Surviving the Horrible Odds of Halloween Business

In "See what's killing haunted houses and other independent Halloween attractions," Los Angeles Times interviews several haunt luminaries (Melissa Carbone of the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride, Jeff Schiefelbein of the Sinister Pointe Haunted House) regarding the difficulties of turning a profit in a highly competitive, though lucrative, industry. Basically, high overhead (including insurance) cuts into profits, and safety regulations cut into the fun. A viable location is also a major challenge: finding one that's big enough, affordable, and isolated enough to not annoy neighbors is not always possible.

The article is interesting, but it is a little soft on details. Readers would never know that Hollywood, the Westside, and most of Los Angeles proper are virtually devoid of haunted attractions. The list of defunct haunts consists of minor league players, overlooking the demise of the Fright Fair Screamfest, the Old Town Haunt, and other major events that went extinct after establishing themselves for many years.

Most of all the article doesn't quite pinpoint what's happening: the middle is dropping out of the haunted house business. Halloween theme parks thrive, and so do home haunts. The attractions having a difficult time are mid-level haunts struggling to compete in a marketplace where customers can dump all their cash on the major attractions, then see lots of other fun stuff for free. The haunts that seem to be surviving are those that have found a special niche, such as the L.A. Haunted Hayride and Delusion: A Haunted Play (the later of which is not mentioned).

It may be a bit alarmist to call the situation dire, but the number of active haunted house attractions in Los Angeles has dropped noticeably this Halloween. Hopefully, this is just a temporary drip, not the beginning of an inevitable trend.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.