| In this edition of Behind The Mask, I give you an insight into what this season has been like for
myself, and hopefully as to why so many haunts have been struggling this season. In an industry so
overpopulated with attractions, it has become increasingly harder to survive in this business.
Last month I wrote about how much we love haunts and how once a month was too short for haunted
houses. Well, this month, after actually working in a haunted house for the first time in 2
years, (last year I worked a hayride for the one weekend they were open) I realiized once again
the toll it can take on your body. Sore muscles after each night, the loss of your voice, the
achy-shivery feeling you get when youve been outside in the cold air for too long. These are all
the things we who work haunted houses subject ourselves to night after night. The payoff can be
more than worth it, being able to scare people so bad that they run into a wall, or even better,
hit the floor. There are, however exceptions. As I was once told "You're not going to be able to
scare everybody." This is certainly true for actors in a house, no matter what technique you use,
there's always going to be some who just don't get scared, or ones who make stupid and rude
remarks. These types of customers are the ones I really don't care for. They can make you feel
like, "What did I do wrong?" I've come to the conclusion, just give 110% of what you have, in
your efforts to scare people and you will find that the percentage of people who do get scared
will be greater than the percentage that don't get scared.
As I am writing this, it is nearing the end of October, and the haunting season is nearing it's
rest. While I will miss it one it's gone, I will be glad it is over, and life can return to
normal. This season has seemed, at least to me, to be a slow and down season. Many haunts around
here are having slow seasons, and many haunts in the MD/DC/VA areas have had their season ruined
by the acts of some crazed sniper with a gun. Many of the "smaller" haunts, such as charity
haunts and lesser known ones are suffering this year. Whether it be the over-inflated cost for
admission that many haunts have raised, or whether it be the haunts that promise the best, but
deliver nothing short of mediocre scares that give the rest of the haunts a bad name, causing
people to shy away from attractions they don't know about or haven't heard reviews of. The price
issue is a main factor though. Where, five years ago, haunts were charging $5.00 for admission
you can hardly find haunts that charge less than $8.00 - $10.00, Many of these attractions that
charge so much, are still producing the same quality shows as they did when they charged $5.00.
I think that if you're going to raise the price of admission, at least give them a better show.
Give them their money's worth. People are getting frustrated with paying $12.00 to go to a haunt
and only gettinga $7.00 show. I can relate to them. I feel let down when I pay a high price to
go through a cheap haunt.
I don't know what to say about these smaller haunts, but it seems like they're becoming less
and less wanted. People today want high-tech effects, elaborate theatrical sets, trained actors,
the most expensive props, and most smaller haunts don't have the budget to compete with the
larger haunts which offere these features. I truly believe, as much as I don't want to, that
the smaller haunts are going to find it harder and harder to survive in this industry with the
limited budget they have, and raising your ticket prices to try and make up for a lack of
attendance is not a good direction to go either. This budget and cost problem will ultimately be
the downfall of alot of charity and smaller haunts. Last night, the haunt I was helping out,
which is a Jaycee haunt for charity, and no doubt, a smaller haunt, had only about 50 customers
tops. They were open for two and a half hours and only pushed through about 50 people. While some
would attribute this shortage in customers to it being a weekday, I've worked there on the
weekends and it has never been truly "booming". Sure, we had our lobby full for the first 1-2
hours, but after that, the next 3 hours were slow and lengthy at best.
In all 12 years I have been working in haunted attractions, this year, is without a doubt the
most down and awkward season I've ever seen. Perhaps it's cuz the business has been slow, or
maybe it's because I'm at a haunt where I'm not generally familiar with the co-workers. I feel
kind of out of place at this haunt, mainly because I've always had a place where I could feel
like I was "home" and this year, I just don't have that same feeling. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy
working, and being around the company of the people who I have met this season, it just feels
awkward for some reason. I don't know, maybe next year I'll move on to a bigger haunt, time will
only tell. Until then, the chapter has been closed on the 2002 season. Life will be returning
to normal once again, and the macabre will soon be replaced by a jolly fat man in a red suit.