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I've got this silly pipedream of eventually having an incredible haunted house of my own once I get a proper house for it.

So-- where do you even start? How do you attract people to the haunt? How do you put monetary gain/staff into it?

Any tips? Let's just start an idea pile.

So - I imagine you design one, set it up, etc, and just hope that trick or treaters head your way and that it's at all popular and do it again the next year.

Would it be appropriate to do it pre-Halloween?
 

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@Osenator: Nope! This is purely fictional, just planning for the future. Haven't started anything yet, don't even have the house yet! But theoretically, if you had a small house in the suburbs with a good amount of trick or treaters, how do you begin and work your way up to a pro haunt?
 

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We started very small, like a few bought stuff, and build some home made props too, nothing amazing, but we went for the scary, and the kids loved it (most at the time, other people in the neighbourhood would simply put a few inflatables and pumkins). We were to first to actually use our garage too, and put some real scary props too. Also, moving to a neighbourhood from 2 kids on Halloween, to more than 500 kids, blew our minds. We then bought stuff at 50% or better after Halloween years after years, and our collecction grew. Also, learning of this place had some impact on me too. :)
 

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I'm going to move this into general halloween since the horror discussion area is more for movies/books/etc.

I've got this silly pipedream of eventually having an incredible haunted house of my own once I get a proper house for it.

So-- where do you even start? How do you attract people to the haunt? How do you put monetary gain/staff into it?

Any tips? Let's just start an idea pile.

So - I imagine you design one, set it up, etc, and just hope that trick or treaters head your way and that it's at all popular and do it again the next year.

Would it be appropriate to do it pre-Halloween?
Well.

This is where I started in 2004:



It slowly grew from there to it's current form, which is a walkthrough around the entire house.

http://www.halloweenforum.com/general-halloween/123373-unorthodox-yard-haunt-2012-a.html

So, I think first you need a good neighborhood. We started in 2004 with just over 100 trick or treaters. We're well over 500 now.

We do a night before Halloween (usually the night before) and Halloween itself, I know others that are open most weekends.

But, really, my biggest advice would be to have fun. Find something that interests YOU to build or collect. Don't do it to have the best house, or the biggest this or that. Do it for YOUR fun.

Now, MONETARY GAIN is a MASSIVE jump to make. There is a boatload of rules and regulations that govern what needs to happen there, and the only real answer for how you do that will be to go talk to your state offices and see what you need.
 

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If you want to go pro, I'd say go to the fire dept first and figure out if you want to go through the hassle of getting up to code. I don't charge or take donations either as once money changes hands, you open up a new can of worms.

Assuming you're going for a home haunt. Location location location...if there aren't any kids, you won't get any ToTers. Kids don't tend to cross freeways or major roads or in my case, the college campus in the back yard; so find a place smack dab in the middle. Find out if there is a HOA and what their rules are about holidays. Also, have a chat with your insurance agent to make sure what you want to do is covered. Different insurance companies have different rules. When you condider the scope of your haunt decide beforehand whether you give a crap about what your neighbors think. It might be worth it to have a chat with future neighbors before you ante up that down payment on the house. If head count is a big deal, then make up and distribute some flyers, try and get the newpaper or TV stations to show up. I purposely don't advertise because mine is a "neighborhood" haunt and I don't want the culdesac to turn into a parking lot. Although, in a way, I do advertise. Word of mouth works pretty good. I do a lot of construction out front, so the neighborhood kids come over and hangout. I'm pretty sure that the morning after I let them trigger the fog in my horse that they were talking about it at school. I set up throughout the month and it seems like right after the elementary school gets out, the moms driveby to check out what's been added. So, setting up early is a way of advertising.

I've been "haunting" for about 25 years off and on. For about the first 20 it was just a couple props, some jacks and a coffin I picked up along the way. After retiring from the military and buying my own house, I started adding a few things every year. Halloween was still pretty much confined to the month of October. Then a couple guys in the cul de sac kinda threw down the guantlet and the "expansion" began. I went from sitting by the front door, to adding in the garage, and then to going all the way around the house and through the garage. This year I scaled back to just one side of the house and through the garage due to fewer helpers. My haunt has topped out at about 250 - 300 people due to location. That may not sound like a lot, but when people linger checking things out or want to go back through, things can get hectic without some sort of "crowd control"

Some things to consider:
Safety: This should be your number one priority.
Weather: Weather happens, build accordingly. It snows before Hallowen every year here and when you see that the temps are dropping fast, you can expect big winds as the cold front moves in. So decide if you are going to leave things out in the weather or do the tombstone shuffle and bring everything in when the weather gets bad
Time: Figure out long it will take you to do something, then triple it.
Money: Haunting aint cheap. (heh, Pink Floyd's Money is on the radio as I type this) Another thing I did wrong was just buying Halloween stuff that was on sale for the sake of it being on sale. I have a lot of stuff that goes unused every year, so I at the point where I go looking for specific things...I didn't drop a dime in any of the big box Halloween stores this year.
Storage: Where are you going to store all your props after you buy/build them. Sooner or later you'll want to put a car in the garage.
Security: I've said many a time, if this is your main concern then you need to find a less stressful hobby. On the flip side, you shouldn't blow it off.
Help: How much are you going to get. How much do you need for setup and more importantly the night of. I scaled back because I think there shouldn't be any place in my yard/haunt that someone could be on Halloween without being in view of my help or myself. There were 6 of us this past year. I think that to really get it right, I should have closer to 15 people. But asking folks for help isn't one of my strong points.


For me, I'd say things kind of took off in 2008 when I found this place and learned about a local haunt group. Here are some of the bigger things I've built in the last few years. I don't have a plan, nor a theme, I just go with what hits me year to year
2008 cemetary fence
2009 funeral carriage
2010 pneumatics props (casa fear zombie, scissor, and trash can trauma) black light room on side of house, skeletons carrying coffin on shoulders
2011 lightorama & props, (pumpikn face, 8 coffins, band) more cemetery fence
2012 horse for my carriage, cauldron creep, creep's shack, garage facade
 

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Scatter brains pretty much covered all of the bases....My own "story" goes as follows (I hope it may have some kind of value to you?)
I wanted a certain house for many years, it was not for sale, OK though, I didn't have any money!
When it went on the market I still didn't have any money, so I began talking to almost anyone who would listen and most of them were elderly and laughed in my face. "You should move to California and do that." (You're not getting rid of that easy!)
I finally found my "Backer", I got THE HOUSE!
IT needed everything repaired or replaced, it was a mess but it was zoned Commercial, in "The Poorest Location for a Haunted House", others, in the haunt community were to begin telling me. ("Haunt Community? Who would that be? I had no clue?)
I knew what I did not want to do," other people's ideas". My house-My Ideas, right or wrong?
I am sure one of the reasons my backer believed in me was because of my work ethic, he had seen it for several years and if I had to do this all over again, I would in half a heart beat!
I have probably done 95% or more of all of the work that this house needed. Genetically and work-history-wise, I come from a family of tool users, craftsmen, mechanics but when I first came to work on my house I had almost no tools , but I made due.
I have been very fortunate over these last 25 years to gotten wonderful reviews and articles about my strange haunt and show I put on here, numerous books and national magazines have featured Ravens Grin Inn, Newspaper cartoons have been drawn about what it's like to go through this house! (Heather McAdams-Chicago Reader) We were on the cover of National Geographic World, named one of the 20 best by Fangoria Magazine (even though we have no gore here) But then as I tell visitors, "I must be a pretty lazy guy , to make a "Haunted House" out of a "Haunted House!"
Yes it is whether you believe in that sort of thing or not, but it's not like a Hollywood horror movie, but things that have happened here, ever since 1925 can scare, upset, amaze people to the point that in the beginning some people were giving me the credit for knowing how to do some very amazing special effects.. that I will Never know how to do! See the house here: hauntedravensgrin.com
 

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This year I scaled back to just one side of the house and through the garage due to fewer helpers. My haunt has topped out at about 250 - 300 people due to location. That may not sound like a lot, but when people linger checking things out or want to go back through, things can get hectic without some sort of "crowd control"
I can second that once you hit around 300 (which is about 100/hour for us, if you are open longer, then it varies, of course) Trick or Treaters the nature of the beast begins to change to where you need some crowd control, and pacing of groups. We've been hovering at right close to 600 trick or treaters and countless adults (easily 1000+ people total) for the last couple years . At points in the evening we have a modest queue line but never more than a couple minutes, I kinda like it at the level it is now, more could become problematic with traffic...
 

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I'm still in the process of building up my yard haunt. I'm 19 and I've been "haunting" for 7 years now, and every year I'm expanding and creating/buying new stuff and trying my best to offer higher quality displays. One thing I have learned that there are three things that really attract people: fog, chainsaws, and screams. I'm completely serious when I say that if on Halloween day you are seriously pumping out fog, they WILL come. Another big one is chainsaws. For whatever reason, when people see or hear a chainsaw, they flip their lids and go nuts for it. I'm not too crazy about chainsaws, they don't really scare me personally, but I caved and used one three Halloweens ago and we had by far the biggest crowds yet. Another thing I've found is that screams also attract foot traffic. I pump in screams on my soundtrack to mix in with the real ones. This works well too. Just keep building it up, pump out some serious fog, gas up those saws and they will come.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
All these responses are fantastic! Thank you guys so much, I didn't expect to get so much detailed, informative help. Thank you thank you thank you.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Now, out of curiosity: What are the biggest acts at your haunt? Like, what are the key features that you guys are proudest of/that have the most bang? I know TheGraveyardTaker mentioned chainsaws and screams.
 

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My wife, with her shovel, gratting the cement, loud skreech, sparks everywhere. Me, with my chainsaw and mask, and any animatronic close to kids eye level, like my crawling lady was a huge hit this year (I hadn't put her in the last 2 years). Also, my zombie in a barrel was loved by adults.
My most loved animatronic by teens and adults is Micheal Myers, as he looks so real, people are terrified entering the garage, as he is always standing at the entrance.
Placement is very important, as who you want to scare the most. I get lots of kids, so, I try to make props close to them. I seen youtube vids of haunts, full of expensive props, jumping out and such, kids simply passing them, without even noticing them.
JM
 
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