View Full Version : Truth in advertising

Haunted Illinois
10-11-2009, 09:00 PM
I don’t think that it can be debated that, as consumers, we all insist on truth in advertising. When we buy a big-screen TV, we rely on the technical specifications and base our purchase on that criteria. Why should haunted houses be any different?

Don’t we all expect truth in advertising with Haunted Houses, too?
I recently went to a haunted attraction in the Chicagoland area that was pretty raw. In fact, the didn’t deliver what they promised.

On their website, they claimed that they were “Voted Scariest Haunted House in the Midwest”. After visiting their event, I found that it was anything but. To provide a comparison that everyone here can relate to… This place was maybe 1/10th as detailed as the Darkness and the fright factor was about as fractional. Plain black hallways and simple scenes were what I saw there.

This was their second season, so this “Scariest Haunted House in the Midwest” title would have had to be obtained during their first season. And yes, I did go to their haunt the first year… and it was more rough than this year.

So here’s my question. If a haunted attraction doesn’t deliver… is it ok for them to make claims that they can’t back up, just to get customers to show up and for them to make a quick buck?

Is it a reasonable marketing technique? What do you think?

10-11-2009, 09:36 PM
It's obviously not right, but it makes them money so they evidently don't have a problem doing it.

This is one of those things that is unenforceable. Who can make them pull their advertising? I suppose another haunt in the area could sue them, and when the case gets to court in a few years a judge or jury might rule against them. Or not. Who voted them the scariest? It could have been a panel made up of their family and friends.

There was a similar thread on here a couple of months ago where I compared haunts to movies. You might see a movie review with "Scariest movie I've ever seen!" in big letters. Then down in fine print you see the claim was made by Joe Schmoe, movie critic for the Wichita Weekly Gazette. So the big name reviewers probably had a different opinion.

The only real remedy is word of mouth and online reviews. But another thread also pointed out the problem with online reviews. Family and friends can build up a bad haunt and trash good ones. So word of mouth is the only true remedy, and that can take a while to get around. By then, they've made their money and moved on.

I hate to play dirty, but fair is fair. Run a few ads and post some fliers pointing out that this haunt isn't the scariest in the Midwest. If you get any flak from the haunters, challenge them to prove it.

Haunted Illinois
10-11-2009, 09:52 PM
It's obviously not right, but it makes them money so they evidently don't have a problem doing it.

So then, it's ok?

Who voted them the scariest? It could have been a panel made up of their family and friends.

Exactly. They just invented the whole thing and created the whole "voted" thing themselves.

There was a similar thread on here a couple of months ago where I compared haunts to movies. You might see a movie review with "Scariest movie I've ever seen!" in big letters. Then down in fine print you see the claim was made by Joe Schmoe, movie critic for the Wichita Weekly Gazette. So the big name reviewers probably had a different opinion.
There is a BIG difference between these guys and your example. In your example, they actually quoted a source. In my example, they didn't quote anyone, because they made the whole thing up.

The only real remedy is word of mouth and online reviews. But another thread also pointed out the problem with online reviews. Family and friends can build up a bad haunt and trash good ones. So word of mouth is the only true remedy, and that can take a while to get around. By then, they've made their money and moved on.

It's just these kind of fraudulent claims that give the haunt industry a bad name. Just my two cents.

Unfortunately, more and more people are resorting to these tactics.

Allen H
10-12-2009, 01:40 AM
haunt organizations should have a code of ethics its members must adhere to in order to maintain membership. this kind of advertising should be against that code.A loss of membership in the future could mean loss of vendor discounts, and loss of lower insurance rates.
these kinds of things are what the HHA could be helping with.

Mike Goff
10-12-2009, 07:36 AM
I think that this type of tactic has very short term benefits and will eventually kill thier show. The problem is that I think that we all suffer to some degree, because of a few jack asses. I think that every market has them, and when they finally go out of buisiness they will more than likely be replaced by some other jack ass that wants to make a quick buck.

We have a haunt in our market that advertises 2 attractions at the same location, and when you get there, the second attraction is a vortex tunnel.

10-12-2009, 08:39 AM
As a consumer it is our responsibility to review the reviews. Polls, reviews, and the like can be skewed to help any business and it is our responsibility to see who is behind it before we make a decision. It is no different than politics and the polls the present. If this is the "scariest in the midwest" who did the voting?

10-12-2009, 08:50 AM
I've noticed that some of the competing haunts in Pittsburgh have started throwing lines like that around ("Ranked as the scariest haunted house in Pennsylvania!" Etc) --- but they never actually attribute that ranking to any actual person or organization.

I always make sure to credit all of our kudos to their actual sources: Travel Channel, Fango, Hauntworld, etc -- so that people know it's a legitimate claim and not just pr shennanigans.

10-12-2009, 08:53 AM
I think that would carry 100 times the weight if I read a review with a creditable source attached to it. Great point undead!

10-12-2009, 09:22 AM
Exactly. Attribution. It may be annoying when haunts say stuff like that but the customers are smarter than you think.

Most people do NOT think advertising is true. They are more inclined to give weight to reviewers, word of mouth and other sources of information.

People who use shady advertising practices usually lose in the end...when they cannot deliver the goods they fail, and no one is there to help them.

However, I don't think any Haunt owners want Associations that attempt to regulate them in any ways. The reason being who will do the regulation? Three boards from now do we want HHA or IAHA board members telling us how to run our haunts? Who will sit on those boards and will they have an ax to grind?

I think the informal pressure of peers is the way to go. Codes of ethics certainly exist for extreme cases, but these should be extremely rare.


10-12-2009, 10:14 AM
i have a new kid on my block here in columbus ohio...
and all the time i have to listen to how they are rated number one in columbus ohio for 6 years in a row..Not True..
every year for ever and ever the Hooch is featured in almost every local rag as columbus best
and this is their first year..
and the owner has his own website that has been discussed on here before..americasbest haunts..
pretty shady to own the haunt and claim u have been selected as one of americas best...hmmmmm..by yourself
but john q public doesnt know that...

sooo i just keep my mouth shut
and run the most kick ass haunt ever..
and it shows...
i think we have made just about every national review this year..
Fangoria, hauntworld,americas best online,haunted attraction mag,
associated content,bizarre mag,scarefactor, etc..
and all the local stuff too..
like columbus monthly best of columbus edition, Melt mag, ohio valley haunt review, city blood, the lantern, and more..

honestly i dont think it matters..
i dont think it matters to the public our ratings in anything..
or any other ratings for any other haunted house...
its the word on the street....
thats where the success comes from...

heres what i think sucks...
if a haunt is making claims..
and john q almost broke goes..
and only has money to see one haunt...
and is tricked into thinking he just saw the best columbus has to offer...

then that sucks..

Jim Warfield
10-12-2009, 12:03 PM
Chocolate ever made!...but everyone's taste buds are different.
I have never wanted to be "The Scariest" for numerous reasons. Whether or not any haunters care or not the truth is every year people do get very scared to the point of never coming back to another haunted attraction.
Fear and it's creation are two very hard to define and control commodities.
Little children dragged kicking and screaming through the haunt front door is the most obvious bad-call but many adult sized bodies do not respond well to fearfull scenarios either and how will we know until later, if ever?
I think advertising as the scariest shows us the novice at work.
"Scariest"? They just terrorized the whole kindergarten class? Sure, that buys that claim.
(But did you really have to butcher those cute bunnys?)
Terrorize ten deep sea divers? That would be pretty tough to do, this I know from personal experience.
How about "Truth In Ads" by the small print at the bottom of the page saying something like :
"Scariest for ages 13 and under?"
This would also serve as a good warning, do you Really want your kid having nightmares, Mr. & Mrs. Parent?
Most parents like to sleep at night, when they can.

10-13-2009, 04:20 AM
Bottom line is this... I ENCOURAGE my local newspapers, or TV to put them all the challenge and expose haunts for whom they really are not who they pretend to be.... I think this is the only way to end the false claims to prove by some local media source its just bogus.


There's the solution right there: invite all of the media you can out to that "scariest haunt" and let them be the judges. The owners shouldn't object to some free publicity while proving their claim, right? Things like this are usually considered fluff pieces for the new reporters, but I think they will call it like they see it.

10-13-2009, 08:32 AM
I see this also here. Its advertising to some degree I understand that and if they want to do it to themselves ,fine, it will come back to bite them in the butt at some point. People will catch on to it and know. What gets me are the haunts that know they are bad and then slam others to make themselves look better. They can't take the other haunts doing well or trying to do well. They want to control not only themselves but other information avenues. Everyone that comes out of these haunts know the truth. But if someone wants to use their staff and themselves to promote only their haunt ok fine. But don't use the staff/themselves to promote or post lies to hurt others. What one person thinks is scary another one doesn't. Some people freak out over clowns and chainsaws, where I don't. I can say I am Cindy Crawford, it only makes me look dumb when you see me and know I am full of crap. But to say everyone is looks like a buffoon ass is different. On a side note, I don't know what it takes to get some reviews from some national TV spots, but when I see on a house that is clearly not the best, it makes me wonder how creditable it it.

Mike Honcho
10-13-2009, 04:02 PM
what I think is crazy is Haunts who charge $30 and it's a tent in a mall parking lot while Six flags charges $15 ( That's 3 haunts and the whole amusement park) Or claiming to be the best when paying their way into it .... I also feel that if you don't get a certain number of customers , like under 5000 people I don't think you could be ranked with the likes of Netherworld, Darkness, Field of screams etc. these haunts are powerhouses and everyone knows it..... bottom line is you could say whatever you want and at the end of the day if you cant deliver, they wont come back.

Allen H
10-13-2009, 05:05 PM
I do not believe Larry meant 90% of all haunts suck. There are some dangerous haunted houses out there that remain open until their first lawsuit. The reason why he felt fine saying that here is because the haunters on this board are actively seeking to make their show better by furthering their knowledge. The ones who read this are in the 10% of Larry's good responsible haunt owners. I think the number of unsafe haunts is more like 25% those owners have never been to a trade show or safety class. They are not ADA compliant, they still use plastic for their roof, they do not fire retard, and alot of their actors drink while working.
Im not necessarily defending Larry because I think he overestimated the number of bad haunts, but I do see his point.
Allen H

10-13-2009, 05:06 PM
To the point:

This is how you handle it...

1) I encourage my local media to review all the haunts go and see them compare apples to apples. That will produce evidence that some new fly by not haunt that says they are whatever when they are not is not as advertised.

2) Encourage the media to tell customers in your local area not to listen to the hype on a radio commerical but rather use this guidline to determine who are the best haunts:

a) visit websites: usually fly by nights have horrible websites that don't match the description of commericals.

b) watch videos: if some fly by night does not produce a video, they probable have nothing to show and everything to hide. Even the worst movie produces promo videos to showcase the film haunts are doing the same nationwide. If a customer visits the website and finds no evidence of proof to match the claims skip it.

c) photos: if the haunt has no professional quality photos that match the claims of the haunt then they have something to hide and skip it.

d) articles: do they show links to articles written about them, testimonials from people around the area or media sources? If not how can they claim the things they claim they can't so they should be ignored or viewed as false advertisement and should not be trusted.

e) media: will they allow the media into their attraction to review the quality of the experience, film and photo? If they say no its because they have something to hide. No sain business person would ever turn away media coverage especially when the intent is to produce a positive review.

Haunts should be able these days to produce a professional website, photos, videos and or have no problem inviting the media into their attractions to film, photo and review.

Again MOST OF THESE fly by nights (the only ones I'm refering to) do suck, have something to hide, false advertise, make claims they can't or never planned to back up and this is how you put them to the test. Let the media do it for you... that is what I would do!


10-14-2009, 06:14 AM
The truth is the truth and in our industry there will always be rip off haunts out there hurting our good name! I hope my post on how to deal with them helps people overcome over-hyped haunts who are just out to make a buck! There are the exceptions people who do open new that are really creative, original, or simply a breath of fresh air, but they are few and far between because as we know they are some idiot who came by your haunt on a Saturday night and said 'wow look at all the money he's making' and they find a close by building, throw up some plywood, plastic skeletons and then talk about how its so scary no one allowed in under 18... LOL. We know its not true, and yes we worry about our haunts and how they might impact us, and yes it burns us up something stupid to know he's telling a bold face lie! We wonder 'how long will it take before the word of mouth kills them' or we wonder 'will people feel so burned they won't visit other haunts that year or any year ever again', we also wonder and or think 'that haunt is unsafe and could hurt the whole entire local industry', we think about all sorts of things I know I do as well.

When you put your HEART and SOUL into something like we all do we don't mind a new haunt coming along and raising the bar, it should inspire you, push you, make you work harder, but no one wants to see a HORRID movie where you feel totally ripped off, and certainly you don't want ANYONE to feel ripped off by an industry you and I believe is on the upswing!

One bad haunt, one fly by night haunt, could cause an accident that could hurt us all, simply because some moron wanted to make a fast buck!

So once again follow my tips and use their own haunt against them by encouraging the media to review the haunt, your haunt and all haunts in your area. This was the ONLY point I was trying to make, a point I might add was meant to HELP YOU if this happens to you in your local market which I'm almost positive happens every year by someone new who doesn't care about haunting like you, like me, like the rest of us who do this for a living.


10-14-2009, 08:42 AM
Ok now my original post looks stupid and out of place from everyone changing their posts. So I just changed mine. So I will only say now one thing BOO

10-14-2009, 07:16 PM
Uh- huh, I see.

10-15-2009, 02:06 AM
If it helps Adam, I was about to go to the haunt you are talking about( Bourban Street) until I read your review, the funny part about this was that the next day a friend came over talking about how "scary" the haunt the same haunt was supposed to be. I asked him where he heard that at? "I read it on their website"...so it works but people just end up disappointed, however, nothing is stopping them from just changing names and reopening next year somewhere else

10-15-2009, 02:11 AM
BTW Adam, I think the Brookfield Jaycees deserve another review by now. I don't think they should still be judged on poor management from over 4 years ago. I don't even volunteer there anymore but I do know that they deserve a fair review by now....