What is the biggest reason inspiring you to retu to the haunt industry?
When I closed my show in 2006, I had a couple of books and a second documentary in the works, as well as a new website and several other things I had planned on doing to complete Rocky Point’s and my legacy. We had not only been pioneers in many aspects of the haunt industry but there was an amazing story behind it all that I wanted to tell. I never got the chance before Disneyland hired me to build a big haunted attraction for them and then some major life events happened that took priority.
How do you define fear?
In the context of a haunted attraction, it is your job to identify those fears, to understand how fears are triggered in the brain and do your best to create environments and situations that play on every aspect of that. Like a really good film that sets you up for a scream, you have to be able to do that every 10 feet, over and over again. It’s a challenge. It’s a science. It takes a combination of many different elements and a great deal of skill to master the art of a great haunt experience.
What has been your greatest accomplishment?
I know how hard I worked for 20 years to create and build my business. It was successful on every level and in every aspect. I am so proud of the incredible results of my and my entire team’s efforts through those years. We did it without examples, industry, or social media. Haunted attractions weren’t popular and Halloween was barely celebrated outside the U.S., but in our last full season, we put through nearly 70,000 customers. There are few haunts today, with all the advantages, that are doing those numbers. But what I was, am, and will always be the most proud of and feel is my greatest accomplishment are the thousands of lives that were changed through our youth training programs.
What do you think it takes to succeed as a haunter?
First, a real reason for and a clear purpose behind what you’re doing, one that you can commit to, one that will remind you during all the hard days and nights, to keep going and that it’s worth it. Some may call that “passion,” but I think your purpose drives your passion. As much as I advocate plans and believe this is important to success, a deep desire and tenacious determination to succeed will be far more valuable in the end.
How do you think the haunt industry has changed?
Everything has gotten bigger, from the haunts themselves, to the sets and the props that fill them, to the marketing campaigns and the fact that the entire planet now celebrates Halloween, or at least is embracing some form of haunted attraction. And they’ve gotten better, much better, in every aspect. The culture has changed and I think the haunt industry has benefited greatly from that. It has grown, as the entire entertainment industry has embraced the genre of fear and horror. The introduction of social media opened the floodgates of opportunity for the haunt industry as it was uniquely positioned to benefit from its targeted market.
The business of fear has become “cool” and for those doing it right, very lucrative. Economics drives growth and there always was tremendous financial potential in the industry. The industry is becoming more legitimate, mainstream, and will continue to grow. What I think will bring the most “change” ultimately, is technology. I had several ideas when I was still in business, but the technology for them wasn’t anywhere near development. I’m watching it develop now.
What scares you?
What makes me scream, easily and every time, is a good startle, one that’s set up just right and then comes out of nowhere. It can even be right beside me, and I can know it’s coming, and I’ll still scream. It’s all in the set-up and the timing.
CYDNEY SHARES SEVEN HOT HAUNT TRENDS
- More gore, Lots more gore
- Some form of actor/patron contact
- Timed online ticketing
- Bigger sets, bigger props, lots of animatronics
- Non-profit partnerships
- Merchandise areas
- Escape rooms