Haunted Attractions Face Labor Shortage - Make the Future the Present
The entire country is wrapped in a labor shortage because people simply don’t want to work. After the government has basically paid people for almost two years NOT to work, clearly some aren’t ready to return. The government has stopped all pandemic payments and yet business across the country can’t find workers to keep their doors open. Consider when a fast food establish offering up to $15.00 an hour can’t get enough workers how would a haunt which needs upwards of 100 to staff the attraction?
Consider a fast-food establishment needs maybe 5 to 8 workers, and they can’t staff where does that leave a haunted house? Haunts typically don’t pay well, some don’t pay at all, and on top of that some need everything from ticket booth, parking lot attendants, security, ushers, and tons of actors. What do you do? For starters here at Hauntworld, we warned you over a year ago against operating your haunted houses in your traditional fashion. Did you make the change? We hope so because right now you’re facing operation with a subpar experience due to labor shortage.
Make the future today and start operating your haunted house with 40 to 50% fewer actors. We’re going to go over how to make your haunted house operate more efficient while at the same time more profitable. Let’s start with a realty check you started your haunt from a passion for Halloween. Remember despite the passion this is a business one which can put you six feet under!
I have a friend with a 45,000 square foot haunted house and I explained to him reduce the size of the haunt by 15,000 square feet. Simply by reducing the size you reduce the dependency on actors. But what to do with the 15,000 square feet? Simple answer! If you can remove the back end of you haunted house and for the sake of the argument, we’ll go removing 10,000 square feet. What use to be 10,000 square feet of haunt should now be a business that can operate YEAR AROUND!! The obvious is building escape rooms, axe throwing or even consider a horror themed mini golf with an arcade. You may also squeeze in a massive gift store for your haunt, haunted photo ops, roaming monsters, food, drinks, whatever but anything but dead space 10 months out of the year.
The 8,000 or 10,000 or whatever square footage you pinch out of your haunted house is now an attraction which can be open every day of the year. Furthermore, this new business will get a major boost in October. Guests don’t pay you based on how long your haunted house is but rather how incredible the experience is! Whether you want to admit this or not today’s guests want social experiences with their friends, which means places to take tons of photos. This new space you build will create new revenue, new excitement and new buzz about your venue all while reducing the dependency on staffing.
In 2010 it was all about how long the haunt was today it should be all about how much you’ve diversified your business. Now your haunt can operate with at least 30 to 40% less actors, hiring just the best of the best actors, while creating new revenue streams. Haunts need to take other steps to secure better reviews despite lower actors and here are some suggestions.
Reduce the Size of your haunted house. If you’re an outdoor screampark eliminate whole entire haunts. At Creepyworld we’ve removed several haunts to make the experience shorter and less dependent on staffing. While at the same time we’ve been improving the overall experience adding a midway, pumpkin barn, and even a video mapping show. Again, focus on the overall experience not on how many haunts you have!
Create Multi Point Scare Boxes: We learned this creating haunted houses from clients all over the world. The common theme from clients is they don’t want many actors. We created these boxes with multiple access points that touch on totally different points of the maze. You would do yourself a favor by making some of your scenes SMALLER to create a box between two or three scenes with access to all those rooms from one space.
Air Cannons: Forgot super expensive animations go after AIR CANNONS because they are just what the doctor ordered. Air Cannons are CHEAP and are by far the scariest single item you can install into a haunted house. We have installed 25 air cannons into Creepyworld and Darkness. Last year we had the fewest actors ever but had better reviews… we thank in part installing more air cannons.
Animations: If you can afford animations go after animations that actually have sudden movement with sound and light. The combination of the three get better scares. You can also install this animation in your all-new scare boxes. Always try to install jump out animations in area’s where the customers walk right into them!
Visual FX: Filming actors and triggering them with motion coupled with loud sound by default adds another actor. Once inside The Darkness you will encounter at least 20 of such visual fx actors. Some companies actually sell digital actor animations.
Noise Makers: Haunts had the opportunity to buy those cattle rods with light and sound, or loud horns. We’ve even bought maracas or created rattle cans with tin cans. Anything that helps your actors create more noise the better. Lastly on this point at The Darkness we installed several foot pedals with quick scary sounds. The actors can trigger these with a simple tap of their hand adding to their performance.
Create Midway: Try creating a midway with 5 minute escape rooms, zombie paintball or a horror themed mini golf. Basically, add attractions which create a last impression that is positive and Halloween fun. Don’t have your haunt be rated solely on scares but how much fun they had at your event.
Pumpkin Display: There are attractions popping up around the country where guests walk thru displays of carved pumpkins. Why can’t you do the same thing just on a smaller scale. At Creepyworld we added a Pumpkin Barn as the final attraction. We hired a pumpkin carver to create over 200 famous faces carved into pumpkins. Guests will leave thru the pumpkin barn giving them the opportunity to take a ton of photos. What a lastly impression!
Ultimate Photo Opportunities: Again, focus on FUN your guests want to take photos and that is hard to do inside the haunted house. Create photo opportunities prior to and after the attraction. Fill these areas with ICON monsters who scare but also pose for photos. Some of these photo ops can showcase your logo, Instagram pages and more. Remember don’t’ focus just on scares focus on giving your guests an experience they can share on their social media pages.
Create Actor Less Attractions: At Creepyworld we replaced our largest haunted house which required 10 to 12 actors with a new que line featuring an 8 minute video mapping show. Again, think outside the box its not all about haunted houses and actors its about giving your guests the ultimate Halloween experience.
The future is NOW and the days of having the longest haunt, way too many actors is over. You’re living in the social era and people want memorable experience they can capture on camera to share on social media. Create those magical Halloween moments at your attraction by thinking outside just the scare. Next year you don’t need to buy tons of new props, or building new scenes and screams you need to focus on creating a more profitable and successful attraction.
Have a great season and keep checking back to Hauntworld.com for all the latest haunted house news and happenings.
Hauntworld Opinions for TRADESHOWS 2022 / THE DARKNESS HAUNT TOUR Updates
Let's start with is Transworld a tradeshow or a convention? Transworld is a hybrid tradeshow/convention. Most people do not understand the difference between a tradeshow and a convention. Transworld is NOT a Tradeshow because they do not limit who can attend the show. A tradeshow is typically produced for an industry, by an association for the benefit of an industry. For example IAAPA (Amusement Park) association produces the annual TRADESHOW in Orlando every November. IAAPA is over 700,000 square feet of amusement, rides, games, food, and much more with tours of major theme parks and local attractions. IAAPA is a TRADESHOW without question. We strongly advice you to attend IAAPA at least once every other year learn more at www.IAAPA.org
Watch everyone's favorite Carpetbagger give you a tour of IAAPA 2019. IAAPA was canceled in 2020 but will return on November 16-19, 2021 with rumored tour of Disney's new Star Wars land. Should haunt vendors exhibit at IAAPA? Hmmm... maybe! IAAPA is NOT a buyers show, very few people run around with check books buying things it's more of a get leads show. IAAPA is hands down the biggest amusement show on planet earth. If I was going to advice a vendor to attempt ANY show other than Transworld it would be IAAPA hands down. As someone in the haunt or escape room industry, I would advice you to attend because you'll find many things at IAAPA you will not find at Transworld.
Getting back to Transworld in my opinion Transworld is NOT a Tradeshow because there are way too many enthusiasts, actors, and fans of Halloween in attendance. Allowing all these people into the show doesn't help vendors because vendors only have so many hours in a day to talk to REAL BUYERS! Let's face reality there isn't 10,000 haunted house industry buyers not today, not tomorrow not ever. If we were to combine escape room and haunt buyers together we're talking maybe 1,000 to 2,000 buyers. Vendors would benefit from Transworld raising the entry price to $200.00 per person to weed out a lot of the non-buyers and get the show back to a strict TRADESHOW! A case can be made that Transworld is a Tradeshow because it brings real buyers and sellers together, it just needs to nix out all the non-buyers to be considered a real TRUE Tradeshow. With all that being said Transworld is the ONLY show in my opinion that ANY vendor should attend if they can only afford one show.
Unfortunately most haunt vendors do NOT understand how to make money or run a successful business. Vendors from the haunt community need to realize there is nothing wrong with making a profit. Do not price your products based on what someone else is doing and never apologize for your price. Vendors greatly benefit from having one show because that minimizes expenses and keeps you in the shop filling orders. Furthermore we hear all this talk about creating multiple shows for vendors who can't afford Transworld. So let me see if I'm getting this straight... Transworld GETS ALMOST EVERYONE to attend. Transworld gets all the press all the youtube views, facebook views, its spread across the World via social media but you can't afford it? What? If you're trying to create a successful business then you have to jump in with two feet! When a show as successful as Transworld which is perfect for your product line being a part of that show is vital! You shouldn't be thinking about building up to Transworld by attending shows almost no one attends because over price. That is ridiculous. As I pointed out attending tradeshows cost the SAME no matter how big or small the only difference is the cost of a booth. So attending Transworld might cost a bit more for a booth, but look at the benefits. EVERYONE talks about the show all year long, they attend the show in force, both buyers and vendors, and the national press and social media hits are off the chart. Can other shows say the same? What other show can bring that many buyers in one weekend to see your product?
I would agree many vendors don't have a lot of money, which is why there needs to be ONE SINGLE SHOW, where you can expect to show your product to the entire community all in one shot. Some delusional people mention how great it would be to have multiple events scattered across the country but those people don't understand the cost a vendor goes thru to do a convention/tradeshow. It doesn't matter if the show is Transworld, IAAPA or MHC it all costs the same... hotels - food - transportation and your time away from your shop. Instead of attending some smaller convention you could be in your shop answering emails, taking phone calls, filling orders, and getting work done! When you break away you lose an entire week if not more not to mention money. Why don't these people chatting away on Facebook understand or even respect how much money it costs to attend shows? That same group of people whine about how they didn't get their order on time, how vendors need to buckle up and get things done on time as promised... but at the same time you want vendors to leave their shop to hop around the country to regional shows? What?
Vendors and buyers should ONLY SUPPORT ONE SHOW TRANSWORLD because our industry doesn't need MHC or anything else. Haunt Tours aren't a reason for vendors or buyers to attend a show, its a benefit but not a reason to spend thousands of dollars to travel across the country. Bringing buyers and sellers together in one place, at one time, putting everyone on the same page this is what this industry wants and demands! The industry is small and not overly wealthy and many are do it yourselfers who want to get back home and get to work. Lastly, Transworld is PERFECTLY positioned for both vendors and haunt owners. There are only THREE buying seasons for haunted house owners, dump cash before December 31st, the Transworld buyers who wants to buy at the mid-year point, and the summer buyers who need to use credit cards. Haunt shows have been tried outside of March and all have failed including IAAPA. Vendors need enough time to make new product, and enough time to fill orders (MARCH is the PERFECT month). A haunted house show in any other month than March doesn't work for the industry as we know it.
TRANSWORLD IS THE ONLY TRADESHOW YOU SHOULD INVEST YOUR TIME AND YOUR MONEY INTO if you're a vendor expecting to grow your business. Don't get me wrong there are other options to find new eyeballs, as I pointed out the second show you should consider is IAAPA. If your company wants to branch out into family fun centers, bowling centers there are shows specific to those industries. The question is if you're companies focus is HAUNT PRODUCTS - then putting most ofo your marbles in the Transworld basket is the smart move. In 2021 Transworld moves back to March giving both vendors and buyers the right amount of time to conduct business again. However I have some suggestions for Transworld... 1) Expand the show into an Amusement Show to find vendors new customers and buyers new amusement options to expand 2) Ditch the multiple websites and the name HAASHOW and rebrand into the Transworld Attraction Show highlighting Halloween - Christmas - Escapes - Axe Throwing - Amusement.3) Re-Draw the floor plan even though some vendors have already purchased booths. The show started off as a haunt show and morphed into something bigger. Transworld needs to create sections just like IAAPA so that they can attract more amusement vendors, food vendors, business to business. What food vendor wants to sell food next to a bloody body? The show needs a Halloween - Christmas - Escape - Amusement sections so during sales meetings with possible new clients they can clearly see the zone for their business. Learn more about Transworld at www.haashow.com
Midwest Haunters Convention
MHC is a clear cut CONVENTION. MHC should be rebranded into the National Halloween Home Haunt and Enthusiasts Show. Midwest implies its a regional convention, so why not open this baby up to the entire country of home haunts? I believe this will help the exhibit floor as well because now vendors can choose to purchase booths and bring products for that market. If Transworld rebranded MHC into a national home haunt show, they could transform the main attraction show into a full fledged TRADESHOW, raise the price on buyers, and invite all the actors, home haunters and everyone between to THEIR OWN SHOW! Makes sense right?
To be clear I've ALWAYS advocated for ONE SHOW because this industry can't afford to trot around the country. We need an attraction show to be clearly different than the home haunt show. Transworld should make these updates. Just my opinion.
Lastly, we haven't produced a Darkness haunted house tour in TWO years, and in 2022 it would be THREE seasons of renovations no one has seen. After getting a ton of emails and phone calls expressing how important opening the haunt is to the show we've decided to open The Darkness one last time. The Darkness will open during Transworld 2022 for ONE LAST SCREAM! Thursday night will be an escape room behind the scenes tour with seminars. Friday will feature The Darkness behind the scenes tour with seminars. Saturday will feature LIVE event with actors. At some point we might try and open Creepyworld.
The Darkness will showcase THREE SEASONS of NEW SCREAMS in ONE LAST SCREAM TOUR! New scenes will include a human sized doll house, and an all CNC created Devil's Domain complete with video mapping special fx. The escape rooms will add their 7th and last escape room Jurassic island.
Tickets will go on sale January 2022. Tickets will be limited and sell out. Stay tuned to Hauntworld.com for details.
Have a great Halloween season 2021 and stay locked into Hauntworld for more how to articles. Please update your haunt profile on Hauntworld.com
Could COVID put fear into the 2021 Haunted House Season Again?
In one simple word...YES! Many cities have already started implementing new mask mandates and who knows what’s next. The CDC has already issued a warning that even vaccinated people should wear masks. Oh no; here we go again. What should you do as a haunted house owner to prepare for the 2021 Halloween season? We list TEN things haunts should or could do for the 2021 season and beyond.
1) OPEN FEWER DAYS: Haunted houses should open fewer days, Covid or no Covid. In the past, haunted houses tried to open more days, earlier into September, and later into November. Again Covid or no Covid, haunts should re-train their customers to come when you’re open. Do not give guests so many options to attend your attraction. For starters, if you’re looking to cut expenses the easiest way to cut labor is simply by not opening as many days. Is it really worth it to open in early September for 500 people? You might say yes because you make money, but what if you didn’t lose those 500 people and they came a different day? Based on that possibility, you'd actually increase your profits. Remember, it's not about how many people come thru the door; it's about how much money you have left at the end of the season. Your biggest expense is labor. You don’t need to cut the number of actors. You simply cut out how many days you’re open. As for Covid, by opening only Friday thru Sunday you give your staff 5 days between opening again to report an illness. Imagine if you’re open on a Wednesday or Thursday and then you find out…It's possible half your staff doesn’t show up on Friday. I’d rather give myself a full five days between events to find out if anyone got sick. An added benefit...Your staff is fired up and ready to go every weekend, producing an overall better show.
2) WARNING SIGNS: Do NOT be caught DEAD without tons of warning signs on your website and everywhere on-site at your attraction. Warn about risks of everything from asthma to Covid. Furthermore, you should continue to have warning sign check points asking people with recent signs of flu or fever not to attend. It doesn’t hurt you to require masks, or at the very least suggest everyone wear a mask. I hate to say this but you might have to pony up and buy more masks to have available just in case your town requires them once again.
3) REDUCE STAFF: You should absolutely reduce staff inside your haunted house. We reduced staff inside The Darkness 2020 by 40% and heard zero guest complaints. Let's be real for a moment; if you have 100 actors, how many are actually GOOD actors? What would happen if you ran with the very best actors only? Isn’t one of the top complaints about actors not the greatest? A few bad ones can drag down the entire attraction, so why not focus on hiring only the best, and let them make your guests scream? Why did we ever hire 100-150 actors to begin with? Lightbulb: Haunts should have between 30-60 actors tops, depending on the size of the show. Another great point...size! Why is your haunted house so long? At The Darkness, we sold our side attraction, an add-on zombie haunt, and we replaced it with escape rooms and mini golf. Both make 100 times more money for 1/10th the operation cost. At Creepyworld, we eliminated three entire haunted houses, while at the same time improving the overall attraction. We give the customer what I believe is the absolute best product now. Cut out the dead weight and focus on the meat and potatoes Lastly, if you’re planning on cutting out length to your haunted house consider removing 20% of the ending and revamping into a Midway with games, escape rooms, photo ops, a retail store, concessions, and more. Our retail stores and midways at both Darkness and Creepyworld are real money makers! Remember this, people don’t come to your haunt to get scared, so much as they come to have FUN!
4) OPERATE AT A FASTER PACE: Haunts need to open earlier and get the party started earlier. On busy nights, we advertise a 6:45pm open time. Even if the first group doesn’t enter until 6:55, it doesn’t matter, we’re getting the ball rolling. Then once you open those doors, your through-put needs to be just as fast as you would if the place was swamped. What is better?...trying in vain to distance people inside the haunt, or having a massive line around the block? Push people through your haunted house. Allow 10-12 people into the haunt every 30 seconds and keep up the pace all night long. Some might suggest doing timed ticketing. However, this might cause fewer people to buy a ticket, and no one wants that. Buying a haunted house ticket is likely a spur of the moment thing for many. Don't discourage them from buying.
5) CLOSE EARLY: Ever heard the song, "Freaks Come Out at Night" by Whodini? No haunted house should stay open past midnight. Right now crime is out of control and some no longer respect authority. Get your guests through your haunt safely and keep the lines short. The main cause of fights is line-cutting. Last season, several haunts saw a drastic uptick it violence at their haunts including shootings. In most cases, it started late at night over line cutting. You put yourself, your customers, and your staff at risk being open late into the night. Follow what I’m suggesting...Open earlier and run them through quicker. You'll be closed before midnight with everyone safe.
6) ADD MORE SECURITY: You must add more security because crime is at an all time high. You can’t take chances. Do not even second guess hiring local police to work your security detail along with your in-house security staff. Your focus should be on the back of the line where all the cutting takes place. Another form of security is a healthy amount of line actors to keep people entertained, plus the extra eyes are helpful. Make sure you have a lot of 2-way radios inside the attraction too. We have roaming actors and maintenance crew who circle around sections of the haunt with radios checking for anything out of the ordinary. The more eyes and ears you have, the safer your attraction will be, so buy MORE radios and add more security.
7) ADD AIR CANNONS: So you’re cutting staff, but still want the show to be top notch. Adding cool animations are great, but they typically don’t scare many people and often break. The best, cheapest form of scare is the good ole fashion AIR CANNON. They never fail and always get a scream. Last year in the Darkness we added about 10 more on top of the 10 or so we already had. Haunt owners should be focused on buying ANYTHING that makes a LOUD NOISE! (Attention haunt vendors: We need MORE NOISE MAKING animations and props! As haunts decrease the amount of staff in their attractions, haunts will be focused more on buying noise making devices.)
8) AVOID PUBLIC RELATIONS: Once again, I call on haunts to AVOID talking to the media this season, because they will pin you down and drill you about Covid. I don’t care if you have the best plan on planet earth. The media will spin your plan. I did ZERO MEDIA last year along with ZERO sponsorship and we did better than the year before. If you don’t want a target on your head, keep a low profile. Just put your head down and create the best and safest show you can. Going back to opening fewer days falls into this category too, because you’re out of sight and out of mind. With the advent of digital marketing, we can target our crowds and zero in on those people. We no longer need TV, radio, newspaper,s or free or paid PR. Marketing is now cheap and can direct target your audience. While on this topic I strongly suggest you not throw a wide net this year for customers, focus on the most likely and you’ll be fine.
9) DITCH MAKE-UP FOR MASKS: When you offer makeup & makeup artists, you have people touching other people and people digging into community makeup, touching it with their fingers and transferring to other people. Don’t take the risk. Last year we ditched makeup all together in favor of ALL MASKS. Another option to offer your staff is for them to do their own makeup at home and arrive ready to go. Come up with a plan: Maybe actors can buy their own makeup, or you could supply it for home use, or maybe offer free makeup lessons preseason, or simply require ALL MASKS labeled specific for individual actor use. Mask quality is so good now, we can’t realistically create characters as quickly or as good with makeup. Hire the actors who have no problems wearing masks; it makes life easy and safe.
10) SCARE BOXES: Confine actors to scare boxes All actors roaming creates a less safe Covid environment. Assign actors to the most pivotal spots and you’ll find this works better anyway. Last year at Darkness, we focused on making these scare boxes better than ever so they touched more area’s of the maze. Therefore actors could scare one group and then turn around and scare another group on the opposite side of the maze., If you take this approach and rely more on the aircannons to fill in the gaps you should be golden! Scare Zones are the wave of the future for haunts as they pair down staff. You need to offer those actors more access to the maze from the same position. For example, you have a wall right there, but what if you removed it; what’s on the other side?…Oh a different scene!... Then tear it out. You can do more with less if you focus on it. Sure, adding animations are GREAT, but actors are the life blood of any haunt, so hire the best actors and give them MORE room to scare without leaving the same spot.
Good luck on your haunt season and keep checking back at Hauntworld.com for more how-to haunt articles.
Haunted Hayrides is a website to help people find haunted hayrides, Halloween attractions, corn mazes, fall festivals, haunted houses and more state by state across America. Are you looking for the best and scariest hayrides, Halloween events and more please search our data base to find the best Hollywood style Halloween Attractions, mega Screamparks and much more only at www.HauntedHayrides.com.