Mr. Borrelli had called me a number of times over the past month, starting shortly before the season began. He wanted to pick my brain about Chicagoland haunted attractions. I did my best to hype haunted attractions from the high-budget, to yard haunts and everything in between. In fact, he mentioned my name, regarding the Lombard Jaycees in another one of his haunt-related articles.


Actually, I was somewhat misquoted in that article, but at least it still ended up being a decent plug for a local Chicagoland Jaycees haunt.

The funny thing is, I remember him mentioning his “heckler” story WEEKS before it made its way to print. At the time, I was a little suspicious of the angle he might take on the story, so I refused to comment on the topic. Besides, I am just a haunt promoter and customer, not a haunt owner or seasoned haunt actor (the people who really know the most about that subject).

When dealing with the media, I am ALWAYS skeptical of their motives and ALWAYS very careful of what I tell them. I don’t want anything I say to come back and bite anyone in the ass. I’m sorry to hear that this guy misquoted you. It seems all of the good things you told him about the Haunt Industry was distilled down into a controversial one-liner, that was apparently taken out of context.

The sad thing is, I feel somewhat responsible for that article… not its content, but for the fact that I helped lead the hunter to his prey, so to speak. In other conversations I had with him, I gave him a list of haunt owners and other people in the Industry to contact for more information on haunt-related matters… some of which were quoted, and some perhaps misquoted, in this article.

Ken Spriggs
11-03-2008, 02:21 PM
Well I was called for about 5-6 articles and only 1 had my name in it.
Yes this guy wanted to twist everything I said....
But I did have a girl throw a can of corn at me one year.

I do notice that the customers are getting a little......how do you say.......dumb!
I had a guy 5 foot 5 maybe 150lbs take a swing at a 6 foot 3 275lbs guy?
It happened a ton of times this year.

Jim Warfield
11-03-2008, 06:45 PM
I only told him how I verbally embarrass the hecklers, not extreme enough for an article made to make the haunt business sound like a brutal hockey game.
My hecklers might still be talking, I have trouble hearing them when they are under the dirt in the backyard.
He missed another story!
That will learn him to hang up the phone to soon.