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Good Evening All! I'm new here and I'm contemplating starting a Halloween haunt next year. I notice many existing (and very successful) haunts use or advertise "volunteers". How can any business rely on volunteers? What's the incentive for the volunteer? Of course I need to do everything possible to curtail costs, and I figure I would need at least 30+ actors for such a start-up event. Any advise or insight would be appreciated. Thx, Greg
 

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From what I have seen most of the volunteers are often kids between the ages of 12 to about 18. They often see the haunt as more of a social event/hangout where they get to do something that's fun. There are some adults that work the haunts, but for the most part expect your actors in the teen range. Also keep in mind that you are then going to have to deal with some of things that come with the average teenager.
 

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We just came home from an over the top "home" haunt done by this guy Bob and his friends and family. They call themselves the Boo Crew. Spoke to one of the volunteers after exiting and he said he was a friend of the family and helped out last year at the end and came back for this year. He said he really enjoyed playing his part and helping out. All of the actors were adults from what I saw but sure some were teenagers. I think what keeps them committed to doing it is love of halloween and giving the gift of spirit to those who come. This was a free haunt with collection bins for a local food pantry. Sometimes I know people will have pizza or other food for the actors as a way of thank you. I'd say the best volunteer groups like this have a sense of friendship and team and enjoy the theatrical aspect of it.
 

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We just came home from an over the top "home" haunt done by this guy Bob and his friends and family. They call themselves the Boo Crew. Spoke to one of the volunteers after exiting and he said he was a friend of the family and helped out last year at the end and came back for this year. He said he really enjoyed playing his part and helping out. All of the actors were adults from what I saw but sure some were teenagers. I think what keeps them committed to doing it is love of halloween and giving the gift of spirit to those who come. This was a free haunt with collection bins for a local food pantry. Sometimes I know people will have pizza or other food for the actors as a way of thank you. I'd say the best volunteer groups like this have a sense of friendship and team and enjoy the theatrical aspect of it.
Sorry, I should have been more clear about the types of haunts that I was talking about. The types of haunts that I was using for examples we're all in the semi pro / pro haunt realm.
 

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Rules for volunteers may vary from state to state. Teens are only allowed during shorter hours some places. A Criminal back round check may be required. If you pay them this is mandatory . They cost us $16 a person , but if any little confusion finds the computer the price might double, if more confusion follows they will have to be finger printed by local authorities.
I was told how much fun and how well volunteers had worked out for one Haunter. The next year he made them all paid Employees. This killed the natural enthusiasm of merely volunteering (He said) Equating the task with a meager paycheck soured everyone , I suppose?
I heard of a place that does not "Pay" but remembers their employees with Christmas presents, which may not be quite "Korrect-O?"
If a teenage volunteer gets their teeth broken from some aggressive drunken patron, who will pay the Dentist?
The more patrons, the more the chance of physical injury. More patrons, the odds increase that some patron will be violently reacting to a mere little "scare".
I preach "Stay one arm's length away at all times. If they advance, retreat. If they advance more, shine a bright flashlight in their eyes and go get help to kick them out.
Close scares can still happen from behind Lexon Plexiglass (Unbreakable) or from the Right side of most people, who will not be as effective swinging a punch since most are Right-handed.(Just playing the "ODDS".
 

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I could be wrong, but I don't know of a single professional haunt that doesn't pay their employees.

If nothing else I would think the logistics of legal liability over volunteers if a profit business would make it fairly prohibitive.
 

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I have heard quite a few horror stories from haunt workers and "hired" haunt builders who were promised much and got.. nothing at all .
Nothing as in ZERO.
One October some of them sat right in my house and told me how they didn't get paid, so they broke out the windows in their Bosses classic hearse!
And from the tone of them, I tend to believe them. (I also had heard how "He" was poor-pay".)
 

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If you can't get by with your more reliable friends, don't go the volunteer route, simply because you have no idea what you'll end up with. You could have some great people who are loyal, dedicated, and find value in being able to haunt. There might be one or two of those per year. More likely you'll get some flaky useless teenager jerkface who no call no shows, steals or breaks something, or injures themselves or a guest.


Brush up on the ol' business skills before starting up too. It's not just building and decorating, it's a LOT of people management (actors AND guests), safety and security, and stuff like that. Don't scrimp on the safety stuff either.


I'm also going to strongly recommend the JB Corn haunt manuals
 

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I know at ours, they volunteer the first year and get paid for the following years if you stay on, but they keep a family/fun atmosphere with events, movie nights throughout the year, and things of that nature, so it does bring in some more adult folks, though I'd say about half the volunteers are in late teens/early 20s. They also put out food for us every night we're open, which is nice. ;) This year our youngest volunteers were 10-11 (I believe, and yes, for kids that young, the parents have to participate too), and the oldest was 60.

A love for Halloween, scaring, and hanging out with others of that like definitely helps, as no one is hear to just collect their check, but I do wish they'd get rid of the volunteer rule. Let's face it - we're not in the haunt industry to get rich anyway, so we might as well have fun with it! Besides, I've learned valuable building skills, it looks good on my resume, and I've made some really good friends at this haunt that I see/hear from all the time (not just at events) - that's priceless to me....
 
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