Thanks Julie and Mike of "Above the Norm." Something you said made me think about this subject close to my heart - Halloween Haunted Houses. As you can imagine, I've tried a good deal of them. I know what I'd like in an ideal haunted house.
1. The haunted house should be out in the countryside--an actual building that's perhaps old and abandoned. This does a few things: a. It's not a temporary tent which everyone knows they're entering and therefore loses its authenticity. b. You can weed out the city folks from the folks who truly want to go to a haunted location. How many times have you waited in a 4-hour line with teenager girls with their boyfriends screaming and being obnoxious? If it's further out, harder access, and not in the city with all the other restaurants and things around, you've just cut out some teens whose parents would just drop them off for the night. c. You don't scare people by lining them up in a parking lot and having guys in costumes harass them. You build up their suspense. Staring at a big dark building for an hour is going to build up anticipation. If you must have attendants, make them like something out of "Wrong Turn," some real yellow-toothed local inbreeds.
2. Allow us to pick our group. If we're a couple, let us go alone. If we're two couples, let us go together. Be certain to pace people so that they can go through without running into others.
3. Long dim lantern-lit hallways with doorknobs turning, footsteps following us in a rush, making us turn and flinch thinking someone's coming, floaty images, faces in mirrors, icy cold spots, doors slamming, cries, moaning, "get out" screamed in our ear, sounds of flies, musty smells and moments of perfumed flowery smells. Get to our senses people! Real haunted houses have all the visceral sensations.
4. Have a few vignettes, like perhaps a parlour where a seance is occurring. We can stop and watch and see the action. Maybe even feel something near us rattle and respond. Let us wander through rooms, open closets, check drawers. Nothing gory. Just lots of ghostly things. No bloody alien bodies or men with chainsaws. Give us real true chills. When we leave, have someone take an instant picture of us and when it develops when we get outside, we see a face beside ours to leave us with a lasting chill.
I won't even get into the details of how to do a good haunted house, but I sure hope there's some event coordinators out there who understand what folks want, what adults want. It's quite different than flaming helicopters and vomit that are offered to the teens in pools of blood. We truly want to go into the woods, find a scary place, investigate, and feel totally creeped out. It's ridiculously simple and unfortunately event coordinators are like today's director's, they don't get that a small budget and simple concept makes for more chills and more profits!