Haunted Houses Scare Up More Business in Spite of Frightful Economy
Although many Americans feel economic woes have sucked the life blood out of them, thrill seekers have pumped millions of dollars into haunted attractions already this year, showing early indications of a strong 2010 Halloween "season."
According to the National Research Federation, the number of Americans planning to visit a haunted attraction this year spiked to 20.8 percent, up from 2009's 17 percent and just 14.9 percent five years ago.
Pennsylvania's newest haunted house, PennHurst Asylum, created traffic jams when it opened earlier this fall. Haunted House Association President Randy Bates credits more aggressive marketing campaigns among the 13 major haunted houses in the Philadelphia area with generating a record demand for tickets. Bates said ticket sales at his own haunt, the acclaimed Bates Motel, are comparable with 2009, in spite of several show-stopping storms early in this year's season.
"In addition to this marketing investment, haunted houses traditionally see more visitors in a down economy," said Bates. "People need to find a release; an unrealistic fantasy place to take their minds away from problems. And that's precisely what we work so hard all year to provide."
Dan McCullough, who has owned the House of Torment in Austin, Texas, for nine years, and just launched a new haunt in San Antonio called The 13th Floor, concurs.
"Hollywood and video games are helping drive the phenomenon that has spiked interest in the horror genre," said McCullough. "In turn, the haunts are becoming more Hollywood-like with more spectacular effects with CGI, and creative illusions that create a buzz on social networks and generate more demand."
Professional operators like McCullough enjoy today's virtual benefits, as well. Owners from Philadelphia and Kansas City, to Atlanta and Austin, say website traffic and online ticket sales are higher than ever this season.
Ben Armstrong, owner of Netherworld Haunted Attractions in Atlanta, Georgia, tempers this year's positive early results with the fact that business at commercial haunts traditionally builds through Halloween. The real proof of a banner year will be seen in the remaining weeks, he said.