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How to Create a Haunted House, and Make Money Doing It

Haunted House Halloween Handbook Haunted House Halloween Handbook

Web Watch loves Halloween – more for the experience of visiting what could be used as a local movie set at elaborate haunted house attractions rather than the handing out of candy to neighborhood brats. Because those creative individuals who spend all year working on an immersive Halloween experience really deserve kudos for the effort they put into spending a month scaring the hell out of all their guests. One question that Web Watch wanted to figure out the answer to was HOW MUCH MONEY DO HAUNTED HOUSE ATTRACTIONS MAKE EACH YEAR? Is it a profitable business?  Using some rough math, Web Watch can guess that the following is a reasonable estimate on haunted house earnings: Assuming that 1,000 people visit per night for 30 days in October, then that would be 30,000 people (we figure this is a low estimate, as weekend nights could see 2,000-5,000 people each… maybe more if Halloween falls over a weekend.  But let’s try 30,000 for now). If a ticket to the haunt costs $25 apiece, then the attraction would bring in $750,000 a year, not counting merchandising sales or other extra add-ons. Those nights sound like a long line to wait through, doesn’t it?  Keep in mind that most haunted houses are trying to maximize the throughput of their guests.  Putting people in groups of 5, and staggering their entrance into the maze at about every 30 seconds – you’re looking at putting roughly 500 people through the attraction an hour.  Keep the haunt open for 4-5 hours a night, so you can see that our daily estimate of 2,000-5,000 people is certainly reasonable (depending on group size and operating hours, of course). Since we already assume that 30,000 people is a low estimate, it is not unreasonable to assume that an awesome haunted house could bring in anywhere from $1,000,000 – $2,000,000 in one month’s time.  Take away insurance fees, rent, security, and payroll for hundreds of seasonal workers – and you’re looking at a reasonably tidy sum for what appears to be just one month’s worth of work.  If you’re looking for HOW MUCH DOES A HAUNTED HOUSE COST TO BUILD, then a good estimate to work from is about $15-$25/square foot. But the BEST HAUNTED HOUSES IN AMERICA are year-round operations.  It takes significant design and construction effort to pull these off, with planning for the next haunt often beginning while the existing house hasn’t even opened for the current season. Out of this year’s TOP 31 HAUNTED HOUSES, here are the haunts that took the time this year to make the top ten:

  1. Netherworld Haunted House – Atlanta, Georgia
  2. Bates Motel / Pennhurst Asylum – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  3. The Darkness Haunted House – St. Louis, Missouri
  4. 13th Gate Haunted House – Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  5. Headless Horseman – Ulster Park, New York
  6. The Beast – Kansas City, Missouri
  7. Spookywoods – High Point, North Carolina
  8. Erebus Haunted House – Pontiac, Michigan
  9. House of Torment – Austin, Texas
  10. Cutting Edge Haunted House – Fort Worth/Dallas Texas

If any Web Watch readers feel like they want to try putting together their own haunted house, the first thing that you should think about is your guests’ safety. Here are SOME PROFESSIONAL HAUNTED HOUSE SAFETY TIPS from the HAUNTED HOUSE ASSOCIATION:

  • Fire is bad. Always use flame-retardant materials, never use any open flame anywhere, be careful with heat sources, etc.
  • Your guests’ safety should be your number one concern.  Walk your maze with the lights on and verify that the walkways are smooth and clear, there are no rough edges, sharp objects, or protrusions that could injure either your guests or your staff.
  • Emergency lighting and exits should be available everywhere.
  • Have staff available everywhere to assist guests through the maze — or out of harm’s way if they begin to panic and freak out.

And if you really have the haunted house bug, here is a LIST OF SOME HAUNTED HOUSE RESOURCES to help you with your haunted house business, design, props, setup, layout, marketing, and how to run your haunted house successfully: