So to try to summarize my dysfunctional haunted history, the outline of what to do is to make props, buy things that can be repurposed into props, cheap at trade days events, garage sales or even garbage day or dumpster diving. There is are a couple people who say if you are still doing that you aren't a success but one of my face book freinds you all know and love just found a bunch of manequin forms in a dumpster. I think he is kind of a success.
The argument is when you are a success you will only go buy $18,000 distortions props because that is what people want. Far from the truth in how often that really happens. SO you make things, repurpose things, like an artist would. Like Allen Hopps Videos show so many things you can make that certainly provide the proper level of entertainment and eye candy any haunt really should be using for detail. Only Allen is so successful that he seems to have an addiction to shopping at Harbor Frieght, Home Depot and Tandy Leather supply. He also knows where ALL the suppliers are for professional materials. Yet with thinking a bit and watching for sales, and close outs, you accumulate all the raw materials to dress out a haunt. This is actually the time consuming part. Collecting costume bits and masks or make up and so on.
Despite the other wildly held opinions that things from seasonal halloween franchise stores are all crap and are below standard for a proper haunt, these things are in lots of cases just fine and can be embelleshed to become part of a better costume package and personalized and upgraded if you will.
It takes hours and hours to make things and some how hours and hours to earn money to buy things already made by a pro is somehow just magically in a budget or you shouldn't even proceed, there is no difference in hours making instead of hours earning the money to buy already made and marked up to hell items. Even if you were mister money bags, you will find it takes hours and hours to shop for things and worry about their timely delivery and still have to modify things to fit your overall look to a themed haunt. You can spend $7,000 for a proper costume or come up with time and a couple hundred dollars in materials. So where do you start is developing your own look. How does that happen if every haunt in the market buys this years newest thing?
Or you do want to support vendors that make one of a kind custom items that are individual works. You spend more time planning themes and costumes and the customer interaction yet forums seem to only repeat over and over who bought what at Transworld, how do you make walls, write a business plan and deal with a fire marshal. So because we started out with parties, theming and decorating on an almost nothing budget it all came to be. The budget wasn't nothing because we were broke! We could pull of super cheap parties because it was part of the fun to make everything and lots of things and dummies posed and monsters and things flying in the air made out of crap and things popping up outdoors and giant dragons made out of freaking 2 litter pepsi bottles, covered in bondo, with detail carved and added and airbrushed with underpaintings and scale dimensions. It cost like $10 and 75 cents in air brush paint and was round different shops for like 10 years getting rave reviews and was built in maybe 2 partial days.
It seems silly but you can do a model of your haunt or room set ups in paper or cardboard and your monsters are army men and space men toys and if it is hay ride you buy a kids farm set to have a tractor and hay wagon and plan out your scenes to enough of an extent that is going to flesh out your show.
It isn't what haunts have become in the last 30 years and you need to aspire to that. I go to lots of haunts and come out realizing I have seen this crap before and the overall style came from the original Jaycees one kid in a room acting some crap out play book. There are a tremendous amount of haunts that have been doing it wrong for 30 years then if that is the recommendation. So if there are 20 haunts, go see them and flood your head with what is cool and what is not and attempt to do the better things. Some time you just can't afford to do the cool things in the beginning so you don't and plan for years down the line it might look like this or that. And the money comes from the customers. If the first set of customers doesn't respond you get some new customers! Either a slightly different kind of show or an entirely different location. Everything evolves.
Still at some point you have to stop all this imaginary crap that you have to change the show a lot every year and spend the big bucks to keep up with the Jones haunt and make a living. It would look cool if this or that or the other thing was all pimped out. Well, make me a shit load of money and we'll do that. Until then this is what you got do something with it.
You have to do enough research to understand you aren't just being told you need $250,000 or don't even start or that is what "they" want to see. Really? That's 3 people out of 300 million in this country alone. Find your own customers and meet their entertainment needs. Perhaps your crew that started with nothing is the top haunt prop maker or gizmo designer or character actor 10 years from now. Even if you did nothing for 30 years was developed people's skills and life trends that they truely wanted to follow, you are a success. It isn't just 60,000 people showed up and bought the combo VIP ticket for mega bucks and that is what success is.
Back in the day, people in haunts all said they were inspired by the Disney haunted mansion. Well that took millions and millions of dollars and is larger than 100,000 SF and took 17 years to build. In the real world it might take 17 years to build but you open as soon as you can not two decades from now when it is ready. There are lots of Universal movie tour fans too. Still not what an intimate haunted house evening with no travel package can be. So it is an entirely different animal. You can scare people jiggling a plastic bag at them or having something with teeth go for the belt. How does that cost $250,000 to do something cavemen were spoofing each other with 40,000 years ago.
First you develop the overall feel of what the routes of your show are and how these simple things become performance art and you test these things out any way you can in any venue you can afford and if it was riteaous you make someone money. Either you, some other established haunt or charity. If you can make people money, you get to be part of the bigger picture and are rewarded. It doesn't have to be step one, have a fast car to drive away with the ticket money on the busiest night and disappear and start a new life in Venusuala. It can be that the customers were wildly involved and intrested and then formula marketing can be lessened to a great degree. If you develop an enthusiastic following you don't have crap that sounds like a used car commercial cheapening your art. You still do well, just you might not impress other haunters by saying "my haunt's name is blankety blank, did that make you horny or did juices squirt around in your brain when I typed out the name of my haunt?" It really doesn't and it is the customers I care about.
Even seeing pictures of other haunts is some kind of pathelogical end satisfaction. No reason to build your own because you spent the evening looking at pictures. Like Haunt porn. The haunt pictures are better than I can make so I'll just look at pictures as they come up for 10 years on some dorky forum. No make things...do small events, develop an enthusiastic cleintel and then get the walls and electric system and lease.
Beware of the corporate haunt mind control stuff. That's how they keep the little haunter down man!
I told my story so I could express how important it is to expect a bomb drop from any direction, even inside the home.
Originally Posted by Marr Branch
I do not appreciate this comment. Not one bit. I put my story there, knowingly that something like this may come up. But you brought it up...
My wife was the most wonderful person to me for 11 years. Of course we had our trials, every marriage does. We haven't even had an argument in the past 6 years. We had that 'disgusting' kinda love that people always told us to get a room or w/e. We did everything together. She hated drugs, hated alcohol etc. She didn't do anything like that until 3 months after starting antidepressants. If you want some websites in case you're concerned or want to know the reasons for my believing this, other than seeing her beautiful personality switch with my own eyes, PM me and I"ll happily send you site after site, story after story.
Now, back to the subject. Greg always has great advice, but you do have to read his stuff to get it lol. He's helped me out along the way through 2012 and was actually the turning point for me to pull the trigger. Everyone else had me believing I shouldn't even try. The ONLY reason it 'failed' (meaning I can't be at the same location this year) is because of the incident with the ex wife. I wholeheartedly believe, had she completed even half of the marketing plans, we'd pulled off 2,000 ppl and would've been able to sustain the building etc.
Marketing is where it's at. You can have the best haunt in the area, but no one's gonna show if you don't get the word to them. Our publicity stunts made a huge difference. Most of the ppl who came, either drove by the gas station we were at, or went bowling and saw us there... etc. That, I'd say had 70-80% of our attendance. Other options were flyers and 1 radio (was suppose to have gotten 3 stations)
Keep up with Allen Hopps. He's always got new videos coming out showing some great tutorials and acting etc. Buy his DVD's. He doesn't talk too much... like some of the other dvd's like detailing etc... they talk for 10 minutes, then show something cool for 2. Talking is ok, but not when you're repeating the same thing over... and over.. and over.. and Ohh hey look at this. lol. There are some good detailing dvd's out there tho, so pick up w/e you can and learn learn learn! The more you do, the more you save!
Start small, do not go for broke the first year. Do not expect a return for the first 5 years. I am on year 4 by the way, and close to turning profit. If you're wife get's on citalopram shoot that bitch in the head.
Originally Posted by Mike Chambers
Ok... I'll admit I laughed hard at that one. (actually, there's a blackbox warning now that states the family should look for personality changes and contact doctor if needs be. However, the doctor will want to up the dose.. just turn it all away. You won't go to prison)
Although you could shoot her and have a $800 static prop to put in the freezer with the low low cost of a 45 slug :P
When starting out, it is also important to intentionally not be too flashy. Setting up a wall system in even a parking lot or in a building with large garage doors wide open for a few weeks or a month is in itself free advertising of what are they building, what is that about, what is happening there? If you whip in with semi trailers or horse trailers already set up in half a day and whip out the ticket podium then it is they just want my damn money, stupid gypsies screw them.
Setting up and tearing down is part of the performance art. Auditioning actors is part of the performance art. Having some landlord with lots of freinds getting an attraction at his place is part of the performance art. Telling other haunters what you are doing and where is also part of the performance art. It shouldn't be a competition, it should be every venue finding their own style of customers that evolve and become the other haunts customers and vica versa.
Genuinely helping other haunts with stuff is becoming part of the community, developing a market. If there is no market, no one makes any money and it is a crazy hobby. You are just some weird Halloween guy.
So someone that goes to Universal studios might not be impressed but he should be because you just took $10 from him and it took Universal studios billions to get $30 from him. Does Universal come to you? No. So they are not the competition. Again it isn't something that only happened 40 years ago, it is happening all over in undisclosed locations all the time. Now many chose to remain small 8,000 customer venues and not bring 60,000 to their facilities. Success is different for everyone. If you only saw 800 or 4,000 people you are not a loser. You were able to be more intimate than any cattle line of patrons doing a conga line through pretty styrofoam and jiggly latex.
As much as I kind of hate some post menopausal grandma pretending to be a witch warning of which path we should go down in the woods, those are the things I remember. Even the bad things that are just slightly tolerable are what speaks volumes of gotta go back it could be different this time. Some how going big loses that sense of wonder and changability. There is no way to manage hundreds of actors but you might be able to really get 15 in the groove. There is no way to have a mobile haunt and detail 20,000 SF and it is really tough to detail 20,000 even in a permanent building but you can really rock 3,000 or 5,000 SF. BY comparison you aren't able to charge $20 or $30 but even at $10 you might be seeing a profit.
Every little detail of why is that idiot painting a skeleton in the parking lot in July is advertising. I have the advantage of having been around a long time and I'm hearing now from 18 to 20 year olds who drove past my shop wanting to see weird things like hearse and walls with strange paint on them when they were 6 and 8 and 13 and 14 and waiting for that time when they could go or what happens in reality when they are out on their own, employed and free to go anywhere the couldn't go when being with their family that budgeted every meal and trip.
So that is the real story of marketing plans, they take 20 minus 6 = 14 years of going through the motions for a majority of your real customers to show up. So what you do for 14 years needs to not have lots and lots of stress and deadlines and budgets and pay backs or you are dead and problems of any kind. You can't buy real loyalty of a community, you can earn it for free by just being consistent and happy and laid back and matter of fact about how cool this is.
Originally Posted by Greg Chrise