We love things that go bump in the night. Unless that bump is followed by a clunk and a thud and the sound of your favorite prop shattering on the ground. When you hear the sound of glass breaking or the fizzle of electricity that wasn’t part of a planned scare, it can send even the bravest monsters into a panic. But a lot of unplanned situations can be fixed on the fly if you know the right steps to take.
Here are 6 things that commonly go wrong during Haunt Season AND how to fix them.
1. A major prop stops working
Electronic malfunctions are bound to happen, and if it’s a small prop or background element, you can probably get away with just shutting it down for the evening. But what happens when the prop that does down is the showstopping star of your haunt?
The backup plan:
- Put a scare actor in its place. If you have a larger-than-life prop in your haunt, chances are guests will be focused on it just because of its size. Take advantage of their diverted attention and hide a scare actor behind or near the prop. When they jump out and terrify guests, no one will even remember that the prop itself wasn’t moving.
- Adjust the lighting and sound around the prop. Your star prop likely looks pretty imposing all by itself, so add a strobe light, maybe a little fog, and place a speaker nearby with a creepy soundtrack. It won’t be quite as good as the fully-functioning version, but you can still give your guests a great experience.
- Test major props before you open for the day and try to keep space batteries, extension cords, and a tool kit on hand in case you need to do any minor repairs on the fly.
2. Weather dampens your outdoor attractions
According to data from our 2022 Haunt Industry Report, 50% of haunts host at least half of their attractions outdoors. A slight drizzle might not be enough to scare guests away, but what if it’s more than that? How can you handle a full-on downpour, thunderstorm, or other severe weather without closing shop for the night?
The backup plan:
- Sell ponchos in your gift shop (or hand them out at the front gate!). A lot of haunts are still really fun in the rain, if you have the proper protection. Stock your gift shop with some inexpensive – or even branded – ponchos for guests to stay dry while they enjoy your outdoor scares. It’s a great way for you to boost your revenue, too.
- Have a “dry area” where guests can wait out the weather or towel off. An outdoor pavilion or even a big tent can be a great spot for guests to escape the rain before or after they experience your haunt. This can be another good revenue opportunity, too: consider selling things like dry socks, towels, hot cider, and other “warming” concessions to make guests feel cozy again.
- If you really can’t stay open, offer guests a ticket exchange. Give them the flexibility to visit another night that you’re open this season. HauntPay has a hands-free ticket change feature which gives guests the power to change their own tickets to another time slot. If it’s far enough in advance, you don’t have to do a thing! Just let them change their own tickets. If they’ve already checked in, or it’s very close to their time slot, our support team can still help them find another time to visit (with your permission).
3. Your top scare actor calls out sick
Even under the best of circumstances, we all get a little under the weather sometimes. Add in long nights, cold, damp temperatures, and a job that requires constant screaming & shouting, and it would be no surprise if one of your scare actors finds themselves unable to work one night. Sometimes it’s relatively easy to shuffle folks around or ask someone to cover their shift, but what happens when it’s a major character that’s integral to your haunt’s story?
The backup plan:
- Train understudies. This requires some advance planning, but if you treat your haunt like a broadway show, you can have actors ready to jump in to fill a leading role at a moment’s notice. Cross-train your team on each other’s position, so that a junior player can jump in…because the show must go on.
- Fake it with sound. Have your scare actor(s) record an audio track before the start of the season with some of their regular lines and spooky sounds. Then, install binaural speakers or surround sound to make it sound as if the actor is really there…all around you…lurking in the shadows.
- Reposition props. If you have enough time before opening to shuffle props around, you might be able to fill the space your actor would normally occupy with other scary elements.
- Recruit volunteers. Not everyone wants to be a scare actor for a night, but there might be someone on your team who would be willing to stand in a dark corner and bang on the wall every time a guest walks by. Or play a sound effect. Or just say one line. It might not be as well-produced as your professional actor, but a volunteer from your team might be able to fill in at the last minute.
4. Your WiFi goes down
Even in our globally-connected world, technology sometimes fails us. And it always seems to happen at the worst possible times. Your haunt probably relies on wifi for everything from ticket sales to concessions and maybe even streaming music or video in your queue area. How do you keep things moving when the connection goes down?
The backup plan:
- Switch to a mobile connection. Wifi connects to a router, but cell data does not. So you may be able to use mobile data until you get your wifi back up and running. (pssst! If you’re using HauntPay, you can switch between a mobile connection and wifi as needed to keep your payments online all night.)
- Use Offline Mode. If you’re using HauntPay for your ticketing & payments, you can continue to scan guest tickets even without a wifi or mobile data connection. The app will automatically sync your data whenever it senses a mobile or wifi connection, so you can keep the entry line moving without delay.
- Ask guests to purchase online. Sometimes, even if your equipment can’t get a signal, guests still have bars in your parking lot. Have some signage on hand instructing guests how to buy tickets on their phones (download one of our FREE printables to make it scary simple!). A small number of haunts (about 4%) have eliminated onsite sales altogether. And guests are more comfortable than ever with mobile purchases, so it may disrupt your sales even less than you’d expect.
- Invest in a hotspot. If you’re in an area that experiences frequent wifi issues, it might be worth purchasing a mobile hotspot which you can turn on as needed to keep your connection online.
- Accept cash. You don’t need any technology to accept cash, so it can be a good last-resort if all your connections go dark. But keep in mind that the average person carries less than $20 in cash, and younger generations don’t carry any at all. So this shouldn’t be your only backup.
5. You’re hit with a power failure
Lights out tours can be really fun. But they can be a real bummer if you’re not expecting one. Guests come to your haunt to SEE the amazing props, lighting effects, and actors you’ve created. And that’s tough to do without electricity. How can you keep the scares going when the lights go dark?
The backup plan:
- Assess the extent of the outage. Is it something localized, like a circuit breaker? Or has the entire neighborhood gone dark? If it’s localized, you might be able to run extension cords or do something else to redirect the electricity access you do have to the areas that have gone out.
- Consider a generator. A backup power source can be a lifesaver if you experience an unexpected loss of electricity during haunt season.
- Use alternative light sources. Flashlights, torches, lanterns, even battery-powered candles can create enough light for guests to have a safe and fun night at your haunt.
6. A guest gets injured
We love to feel like there’s the possibility of danger in a haunted house, but no one actually wants to be in physical danger. Haunts do everything we can to make guests and actors safe, but sometimes things happen. What do you do if a guests falls down or starts feeling short of breath inside your haunt?
The backup plan:
- Keep a first aid kit on hand. Be prepared for minor ailments with bandaids, aspirin, instant cold packs, saline, and other remedies. Make sure your staff knows where to find the kit and that it’s easily accessible.
- Don’t hesitate to call emergency services. For anything more than minor scrapes and bruises, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Call in the professionals for any head injuries or wounds that might require stitches. If a guest has chest pains or trouble breathing, it’s best to let a medical professional assess them, too – you could save their life.
- Have a CPR-certified team member on staff. This can be especially helpful if you’re in a remote location where it could take a while for EMS to arrive.
- Display clear warning signs. Visiting a haunted attraction isn’t for everyone, and it’s important to let guests know the risks up front. HauntPay has a FREE downloadable poster with common warning messages for haunted attractions (download it here). You can customize it for your haunt, then print it out and display it near your entrance where guests can review it prior to entry.
- Ask guests to sign a waiver. To really make sure guests understand the risks of visiting a haunted attraction, consider requiring a waiver before they enter. Alternatively, put your terms and conditions on your tickets so that every guest has a copy.
Haunt Season is filled with unexpected thrills, some good and some not so great. But you can respond to unplanned situations like a pro with these tips. Remember: when things go wrong, you can still make sure your guests have a frighteningly fun time.