A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A HAUNTED HOUSE OWNER
by Hauntworld.com Staff
Get Ready to go Behind the Screams -
Videos below show different behind the screams at haunted houses.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like in a day of the life of a haunted house owner? I will detail what it's like to own and operate a haunted house, and what the daily grind is all about. As you search the web to find your favorite haunted house to visit each Halloween season, haunt owners nationwide are working all day and night with the end goal to make you SCREAM. In fact, most for-profit haunted house owners work on their attractions YEAR ROUND! Haunted House owners attend a full schedule of events throughout the year such as tradeshows, conventions, learning seminars, and more.
Every year, a company called Transworld holds the annual Halloween & Haunted Attractions Tradeshow and Escape Room Conference. Haunt owners from around the world gather in St Louis every March to see over 400,000 SCREAM feet of monsters, costumes, masks, animations, props, inflatables and more. Many haunt owners even start planning new scenes and screams PRIOR to the Transworld Show, then come together with vendors to make the purchases to finalize their vision. After the show is over, haunt owners head back to their attractions and start the construction process to transform their haunt into a bigger and scarier event than the year before.
Haunted Houses have changed drastically over the last decade, as many haunts have put more focus on hauntertainment rather than traditional scares. Many haunted house attractions have added midways, mini escape rooms, a horror mini golf, a horror arcade, massive gift shops, roaming monsters for photo opps, and more. Some haunts have added pumpkin festivals, video mapping shows, and carnival style games to entertain guests. In many markets, serious haunted attraction owners have created spin off companies with year-round Escape Games, and have literally taken over the escape room industry by building very elaborate and fully immersive escape games. The point is...haunted house owners have really branched out from the origins of the haunt industry. A typical haunted house owner might also own Escape Rooms or Axe Throwing, BUT their core passion remains the Haunted House.
After the yearly planning/purchasing phase, Haunted Attractions typically take 5-6+ months to physically get ready for the season. Haunted Houses take a brutal beating each season from the numbers of haunt guests screaming through the doors. Just to repair a haunted house from one season to the next takes weeks, not to mention developing & building new scenes. When you order new monsters, animations and more from vendors at the Transworld Haunt Show it takes time for these vendors to manufacture the products. In most cases, haunt owners start seeing new props and animations delivered in mid-Summer and these must be installed and fitted into the attractions. Many times these props are bigger than the maze pathways they must travel thru to their new home, so it's never easy. In our own haunts, it's even taken us a couple days sometimes, to move just one prop into scene... cutting down the props, re-welding, then a final install. At The Darkness Haunted House in St Louis, we actually fully renovate before March each year, so we can showcase it during the March Transworld Show. Our team of 10-12 fabricators will work day and night building new scenes to meet the early deadline. Each year at The Darkness we might create 4-5 new scenes, plus scatter new props and animations throughout the attraction too.
Haunt owners never stop expanding and creating. It's in our blood. If you ask haunters what's their favorite part...creating & building new scenes OR operating the attraction each October, they will tell you...creating! Haunted house owners are a group of very passionate creators, do it yourself-ers. To build a World class haunted house you must have creativity skills, management skills, carpenters, techs, welders, painters and the ability to train people to make you SCREAM! Beyond the creativity, Haunted House owners wear many other hats too including box office management, line management, concession stand operations, parking lot management, security detail, retail gift shop management, retail buyer, digital marketing, videography, safety manager, and more. The typical day in the life of a haunter during October might typically consist of never sleeping.
Even throughout the season, these Haunts need constant updating, constant repair and constant staffing & staff training. Marketing in the past was a lot easier, but today you must constantly update social media, and monitor all digital marketing. Haunt owners might also spend a few hours a day replying to customers' questions by email and on social media. Haunted attractions need very large staff to make them operate, parking lot, security and 50-150 actors. As a haunt owner, you’re constantly hiring more monsters then training them to make people scream! Haunt owners would also spend part of their day making repairs to sets, animations, or an outdoor haunt might need gravel for areas hit by heavy rain. As you get closer to the time of the haunt's nightly opening, you must get all actors in character with make up or masks and costumes. (To coordinate and prepare 100 actors in only two hours or less is not easy.) Simultaneously, you must start walking the haunt turning on air compressors, digital fx, show lights, fog machines filled, microban sanitizing complete, prep the cashiers with start cash, prep security duty with 2-way radios, and on and on. Proper delegation is key, but still you must ensure all tasks delegated to others are complete. Finally, the time to open comes!
While open, a haunt owner must manage every detail. Maintaining the perfect balance between through-put of guests and wait times is critical. Haunt owners must also manage the parking lot, safety, security, crowd control, cash management, staff management and more. Then, after every operational week, there's time-consuming payroll, constant restocking of both staff-supplies as well as gift shop items and concessions, and of course haunt upkeep or repairs before the next night of operation. As you can see, a haunted house owner wears many hats. Lack of sleep each October is normal for a haunt owner. The best day of the year for a haunt owner is always the last day of the season. And as you get older (as in my case) you need more and more time to recuperate to do it all over again. People think of Halloween as one month a year, but for a haunted house owner who opens in September, it's actually only 10 months away until another season. The day in the life of haunting never stops!
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