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Oct. 18, 2022

Day 48: Hush Haunted Attraction in Westland, MI

Day 48: Hush Haunted Attraction in Westland, MI

Hush Haunted Attraction in Westland, Michigan, has added three bars this year for its 10th anniversary. Two bars are hidden within the maze, and one is outside next to the cue line. Today, we’ll learn about the design and logistics of the bars from...


Hush Haunted Attraction in Westland, Michigan, has added three bars this year for its 10th anniversary. Two bars are hidden within the maze, and one is outside next to the cue line. Today, we’ll learn about the design and logistics of the bars from Founder Cody Bailey. Follow along to our Hauntathon: https://linktr.ee/hauntedattractionnetwork

Transcript

Cody Bailey: I'm Cody Bailey, the founder and owner of Hush Haunted Attraction in Westland, MI. Hush Haunted Attraction is a large indoor haunted house located in Michigan. First, you're going to begin in downtown Hush Falls, which is kind of a New Orleans-feeling downtown street area, and then you're going to make your way through three themed attractions; the sewers beneath Hush Falls, which also have a temple aspect this year, the New Orleans style above ground cemetery, and the Victorian Gothic mansion. 

Cody Bailey: Our main haunted house is 3 different zones, but it's a linear walk-through. It takes roughly 20 or 35 minutes to do that. If you have the bar pass, it can take a little bit longer. So for 2022, which is our 10th season in operation, inside the attractions we did some new scenes, mainly in the first zone, which is the Cambodian style, with a little bit of other influence, temple. We also did some other new scenes in the mansion, you know, bedrooms and other various things as well. So, there are several different new areas this year.

Philip Hernandez: And let's talk about the bars. You have 3 bars here, 2 that are hidden within the attraction itself and one that's outside. The bars are a new themed experience that you've never tried before, and that was kind of the big thing for this year. It's also a big factor in the renovations you did as well, right?

Cody Bailey: Yes, so yeah, for this year we added on the new secret bar program, which as you just mentioned, there are three different bars, two of which are hidden within the attraction walkthrough. The first, one kind of up near the New Orleans Hush Falls queue area. Yeah, a lot of our build time was devoted to building out the three different bars, they're fully immersive and themed out, and it's just a new experience, especially in this area.

Philip Hernandez: Tell me in depth about the bars. 

Cody Bailey: The first one is located in the Hush Falls area. That one is not a hidden bar per say, so it's kind of more like the VIP lounge where you start off your journey, and it is. fully theme to go with the New Orleans theme. Voodoo Blues is the name of the bar out there. Also, the drinks were focused based on New Orleans stuff. So, there's the Hurricane Jell-O shot, here to see a Frozen French 75, and a bourbon-based drink as well. So, then your next stop is going to be after the first zone, the first themed attraction there, which is the underneath the city temple section, and that's going to be called Base Camp. You actually enter that one through a large crate, like the archaeologists were packing up the artifacts from the temple, and then you kind of begin your journey through that bar. That one is a lot different than the first one and the third one because you stop off, grab your drink, and then you have to go on a little walk through, and then you go over to the actual encampment with the tents and artifacts and other stuff as well there. Your third stop is going to be the Von Rose Distillery, which is the, let's say, abandoned carriage house off the front of the mansion that was kind of taken over by a clan of vampires. So, you're going to have some interesting drinks there, especially one in there is going to have this one flower rim on it that's going to like numb your mouth, you're going to have a bunch of other crazy things that happen, but it also changes the entire drink experience. As well, yeah.

Philip Hernandez: So, to summarize, there are three bars in total, one outside, two inside, as guests are walking through, and each of them has two drinks that are themed to the area. They're all unique drinks that were designed by you guys, and they're all made in house, correct?

Cody Bailey: Yeah, every single drink is made here, and each bar has its own menu.

Philip Hernandez: Each bar has different design elements to it, right? In the first bar it's the VIP area, you can look out at the queue line. The second bar has an exploratory nature to that. So, talk a little bit about that.

Cody Bailey: Yeah, so as you said, the first one, there's various areas where the people in the bar are able to look out at the queue line, but also people in the queue line that didn't get access into the bars either via the Bar Creep Pass or getting a token gifted to them, get to see in there and I may be jealous if they're not in there, and hopefully entice them to come back and try it out next time. So, that's probably the unique part about that bar. 

Cody Bailey: Your next one, at Base Camp, it's more of an exploration which kind of plays into the whole theme of that bar anyways. So, you kind of just go on a journey, stop off at the bar, head through like the captain's cabin, and then head over to the tents and see all the different artifacts that have been collected from the dig site. The third one has some windows in it where you can actually see out into the cemetery attraction, which is the second themed area, and watch guests be scared, as well as scare them yourself by triggering some air cannons and some other effects as well.

Philip Hernandez: So, you're kind of experimenting with the three different versions, basically. One where it's outside the queue, so guests can sit in the Voodoo Blues Bar longer, because it's not in the middle of your throughput, so they can sit in there longer and they can still see people. The second one, of course, it's a little bit tighter in terms of throughput because it's in the middle of the maze, but it's broken up, there's an exploratory nature to it, and there's scenic and whatnot. The third one, of course, it's experimenting with the window and letting guests see into the maze.

Cody Bailey: Yeah, exactly.

Philip Hernandez: When did you start and what was the most important guest impact for you?

Cody Bailey: We really wanted to see where we had these spaces that were somewhat available, without taking away from the attraction too much to use, but also their location. So, for this first year, since it's something completely new for Michigan, having to find bars hidden inside an attraction, we wanted to put them at those transition points between the themes, just so it kind of helped. Next year, our fourth one will be much more hidden, and may involve secret bookcases you have to work your way through and other things like that. But yeah, we definitely want to use areas that were kind of underutilized beforehand, maybe they're just like really cool big set areas, but no one really walked through, they weren't scare zones. So, we're able to kind of convert those and still tie them into the overall design and layout and path without taking away from our guest experience on the regular attraction and not the bar run. 

Philip Hernandez: Let's talk about the logistics a little bit. 

Cody Bailey: The guests can purchase a Bar Creep Pass when they're buying their tickets or when they get here, that'll give them guaranteed access to all three bars. That's the safest bet to get in, because based on sales, we may not be able to do the next route. Which is, some of our actors and support staff that you interact with while you're in downtown Hush Falls, waiting to enter the actual attraction, can gift you a token which will get you access into one of the bars that that token is associated with. You still have to find it, you have no guaranteed access. Like, if you don't find it, you don't get to come back in and go through. People with the bar pass, we do make sure they get to go through all three bars. 

Philip Hernandez: One thing we didn't mention is that you also made keys that people can buy in each bar. So, tell us about that.

Cody Bailey: So, each bar has its own unique skeleton key that fits with its theme and branding. Our artists in-house did those, and we cast them every week to make sure we have enough to sell. The only way you can get those is by buying them inside each bar, so it's kind of a collectible thing. Voodoo Blues, which is the first stop, is going to have a cool skeleton-looking dude on the front and then it goes down into a skeleton key. So, that one, it's not simple at the top end, but it's simple at the bottom because it's just the skeleton key down there. Your second one, for Base Camp, because the temple is really heavy on this snake theming, so that key is actually a cobra, and the key part of it is the cobra's tail in a certain design there at the bottom. Then the last one, since it's an old carriage house but has the vampire aspect, your top is going to be a carriage wheel, and then the key parts are the vampire's teeth.

Philip Hernandez: So themed bars hidden within attractions are kind of relatively new to the haunt space, and I think you guys are the first in this area to be doing them, is that correct?

Cody Bailey: So, in our region especially they're really new. For the state we're the first, and I think there's one other one that started in the same Midwest region this year with us as well.

Philip Hernandez: Whenever you're kind of pioneering new spaces like this, there's a lot of guest training that needs to go into it because the guests have never experienced anything like this in this area. Talk to me a little bit about how that's been going and what you think you might need to adjust for the future years.

Cody Bailey: Yeah, it's each week has been a learning experience in terms of that, I would say 100%. That's, again, why I said we would put the bars at those transition points to make it, you know, this year is the training aspect to get guests accustomed to it. Then we're going to make it more hidden and different each season thereafter. Overall, I think it's gone pretty well. We find out what the hiccups are, and we adjust, and it's just a learning experience like everything else that's new.

Philip Hernandez: Which component do you think is working the best? You know, so if we have component A and Voodoo, which is that it's outside so you can fit more people, but you can still see. Or component B, which is the exploratory nature of Base Camp? Or component C, which is the window with the effect? Which do you think is getting the most engagement?

Cody Bailey: I think C, the carriage house with the guest interaction, seems to be the one that's getting the most engagement. Something that we've already learned that you mentioned, they have more time to hang out at Voodoo Blues, but we need to give them more stuff to do while they're there. So, we already had stages built into the bar, but we need to get more performers there to keep people engaged longer, which also helps spread out these bar groups entering. So, it helps the flow in the other two bars as well. On those peak nights, at the other two bars, we really have to try and get them in and out, which is just really getting them accustomed to that, but also getting our staff more forceful in handling that as well. Going about things that we've learned that seem to be working out really well, we actually offer an option at the first bar, they can buy a wristband, and pre-pay for a drink at each bar right there, so they don't have to have that extra time of cashing out at each stop after that. Kind of limits us from selling extras in the two interior bars, but they can buy more obviously in the first bar. But that seems to work out really well. 

Philip Hernandez: Demand-wise, for the bars, has it been what you anticipated so far? 

Cody Bailey: I would say it's at least been where I anticipated, if not a little bit more. We're probably seeing, depending on the night, upwards of 50% of regular guests going through or buying that bar pass on top a lot. So that's been really good. Obviously, on the busier nights, we can't sell that many, so it's more like in the 30-40%, but if we had the capacity to sell it, I think we would easily hit 50 or more.

Philip Hernandez: Do they get a separate queue when they buy the bar pass to enter? So, do they get a shorter line if they have a bar pass or it's the same line?

Cody Bailey: They do to an extent. There is a separate line when they exit, and the people that already prepaid for immediate admission, have their own line too when they're exiting the bar, so they really can get right back in. But the general admission, fast pass people are queued together after the bar, which is still probably faster than the general lines at this point.

Philip Hernandez: Tell me what you have planned for next year, not just about the bars but overall, in general, for the attraction.

Cody Bailey: Every year since we started this, ten seasons ago now, we've always done significant additions in terms of sets inside the attraction. We'll do that again next year. We'll do some just for Valentine's Day too, and then also we're going to add another bar next year or maybe a fifth. As the season goes on and we're reaching that halfway point about now, we're noticing sales are up not just because of bars, it's attendance in general plus that additional per guest spending, which is really the goal. I mean, just like Disney or Universal, they're focused on how you can spend more money while you're at their locations and that's what we're seeing with the bar pass, but also additional things with that, which are the souvenir photos they can get at the end, the special keys, and other merchandise. We're seeing significant increases across the board and all of that, on top of the bars.

Cody Bailey Profile Photo

Cody Bailey

CEO of Hush Haunted Attraction