Dimensions of Darkness Haunted Attraction 2010 – 2012

In 2009, shortly after discovering HauntProject.com I met a person who equally shared my passion for haunted houses. As a matter of fact, her passion for the world of haunts was greater than mine.

After much discussion, we set out and built what became known as:

The work was much more than expected

During the 90s I spent much of the year thinking about and planning for the month of October. Much of my free time was spent working on projects in the garage. Back then the internet was not the tool it is today so visiting year-round costume shops was a weekend event.

The great thing about this time of year is there were lots of haunted houses. It seemed as though you could drive down the road and someone would have a haunt in their backyard. Garages, barns, green houses, vacant buildings, schools, you name it people were building haunted houses.

Then, at some point, they disappeared. What happened?

Well, it wasn’t until I set off in 2009 to build my haunt that I discovered the reason. That reason was government regulation. At some point (I’m not sure exactly what year) government started requiring permits and had to follow rules of what is called (in Ohio, where I am) “special amusement buildings”.

So regulations are fine but what happened is the fire code compliance made a haunt’s construction go through the roof. For example, in Ohio, if you have a haunt greater than 5000 sq ft the building has to have a fire suppression system. And if you are in a haunt smaller than 5000 square feet you will still need to have fire-treated lumber (which comes bright pink). The color is not the problem it is that a wall panel TRIPPLED in cost due to the fire treatment.

And just to let you know, all the vendors selling do-it-yourself chemicals should be telling you that your local enforcement will have to approve you doing the treatment of the products. My local governing body would not allow it. Too many people had tried to buy a container and say they treated everything but did not. So the inspection department required this treatment to be done by a “disinterested third party”.

So this is why it was a more challenging project than I thought. Just know, that if you choose to go pro, no one selling props or “how-tos” will tell you this information. It may be because they don’t want to discourage a sale or that they really don’t know what it takes to operate a haunt.

The Build

After the government thing was sorted out (PITA). The fun started!

Our concept was to have rooms decorated with unwanted items (aka: junk people were getting rid of). Products that were metal were the best (they don’t burn (see above)). We collected as much junk as we could.

The we I referenced was a core of three people and about 20 others who donated their time to make the vision come to life.

Our concept was to build a haunt that was the traditional maze, decorate the walls, and create some props. Due to our budget, we decided to be a live actor-based haunt. The fact we had so many people willing to volunteer helped. I know a lot of haunts have gone to mechanized props but you can’t beat live actors!

Build Videos

These videos were shot in 2010 during the first year of construction. Keep in mind the videographers are not professional and it was done at a time where the tools were not what they are today.

The Tear Out

The Basic Build

The Build Out

First Night

After The First Night

The Money

The first year I spent approximately $40,000 and brought in about $25,000 ($10 a ticket). Yep, you did the math right ( lost $15,000 the first year. The second and third years were just about break-even. Actually, they were a small loss, but not as much as the first year. Overall I spent about $20,000 over the 3 years to have a really good time.

Since we were collecting junk and using volunteer labor most of the money was spent on rent, advertising, and building materials. The building materials were both to create the structure and build props. This is where all the people who shared their creativity on HauntProject.com became instrumental in our success.

I say success not because it was a money-making venture. The success was measured in community, creativity and sharing our love with others.