Click Here To Return To Table Of Contents

Behind The Mask is a column for expressing my views and opinions as they relate to the haunt industry. My opinions come from 12 years experience working and helping build haunted houses. These, however, are just my opinions, and may not refelct everybody's views. Please keep this in mind as you read on.
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.

Click Here To Return To Table Of Contents


Bookmark and Share