Building a haunted attraction is not for the faint of heart – and neither is walking through one. It’s a thrilling adventure for those with a passion for all things horror and scary. If blood and screams excite you – you’re definitely in the right place.
Whether you’re looking to create a small, seasonal pop-up haunt or a permanent, large scale attraction, there are several key steps to successfully launching your haunt. In this 12-step guide we’ll walk you through the process of building a haunted attraction and tips on bringing your guests’ nightmares to life.
1. Do your research. It’s crucial to be prepared and know everything you can about the haunt industry, your target audience, and operating a haunted attraction. It can be easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of information available so it’s important to stay focused. Preparation is key, but don’t overthink it.
2. Set a budget. Funding can be tricky when setting up your haunted attraction, but sticking to your budget is crucial. Great haunts don’t always require huge budgets, it’s all about how you use the money you have. You could spend hundreds of dollars on the most realistic goblin mask you can find, or dim the lights a bit more and use effects to your advantage.
3. Find a venue/location. Once you’ve decided on a budget you can look for the perfect venue/location for your haunt. Here’s a great place to get creative and think outside the box. The location may not always seem scary enough or haunted enough but you can make it work. We have some helpful tips for finding a great venue/location in this blog post.
4. Sort out the legal stuff. As with starting any kind of business, there’s a lot of paperwork involved in opening a haunted attraction. From permits and zoning laws to employment contracts and insurance, paperwork can be a real killer. It’s important to do this step right though, to ensure everything is above board and there won’t be unforeseen issues in the future. Depending on your location, there may be some specific zoning and licensing requirements.
5. Choose a theme. You’ve got a location and all your permits are in place so now comes the truly terrifying part – actually putting together your haunt. First, let’s start with choosing a theme. Tv shows and movies are great places to light the flame of inspiration and get things started. There are classic themes like clowns/haunted circus or more unique ideas like a haunted jail. The key takeaway here is to choose a theme that you love working with – because if you choose a Witch’s Lair you’ll be knee deep in frog’s tongues and eye of newt for a long time.
6. Build your set and start finding props. It’s finally time to really get your hands dirty and your creative juices bubbling. After you’ve chosen your theme, you can begin building the set pieces and sourcing props for your haunt. A good place to start is with a map of what you want your haunt to look like and a talented team ready to bring that vision to life. Just don’t forget the props – the devil really is in the details.
7. Hire scare actors and staff. You’re getting closer and closer to opening night, but you still need staff and scare actors. Lucky for you we’ve compiled a list of how to hire truly terror-ific scare actors so you can get a head start. Good scare actors can really make or break your haunt so hiring the right ones and investing in them can make all the difference.
8. Set up ticketing. You’re almost done, we promise. One of the most important decisions that needs to be made has to do with ticketing. How will you be collecting money and controlling traffic at your haunt? There’s plenty of options: cash-at-the-door, online tickets only, online and cash-at-the-door, and free/donations. Once you decide which option works best for you, it’s important to find a ticketing provider that fits your needs. Here’s a list of 10 questions to ask when choosing a ticketing platform for your haunted attraction if you need some guidance for getting started.
We don’t want to brag or anything, but HauntPay is a platform built by haunters for haunters that can be customized to fit your needs. If you’re looking for an online ticketing platform that won’t cost you anything, has features built with you and your guests in mind, and can be used to sell tickets, merch, and concessions, look no further. Schedule a demo with our team today to see if HauntPay is the right fit for your haunt.
9. Promote, promote, promote. If you build it they will come…but only if they know about it. Word-of-mouth is a tried and true marketing method and a great stepping stone. However, it will only get you so far. Now is the time to develop a marketing plan detailing how you can reach your target audience and build anticipation for your grand opening. Start a conversation on social media, put up flyers, join Facebook groups, or send out email campaigns. It’s important to show up where your audience is and communicate with them through the mediums they use (not the Tarot reading kind of medium).
10. Soft launch. Something usually goes wrong or is forgotten on the first night of your haunt. Consider doing a soft launch for friends and family before opening your haunt to the public. The benefits of a soft launch are two-fold: first, you can show your friends and family what you’ve been spending 40 hours a week building, and second, you can see what needs to be adjusted or changed before the grand opening.
11. Evaluate and make changes. Collect as much feedback from your soft launch guests as possible. It may be helpful to put together a survey or a list of things you want an outside opinion on. How scary was the haunted attraction? How did the staff do? Were there any safety concerns? Would you come back? Use their feedback to make any changes to your haunt and improve it so your guests have a scary good time.
12. Hard launch. That’s it, you’re ready to open the gates of hell and let in the masses.
Building a haunted attraction takes careful planning, attention to detail, and a whole lot of fake blood. These 12 steps are a great starting point for putting together your haunted attraction. You’re already on your way to creating a delightfully terrifying experience that will scare visitors for years to come.
Stay away from the 7 most common mistakes that first time haunt owners make by reading about what they are on our blog. Finding creative ways to scare your guests is taxing enough without having to correct avoidable mistakes.