March 21st, 2017
How Not To Operate A Haunt: A True Story
Scott had been building this Haunt for weeks. It wasn’t his building but he had about $10,000 worth of his props hanging on the walls, fog machines, strobe lights; just about 7 years worth of props put into this dark attraction. It wasn’t his own venture. At the last minute, an aquaintance begged him for his help because October was quickly arriving and ironically Scott was not going to be able to open his own this year due to financial situations. So like any good haunter would do, he said yes. The events that follow his decision will be difficult to digest by many and it may even piss you off a little bit. It may sound a little surreal; like a bad dream or one of those urban legends you hear about someone’s friend of a friend of a friend. Well, this is a true story and the man I speak of is my brother. This is his nightmare…
The phone rings. Early September. I look at the caller ID and recognize the number. It’s my brother Scott. When it comes to Halloween we both get consumed by it’s dark forces and creative power. Usually this time of year that is the hot topic for us. I was designing a new floor plan for my home haunt when he called. “Wazzuuup?”, I greeted him with our usual greeting. “Waaaazzzzuuuuppp? he replied, seemingly trying to out-do my version. We did small talk for a bit and then he told me of an opportunity that had surfaced for him recently. He had owned his own Haunt on his own property for two years, but over the summer the county inspector delivered him some bad news. Certain codes needed to be met before he was allowed to open this year, codes that require quite a bit of time and money. An old acquaintance that was also in the industry needed help in construction, props and lighting, and actors. Scott was able to supply all of these requests and still be ready to go on opening night- October 8th. This partner was leasing the building, supplying most of the materials, and taking care of the business side of things. He offered a 40-Scott/60-partner split. The deal was made and Scott began immediately. I told him I hoped the best for him and knew he would do well. We said good-bye and I jumped back into my creative whirlpool.
After a few more phone calls with Scott and a couple trips to the Haunt, I was impressed with his dedication and shared his vision as he took me on a walk-through. An old one-level warehouse. Two big open bay doors, nice concession and waiting area, highway front, and plenty of room. He had awesome ideas and he had already put in over two weeks of work; most of the time after he was leaving his first job. Many late nights away from home; focusing on that ‘big’ weekend-you know the kind when your actors don’t get many breaks and you lose count of the numbers. Those kind. His first Haunt was only two years old so the numbers were doubling every year. He still hadn’t found that magic year yet…this was going to be it!
I only talked to Scott a couple of times during the first two weeks because we were both really busy on our inventions. He explained that each weekend was getting better numbers and that he was still building to make things better. He lived about 30 minutes away so he brought his camper to sleep in. If he wasn’t building at work , he was designing at his Haunt. Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks; providing a promising life for 4 kids and a supportive wife. He loved being there, this is his passion, and he knew if he worked his ass off to impress the customers he would be rewarded. That’s what the Bible tells us and most self-help books preach to us; this was going to work.
On October 23th I get a phone call at 7 am,”Scott and his partner got into it. The law was called and some shit went down.” My heart stopped and I felt overwhelmed by all the questions I had floating in my head. I needed to talk to him but I also needed to get to work on time. So after a mentally exhausting day at work I came home to get the real truth. I called Scott up and I couldn’t digest what he told me. Let me try to sum it up for you: On Friday night Scott and Mr.X had a little disagreement on getting an equal split. Mr.X believed no money will be divided to anyone until all rent, materials, & bills were paid first. Then he wanted to change the split ratio in his favor. Many things began to unfold. Scott left for the night to cool off and get ready for a big Saturday. The next night he shows up and the locksmith is there changing the locks. Mr.X keeps him distant and acts a little suspicious. After a good night of scares and numbers there is a surprise meeting held by Mr.X. After a few condescending words about the night before he proceeded to let everyone know that they were trespassing and to leave his property. He told Scott that all his props were to be left untouched and that they were now his to keep! He was leasing the building so they were legally his to keep! He locked him out of the building! He pushed everyone out of the place and even pushed a door into my little sister as she exited the building! Everyone Scott was related to- OUT! Scott called the law and the Sheriff shows up a few minutes later. Mr.X proceeds to tell the officer that these are his now because it is his building. You should have seen Mr.X’s face when the Sheriff told him the opposite! That Scott was allowed to get what was his and then he would leave! So the whole family: my parents, sister, his wife’s family, kids and senior adults all helped gather most of his things; vans and trailer fulls. Still in a state of shock by the real insanity of this guy. Maybe this was the real Satan that had come to test the will of an honest man? So unreal!
After a few more confrontations and problems Scott finally packed most of his things in everyone’s vehicles and was ready to leave and never look back. When Mr.X realized he wasn’t going to keep the items that weren’t his and that he wasn’t going to make any money because he didn’t have any props, he changed his tune. He even wanted Scott to come back tomorrow night to set everything back up! For real? The audacity of some people! Where did this guy come from? Scott left and Mr.X struggled the next two weeks with few actors and limited supplies. I’m not sure if he succeeded in his revised business plan or not, but I also believe that how you treat others will come back to you even stronger. I believe Scott learned a valuable lesson here that will make him stronger in his wisdom. He stared the devil in his face and saw past his lies. This experience happened for this reason..a reason for growth.
This is a prime example of how not to run a haunted attraction. But there are some positive things to get out of this story. He got most of his things back, no one got hurt, and it’s better it happened now than 2 weeks down the road. Just a little reminder to those out there who are thinking about going into partnership-be careful. Sign legal contracts, contact a business lawyer, get EVERYTHING in writing! Stay with your business plan and stick with your contract. Working with family can also be difficult because it’s tough to balance family and business. It can be done with the right attitude. Work hard, stay honest, be grateful for everything, and keep that passion alive! If you do these small steps you’ll have good dreams and hopefully no more nightmares…