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Posted Date: 01/11/2016

Madworld Haunted Attractions Embrace the Insanity

Dorothy Creamer, Editor

One of America’s biggest haunted attractions, Madworld in Piedmont, SC, is everything haunt lovers have come to expect from premier productions of fear. Opened in 2011 by brothers, Joe and Tim Thompson, Madworld was bo from the influence and passion for all things horror and the desire to give the state of South Carolina a new, extremely entertaining park to give patrons a true taste of terror.

Today, the haunt consists of interactive rooms, dark woods, special effects, top notch actors, and escape room attractions. The creators stress however that Madworld is more than just a haunted house; it’s Halloween fun and entertainment at its finest!

“The haunt industry has always been a passion of ours and something we enjoy creating and doing very much,” Joe Thompson, co-owner, notes. Beyond that passion, however, Thompson is keenly aware that Madworld is also a business and he and his brother set out to make every year more engaging and thrilling for both a fresh crop of attendees as well as retuing guests.

With more than 20,000 patrons coming through the attraction every year, the Thompson brothers feel the pressure to plan an event every year that will exceed expectations. Planning for the upcoming season starts in early October, while still deeply entrenched in the current season. “We really dig down deep into set plans in December,” Thompson explains. “Construction starts in early January and set-up will take all year.”

To create the look of the haunt, the Thompsons and staff utilize a host of props and effects that are both purchased and their own creations. Thompson and the management team fly up to the Transworld Halloween & Attractions Show (HAAShow; www.haashow.com) every year to source for fresh props, in addition to attending local shows and “-Cons.”

“We do make our own things, and the items we buy we mostly find at the Transworld Halloween & Attractions Show,” he says. “We are particularly fond of the products from Gore Galore, FrightProps, VFX Creative Studios, Ghost Ride and Global Fear, just to name a few!”

 One of the things Thompson believes sets Madworld apart from other haunted attractions is its actors. “We have actor workshops and press them through a great deal of hard work prior to the season which leaves only the strong – mentally and physically – remaining to staff the haunt during the season.”

The employees that make it through that grueling training period – in 2015 the staff numbered 135 – are ready to bring to life the interactive story lines that the Thompsons take such pride in presenting year after year. Thompson also admits they pay great attention to costuming and makeup in order to further add to the quality of the show.
 
Since its humble beginnings, Thompson has seen his haunt become a bigger, better, more professional and more entertaining show. This has not been without its difficulties sometimes. “Everything is challenging in so many areas,” Thompson muses. “The greatest challenge I would say is execution of parts for actors. We pride ourselves on putting on a tremendous show, so we work very hard to train and find the right actors for the right spot.”

 To stay at the top of the competitive haunt game, Madworld has consistently grown and expanded its offering. This takes the shape of creating secondary attractions every year. A perennial favorite is a zombie shoot, but for the 2015 season, the Thompsons stepped into the increasingly popular world of the “Escape.”

Madworld Escape was a 45 minute experience to give guests the sensation of being trapped in a horror movie. The interactive option required attendees to form teams of eight to 12 people. The group would be “trapped” in a themed, highly realistic room. They would then have 45 minutes to escape. In order to do so, they had to work together as a team to explore the surroundings using instinct, logic and critical thinking to find passages, solve puzzles, crack codes and uncover hidden mysteries that ultimately could lead to their escape!
 
Also new for 2015, was Torment, a new haunt that challenged visitors to venture into their deepest, darkest nightmares and phobias. This attraction was a 40-minute self-guided walk, full of high intensity actors, live sets, and animatronics. The website offered a waing, “This is not for the faint of heart. Please enter with caution and discretion.”
 
“The way that you scare people has been one of the biggest changes in the haunt industry,” Thompson notes. “The methods and props to accomplish that has had to change along with it.”

The Madworld website was started along with the haunt’s inaugural year in 2011. A webmaster maintains and runs the website and changes things as needed. “We update things all the time,” Thompson states.

In addition to the website, Thompson also pays attention to social media which he sees as a small, but vital, avenue in the grand scheme of marketing for the haunt. “It’s important, but is not the big picture,” he says. “Our strategy is to push Madworld as much as we possibly can during the season and populate our sites.”

Thompson’s marketing mantra could be described as a boil-the-ocean approach. “I am a big believer in putting your name brand on anything and everything you can,” he explains. “The more people see you, the better you will be for it.” The location of Madworld plays into that tactic by having the good fortune to have an excellent spot right on a busy interstate which provides tons of traffic and exposure.

There is no rest for this haunt and its creators. When asked to reveal his goals for the haunt moving forward, Thompson said: “To become even better and bigger with awesome new things and scares that continue to keep our customers amazed and happy!”

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