Marketing and help combined.....
To me a haunted house is no different than that one square foot graphic. Only the tools are different. Way back when even Leonardo Davinci did line drawings on walls, boards, what ever the Medici family could afford while craftsmen did the underpaintings and glazes. If they hadn't produced 4,000 articles a year those hundreds would not be have survived to be in the museums for people to see to day. No one would have known Lenny's name.
There lies the opportunity. For every crafman, supporter, helper even if it is two hundred people per year add to the whole in building the thing but, also take away the knowledge that this thing will indeed be an event one day. The word of mouth begins years before opening.
The haunt can be made of rooms also used as the back drop for say your airbrush business. In order for people to bring their sheetmetal to me, they had to enter a garage, go over a bridge in a dirt room in the dark with strobes, go through a submarine door, past some coffins, skeletons, manequins and werewolves before even getting to the weird little paint room and office. So, it became sort of an attraction just to come see this weird place and things to get your airbrush work done or discuss what could be done. Walls and props become a display for halloween parties, for photo shoots of motorcycles with or with out babes, they are the display to go to an event and have a booth even out doors. I also would let some people set up at a ren fair for their own business and of course the conversation became about the weird dude that let them use all this decor. All totally free advertising, word of mouth and talk of the region for both business.
Back in the day I would always have one really nifty car to attract attention and this actually decor thing brought in a far greater amount of "fans" So, my goal wasn't actually to have a haunt, it was to set up a scenic design inventory and sell scenes. Eventually, I had enough stuff and found a bunch of people who had been haunting for years without anything good and combined them, some people at a resort that had lost their location and wala the place happened with also the word of mouth from 3 established groups.
I traveled quite a distance from my location helping other haunts until this deal just came to me after finally visiting the haunt event 2 miles from my shop. I had one thing in mind the whole time and it still holds really true as this economy right now is like 1986 all over again. Everything must be paid for so even if you only see a small number of customers it is still a tremendous success. Sure there is an investment but, devoted over time rather than just running out and buying something lame for $75,000 and hoping to get that money back some day.
Someone on this board was/is really helpful and creative.
If you have something to paint on, you will find quite a few people a year that would like to test out their painting skills. Some one will want to prove to them selves they can do carpentry and yet someone else even for college credit would like to prove to the proffessor and themselves that they can take a design drawing and build a theatrical scene that alas becomes haunt detail. In all of these scenerios you simply sponsor the space and the materials to make a happening that others would want to check in on.
The bitch of the thing isn't what the haunt costs, it is how much it costs to store it untill it is open. So, you just keep rotating these creations in your shop and even the motorcycle and auto people will come buy just to see the next creation one by one, month by month and ultimately give $10 or more to see the combined completed event.
The business end is by no means difficult if there is really the thing done to completion of descent quality to have a business about. If the customers don't go through that watching you grow from black plastic to detailed walls, there is no prior judgement to over come.
The main thing I went after that the whole thing wasn't built secretly. When the first totally free TV spot hit because it was something different, we had the parking lot full. Prior to actually having a haunt I was a little stubborn and would not sell individual items or get into decorating for a Doctor's Halloween party. Mostly because the day business of decorative concrete and the two side ventures of airbrushing and the haunt build up kind of kept me busy. But, if it was really worth the advertising or possible sponsorship I should have done it. It might have been some work but, the game was to cross every demographic and have them informed.
Not just the Myspace set, but even the older people with money having way too many get togethers, The RV crowd from the lake on the state line, the car show dudes raising money for charity and so on. If you use this weird stuff to help the community, they will help you.
In short, I did a lot of stuff for no reason at all, showing off my ideas, my skills and went to the trouble to let others borrow the stuff on occasion to widen exposure to crowds I certainly wasn't going to be socializing with. Kind of a diversity.
It's a lot of work. I haven't been able to do what my one vision has been. People seeing big weird things as they go by on the highway. My new shop is on a highway back lot with the front all fenced in like a compound. You can see trailers and fork trucks but, I wish I had the 24 foot tall facades being built where the public could see and ask what the hell is that. Then the facades would move to the location when it is time.
The other thing that happens, if you have a serious inventory that looks professional, then the land lords get the general concept that you aren't just going in their building and spraying gaffiti all over and leaving piles of human waste and black plastic for them to clean up after. You have things you don't want miss treated and by default are probably not going to mistreat their property as well as really have the tools (theoretically) to pay the rent.
Things that are a big limitation go completely away when you actually have the haunt. Then it is at opportunity level and who wants in level.
Just some ideas
Another fabulous post from the U.S.Department of Wild Imaginings, now in spectaclar stereo, sponsored by the Adhesives and Sealants Council, suggesting ways to stick things together since the 1800s. Not fabulous in a gay way. Your results may vary. Illinois residents add 8% sales tax. These posts have been made by professional post makers, do not try this type of posting on your own without extensive training, lovely assistants and a trusty clown horn.