Today, we’re visiting ScareUSA in two rivers to learn about their 10th season from John Schwarz Jr. ScareUSA is open November 4th and 5th so there’s still a chance for you to visit this year if you’re nearby. Follow along to our Hauntathon:...
Today, we’re visiting ScareUSA in two rivers to learn about their 10th season from John Schwarz Jr. ScareUSA is open November 4th and 5th so there’s still a chance for you to visit this year if you’re nearby. Follow along to our Hauntathon: https://linktr.ee/hauntedattractionnetwork
John Schwarz: My name is John Schwarz, I'm the owner of Scare USA Haunted Attraction located in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Join us this year for our 10th season of fear. The theme itself is just traditional Halloween, but it's got twists and turns, and on top of it all we integrated the building and the history of the building. So, you'll see a lot of pieces from the building inside of our sets. We have a very unique design.
John Schwarz: The way we have designed Scare USA is that the monsters actually have freedom, every single character has freedom. This is their chance to explore themselves, and this is how we develop our characters. So, while yeah, you'll be able to start from point A and go all the way to the exit, they may interact with you in such a way that they'll take you down a different pathway and just toy with you a little more, but it's part of the experience. The average walk-through time has been about 25 to 30 minutes, and like I say, this depends on how much the performers want to play around with you. We don't encourage running, but it's definitely an experience, so you could take your time.
Philip Hernandez: Can you give me an example of something that might happen at your haunt that is an example of this level of interaction you're talking about?
John Schwarz: So, part of the interactive experience that you will experience this year is things that we've done from the past. We used to do Christmas Rap when we had our Christmas haunts, so you may experience something like that. We also have the touch, so sometimes to get out of a room you may have to touch certain things, whether it be buttons or just objects that the performers are having you do. It's all about yourself, but you may also get candy, prizes, or goodies along the way, just something physical to bring home other than just the general haunt experience.
Philip Hernandez: But why is it important to you to develop custom costumes?
John Schwarz: The one thing that I've realized over my years of haunting is that you can give somebody a costume and say, "here you go. Here's this character." But in order for them to develop, I truly believe that if you tailor something around their personality that's just going to bring the best out of them. We have done that literally with every single character that we have, every person that's ever been part of this place. So, we'll invest into the masks, the costumes, makeup, everything, even to the prop or the enhancement to make their character work. It just brings their personality out, and it's up to the performer, then to the character, and they can morph it, they can change it, it can evolve over time, but it's all about their personality. To me that's what it's all about. You can bring that out of somebody, but sometimes just acting as a character, it feels forced, and we work with a lot of newbies, and we develop them, but we allow them to be themselves.
Philip Hernandez: Do you find, though, that the interactivity kills your throughput?
John Schwarz: Yeah, the balancing with the throughput, we understand that every 30 seconds, on average, is when we send the next group through, and it's in increments so we know how much time we have. The reason that we have this universal playground is because, sometimes groups are too fast, and sometimes they're too slow. So, we have troubleshooting hallways designated to the speed of the group, so that if you're too slow you'll still be able to experience the entire path, but if you're too fast we may take you down a different pathway so that you're more balanced that way, if that makes sense.
John Schwarz: It's very hard to explain the design, but it's pretty consistent as far as how many we let in at the same time. There's not much conga lining or bunching up, it's not a big sardine can like some of the mega haunts may end up experiencing. Over time, if it does become busier, they play a little less just so that everybody can have a balanced experience.
Philip Hernandez: For those that come multiple years, or that have come in previous years, just to clarify, can you run us through what you change every year?
John Schwarz: Every year we do change, I would say, about 50% of our sets and costumes. We're always enhancing our weak areas, but we just change up our sets. Last year we focused a lot on the outside, this year we focused heavily on the inside, and it's just extreme detail. I cannot elaborate how detailed Scare USA actually is this year. But you'll be able to see more air-powered props, but just the visual stuff, and the characters. Everything is just improving its quality, and I believe that's what everybody is going to notice. If you're a repeat customer, you're going to notice that the quality just keeps going up.
Philip Hernandez: Let's transition a little bit into the more industry business side of things, have you faced any challenges with your staffing this year?
John Schwarz: What's interesting, Philp, is that we are 100% volunteer based. It's unique in the sense that we have a smaller attraction. We had the opportunity to expand and get a really big warehouse at one point, but what we recognize is that staffing is actually an issue, this was before COVID happened. What I've noticed though is that if you have a good crew, and if they're coming to volunteer, they're doing it for themselves. We've built just a platform for these people to come, they grow, and they develop, they evolve.
John Schwarz: That's what we want. That's what I want all the volunteers to do. That's what I want everybody to do, which is important also with character development, is that you give them that platform to develop and to evolve. It's not just that, but we also give them opportunities to connect with people in the community. We have resources that they can use from Scare USA to connect them to jobs, schools, anything, and we'll do everything we can to help the group. We have an internal care program that focuses on taking care of ourselves first, and then from there, we'll also take care of the community.
Philip Hernandez: Have you needed to raise your ticket prices this year or do anything like that because of inflation?
John Schwarz: We did raise our fast pass and we added the NOW pass to our offers for ticketing, just to make up a little bit for the loss. We raised our prices a few years ago because we forecasted what was coming, but our merchandise, all the add-ons, have gone up in price. That is due to the demand, we're anticipating record-breaking numbers. yet again. We're excited, very excited to see where this goes.