If it seems like there are more and more professionally produced haunted houses lately, you’re right, according to a recent New York Times feature. A nationwide network of professionals called “House Haunters”–small business owners and freelance contractors who design, build and put on these scaled-up versions of what used to be produced in the basement of your elementary school–has even been created.
This year, 31 million Americans plan to visit a haunted house, often paying from $15 to $30 each. Over the past decade, there has been an “upsizing of haunted houses … in the vein of ‘mega haunts’ like Netherworld in Atlanta and the Beast in Kansas City, Mo., which have elaborate sets and are staffed by actors and the prop and makeup artists who have found themselves out of work in a (computer-generated imagery) dominated Hollywood,” according to the Times.
Mr. Kopelman is a professional haunted house producer and designer, or “haunter” in industry parlance. He opened his first haunted house 30 years ago in Phoenix, and promoted it by driving a huge Frankenstein head around in a truck, making sure it broke down on the city’s busiest corner during rush hour. (“I read P. T. Barnum’s book,” he said.) In recent years, he has designed or promoted multiple “haunts” across the country every Halloween season. A genial, salt-and-pepper-haired man of 56 who lives in Houston, he isn’t a big fan of horror films or Goth culture — or, for that matter, dressing up on Halloween. He sees haunted houses as a profitable business, and likes the theatricality. “I always had the dream of producing movies,” he said. He was at the Fairplex to oversee construction of Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare, a collaboration with the rock musician and horror-film director, based on the gory Rob Zombie oeuvre. The production, Mr. Kopelman said, is the biggest of his career: a $2 million budget; three haunted houses encompassing 33,000 square feet; a “Bloody Boulevard” outdoors; and 150 employees, including three seamstresses and “a guy that shoots you with CO2 as you go through.”
Read the full story: “House Haunters” (NYTimes.com)