Sunday, October 18, 2015

Haunted Houses Are Big Business, Part 2 of 2

Last week I talked about the history of haunted houses as staged events and ended with some Halloween facts.  This week I'm talking about the big business of professional haunted house attractions.

In the U.S., there are approximately 4,500 professional haunted house attractions opened to the public during the Halloween season—300 theme parks that operate a seasonal haunted house venue, 1200 large-scale haunted houses, and 3000 such attractions operated by and/or for charity organizations as fund raisers.  And, of course, Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida have the year round Haunted Mansion ride.
What is America's oldest and largest Halloween haunt?  That honor belongs to the Knott's Berry Farm theme park in Orange County, just south of Los Angeles, California.  Or as it's known this time of year—Knott's Scary Farm.  It's the world's first Halloween theme park event, the largest Halloween theme park event, and the largest special event in the amusement park industry.  The park makes it clear that the event is not recommended for children under thirteen years old.

It should be no surprise that many of the professional haunted houses/scare attractions have an organization of their own.  Many of the most famous haunted house attractions in the U.S. have formed America Haunts.  They even hold a national convention every summer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The attractions that belong to America Haunts are as diverse as the people who operate them.  These attractions have been consistently reviewed and are rated as excellent by scores of media sources and considered safe, fun and an extremely scary show for horror and haunted house fans.  These are amazingly detailed, cutting edge attractions that rival many Hollywood horror movie effects.  Definitely not for the faint-hearted.

The many America Haunts attractions [located across the country from San Diego, California, on the Pacific coast, to Baltimore, Maryland, on the Atlantic coast], annually draw in crowds numbering in the millions during the Halloween season.  The haunted house industry, like most other industries, has their own trade shows, experts, consultants, suppliers, magazines, associations, education seminars, gatherings and events.  Haunted attraction owners annually spend millions of dollars with haunted house vendors for supplies such as fog machines, animatronic monsters, lighting equipment, and costumes and masks.  In recent years, the overseas market has provided the biggest growth in business for the haunted house vendors of supplies.

The Otis Elevator Company estimates that 85% of the buildings with their elevators do not have a named 13th floor, with that actual floor being given the number 14.  Some businesses don't want to be associated with the stigma attached to the number 13 as being unlucky.  Some don't want to take a chance on losing customers/clients due to them having an aversion to the number 13.  And that probably explains the basic reason for the name of one of the largest haunted house attractions in the U.S.—The 13th Floor Haunted House in Denver, Colorado.
In the 1940s, the building that houses The 13th Floor Haunted House operated briefly as a hotel located across the street from the Sunset train station.  A group of children arrived at the station on their way to their destination south of Denver.  The weather had turned bad, so the bus driver taking them from the station to their final destination decided it would be better to wait until morning to complete their journey.  They checked into the hotel across the street and in the morning continued on their way.  The school bus became stalled on the tracks just south of town and was struck by a train, killing 10 of the children.  Legend has it that those children continue to haunt the hotel, protecting others from a similar fate.

Several of the large, professional attractions, such as The 13th Floor Haunted House, offer more than one venue as part of a specific location.  Each of the venues has a different theme.  And some of the attractions have both indoor and outdoor fright areas.

One such outdoor attraction is Hundred Acres Manor in Pittsburgh.  The attraction boasts 6 haunted attractions for 1 price.

Another outside offering is The Haunted Trail in Balboa Park, in San Diego, California.  It's a mile long trail through a twisted grove of pines and gnarled oaks.  This year it also offers a creepy stroll down New Orleans famous Bourbon Street complete with vampires and other creatures of the night.  This year, the Haunted Trail also offers the return of the 3500 sq. ft. maze

And this barely scratches the surface of what the large, professional Haunted House attractions have to offer those looking for the ultimate scare.  So…have a happy, sane, and safe Halloween.

And be sure to watch your back or you, too, could become one of the ghouls who haunt the land every Halloween!


Ashantay said...

A far cry from the wet noodle "intestines" I handled as a child! Yikes! Kinda glad I grew up in a more naive time. Enjoyed this two-part post!

Ilona Fridl said...

Loved your post! We have some great haunted houses in Waukesha, Wisconsin. With all the wonderful Victorian houses in this city, they just lend themselves to the spooky atmosphere.

Samantha Gentry said...

Ashantay: I know what you mean about more naive times. It was fun-scary rather than today's nightmare inducing scary.

Thanks for your comment.

Samantha Gentry said...

Ilona: The design of the Victorian houses really personifies the haunted house look. Add the dark and stormy night and you definitely have a spooky atmosphere.

Thanks for your comment.