The Importance of Online Marketing

Posted in Uncategorized on December 2, 2011 by diamondsnperils

 

Scaring and Sharing (the social network revolution)

The social business is rapidly becoming more popular. Today banks urge us to “like” them on Facebook and grocery stores have Twitter accounts. As we become ever more connected to our retailers and service industries, it makes sense that haunted attractions would take advantage of the growing trend. The Fatal End in West End (@DallasHaunt) notifies its followers of which monsters are prowling their attraction each night during the season. Moxley Manor uses its Facebook page to update fans on hours and crowd turnout, while Cutting Edge offers coupons through a mobile discount program. These haunts have caught on to the trend that “Social media are increasingly driving consumer buying choices and transforming the market” (Senan, 2011).

The “Saving” Appeal

Small businesses have seen vast increases in new customers with the help of discount websites like Groupon and Living Social (Amato, n.d.). While consumers may have seen the cafe on the corner several dozen times, an online deal for 50% savings will bring them through the doors. Haunted attractions have started using these sites to boost ticket sales, and based on personal experience and chats with haunt personnel, they’re working. A deal from Living Social brought me to Zombie Manor this season. When I made the decision to go, I brought four of my friends. By offering a small discount on one ticket, the attraction was able to garner four more admission sales. Haunts that are new or not well publicized could see explosive increases in sales by utilizing this online marketing strategy.

Resources:

Amato, J. (n.d.). Daily Deal Sites Mean Everyone Wins – BusinessWeek. Businessweek – Business News, Stock Market & Financial Advice. Retrieved December 2, 2011, from http://www.businessweek.com/debateroom/archives/2011/07/daily_deal_sites_mean_everyone_wins.

Senan, S. (2011, November 29). Can social media enhance your business? – Forbes. Information for the World’s Business Leaders – Forbes.com. Retrieved November 30, 2011, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/infosys/2011/11/29/social-business/

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Review: Tayman Graveyard

Posted in Review on December 2, 2011 by diamondsnperils

Today I’d like to introduce you to the hidden treasure of Midlothian, Texas.

Haunt: Tayman Graveyard

Date: October 22, 2011

Length:  ~60 min

Coroner’s Report: Alive and Scaring. A “touching” experience. Definitely worth the drive.

Tayman Graveyard is a standout attraction. A forty-minute drive east of Dallas and several turns down woodsy, roughly paved roads will bring you to the ancestral land of a family with a twisted history. This year Tayman featured three different haunts- a mineshaft, a funeral home, and a very haunted hayride. The hayride was especially exciting because of its ability to stray from the usual walk-through format most DFW haunts employ. Even during the walk-through attractions, Tayman Graveyard set itself apart by allowing its actors to touch victims– a change made for the 2011 season. Physical contact between haunters and victims is generally banned in attractions due to safety concerns (Haunted House Association), but that first tap on the shoulder can make even the most seasoned haunt-goer jump.

One more surprise in our trip to Tayman Graveyard was the chance to meet and chat with the owner and operator of the frightening forest attraction, who was delightfully open about the good, bad, and ugly aspects of haunting, and was excited to hear our opinions. Some of the facts learned from our conversation included:

  • Tayman has been open for 7 years in its original location.
  • The special effects (including one shocking feature of the hayride) are designed and built by the Tayman Graveyard family and are therefore unique to the haunt.
  • Many of the cast of characters work on an almost volunteer basis and do so for the love of the haunt.

While Tayman Graveyard may not have the high-tech setup of inner-city attractions, the creativity and care put into the haunt is more than apparent.  If the setting doesn’t get you, the memorable characters will.

Resources:

Haunted House Association. (2009, October 9). Haunted House Association. Retrieved November 2, 2011, from http://hauntedhouseassociation.org/archives/2009_10_01_archive.html

Opening a Haunted Attraction: Think First (Part 2)

Posted in Uncategorized on December 2, 2011 by diamondsnperils

Assuming you’ve confirmed the need for a haunt in your area and are willing to accept the financial struggles inherent in starting your business, you may be excited at the prospect and feel the need to rush ahead.

There are a couple more things to consider as you finalize your decision to open a haunt.

What are the licensing requirements in your area?

  • Contact your city and county offices for information on zoning and necessary licenses.

Do you have a sincere love of the haunt?

  • In a haunted attraction, you’re combining business and production aspects. Each night is a new performance, with all the potential crises that entails. On the business side, things may not look up monetarily for a long time—if ever. Austin’s House of Torment and our own Cutting Edge are the exception, not the rule. First-time haunters need to be aware they’re not going to be making money hand-over-fist, and they will be working many long, hard months for a short operation season. You have to have a true passion for the craft, because the experience will be a large part of your return-on-investment.

Having a business plan is not only required in areas of safety and finances, but sitting down and writing out the details for your attraction will uncover pitfalls and make it easier for potential partners to visualize your dream.  In future posts I will go into detail addressing five key elements of a haunt:

  • Venue
  • Theme
  • Safety
  • Props
  • Actors

With a thoroughly thought-through plan and attention to detail, you’re well on your way to starting a successful haunted attraction.

Opening a Haunted Attraction: Think First (Part 1)

Posted in Uncategorized on December 2, 2011 by diamondsnperils

You may have experience running a neighborhood haunt. Perhaps you’re the proud owner of the haunted lawn children dare not brave, even for the reward of candy. Maybe you’ve just visited so many attractions you’re sure you could create “a better one.” In any case, you’ve had the notion and you’ve given it enough thought to seek more information.

There are a couple of things you need to consider before pursuing a haunt of your own.

Is there a market in your area?

  • The past few years have been rough on the economy, and one of the first expenditures people start to cut down on is entertainment. Before taking any official steps toward opening a haunt, a bit of ethnographic research would do wonders.
  • Look into existing haunted attractions in your area. Have any staples of the haunt industry failed to return this season? Are haunts cutting costs or expanding?
  • Talk to consumers to get a feel of the climate in your area. Some areas lack haunted attractions for a reason.

Can you afford the rough patch?

  • Every new business experiences a ‘growing period.’ In this phase, you are spending far more money than you’re bringing in (if you’re bringing in any at all) and if you don’t plan for this, you’re likely to go out of business before the paint dries on your monster makeup. With haunted attractions, owners spend money renting space, purchasing set supplies and props, marketing, and paying the cast and crew before the haunt even opens. Add to that your operating costs (those animatronics and strobe lights aren’t easy on the electric bills), and you’re in for a long haul before the figures get out of the red. You have to consider the possibility that they may never be.

Review: Zombie Manor

Posted in Review on December 2, 2011 by diamondsnperils

Our visit to Zombie Manor was short, but sweet.

Haunt: Zombie Manor
Date: October 7, 2011
Length: ~15 min
Coroner’s Report: Impressive for a smaller haunt. Quality makeup and effects. Good venue for new victims to ease into scream seeking.

Located in an industrial warehouse area, Zombie Manor uses the setting to set up the sense of a post-zombpocalyptic wasteland. One gets the feeling that there has not been any kind of order here for some time. Upon turning off the highway, lights coming from abandoned trucks direct vehicles on. The area is dimly lit and signs denoting a zombie evacuation area immediately put the victim on edge.

After the excellent entrance, victims encounter the typical ticket booth and line with a short, sometimes moderate, wait time (Zombie Manor does offer a fast-pass ticket for $5 more). When the wait is over, victims enter the attraction in groups of no more than four, which can throw a wrench in odd-numbered parties (we had 5), but the point is to increase the scare factor, which is more difficult with large groups.

While the outdoor decoration may not strictly follow the manor’s theme and back-story, the inside is splendid. The sets and hallways were excellently designed, and this victim was especially impressed by one prop in particular (suffice to say, I was in the splash zone). The walk-through is shorter than some of the other DFW attractions, so if length is an important aspect in your haunt hunt, this may not be at the top of your list. I will say that despite the brief experience, Zombie Manor had several memorable moments and can safely be labeled a positive experience. This victim hopes the manor will get the opportunity to expand its outbreak outreach next season.

The History of Haunts

Posted in Uncategorized on October 14, 2011 by diamondsnperils

A Note: You may have noticed that I use the terms ‘haunt’ and ‘haunted attraction’ rather than ‘haunted house’. While the first terms refer to simulated theme venues, ‘haunted houses’ are often used with regard to the paranormal. This discrepancy was an issue discovered when I began my research. Because they have traditionally been called haunted houses, the term may pop up occasionally in future posts, but for clarity’s sake, I’ll try to stick to the new terms.

I’m afraid the history of haunted attractions is not a well-documented subject. Several projects and organizations are working to help fill this void, but for now we’ll have to work with a vague evolution of haunts.

 

Resources:

Haunted attraction – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved October 11, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haunted_attraction

Welcome to Frightlight/About the Author

Posted in Uncategorized on October 14, 2011 by diamondsnperils

Welcome to Dallas Frightlight– a blog dedicated to pinpointing great haunted houses in the DFW area and investigating the secret to creating excellent haunted attractions. This blog will chronicle the experiences of one horror fan in her journey to learn the ways of the haunt.

Who is this creature who has an insatiable love for the dead? (Humphrey & Zombie, 1998)

I’m Jenn, your voluntary victim, author, and lover-of-all-things-horror.

One foggy Halloween night, a chubby little princess made her way up a neighbor’s driveway, not giving the life-sized gorilla propped in a chair a second thought. The very same gorilla stood up. It stood up, and that chubby little princess tossed her pail of candy and took off down the block. At the age of four, I experienced that first adrenaline rush that comes with being absolutely terrified.

It. Was. Awesome.

Over the years my fascination with horror grew, and lead, inevitably, to the world of haunted attractions, or ‘haunts.’ I found that, as anyone familiar with this genre of entertainment can attest, haunts varied vastly in size, length, pricing, and quality. The problem was there were few places to get good opinions on which haunts are worthwhile, so the process thus far has been one of trial-and-error.

My fascination with haunts has continued to expand, and now I’m interested in learning more about the industry itself.

  • Who are the people behind the haunts?
  • What got them into the business?
  • How do people create haunted attractions?
  • Is there a secret to successful haunts?

I’m writing this blog as a resource for anyone interested in haunted attractions. Whether you’re looking for recommendations on Dallas haunts or curious about the process of starting one yourself, I hope to provide something useful for each of you. Happy haunting!

Resources

Humphrey, S., & Zombie, R. (1998). Living Dead Girl [R.Zombie]. On Hellbilly Deluxe [CD]. Hollywood: Chop Shop.