View Full Version : first yr,how did ya do

12-20-2006, 07:03 PM
hi this was my first yr as a commercial haunt and honestly.we didnt come close to our goal of what we expected as far as attendence.we have a great show that everyone loved but still a poor turnout.we are also on a major hwy and used television commercials.i would really like to hear some experiences on yalls first few yrs experience as far as this goes.was your first yr similar to ours?did it take 5 yrs like everyone says?or was it a hit on opening year?

12-20-2006, 07:14 PM
wipp has kidnapped Mr Tuxedo and is in Lousiana!!!!!

Jim Warfield
12-20-2006, 07:32 PM
Hard to compare those rotten apples to fetid oranges but I worked on my house for many years , doing walk through informal tours, doing tours al year long.
Then I decided that I finally had "enough" to show people and I went for it, merely sending a letter to The Chicago Tribune, just in time for their haunted house section , mentioning all the Chicagoland haunts.
The Hollywood movie offers came next, the wild women harassing me night and day(the real reason most guys get into a haunt business!)
"You never get a second chance to make a first impression."

My location is extremely poor, hidden behind a block of storefronts in a small village in the middle of a cornfield. I have always realised that anyone finding this place, wishing to hand me some of their "Hard-Earned" should get the best possible time here that I can provide for them, to create a memorable experience, one so interesting that they would not be able to stop talking about it, even telling their friends and relatives, thereby perpetuating my business, hopefully.
20 years later, still doing it here.
By the way, that cat of yours looks ...familiar. Did you fall for Mr. Tuxedo's scam as a haunt business advisor?
I wondered where he has been lately?
Can you really afford his extremely expensive habit of needing that imported catnip?

12-20-2006, 08:18 PM
It was my first year goin pro as well, the numbers were much lower than I had expected even though I had heavy advertising and the reviews of the show were awesome. Im hoping things change for next year.

Jim Warfield
12-20-2006, 10:01 PM
All new businesses have to be able to hang in there for at least three years.
Good ads, good reviews just begin to get your potential clientel "thinking", maybe we should go there?
Ad to this the problem of the short season and the possibility of bad weather and the season gets even shorter.
I have often thought that the weatherman making a scary forecast destroys more business than the actual bad weather , if it really turns out to be as bad as the weatherman says it will be?
Being open year-round, I tell people to stay home when the weather is bad, especially in the winter when bad weather could really cause some dire predicaments for some people out on the open road.
The werewolves in this county do not ever go hungry!

12-20-2006, 11:50 PM
2003 was our first year. We had a very good attendance for a first year haunt in a very competitive market. Very close to the average attendance of some other well established haunts in the area. We did a lot of advertising though. We also had great word of mouth. Second year was even better, having about 1500 more customers visit than in 03. 2005 our numbers slipped a little, down about 1000 from 04. We mainly think this was due to the economy and gas prices being nearly 3 bucks a gallon. This year with some bad weather and the Tigers in the playoffs for the first time in 19 years we were pleasantly surprised to have our second best year.

The most important thing you can have is good word of mouth. If people like the show they will come back every year and bring new friends with them. If they don't like the haunt it can put you out of business quickly.

We start redesigning the whole show again the first week in January. We will be working on the haunt all year once again. We are looking forward to our fifth anniversary. We think it will be our best year yet.

Howie "Slobber" Erlich
Deadly Intentions Haunted House

Greg Chrise
12-21-2006, 12:14 AM
The second year we put in twice as much stuff and got twice as many people. Perhaps making this announcement ahead of time spread the word through all involved and got the word to the customers? We also became cross promotion buddies with any haunt in the area. The first year we got on TV the second year we only got about 15 seconds. Word of mouth is better than one TV spot among 150 channel.

I expect that now that we have built to a respectable base number of customers it will increase 25 to 30 percent per year. With low numbers locations that's just the way it is, you must earn it from nothing and put more into it than it will return for years.

It is called developing a market. At least I keep lieing to myself to continue. Every place has a potential but it must be developed.

And then there are upper limitations that may have caused low turn out in the beginning that might limit the growth as well.

Are there ample parking places that look inviting to pull into with a nice car? Being on a hiway are cars driving by too fast to notice?
Even with low turn out it might appear on crucial nights that the line is too long and can be seen from the highway maybe?

Would be customers might slow and then take off.

Rural customers might be willing to deal with unfinished parking but suburb and city car drivers will avoid such a situation.

Sometimes you can have the support of the community and still do poorly due to lack of proper facitlities.

We have increased through put to keep down lines, and make our good parking available to the next potential customer, TV either needs a story or they don't and I'm considering a hidden queue line in an adjoining section of the building to hide long lines indoors. We will be adding more to the size and content of the haunt and change the pattern and show every year.

Most of the overnight success big haunts have actually been in business from 10 to 25 years. But, in my mind this is how you develop a stable market. Years ago one might have been able to drop into any town and set up and do well. I think those days are over (competeing with other forms of entertainment) and those type of attractions seem to be bottom feeding on larger shows rather than developing their own market. They still do not do as well as they could have in the long run.

12-21-2006, 03:22 AM
I can't remember the line exactly from the new Rocky movie but it goes something like this...

Rocky is talking to his son, who is very unhappy with Rocky, because his son feels like he's living in Rocky's shadow and as hard as he tries to make something work he can't get there...

Rocky says, what makes a man isn't how hard he can punch or how hard he tries, or pointing fingers at all the reasons why you failed, but what makes a man is how when you're knocked down how you find the inner strength, the desire and the will to get up and keep fighting, thats what makes a man.

What makes a haunter, is despite all your setbacks, your passion and desire keeps you going despite how hard it is to succeed. Being a haunter isn't easy, and its not the best way to make a living. Its a lot of hard work, dedication, passion and desire to succeed. I did nothing but fail for years, but I kept thinking it can only get better not worse, and that kept me going foward. It does pay off in the end, if you want it to it will.

Don't let your low turnout drag you down, trust me you're a better haunter and better buisness person for it trust me!


12-21-2006, 11:42 AM
hi this was my first yr as a commercial haunt and honestly.we didnt come close to our goal of what we expected as far as attendence.we have a great show that everyone loved but still a poor turnout.we are also on a major hwy and used television commercials.i would really like to hear some experiences on yalls first few yrs experience as far as this goes.was your first yr similar to ours?did it take 5 yrs like everyone says?or was it a hit on opening year?

Man, our first year we had between 200-300 people total! We charged $5.00 a person and still no one would show up. I believe the reason was due to lack of advertising and just the fact that it was the first year and most people go to established haunts. Luckily it was a fundraiser so we were able to continue the following year. Our 2nd and 3rd attendance was much better but still not as good as I would like to see.

Jim Warfield
12-21-2006, 11:47 AM
,,,...and then after you took in that first $100,000, you did what all good little haunters are supposed to do, you went to Transworld and spent it ALL!

12-21-2006, 02:12 PM
This was our first year also and we did better than we anticipated. Our numbers were about 50% better than what we had expected they would be for a first year haunt. We had advertising on four radio stations, a two-page feature article in the local major newspaper and stories on our local NBC and FOX affiliates. We also passed out postcard sized advertisement cards at the Mid-South Fair. Patrons who brought two canned food items for the Food Bank received a $2 discount. We collected 3 tons of food and made a donation that enabled the Food Bank to serve 56,000 meals. Nightshade Manor will be back next year with the addition of a Scarefactory Catacombs package and indoor graveyard.

12-21-2006, 06:27 PM

last year was our first and yes, I too was disappointed in the turnout. So, I advertised my butt off this year. And again, although the numbers were better, I was disappointed. I realize that our location has a lot to do with it. Because of this, we will be relocating next season.

Jim Warfield
12-21-2006, 07:31 PM
Relocating just as some people were just figuring out where you were!
Hard to hit a moving target!
Duck! That was close!
fess up, you are really moving your location to try to maintain some sanity, right? Doing it from the old home place gets trying.

12-21-2006, 07:47 PM
i think our problem may be more than just advertising.i think i need a way to get people to stay on our property longer.they come they walk through and they leave.im thinkin if mabie their was more to do outside it may attract people.when cars are in parking lot they keep comin in.but when we were empty,it stayed empty.i probably wouldnt go to an empty haunt either.

12-21-2006, 08:02 PM
Relocating just as some people were just figuring out where you were!
Hard to hit a moving target!
Duck! That was close!
fess up, you are really moving your location to try to maintain some sanity, right? Doing it from the old home place gets trying.
Jim, I will not deny that having a haunt at your own home is quite difficult. As you know, there so many things that make ya wanna just SCREAM!!!! But, there are also the perks.
However, that's not what has made me come to the conclusion that it should no longer be here. We've had customers tell us that if it were somewhere else, we'd have a lot more clientele and this I already know. This residentiall area is dragging us down and it's time for us to move on.

I know that there will be those who will come here because we've been here for the last two years. But, I've already decided to have a banner made to put on the gate saying that we've moved to a new location with the address. Our website will say that fact, as well as all other advertisement. Better to move now than to wait another year.....

12-21-2006, 11:08 PM
This topic hits home with my haunt. After a couple semi-successful shows in a not-so-great mid-Michigan location, Pigman's Lair took a season off to spend time with a new baby- what a wonderful thing, I love my boy!!

After saving a lot of money and investing heavily into the show with props and advertising, we found the perfect new location right off I-94, between 2 big Michigan cities. We reopened this past season, focusing heavily on advertising, and trying to capitalize on our "Great" new location. I quote the word location because location is not everything... It takes location, word of mouth, advertising, and persistence to succeed. Granted, we have an awesome location, but because we took a year off, and moved 30 minutes northeast of our past location , it hurt us. All of our reviews were awesome, our show was great, people were scared and definitely got their money's worth, but attendance wasn't nearly what we expected it would be. We will be back next year for sure.

Larry, your response to this thread is very true, and extremely inspirational. I could not agree more!

Good luck to those of you like me who have been knocked down- hopefully it will make you stronger and better!

Chip "Pigman" DeLong
Chelsea, MI

12-21-2006, 11:10 PM
Duh... I meant I quote the word "Great".. whatever.. it's late!

Haunted Nashville
12-21-2006, 11:29 PM
This was our first season as well. The numbers were good. We ran about 1,600 people more than our goal. We had a pretty good relationship with three Halloween Express stores in the area that put our flyers in customers bags. We also split radio time with them and came up with a package for free passes and free merchandise that the radio stations gave away at night with no charge to us. All in all, a good first year. We are actually already building and changing things around for next season.

Greg Chrise
12-22-2006, 12:52 AM
You can also "seed" the parking lot with a few employee cars. One thing I have only seen at one haunted house is an"open sign" It seems the popularity of those neon signs have the general public trained. Even if there are signs about the event, even a big log it needs to be declared Open. If they don't see one they don't know what to do unless they see others doing it? Like at 10 PM especially, they are probably closed. Too bad we missed it.

Jim Warfield
12-22-2006, 07:25 AM
10pm, "Too bad we missed it!" Sounds like a cheap parent saving some money instead of "throwing it away" on one of those haunted house-things"
I have noticed however some charity haunts do close early avoiding the drunks and the associated problems, anyway I guess that's why they close at 9:30?

Mr Nightmarez
12-22-2006, 09:04 AM
:shock: Don't get discouraged - just advertise, expand and get ready for 2007!

Greg Chrise
12-22-2006, 02:06 PM
The other parable for me has been, look how much money all those other people spend on vacations, fancy boats and motorcycles or cars they don't drive. These things are all wonderful but generally espensive and do not return any money where as any investment considered a loss into a haunted house is going to one day be recovered. In the mean time, even at a cost it is quite the event for the community to gather and have something in common, it is doing a not so common service these days.