Haunted houses scare up business for the season
Rain and creepy clowns can’t dampen Michiganians’ passion for fear. Just ask southeast Michigan haunted house owners, who say their haunts have seen impressive attendance numbers during the first few weeks of the Halloween season.
“We’re up compared to last year,” said Jared Layman, owner of The Deadland haunted attraction in Warren. “We’re doing good.”
The haunted house industry is big business: It pulls in between $400 million and $500 million in ticket sales from over 16 million guests in the United States every year, according to the Haunted House Association, which represents some 2,000 ticketed attractions nationwide. And that’s not all: The National Retail Federation expects Americans to spend a record $8.4 billion on Halloween this year.
Ed Terebus, co-owner of the Erebus Haunted Attraction in Pontiac, estimates tens of thousands will pay for the privilege of being frightened at Erebus this season.
Erebus employs hundreds of actors, make-up artists, security guards and ticket-takers. Terebus estimates the operation at 18 S. Perry costs about $1,000 an hour to run during the peak season. “Operational costs are huge,” he said.
Erebus opened this year for its 17th season. Terebus, who runs the four-floor haunt he opened with his brother, Jim, in 1998, wouldn’t say how much money the operation pulls in every season, but he said the attraction does well enough that he and his team can work on the haunt year-round.
Visitors wander just under a half-mile through Erebus, which is contained within a warehouse nestled behind the Crofoot Ballroom in downtown Pontiac. From 2005 to 2009, it held the Guinness World Record for the largest walk-through haunted attraction.
“Halloween is the coolest holiday,” the 53-year-old said. “You don’t have to go visit nobody, you don’t have to buy presents for anybody. ... It’s one time you can just let it all out, man, be what you want and nobody’s going to say anything.”
Layman, 36, said The Deadland, a decade-old permanent attraction, brings in over six figures.
The attraction has started to make more money the last few years, he said, but he hasn’t quit his day job as an electronic technician.
“I got into it with the intention of making it a business,” he said. He expects to see more than 10,000 visitors this season, each of whom pay $15 to walk through the haunted house at 20900 Dequindre. Layman enlists around 25 volunteers as actors, and pays for security.
At Erebus, patrons shell out $23 for a weekday romp through the four-floor attraction, or $28 on Fridays and Saturdays. New this year is a $50 VIP ticket that allows visitors to skip the typically two-and-a-half-hour line.
Their four-floor attraction is massive compared to the brothers’ first attraction in 1981 — a haunted trailer. Back then, they charged $1.50 per head. Each year, they added more trailers to their “haunt,” which moved around Metro Detroit every year. Eventually they went looking for a permanent location.
“It was a lot of work,” Terebus said, but buying a building and rebranding helped. Now, Terebus spends the off-season reconfiguring parts of the haunt and installing new scares.
Sometimes, he gets to put on a mask and revisit what got him in the business over three decades ago. “That’s why we started doing this,” he said. “You scare people for a living. Can it get better than that?”
Ken Evan, 53, co-owns Slaughterhouse Adventure and the Grand River Corn Maze at 5781 W. Grand River in Fowlerville. His business partner, 60-year-old Rick VanGilder, funds the operation.
The duo employs about 90 actors from local colleges and high schools for the season.
Their attractions cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to build, Evan said. Many of their props are made from VanGilder’s old farm equipment.
On a good day, Evan said the entire operation will make $3,000. The owners make a profit, he said, but it isn’t much.
Rain affects Evan’s business more than others, he said, because two of three attractions are outdoors.
But good crowds have still come through the indoor haunted house, he said, and he and VanGilder aren’t in it to make much money anyway.
“The (high school) kids have a job and you make some money,” he said, “but we’re having fun.”
If you go
The Deadland Haunted House
20900 Dequindre, Warren
Admission: $15; $22 fast pass to skip the line; $10 age 12 and under
Hours: Go to thedeadland.com
Erebus Haunted Attraction
18 S. Perry, Pontiac
Admission: $23 Monday-Thursday; $28 Friday-Saturday; $25 Sunday; $50 for VIP pass to skip the line
Hours: Go to hauntedpontiac.com/dates
781 W. Grand River, Fowlerville
Admission: $35 for haunted house, Grand River Corn Maze and haunted hayride; $15 for one attraction; $25 for two
Hours: Go to slaughterhouseadventure.com
34043 Ford, Westland
Admission: $18, $30-$45 VIP
Hours: Go to hushhauntedattractions.com
Scarefest Scream Park
34111 28 Mile, Lenox Township
Admission: $15 single attraction, packages and VIP tickets available
Hours: Go to scarefestscreampark.com.
SIN Haunted House
3131 Biddle, Wyandotte
Hours: Call (734) 288-7024
For more area haunted attractions, click here.