Another thread about childrens price of tickets prompted this thread. But I thought it should be seen by all so we never have to deal with bad issues. Every night we get kids "I'm too scared" after they get part way in. We actually recommend no one under age 12. (yeah I know I am cutting off potential customers...but I have a non haunted event as well) But back to main topic here, what to do when this happens.
We tell people who do take kids through that they can not carry kids. "You do not want to fall when you are scared because you have a child in your arms". We sometimes have to remind them after little Susy gets scared and wants to be carried. NEVER have an actor carry a child out either. Unless you want to deal later with "He touched my bottom"; think of how carrying a child positions your arms and hands...NOT GOOD!!!! If I escort a scared child out I want an adult or at least a sibling who is at least middle school to come with me so there would never be later "My child was alone with them". Being outside; an actor who finds a child freaking out at about station 4 or 5 (we gradually tone up the intensity); can easily take the family off to the side and let other groups pass by until a security officer is radioed. Usually it is me who shows up. I explain that I am the owner and design this place. I can escort the scared child (and yes many times it is a college student freaking out) and someone else along the trail with a flashlight and my actors know that means "DO NOT ATTACK". I have time to explain to the child that everyone they see is just "in halloween masks like they use to go trick or treating" (Being outside away from narrow hallways and spread out over a 1/3 mile trail makes this easier than inside a haunt room where it would ruin the mood for groups coming behind...so I can take my time) And oh yes...I answer a LOT of questions during this time...how I make the trails where do I get the props. But that is OK. I am conversing with parents who just had the crap scared out of their child who are thinking they are bad parents for doing this to their child...NO JOKE. Wicked Farmer weaves his magic with the parents and the scared child. The family is told that SUSAN (use the childs name...it helps the child I believe) and Mommy will go on ahead in front of them and the trick or treat masks ahead will stay away from us (Dont say monsters..... but say trick or treat masks) Then use judgement as you go based on how child is responding as you pass actors...Let them know who is ahead.
Have animatronics function, and even let them see other groups get scared or jump. This shows the child they have nothing to be ashamed of from being scared, everyone jumps. Last year I did this at the Distortions Shock Therapy (upside down Frankenstein that runs out at you) I chose that spot because EVERY group had someone flinch or jump back at that spot. Usually there is a spot at end of the trail where they can then "help scare Daddy and brothers". A free glow necklace or drink goes a long way. So 10 year old Susan was crying her eyes out wanting to go home. Mom felt bad for bringing her there and taking her through a scary place. Now they are happy. They got a lot of personal attention, learned about the haunt, got to pose for a quick pic with the werewolf, scare Daddy, high five the clown and got a glow necklace that cost you 30 cents. Mom and Dad are now telling their friends where to go for a great time. AND THEY DO tell others how you took care of Susan and how the owner is such a nice man.