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Discussion Starter #1
Now I don't mean to complain or anything, but this is something I've noticed for a long time and it hit me again last night as we were out going through a couple of local pro haunts. Why are they all so... cheap? I mean, it's like they don't even try most of the time. One place had so much of the haunt in complete darkness, no props, no actors, no nothing, just dark hallways to cover the fact that they didn't even bother to decorate. The other clearly didn't bother to maintain any of their props, they looked like they pulled them out of storage at the beginning of the month, slapped them together and started charging money.

This is exactly why we stopped going to Knott's Scary Farm years ago because year after year, it was the same stuff, unmaintained, unpainted, falling apart, thrown into a maze and crated up at the end of the season. I have no idea if they've ever gotten better but I doubt it.

I mean, us home haunters actually care what our haunts look like and we're not making any money off of it! We actually make an effort to make the scariest, best haunts we can. I will never understand why so many pro haunts are just downright lazy and cheap, like they just don't care because they know people will go through anyhow.

What do you think?
 

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Seer of All
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One possibility is that they don't expect anyone to notice the details. They depend heavily on the elements of shock and startle so why worry about making things look good. It's one of the reasons I've never especially cared for them. To me, there's no "haunt" involved, just a lot of loud noise and disorientation. There's definitely an audience for that, it just doesn't include me.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
One possibility is that they don't expect anyone to notice the details. They depend heavily on the elements of shock and startle so why worry about making things look good. It's one of the reasons I've never especially cared for them. To me, there's no "haunt" involved, just a lot of loud noise and disorientation. There's definitely an audience for that, it just doesn't include me.
Oh, I know that they hate other haunters going through, last night, I wasn't jumping at all of their jump scares and I heard some of the actors criticizing me. It was kind of funny because I've been through so many of these things, I've built so many of them that nothing is surprising. But still, if we care as much as we care, and when I was a pro-haunter I cared then too, why does no one care today? I don't get it. There's something about taking a passion and turning it into a job that kills the passion behind it.
 

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Yeah, I agree. I don't go to them anymore. They just seem like dark, narrow halls with strobe lights, and string hanging down from the ceiling. The other problem I have with haunted houses is personal. My fight or flight response leans heavily toward the fight end of the spectrum. So rather than being scared (and I have honestly tried for the benefit of my wife who likes to go through them), I tend to get a bit annoyed. The last one I went through had a teenager chase me with a chainsaw. I tried to play along but I really just wanted to punch him. LOL! So I don't find them fun anymore. I'll take a costume party any day over a commercial haunt.


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Discussion Starter #5
Yeah, I agree. I don't go to them anymore. They just seem like dark, narrow halls with strobe lights, and string hanging down from the ceiling. The other problem I have with haunted houses is personal. My fight or flight response leans heavily toward the fight end of the spectrum. So rather than being scared (and I have honestly tried for the benefit of my wife who likes to go through them), I tend to get a bit annoyed. The last one I went through had a teenager chase me with a chainsaw. I tried to play along but I really just wanted to punch him. LOL! So I don't find them fun anymore. I'll take a costume party any day over a commercial haunt.
That's the thing, I don't have a fight or flight response anymore, I'm there to look at the spread, nothing more. One of the haunts we went through last night, there was a guy right ahead of us who was everything these haunts look for, a screamer and a runner. And as much as I love those people in my haunt, I am not a fan the rest of the time, I find them annoying. Another haunt had a sign saying they had a right to frisk anyone they wanted because they've had problems with people attacking their actors. I didn't see anyone getting frisked, but you had to sign a waver agreeing to it before you went in.

I guess my complaint is that when I was doing commercial haunts, I put every bit of love into it that I do today with my home haunts and so did everyone who worked for me, but these commercial haunts today... they just don't care. I mean, there were people working the lines that spent as much time looking at their cell phones as they did trying to scare anyone.

Maybe I'm just jaded from a lifetime of doing this, I don't know.
 

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Typical Ghoul Next Door
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My perspective...

Many professional haunts might have gone into it because they loved the haunt scene and coming up with cool stuff. But then if they want to stay in business, they figure out that the majority of their patrons are not going to notice tiny details they've worked hard one or which props they spent big bucks on. Darkness with a few jump scares are great for the majority of folks that are interested enough in Halloween to pay to go through a haunt.

We're the minority and likely not the target audience any more. But hey, it's still fun to go in a group of friends to see them freak out, tho. And my friends like me because I LOVE going first and don't scream or anything so they feel safer with me. :eek:

I still have a startle response, but I tend to giggle at jump scares, and end up complimenting the actors that developed a good patter for their characters.

I love going through them just because it's hokey and fun and luckily there are some decent ones around me that have some nice plot/backstories and cool stuff like 3D clown/blacklight mazes and spectacular vortex tunnels and actors that do the sliding and stay in character no matter what. I even got to pet one lady's beautiful python she brought as a prop for a funhouse setup.
 

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Yeah, I agree. I don't go to them anymore. They just seem like dark, narrow halls with strobe lights, and string hanging down from the ceiling. The other problem I have with haunted houses is personal. My fight or flight response leans heavily toward the fight end of the spectrum. So rather than being scared (and I have honestly tried for the benefit of my wife who likes to go through them), I tend to get a bit annoyed. The last one I went through had a teenager chase me with a chainsaw. I tried to play along but I really just wanted to punch him. LOL! So I don't find them fun anymore. I'll take a costume party any day over a commercial haunt.


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LOL, too funny.
 

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There are some exceptions. Netherworld in Atlanta does a great job. Incredible detail and amazing props. I go there to get into the spirit at the beginning of the season for some inspiration. I don't get scared but appreciate it from a artistic and technical POV. I have not been but hear the Universal Horror Haunts are great. Based on the videos I have seen they are impressive. Agree that many for profit are not very good. But there are some good ones out there.
 

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The Haunting Girl
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I actually fulfilled one of my dreams this season and worked at my local farm haunt. I was able to help during the last week of setup and worked as an actor all season. I'm hoping to help with break down too. I've been going to this haunt for a few years now and this was my first year on the other side.

A few things...

As a haunter, I've learned that I cannot go through haunts alone. I just end up looking at the scenery, and enjoying the work put into things... The actors can be annoying, because you're not scared by anything. I now make an effort to find a group in line to go in with so I can enjoy their reactions. I literally ask for screamers...

Unless they are a serious pro haunt, most of the main staff have other full time day jobs and obligations outside of the haunt. I got to work on the haunt during the last week of setup and it was really stressful. We'd all work our day jobs and then drive over to the farm to work on the haunt. Most of the work was on the electrical and pneumatics, but we also had a few people working on decoration too. It's not like we don't care, but it was a matter of getting it done and working. If we had time for little details, woooo! (we really didn't) Trust me, they weren't happy that it wasn't the way they wanted it be, but there was only so much we could do.

The seasonal hires are mostly high school kids and they don't care. Most of them are only there to make money and socialize and post on SnapChat. They destroy most of the stuff when they bother to show up. I worked in the graveyard this year on the hayride. The customers never touched a single tombstone so you'd think they'd be fine from start to finish. Nope, those kids would sit on them, throw things at them, etc. Trust me, I'd yell at them, but I had no authority over them. By the end of the season those stones were chipped and had holes in them.

As for maintaining during the season, details are far down on that list. It's making sure we have fog juice in scenes, that all the props and electrical are working, the generators have fuel, etc. One night we lost the big generator and that was an issue because it ran the main compressor... Going back for touch-ups that most people won't even notice is not important.

As a haunter, a pro haunt will probably always feel cheap and uncared for compared to our home haunts. It's also true that the mass public doesn't notice/care and just wants cheap thrills. We put a lot of work into our stuff, but we also 100% oversee what happens in our haunts. We choose our haunt staff and we get to pick people that care and want to be there to scare not just pick up a paycheck. We have more control where people go and keep them from destroying things (most of the time). If things break or get damaged, we can fix them later.
You don't have to worry about pushing hundreds of people through 3 nights a week for over a month. You don't have to worry about how many people will actually show up to work and if you have enough people for each scene. You don't have to worry as much about things breaking. You worry about the weather, but not that you'll lose money if you don't open (if it's an outdoor haunt). No payroll, insurance, screaming customers, cranky staff, etc...

I can't speak for the serious big pro haunts, but for the smaller ones I can say that some are run by people who care. They want it to be more than a cheap thrill, but it is also a business. They can't spend money on supplies and payroll to keep it 100% pristine and new. Sometimes you get good people, but a lot of times you get people who just want a fun way to get a paycheck. You just have to roll with the hand you're dealt that season and hope you come out in the black.
 

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Since I've done both, I'll add my two cents.


It really depends on the pro haunt. I have found much better luck with places that are not a temporary setup in a rented out building - not a hard and fast rule, but it provides a LOT more opportunity to do stuff. Our local haunt is very much in the spirit of things, as is the one really -big- haunt I've been to - Dark Hour in TX.

As for why others may be not up to our standards: I already mentioned not owning your building. Then you've got all the legal/safety stuff. Expense/insurance/fire safety/inspections etc. when compared with limited seasonal income. Off-season storage for an entire building (or 2+) worth of big items like furniture/walls. $$$$$$ is a big deal, particularly for props that are built to last through hours and hours of run time and thousands of customers trampling all over everything. Then there's finding and keeping good actors, which can be incredibly difficult (especially since many, many haunts rely on volunteers). It's a difficult business. That's not necessarily a good excuse, but it's true. It's just, it can be a lot for not a lot of return. (And I'm not an owner)

Let me borrow once again from JB Corn haunt manuals: you've got two different types of customer. You've got the people who come to be scared, whether they claim so or not. Then you have the appreciators, the folks like us here on the forums, who love the little details and the thoughts and the story. Designing for both is important, for home and pro haunters alike.
 

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Yeah, I agree. I don't go to them anymore. They just seem like dark, narrow halls with strobe lights, and string hanging down from the ceiling. The other problem I have with haunted houses is personal. My fight or flight response leans heavily toward the fight end of the spectrum. So rather than being scared (and I have honestly tried for the benefit of my wife who likes to go through them), I tend to get a bit annoyed. The last one I went through had a teenager chase me with a chainsaw. I tried to play along but I really just wanted to punch him. LOL! So I don't find them fun anymore. I'll take a costume party any day over a commercial haunt.


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Dude, me too. It's a struggle not to punch someone and if they actually grab me, I lose self control.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Since I've done both, I'll add my two cents.


It really depends on the pro haunt. I have found much better luck with places that are not a temporary setup in a rented out building - not a hard and fast rule, but it provides a LOT more opportunity to do stuff. Our local haunt is very much in the spirit of things, as is the one really -big- haunt I've been to - Dark Hour in TX.

As for why others may be not up to our standards: I already mentioned not owning your building. Then you've got all the legal/safety stuff. Expense/insurance/fire safety/inspections etc. when compared with limited seasonal income. Off-season storage for an entire building (or 2+) worth of big items like furniture/walls. $$$$$$ is a big deal, particularly for props that are built to last through hours and hours of run time and thousands of customers trampling all over everything. Then there's finding and keeping good actors, which can be incredibly difficult (especially since many, many haunts rely on volunteers). It's a difficult business. That's not necessarily a good excuse, but it's true. It's just, it can be a lot for not a lot of return. (And I'm not an owner)

Let me borrow once again from JB Corn haunt manuals: you've got two different types of customer. You've got the people who come to be scared, whether they claim so or not. Then you have the appreciators, the folks like us here on the forums, who love the little details and the thoughts and the story. Designing for both is important, for home and pro haunters alike.
Unfortunately, and I know this is just a single example, but one of the pro-haunts I was at on Friday do own their own land and leave the haunt up year-round, although obviously not running. I know they do a special event through the haunt over Easter, but that's all I have heard about. And of the ones I went through, that was, by far, the worst and least kept up, it looks like they just leave the props sitting out in the weather all year long and just dust off the cobwebs... maybe... every October.

Again, I'm not trying to get down on pro haunts. I'm an old pro-haunter. I've done this and been very successful at it. So a lot of this comes from direct experience, looking at what others are doing, comparing it to what I've personally done in the past, and frankly finding a lot of pro-haunts very lacking. Even on YouTube, you find pro-haunts that will walk you through their haunts and... yeah... they look like they've sat out in the weather for a year and not in a good way. Sure, it's expensive to cover all of the insurance and the actors and all, but some of them, they literally show up in early-September to start working, as if they haven't even thought about it all year. It's just slap something together, barely get done before opening night, in fact, half the time don't get big portions of it done, open half-finished and hope to keep cobbling something together as they go. Years ago, I could get as many actors who actually wanted to be there as I wanted, no problem. I guess kids today have no work ethic, not to insult any of them, or they're so addicted to their cell phones that they can't turn them off for a couple of hours whole working. It really makes me happy that I'm not a pro-haunter anymore, if that's the kind of stuff I'd have to put up with.

But YMMV of course.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Dude, me too. It's a struggle not to punch someone and if they actually grab me, I lose self control.
If someone actually touches you on purpose, that's a big red flashing sign "lawsuit incoming". And I don't care how many waivers you have people sign, waivers like that don't actually stop anyone from suing you, they are meaningless in court. If I was running a haunt, pro or home, the first rule is "no touching".
 

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After going through so many pro haunts over the years, It is as if the wife and i know exactly when the scare or startle is coming and where it is coming from. The local pro haunt near us (and i say that lightly) is nearly the same each year. Same layout, just different themes over the years. It is an outdoor forest haunt and the lighting on most of it is terrible. I always say there is so much more that can be done with the entire haunt to make it 100% better. They are on their 20th year doing it and it isn't worth the money anymore. At least not to us. We have contacted them in the past and they don't seem open to any suggestions or advice so we quit trying.

The last time we went through we were more interested in the make ups and stuff and the actors kept having to tell us to keep moving because we would stop to check details. As with others it seems that pro haunts have gotten to be a little too same ole same ole. And it feels like some just don't care anymore.
 

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Pro Haunt forum I watch has an attendence thread and general consensus is traffic is down this year...High ticket prices/less value...Also some theme parks are starting to offer free admission to Halloween events with a purchase of season pass....Weather.....I agree prices are too high....My wife refused to go to the local campground haunted woods/barn this year because it was $20/person....They mainly use the kids that are camping for the majority of scare actors with a few adults for key scares like chainsaw guy in the woods, etc......They use the same props every year...Not worth $40 to us.....ZR
 
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