View Full Version : Career Path

02-15-2009, 01:12 PM
I have to do a high school research paper on my career path. And... This is it so... do you guys have any information for me. What classes did you take in college? What was your major? How did you get the opportunity to make animatronics/haunted houses for a living? Any information would be great. Thanks!

02-15-2009, 04:32 PM
Hi there i'm Jamie, i'm a licsened esthiecian which means I can give facials and do makeup on people as well as body wax and make people feel good. I have a intrest in massge thearpy too and I want to go to school for it.
I have a strong intrest in the special fx makeup field as well. I want to eventually go to school for it down the line. In High school I took alot of art classes and I observed alot at my haunted house watching other people do effects. I also was lucky enough to have a friend teach me some basic effects work. I helped her out at the haunted house and that taught me alot. The year after that I was on the makeup team. IF you want to ask me any questions about this, please private message me on here or you can Instant message me on aim at badpumpkin13. I hope to hear from you.

02-15-2009, 07:12 PM
I would go to a great business school and major in entrepreneurism. This will teach you how to run your own business, marketing, accounting, human resourses, etc.

Then, use all your electives in drama or theatre. Set design, make-up, or acting would all be very valuable.

Ken Spriggs
02-18-2009, 10:00 AM
I would turn and run!!!!!!!
Sure you can make a living at all this......or can you?

Jim Warfield
02-18-2009, 10:14 AM
It just can take Dead-di-cation, many unpaid and low paid hours (if you are into counting "hours")
(I have always thought the quickest way for an employer to keep his employees broke is to get them hooked into that counting hours game, but then, wut dew eye no?)
It might also require something called "Luck" too.
"Luck" can usually be rented by hard work and treating others politely.
"Make a living"? Define that, just how much money do you need?
A kid delivering newspapers makes a "living", but someone else pays his rent and washes his socks and is there to hand him an extra buck once and awhile.....
Any October customers gunna send you extra bucks later?

02-18-2009, 01:35 PM
i mean it is your only job. Your only source of income is haunted house. And yes I do agree that some luck will definitely help me.

I think ill get a job as an engineer for about 10 years and then take that money to start my haunt. If it didn't cost so much I just wouldn't get that job as an engineer. Maybe Ill pass on a family too so I have more money and time to spend on my haunt. haha

Allen H
02-18-2009, 09:34 PM
This post gets me thinking, sorry to throw it off track if I do but I'm a little worried about all the young posters on here. This has been on my mind for a while. I would assume that if you are on the professional haunt chat list that you would own, manage, or at least act at a haunted house. Many of the people on this board who spend alot of time helping out by writing responses actually own a haunt. We are able to help because we have learned through trial and error.
I suppose it is best to learn from the experiences of others, but I also would like the people to at least have worked at a haunted house before. I have frequented the list on and off for several years leaving and swearing off of them due to drama or bitterness on the lists. I believe you should spend more time actually haunting or building props than you should talking about haunting.
This is going to sound like a "I used to have to walk to school uphill both ways" kind of post but I don't mean it that way. We all have our different styles and there was not a resource like this for Haunters to get together and share our strategies. The internet has changed that, and I'm thankful for it. I also don't want folks to call themselves haunters if they have never acted in or run a haunted house.
Floor I owe you an answer to your question. Take business and marketing courses, and call you career path entertainment. However to be a real haunter in my eyes you will also have to become an electrician, carpenter, plumber, scenic painter, actor, sculptor, set designer, promoter, human resource person, recruiter, and accountant. There are also 20 or more other jobs that you will have to learn in order to be successful. I should also mention that successful is a variable term. I consider myself successful in the haunted house field. During my career I have lived in my haunted house (and other peoples haunts), had to learn to manage money as I was paid once a year and that was really hard. I've had to have off season jobs up untill a few years ago. All the off season jobs were me trying to learn something I needed to know, sign shop, radio shack, roller bladeing wolf-man, home depot, electricians helper, carpenters helper, and in super lean times, even fast food.
I began haunting at the age of ten, a haunted house was open in my grand mother's neighborhood and I volunteered. They removed a ceiling tile and I dropped a fake spider on a fishing pole into the group to make them scream. For the next six years I worked as an actor in various haunts. Typically I would show up with my wolfman costume in a duffel-bag and talk to the owner during set up, It was all volunteer then. I became a part owner of a haunt at the age of 17. It was in a strip mall and I learned alot and lost my burger flipping job I had kept for almost a year.
It was a decent show but also had its share of disasters, learning from them really helped me.
The week I graduated high school I moved to Orlando FL (From Maryland) to work at Terror on Church St. (I arranged that while on a road trip the previous summer). I made $7 an hour starting there and lived in a neighborhood where I was the only one who spoke English. I could not afford a car or TV, but I was doing what I loved and learning a ton there. In Orlando, I picked up a side job of handing out fliers for a nightclub downtown. I wore my wolfman costume and roller blades in the middle of downtown Orlando (Did that for 3 years). It paid three times what I made at Terror on Church St. The cast and show support there were amazingly talented and I learned a ton from them.
Skull Kingdom opened four years after that and Terror was on it's way downhill. So I jumped haunts and worked at the year round Skull Kingdom and was actually helping to build it before they opened. They made a ton of mistakes and I was there to learn again, and even help smooth out a few things. I was hired as a stilt performer because thats what they were looking for, so after I was hired I bought a pair of stilts from a pawn shop and taught myself how to walk on them before work the next week. While there I learned about airbrush make up (they had the best and fastest team I've ever seen). Skull was year round haunt acting work and in October I would always take time off and go work at other Haunts around the country. I worked a season at Spookyworld in Foxborough, MA and I learned from Ed and the team up there, several seasons at Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights FL, and several other haunts that I arranged.
Each show was different and I learned different things from each one. Spooky World had great sets and had guest flow down to a science. In 2001 I went to Texas to be a stilt performer and the director of actors at the Addamsville Terror Complex. I learned alot there about what to do and what not to do. The park had several haunts on it and several owners who sued the crap out of each other after the season ended. One night in 2001, I met my wife. She came through the show taking pictures and I had a security guard give her my email so I could get copies emailed to me. I ended every email with a question so she had to write back. After the season was over I went back to FL and continued emailing my future wife.
In January I moved to Texas, (working and living at) Addamsville for the time. I learned alot there and also got closer to my future wife (my devious ulterior motive) 2002 was Addamsville's last season (before being repurchased by one owner two seasons ago) as the owners at the time countersued and feuded with each other. I was never paid for any of my work there for the 02 season despite a contract. The weather was terrible and attendance was poor as well as legal fees so I saw no point in trying to get money out of them. I don't mention that because I'm bitter or pissed about it. I'm pleased in general. They couldn't have given me anything better than the wife I found on their grounds. I mention it to show that this is a business that people may try to rip you off in, like all businesses I suppose. That year I had to enter costume contests in order to pay my actors, In two contests I won $2,000 and was able to pay my actors.
2003 I started Creature Crates, a mask and stilt costume company with a partner and sold pretty well at the Transworld show. Our arrangement was that I sculpted and helped design and sell at the show and he would do the production work. I flew back from the show and he and other staff drove. He fell asleep behind the wheel and hit a semi. He was hospitalized for three months, so I ended up doing alot of production work. We barely got orders out on time. I worked with him on Creature Crates for two more years and then gave him the company. I saw it could support one of us, but not both. He still runs it to this day.
At the show I met some people who were doing a haunt in Allen TX and they asked me to be the general manager of their haunt. It was another park with four attractions one being a Hayride where guests shot monsters with paintball guns (great concept a nightmare to execute). The land the haunt was on was sold into development and the haunt had to move. While scouting locations for my wedding which was occurring in November, I found a ranch that would hold my 04 haunt and my wedding the month after it was over.
That season was terrible. It rained 10 out of 11 nights and very, very little money was made. The haunt owner did not give any money to the ranch owner as they had agreed to profits as opposed to ticket sales. So they needed to move again. I did not move with them.
I opened my own haunted trail at Screams Halloween Park in Waxahatchie, TX. Like every haunt year before that I learned alot. Mine is an upcharge attraction. They have 4 haunts on site plus mine. Last season I became Artistic Director of the entire park and started an actor training program. The Parks ratings went up last season and they are keeping me for next year as well. Even the job I have now is only 6 months of work a year, I have a spring attraction at a renniasance faire that I also do and between the two I get by. I'm not rich by any means but I'm doing all right and doing what I love. Thats the answer to how I got to be here.
In the beginning of my post I mentioned the often questioning young on the boards as of late. My advice to them is to do as much as you type about haunts. Build stuff, take up sculpting, servo projects, anything that will help, anything that will help you contribute to the boards as much as you take from it. And go work at a haunt. Work for free for now and then get paid when you are good at it. Work at as many haunts as you can before you open your own. In haunts its not dream it then do it, its do it, dream it, and then do it right.
I'm glad that there are young people interested in the haunt industry. Talking here won't get you good at it though, you need to do as much as you can.
Allen H

02-18-2009, 10:56 PM
Allen that was a great story there...I enjoy reading how people get involved in certain jobs, especially this crazy business...We should start a thread in one of the boards dedicated to this, in case people are curious "Where you came from and how did you get here?" There will always be interesting stories because this isnt one of those "After I got my bachelors degree in Halloween i started my own business" kinda jobs you know? Anyways, good luck with your future endeavors.

02-19-2009, 04:42 AM
right now I do a haunt for charity but it isn't open to the public. I do it for the kids in my marching band at my school. I just want to know how I can continue doing this for the rest of my life. But that is a good idea allen

02-19-2009, 06:49 PM
It depends what aspects of a haunt you want to work/specialize in. I work as an admissions counselor at a university. If someone wanted to go into this industry and likes the design aspect AND wants to eventually be an owner someday, I would say Theatre Design and Business (concentration: general business and/or entrepreneurship) and either double major or look at a major/minor combo. (drawing examples from the programs offered at my University).

Theatre: Look for a well rounded theatre program where if you focus on design ,you will get theory/application and training still in acting/makeup/costuming, but you still have your main focus/majority of coursework in design: lighting/sound, prop and set design. Another thing to look for: FROM THE MOMENT YOU WALK INTO THE DOOR FRESHMEN YEAR - make sure they give everyone the opportunity from day one to be working on productions. Some HUGE programs, students don't start working on actual productions until they are upperclassmen. Also make sure they have a full roster of shows and not "few and far between." Our students are working on an average of 2-3 shows at once beginning freshmen year.

The Business side: a good general business management program will touch on developing business plans, analyzing the market, and a working knowledge of accounting, finance, human resources and marketing.

In the meantime - work in a haunt as a actor, work your way up through the ranks and then seek an internship as a supervisor or manager when you're in college.

This is a hard industry. I'm on a production team for a haunt that has had an on-and-off run because of location issues. Owner is having major challenges establishing a permanent location over the years. None of us do this "full-time." But at least if you focus on something in college that can eventually help you in the industry it can only strengthen you as a haunter, and if it doesn't work out, you at least have a bachelor's degree to fall back on.

Hope this helps! Good luck! :)