View Full Version : The story of the Mid State Scare

08-21-2009, 01:48 PM
This forum provides a lot of great info and I have given back where I could and appreciate all who have helped me. With that in mind I thought I would give an update and some background which may help some newbie.

So here is my story, new to some and an update for others. who I occasionally PM with.

This is the story of a first year haunt. I am not, or was not, a haunted house fanatic. I am on the central coast of California, not far from where the old Haunt X was based before they tried to go big time. There are no haunts anywhere near by and the ones within a few hours are mostly temporary ďgrope and pokeĒ operations. No offense, there are some notable exceptions. This has a lot to do with California property values. It is pretty much impossible for a haunt to cover the costs of a building here.

How I came to the pro haunt industry, had nothing to do with a passion, I came to it as a business and a creative outlet for my soon to be in college son. I began lurking on the boards and researching about a year ago. While I played around with plans and themes, my primary work involved research in demographics, marketing, and budgeting. The effort was trying to determine what the area might support and then design towards that.

Soon a plan, a budget, and a dream of two carefully themed attractions developed. At this point the begging for dirt began. Around February of this year Walmart came back and said I could use a 35,000 sf lot adjacent to them that they controlled. At that point the work began. I soon realized this would be an enormous task. While I was in the process of gathering volunteers I was contacted by a few who where interested in partnering. I almost made a deal with one, but in the end he wanted to buy most of it off the shelf and throw it up in 3 weeks. I was going for a more complex Disneyland style and chose not to compromise. A few weeks later, I was contacted by a couple of guys that had been running a large yard haunt in the area and had dreams of going pro, but not the location or funding. One was an engineering type who was into the animatronics and controls, the other an insanely creative theater type. Soon the key elements were in place for the Mid State Scare. The two complex attractions went to one with a simpler one along side. I used all the techniques you will find on the boards to gather a crew. Yes, it does work!

With a small enthusiastic team designing rooms and making props, we had the rug pulled out from under us in May. The property management company for the shopping center informed Walmart that it was not a part of their lease to allow the event, and we were screwed. We people working, money out there, piles of wall panels stacked up and no place to play. The search began again.

Within a month we had a 3 solid options but we were hoping for something that would allow us to stay set up year round. By the end of June, my prayers were answered. We now have a 6000 sf open building in town, right off the freeway, that is committed to us through 2010 for free.

We are in our place now. All the interior walls should be up by the end of the week. We got our permit approvals on last Wednesday. As courtesy to the owner, we are not starting on the faÁade till Sept 1st. We have developed a set building crew of about 20. We have our first actors recruiting meeting this weekend and expect about 30 for the first go-round. We have inked a radio deal that puts 1000 mentions minimum over 3 stations over the coarse of 6 weeks for no money out of pocket. We have had about half the food for the operational nights crew donated through coupon / advertising partnerships. I am sure we will get it all covered. The blessings go on and on.

Iíll have more to add later along with pictures. I just wanted to get this thread started. Feel free to ask any questions. I really donít believe there are many things to keep tight lipped about as others do. To pull something like this off is a huge undertaking involving a large variety of talents. You just cant throw money at it, or slap something together and expect to survive.

08-21-2009, 11:37 PM
What we have going now is a single attraction event of approximately 7000 sf that will take about 25 minutes to go through. This will be a guided attraction, not an on your own maze. With the themed queue line entertainment and midway style concessions we anticipate a minimun of 40 minutes of on site entertainment.

We are in what was the old post office building for the last 40 years so the theme wraps around a disturbing parcel delivery service. This is being played out against a backdrop of a steam punk style. We may be the only steampunk haunt there is.

Below is a cut on the theme from our walk through document to give you a feel for the direction.

The P.H.E. (Parcel Handling Express) set up a distant research facility on the west coast during the 1800's with the exclusive goal of speeding delivery to and from the east coast of united states. The P.H.E.E.R. (Parcel Handling Express - Esoteric Research) facility worked for some time experimenting with teleportation, time travel, tunnel systems, and even creating their own delivery force that were faster, stronger, and better suited for life underground. During all of these years there were many minds and souls were lost in the name of getting a fruitcake to the east coast before it turns into a brick. During these many years of secretive experimentation P.H.E.E.R. has developed many avenues of science and exploration that the rest if the world has previously been unaware of. Until recently the P.H.E.E.R. facility was hidden under the Arroyo Grande Post Office delivering packages for the community to test it's new and terifying methods. The chaos errupting from the facility below finally became too much for the postal service to hide and the decision to move the post office came easy to those in charge. Now Left to their own devices, P.H.E.E.R. has taken over!

Now journey into the depths of P.H.E.E.R. during your first day of employee orientation.

Jim Warfield
08-22-2009, 08:12 AM
You seemed to have avoided the obvious theme of Postal employees simply going "Postal" and murdering everybody they ever worked with.
"Bigger, faster mail delivering people"? Did I read that?
Make some phoney heavy items for those stronger people to pretend to carry around.
The local P O. was built to look like it came from California and a depression era arts work program mural fills one lobby wall. If your building has such art work in it be advised, it might need protecting from Halloweeners.
My Dad worked in the local PO for 8? years. He told about mysterious packages sent by college boys to the Dean that smelled suspiciously like boxed-up horse shit. Sent COD ("Cash On Deviler") of course!
Sending live baby chicks through the mail was common back then too, and somehow they survived, usually.
Rural mailcarriers didnot want to give up their Ford Model "A"s either because they were the best all-weather car they could find.
Maybe someone could loan you a Model "A" hotrod you could hang a mail pouch on?
Then a guy trying to be a dealer for King Midget" cars convinced a mail carrier to take one of these tiny put-put-cars out on the route, he had to back up steep hills ("Mount" Carroll, Ill.)and a German Shepard licked the mailman right in his face because the car sat so low!

08-25-2009, 01:09 PM
We do have a creature bread for package hadling, big, muscular with small head to throw disturbing packages over our customers heads form a truck to the loading dock. Next year it will be from a zepplin, but a truck will do this year.
(packages all on zip lines)

08-25-2009, 01:11 PM
A couple pictures of the builing exterior

08-25-2009, 01:14 PM
A few pictures of the interior. These are at least 10 days out of date. All the walls are up now and painted black.

The vertical picture is of what will be the elevator shaft.

08-28-2009, 12:57 PM
Wow... what a story! You must be incredibly good at influencing people. I am especially impressed and interested in how you obtained such a great location for FREE??

I was also wondering if your construction crew are volunteers, or just your actors?


Jim Warfield
08-28-2009, 06:27 PM
..you took out all of those meddlesome steel posts that forest the place you could have room for the Zepplin indoors.

08-28-2009, 06:43 PM
man! great story. i am interested too on how you got so much donated. I have ask places around here and get shuned for even asking. I do have some sponsors, but not nearly as much as i would love to get.

09-09-2009, 09:54 AM
Well, I have say it took practice to ask right. It was not something I come to naturally. Iím more the engineer type and have had to become the salesman type.

Looking professional is key. Proper letterhead and cards are a must. Show up looking professional with cards and a letter of introduction. Have a clear story to tell about what your doing and what you are looking for and how this is beneficial to them In some cases I get my foot in the door calling it an interactive theatrical event instead of haunted house. In our case, that is more accurate than not. Donít go off talking about how cool it is going to be and it will have this or that. Most people donít get it. Explain how this is a community event giving kids something to do, etc.

09-09-2009, 10:00 AM
We have been busting ass, so I am behind on posting pictures. Here is almost the final cut on the poster. Its reduced quality to fit online, I hope it still looks good.

09-09-2009, 10:03 AM
Wow... what a story! You must be incredibly good at influencing people. I am especially impressed and interested in how you obtained such a great location for FREE??

I was also wondering if your construction crew are volunteers, or just your actors?


Thanks. It is all volunteer. Some people just like to build cool stuff. The fact is, as a first year, actors have been difficult to gather.

09-10-2009, 01:31 PM
You said you were starting your haunt as a creative outlet for your son... I was wondering if you'd like to adopt ME?! I want to be a pro haunter very much! It's legal to adopt someone in his 30s, right??;)

All joking around aside, thanks for sharing your story here. It is interesting to read how your haunt is coming together.

07-25-2010, 06:30 PM
So, 11 months since an update, it seems like it is time. I will try to keep it all in chronological order to maintain the story.

Getting the Doors Open:

The last weeks flew by. Time and money went through our hands like water. The actors were not in the quantity we needed, every time I turned around we needed to buy something else and the stuff on my plate was not getting done. A lesson worth mentioning, you canít do and manage, you have to make a choice.

The low points of the last weeks.

Our audio system. We had great amps, speakers and distribution but we decided to wait on computer players and went with cheap Mpeg players. What a disaster. I spent a huge amount of time each day in October just trying to hold it together. I donít think there was a single moment that didnít an audio track down somewhere. I was the one responsible for the audio, so I was behind always. It improved as the show went one, but was never what it could have been.

Our actor wrangler, he turned out to be more BS than work. He spent a lot of time stoking his ego and the partners to but did crap to get us where we needed to be. As an all volunteer operation, the crew is the life blood of the operation and there is no room for false pride. It is all about taking care of the volunteers so they take care of you. A week before opening we sent him down the road. My wife stepped into a roll she had no interest or experience in and ran with it. To you newbies out there Ė donít sell this part short. Managing a large group of volunteers is a hard job. They are all gone by 12 or 1 but you are back on the phone and text message by 10 the next morning confirming the next days crew.

Our dreams were too big. At some point we had to accept that it was not all getting done. People who committed to do things were not doing them, so we got spread thinner. Even as new bodies would show up, there seemed no time to stop and orient them and get them started on something. We opened with a partially finished front. Our show lighting and sound was not online till 24hr before opening. Our crew really never had a rehearsal.

The partnership. The bible warns to be careful of who you yoke yourself to. In my drive to get where I wanted to go, I lost site of this truth. Personalities clashed. How we viewed the value of other people differed and pride and egos began to take their toll.

The high points.

The people made it great. We were blessed to have a fun passionate group who wanted to make this happen. I have had the pleasure of meeting an incredibly diverse group of people. Most of them I would never choose to get to know on my own, but I am the better for it. We had everything from mothers and daughters working together to members of a Goth metal band to amateur horror film makers to an old lady who loved Halloween. The crazies come out of the woodwork, any I learned to appreciate them all.

Next: How the first season went.