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Posted Date: 01/11/2016

Haunted Attractions Feature the Best in Dread

Nightmare on 13th Haunted House,
Salt Lake City, Utah

THE HISTORY:  Owners Mike Henrie and Troy Barber found an ad in the paper about a haunted house for sale while looking to get into business together after college. “We put on our first haunted house in October of 1990,” Henrie recalls. “After 25 years together, this last June I bought Troy out of his interest in the business and now I am the sole owner.” Set on 13th South in Downtown Salt Lake City, the building has been transformed into a castle drawing the attention of passersby in the city, the busy street and the nearby freeway entrance and exit.

BIGGEST INDUSTRY CHANGE: “Through the years, you have been required to invest in your show more in order to justify your price and the expectation of the customer,” Henrie notes. “Thus haunted houses have tued from charity haunts to professional haunts. I think some of the new trends toward touching customers by having them sign waivers has us in the haunted house industry wondering why these torture chambers call themselves haunted houses. It seems these places are finding a niche to physically scare people without the effort and investment needed to put on a show that scares people without touching.  It is totally a different experience and they are hijacking the haunted house name.”

SCARE PHILOSOPHY: Nightmare on 13th focuses on the showmanship of haunts. One of the biggest changes the haunt has undergone is the creation of one of the industry’s best pre-shows. According to Henrie, “We are known throughout America for our animatronic and computer driven pre-show. It really has put us in the realm of Disneyland, at least that is what our customers say. We also have amazing sets and effects throughout the whole haunted house.” Henrie also reveals that his mission statement is to do all within his power to create an experience each year that the customer perceives afterward was worth more than the amount of their entrance fee.

GREATEST CHALLENGE: “CHANGE, CHANGE and CHANGE,” Henrie says. “It takes a lot of effort and money to effectively change your show and experience in order to have the expected number of customers each year. Those of us that do have been around for a long time, those that don’t, fail after a few years.” Henrie stresses that he and his crew toil during the off-season to at least change the haunt 60% each year.
NOTABLE INNOVATION: Electronic gadgets to give variety to the show, lasers, animatronics, LED lighting, video and projection mapping technology. As far as actors are conceed, the advent of the silicone mask was a big innovation.  

Tens of thousands, it varies year to year

THE HISTORY: The Haunted Hotel opened its doors in San Diego at 424 Market Street in 1993, the original Haunted Hotel opened in 1991 in Louisville, Kentucky. Greg DeFatta is co-owner of The Haunted Hotel Inc. in San Diego, which includes The Haunted Hotel downtown, The Haunted Trail of Balboa Park, The Scream Zone at Del Mar Fairgrounds, and Boomont Manor at Belmont Park. Haunted Hotel is a 140-year-old building in the historic Gaslamp district in downtown San Diego. The haunt’s theme is loosely based on the iconic horror characters and films.

BIGGEST INDUSTRY CHANGE: More amusement parks adding haunted themed events.

SCARE PHILOSOPHY: “We still believe that actors make the event and give it the true unpredictable scare; but in addition to actors, we have added numerous pneumatics and CGI effects,” DeFatta says.

GREATEST CHALLENGE:  Keeping good employees retuing year to year.

NOTABLE INNOVATION: “We love incorporating CGI effects that we create as well as the CGI produced by the industry.”

NUMBER OF GUESTS PER YEAR: 100,000+ across all attractions combined

THE HISTORY: The haunted house started in the fall of 1985 from a dare to enter the old farmhouse that is still used today. Tony Wohlgemuth, owner, uses the woods and co fields surrounding the original farmhouse to his advantage to create safe scares. “It’s hard to beat dense woods and 12-foot-high co fields covered in fog plus all original characters with movie quality sets across 60 acres,” Wohlgemuth says.

BIGGEST INDUSTRY CHANGE: The cost of labor and the technology used to create visual effects and the merging of video and air props.

SCARE PHILOSOPHY: Creating imaginative sets where people can get scared in a safe environment.


NUMBER OF GUESTS PER YEAR: Thousands and thousands of people each year.

THE HISTORY: Chris Stafford and Warren Conard had met while working as scare actors at a haunted house as teenagers. In 2002, they had an opportunity to open a commercial haunted house of their own and started The Asylum Haunted House (originally named The Nightmare Factory). “We loved haunted houses growing up and stayed involved in them throughout high school, college and early adulthood,” Stafford notes.  “Both of us have an entrepreneurial spirit, so it was just a natural progression to decide to incorporate our passion for haunted houses with our desire to own and operate a business.” The haunt is in a creepy industrial part of town, and the facade of the building at the front has a very institutional feel, lending itself to creating atmosphere for The Asylum.

BIGGEST INDUSTRY CHANGE: The level of production and performance quality has improved greatly over the years. “When we first got involved haunted houses were really just a lot of dark spaces with pop out and say boo type scares,” Stafford says. “The industry as a whole has really evolved and now provides really innovative forms of live entertainment.”

SCARE PHILOSOPHY: The Asylum Haunted House’s theme is just that, an abandoned Asylum.  It’s a home for the criminally insane, where forgotten souls, living and dead, still reside.  Additionally, there are two other attractions at The Asylum, Primitive Fear and Post Mortem. Primitive Fear has an apocalyptic cityscape theme, and Post Mortem has a medical research theme.  The three different themes are all wrapped around a central story. The goal is to provide customers with an escape from the day to day and give them a place to come with friends and celebrate Halloween in an extremely fun and entertaining way.

GREATEST CHALLENGE: Staffing. “We have a great group of core people who retu each year, but filling in the voids has become increasingly difficult,” Stafford states.

NOTABLE INNOVATION: Advances in online ticketing platforms and their integration into marketing platforms.

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