What separates mediocre haunted attractions from the really great ones? The ones you can’t wait to visit again and again from the one-and-dones?
We’ve studied the haunts with the highest-grossing ticket sales on HauntPay.com to find out what makes them successful. While there’s no silver bullet or magic brew, there are several things they all have in common.
Follow these 8 secrets to design a haunted attraction that guests will be dying to visit.
Lean Into Your Location
Look, we can’t all be located in haunted asylums or abandoned slaughter houses. The logistics of renovating those venues, plus the fact that there just aren’t that many available, makes it unrealistic for most haunts.
If you do happen to have one of these creepy venues, that’s awesome! Lean into the theme and play off your space’s creepiest features. But too many haunts make the mistake of ignoring their venue location when designing their attractions. It doesn’t matter if your haunt is located in an old factory or a strip mall. Your location plays an important part in setting the scene.
Let’s say your venue is a strip mall with zero character on its own. Turn that on its head and tell the story of an abandoned electronics store from the ‘80s, or a secondhand clothing store that was the site of a grizzly murder. Retro themes are hugely popular right now. Instead of your location working against you, it will actually make guests excited to visit.
Write Your Story
Balancing scares and narrative is key to drawing guests into your haunt’s theme. It makes the scares so much more fun if you are immersed in the storyline, instead of just having random effects and actors sprinkled throughout the space.
You can have all the tricks imaginable up your sleeve, but if the scares don’t make sense with your overall story, your guests won’t feel as immersed in the whole experience.
Spend some time writing out the storyline of your entire haunt. Think through the backstories of the locations and the characters you’ll find there. How does the story progress from room to room? How do the characters interact with each other and with your guests? Documenting all of this will not only help you design a great haunt, but it will also help your team understand your vision and work together cohesively.
Play to Your Strengths
Are you a master prop builder? Can you design kickass costumes? Maybe you’re an experienced scare-actor or know how to run back of the house like a pro. Whatever your personal strengths are, use those when designing your haunted attraction.
If you know how to build incredible animatronics, make that a feature of your haunt. Create the biggest and baddest ones around.
Fill in the Gaps
Building the right team is as crucial as building the actual structure of your haunted attraction. Now that you’ve identified your personal strengths, make a list of the skills or experience you need to round out your team. Maybe you need someone with experience in carpentry, sewing, art design, or general operations. Knowing which skills you need to hire for will help you create a well-rounded haunt, not one that is lopsided or lacking in one critical area.
Use All Your Senses
A truly immersive haunted experience doesn’t just use visual trickery to scare guests. Think about the smells, the sounds, and even the physical sensations people will encounter in your haunt. That might mean hanging dead “bodies” from the ceiling that your guests must push their way past, molding giant bugs onto a cave wall, or just some textured wallpapers.
You might already be familiar with fog machines that can make your slaughterhouse smell like…well, a slaughterhouse, or add a dank forest scent to your haunted woods. But those aren’t the only locations that deserve their own signature aromas. What should your alien invasion or abandoned hospital or vampire forretress smell like? Adding those elements will help take your haunt to the next level.
Don’t Miss These Details
It’s not just well-designed scares that count. The logistics of visiting your haunt should be easy for guests from start to finish. Consider these components when designing your haunted attraction.
Your guests’ first impression starts with where they park their cars at your haunt. So don’t overlook this important detail. Whether you have built in parking or just a gravel lot, spend some time considering how many spaces you’ll need and how cars will flow through that space.
Few things are enjoyable when you’re trying to hold in a call of nature. That’s especially true of haunted attractions, where we’ve witnessed more than a few guests answer that call mid-scare. Make sure you have facilities where guests can relieve themselves before or after they walk through (and where they can clean up in case of an accident). There are just three things you need for great bathrooms: have enough, keep them clean, and make sure they are functioning.
All that screaming can really work up an appetite. Will your haunt have someplace where guests can purchase food and beverages before or after their visit? You don’t need to open a full restaurant; a simple popcorn stand with bottled or fountain sodas can make a big difference in improving the guest experience.
Your team members will need someplace to change into their costumes, have a snack break, and store their valuables during their shift. Make sure your backstage area includes a break room (or green room), staff restrooms, and lockers for storage.
Consider the Upkeep
Sometimes, props and paint jobs look fantastic when they’re first completed, but start to show their age quickly. You might think that wouldn’t matter in a haunted house (aren’t they supposed to look a little spooky and decrepit?), but your guests are smart enough to notice the difference between intentionally-placed cobwebs and a dirty room.
As much as possible, try to work with materials that are hearty, simple to maintain, and that won’t break down easily. That goes for electronics, flooring, lights, and props.
Make It Easy to Buy Tickets
Designing a great haunted attraction doesn’t matter if guests can’t figure out how to purchase admission. Find a ticketing system that makes it simple for guests to buy tickets and easy for you to redeem them. More and more people buy their tickets online these days, but you may also want to give guests the option to buy in person with the payment method that’s convenient for them. Look for a system that includes both online and in-person ticketing and supports modern payment methods like tap-to-pay and mobile payments.
When you’re ready to start selling tickets, HauntPay can help you reach more fans and sell more tickets with features built for haunted attractions. Schedule a demo to see how simple it is.