A Beginner's Guide to Starting a Haunted Attraction Business
Before you get started as a Haunt Owner
There are many ways to operate and grow a Haunted Attraction. Here are a few action tips to get you going in the right direction.
Learn as much as you can about the business side of Haunted Attractions.
It’s easy to count the people in a queue line, multiply that by cost per ticket, and you can see how much money a scare attraction can bring in on one night. But there are lots of numbers you can’t see without the experience to start a haunted attraction business.
Operation costs, insurance coverage, licenses & permits, props & lights, lumber and hardware, employee compensation, attorney fees, taxes, and many other items that we couldn’t live without.
My best advice is experience & education. Soak up as much info as you can on business & haunting.
Work or volunteer at a local Haunted Attraction for awhile to see how they manage things.
Attend seminars & workshops that cover those areas you may need help with.
Attend local meetups where you might meet haunt neighbors who would love to help.
Decide how you’re going to fund it and if it makes sense as a long term goal.
There are many ways to fund a Haunted Attraction business, you just need to decide which one works best in your situation. Some have saved. Others have borrowed. And some a mix of the two.
I believe in being resourceful and borrowing as a last resort. Yes…having a huge budget to work with is awesome, as long as you can pay it back as your long term strategy. I took my 10 year inventory as a Haunter, found an old friend with a vacant building, and we are making strong strides in keeping our costs low.
Work within your means and make a great show with what you have. If you have access to a huge capitol then spend it on the areas that produce the best results for your dollar.
Start early and you still may not get everything done on your list.
This year we started in early April and still didn’t get everything on our list finished. Did we still give the audience a great show? Yes. They never missed out and now we have a list of things to do for next season.
Start recruiting actors as soon as possible. Use tools such as jigs & templates for building wall panels to save time. (or hire help if you have the funds.) Order your online props & supplies early because they get real busy the closer it gets to October. Schedule inspections early and apply for permits before you start anything. Don’t forget your website, social media pages, and marketing plan too.
Build it and they will come. Maybe.
Marketing has gotten a lot easier with today’s social media and happy customers telling their friends. But finding out where your target market is and how to get them in the door is the tricky part.
Research your local demographics and surrounding areas. Our popular age group is 16-42 year old women. Each market and town is different and your marketing plan should be like an experiment, always tweaking it for the best results. Use as many low cost ideas as you can and measure the return you get from each.
It’s difficult to see how many people actually came to your haunt because of your billboard or because they heard your ad on the radio. So when they do show up, ask them where they heard about you.
Are you ready to start your own Haunted Attraction Business?
The Haunts that survive through the years are the ones built from blood, sweat, and fears. Yes…a passion for entertaining others and the constant ideas from the warped areas in your mind help too, but most successful scare attractions have figured out a way to keep their businesses lean while still providing a great show to their guests.
Even the greatest attractions have had their setbacks and many have almost closed their doors. Dedication and their constant drive to succeed have carried their business past the low points and the roadblocks have made them greater Haunts through the process. That’s why you must treat your Haunt as a business from day one. It can be done, but you are the one who is going to have to do it.
You are already a few steps ahead of other future Haunt Owners just by reading this and being on our website! So………….Are you still ready to Start Your Own Haunted Attraction Business?
Places for Haunters and Haunt Industry Events
Becoming a member of the Haunter’s Toolbox is important and so is attending Haunt Industry trade shows and conventions. These events keep you up-to-date on the current trends in haunting, offer amazing products for your haunted attraction, and bring in other Haunters with big ideas like you!
Transworld Halloween and Attractions Show: The largest trade show tailored for the Haunted Attraction Owner and anyone operating a Halloween event. This show has been entertaining and informing haunters for over two decades and continues to grow with us. It’s usually in March in St.Louis, Missouri. They have many other events through the year as well.
HAuNTcon: A traveling haunt convention that shows up in a new city each year. Offering tours of other haunted attractions, education, and social gatherings to share ideas with other Haunters. A great show to get to know different haunters in different states. This show is usually after the New Year and may be in an area near you.
Midwest Haunter’s Convention: This is a Transworld convention that is more geared toward your staff, your scare actors, home haunters, and Halloween enthusiasts. Still with a trade show, education, and after-parties. Always in Columbus, Ohio and usually around May or June.
Midsummer Scream: A Halloween and Haunted Attraction festival in Long Beach, California geared for the Home and Professional Haunter. They are close to the action and bring in experts like Knotts Scary Farm from around the area. They also have large walk-through haunted mazes from local attractions and escape rooms inside. Always in the summer…hence the name.
Scare LA: Halloween. Haunts. Horror. Located in Los Angeles, California, this convention brings in horror guests from around the area and includes training for any season of Haunter. With a interactive trade show, demonstrations, and educational scare tracks to guide you toward one specific topic. Also in the summer.
Chicago Frights: A Haunt Convention in Chicago, Illinois that offers off-season tours to local Haunted Attractions, education tracks, costume parties, and a vendor trade show. The hearse show and zombie walk are also popular with the Haunters. Hosted by the same crew that puts together HAuNTcon. Open in the summer.
West Coast Haunter’s Convention: Located in Portland, Oregon, this convention has been around for many of years and has become a staple for the west coast Haunters. They are a non-profit which helps the Oregon School for the Def. Offering great education and entertainment for any type of Haunter. Usually in the month of May.
IAAPA: The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions is more than a Haunt Convention. It brings all aspects of themed attractions together in one place. Whether you’re Walt Disney or a small corn maze, you’ll find something here. Located in Orlando, Florida they also host shows in Asia and Europe.
Halloween & Party Expo: If you’re adding retail products to your attraction or opening a Halloween supply store, then this is the show you want to attend. More for stores like a Spirit Halloween or if you want to buy Halloween products in bulk. They offer loads of classes on retail and the business side of selling Halloween products. Currently in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Legendary Haunt Tour: The traveling Haunted Attraction tour that finds new locations each year and lets you see behind-the-curtains of the haunts. Get on the bus and hang out with other people just as passionate as you are about Haunted Houses. A great social event and experience for any Haunt Enthusiast.
Helpful Haunt Websites and Other Haunter Resources
HaunTopic: Our other website and audio podcast dedicated to the stories, advice, and ideas behind owning a Haunted Attraction. We interview the people behind the scares and dig deep into one topic per episode. Check out our archive with over 100 episodes!
Haunted Attraction Network: A network of Haunt Podcasts, a FREE Online magazine, and a great resource for anyone interested in the Haunted Attraction Business.
Haunted Attraction Association: The official association for the haunted attraction industry. Offering different levels of membership and benefits through their programs. Focused on safety and training for the professional haunter.
HauntWorld: One of the largest haunt forums and directories in the world. Sign in to their Fright Forum and add your attraction to their free directory. They also have a great magazine all about the haunting business.
Small Business Administration: An invaluable resource for any small business. Haunted Attractions have to follow the same rules as any business and this website has what you need. Business plans, filing taxes, business structures, and more.
Haunt Forum: Forums are not dead! A great place to meet other Haunters and start up great conversations about haunting. Active conversations going on right now.