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April 21, 2023

Killer Advice from the HAA’s 5 newest board members

The Haunted Attraction Association (HAA) has five new board members, each with a unique specialty. We'll hear from each.

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The Haunted Attraction Association (HAA) has five new board members, each with a unique specialty. Today, each new board member shares advice that you can use to ensure this season will be your best yet.

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Tyler Kozar: My name is Tyler Kozar, I am the COO of Hundred Acres Manor in Pittsburgh, PA, and co-owner of Mortem Manor, which is a year-round attraction in Orlando, FL. Also, co-owner of Post-Mortem Horror Boutique, and the manager for Nether Craft, which is now NCB Creative Vacuum.

Philip Hernandez: You definitely sit at the intersection between, not just haunted attractions, but vendors, as well as with the horror boutique talking to really more of the mainstream audiences. So, you definitely have that viewpoint on the customer experience. I wanted to ask you about that, can you tell me, what do you think is the biggest misconception that haunters have about the customer experience?

Tyler Kozar: So, I think customer experience always gets pushed to the wayside, we always build the biggest sets. the coolest things. and put them in our haunted house, but we don't think about... The customer experience starts when they first see your first ad. So, they see your ad on social media or wherever you're advertising, and that's when they first get engaged with your brand. So, the experience starts at that moment, and you have to carry that experience to the moment they park, to the moment they buy a ticket, to the moment they stand in line when they walk through, and then when they exit. But when they exit that customer experience continues. So, even when they get home, is it a follow-up e-mail? You have to think about it from the very start to the very end, and I think most haunts think about it as, "Oh, the experience is when they walk through my haunted house and get scared." It's a lot more than just them walking through and getting scared in your haunt.

Philip Hernandez: Can you give us some examples of that?

Tyler Kozar: If your website isn't simple for somebody to buy a ticket, they might not buy in advance, they might be showing up at your gate. Then, when they show up at your gate, if you don't have the Internet or card readers to check them out, that is all part of it. Imagine showing up at Disney and they're like, "Oh, you have your tickets? We don't have anywhere for you to park, so why don't you just go down the road a little bit and walk 5 miles to the gate?" You have to think about how they get into your place, how they're exiting your place, it's all part of it.

Philip Hernandez: What is something that someone could do to get started on thinking about this? Because it's hard to then break yourself out of that mindset and be like, what if I was someone who had never been here before?

Tyler Kozar: Talk to your staff. Talk to your actors. Chances are, your actors attended your haunted house before they signed up to be an actor. So, ask them about their experience, and then look at your senior management, your senior staff. Everyone comes from a different background. So, for example, the guy who does our parking at Hundred Acres, he works for a large venue here in Pittsburgh that the Penguins play at and all that, and he ushers people. So, he understands large volumes in moving people and dealing with the general public. So, look at your staff as a starting point.

Philip Hernandez: The first touch point is the entry-level positions, they're the people that usually receive the first complaints from guests, right?

Tyler Kozar: That's exactly it. Your parking people are going to hear about how confused people were finding you, or how hard it was to buy a ticket. Then your ticket booth people are going to hear about, "Oh, I couldn't buy my ticket online because of this reason or that reason." So, your staff hears everything before he even circles back to you as an owner or manager. It all stems from those people first.

Philip Hernandez: You mentioned the marketing as well as a piece of that, and I know that we hear all the time, "carry your story through your marketing," but I don't think that's not really what you're talking about. Is it more like if people are asking you questions in your Instagram DM that you're answering them?

Tyler Kozar: That's exactly it, answer the DMs. Then, yeah, you want to carry this continuous story, but also answer some of the questions people have just with a simple post of, "We are open, rain or shine." You can break your story a little bit just to let people know "Yes, we are open rain or shine." Or if something major happens in your community, put out a post updating them about it. Get involved with people outside of just, "Oh, we're going to scare you and get you out our door."

Philip Hernandez: Can you give me maybe one or two examples of something, in any of your businesses, that you have changed that has really made the customer experience better?

Tyler Kozar: We really do care about what our customers have to. We would stand out in the parking lot as managers and we'll hear people like, "I don't know where to go." We've learned, oh we have to put a person here standing. But the biggest thing is, that person can't be dressed in all black, they can't just be wearing a branded hoodie, we actually handed them traffic wands and light-up vests, because 90% of your people at your attraction are wearing black clothing, they're wearing spooky stuff. So, we learned, "I didn't see anybody to help me find a ticket." Now you can't miss the person standing there with a blinky vest on with a blinky wand, directing you where to go. It seems silly. It seems like one of those things that you want the front of your attraction to be all part of the experience. You got to break that a little bit to help people find where they need to go.

Philip Hernandez: What is something that you wish you knew when you were first starting in this industry?

Tyler Kozar: I wish I knew how complex it was, in a way. Vendors do their best to get products out as quickly as possible, but we hit delays the same as the haunt who are building hit delays. People need to be understanding with one another and work together to come up with solutions. I think that is what I've learned, is how complex it is, because there are very few hunts who are making their own animatronics, making their own everything from start to finish. We all rely on other people to help us get products.

Philip Hernandez: What do you think is the barrier to that working together?

Tyler Kozar: I think it's education. I think asking vendors, "Are you importing your products from another country? Are you producing your own products?" Then understanding what that means. If someone says, "Oh yeah, I import all of my fabric for my costumes," you, as somebody purchasing that, need to understand that a cargo ship can get lost at sea, and now your stuff is delayed six more weeks. You need to understand how the whole ecosystem works behind, if you produce everything yourself, you might be paying a higher price if everything is made and not imported in. So, you need to understand what that means for your business, and also what that means for their business too. That's not saying you shouldn't get things imported. One of our businesses, Post-Mortem, every vendor we buy from, everything we produce, a lot of it is overseas. So, you have to understand how that all works together.


Shalee Mudgett: My name is Shalee Mudgett and I am an owner/operator of the Fear PDX in Portland, OR, and RCFX, which is formerly known as RIP City FX, a Special Effects makeup and set design. 

Philip Hernandez: So, you're joining the board directors at the Haunted Attraction Association. Not only are you a woman owner, but also you have that background in the vending space and that's pretty unique. What is the opportunity here that you think to change the culture for women in the industry? Is that something you're thinking about and what do you think the opportunity is there?

Shalee Mudgett: That is one of my goals, yes, absolutely. Because, not necessarily only in this industry, but just astigmatism worldwide is that you don't see a lot of prominent women-owned establishments in particularly any industry. Not that I've ever really felt it in this industry, but just the stigmatism nationwide is showing women that you can succeed in a male-dominated industry and the haunted attraction industry is a male-dominated industry. It is 100%. I have never felt disrespected by any male in the industry, but it's nice to show females that you can come into a male-dominated industry, and get respected, and be seen as an equal.

Philip Hernandez: What do you think is the biggest misconception that haunters have when it comes to hiring, payroll, and staffing?

Shalee Mudgett: A lot of misconception is they're going to do one-and-done hiring. They're going to have tryouts and hire at the beginning of the season, and they're going to have those actors the entire season, and it's going to be great. Here to tell you, no it's not. It is difficult. You have to hire throughout the whole entire season. So, not getting into that mindset of, "Oh it's a one-and-done. This is a breeze. I'm going to audition 100 people, we're going to keep 70 of them, and I'm going to have all season." No, you're not. By the end of the season, if you do not continually audition and bring new people in, you're probably going to end up with 20 by the end of the season.

Philip Hernandez: From our perspective as industry insiders, or people who are passionate about it, we love haunted attractions. It's everything that we do, it's our life, but the odds are most of those people do not want to do haunted houses as their career. So, how can we make the jobs more appealing so that we can get in enough people to run our haunts?

Shalee Mudgett: A lot of this is the people in the community that do have those little quirks that they're like, "I'm not accepted anywhere. I'm going to go do this instead." The haunted attraction industry embraces those kinds of people because they're the ones that produce the best scares. So, making it more of a family environment, but obviously still keeping it professional, but then also supporting your actors, doing team building, doing potluck dinners every Friday or every Saturday, throwing award banquet type things at the end of the season with ScareIt Badges and stuff like that where you get different badges for your actors. That's what those seasoned actors are going to bring in, that new blood of being like, "Hey, this is what we do at our attraction. This is how they support me. This is what they do. We have so much fun." Just making it a professional fun environment to keep those people around.

Philip Hernandez: It sounds like you're saying a lot of things to do to acknowledge the work that they were doing.

Shalee Mudgett: Their hard work, because you are not an attraction without them, you can't run it on your own. You can't be in 50 scare positions at once, you are not going to have an attraction without them.

Philip Hernandez: Can you give me an example?

Shalee Mudgett: Just really acknowledging what they did well. We're just constantly walking the grounds, checking in with people, "Hey, what did you like?" Just keeping that information and sharing it with management staff so it can be brought out. A lot of it is in those first moments before we open, during stretching and stuff like that. It's, "Hey, last week this group of people said actor X did great," and just really acknowledging them in front of everybody, just bringing it to light, and just hyping them up basically.

Philip Hernandez: We've heard a lot of haunts talk about trying to move more into year-round operations. A big reason for that is because it allows them to keep a year-round cast. Do you think that should be the goal? Or what is the long-term solution to this?

Shalee Mudgett: If your market can support it, absolutely, I think it is a good idea for the simple fact that with us we do have those offseason events, but it's not enough to carry those employment records into the next season. So, it's every season we have to fill out new paperwork, get new I-9s, file new taxes, stuff like that. If your market can support it, it would be beneficial to keep a good core on. It's going to be a little bit lighter on them and less upkeep on paperwork and stuff like that.

Philip Hernandez: One of the most popular questions that we get asked, we hear this a lot, is if a haunt is running as a volunteer, how do they transition, and should they transition into paying their team?

Shalee Mudgett: It's really hit or miss on your market. If everybody in your area is a volunteer, if you've got a good basis that you constantly have a good turnout on that, great, if that works for you. In today's day and age, a lot of people don't want to volunteer for things, they don't want to do something unless they're getting paid. That's hard. So, transitioning from a volunteer to a paid attraction, it's hard, it's difficult. I did a lot of it on my own, lot of stumbling blocks, lot of research, making sure you know your laws, what paperwork you have to file, what paperwork you have to keep on hand, for how long you have to keep it on hand. Once one big haunt in your area goes paid, you're eventually going to have to go paid as well because you're not going to have those volunteers. I want to say we were one of the first in our area to go paid, and it forced a lot of other attractions in the area, whether they were big or smaller or whatnot. They were losing their actors because they were getting paid. So, it changed the tables here for that. But if you don't put in your time, you don't put in your work, and you don't put in your research, unless you pay some service to come in and do it all for you... I mean, let's be honest, unless you have a huge chunk of change to be doing that it's not feasible, especially if you are trying to transition from a volunteer to a paid haunt, because you aren't going to have that overhead capital to help with that.


Mike Quill: My name is Mike Quill, I run two attractions up here in Massachusetts. One is called Fear Town Haunted House, and the other is Factory of Terror. I started Fear Town Haunted House in 2013, that is a temporary setup, we started super small, but it's grown to be a multi-attraction event now; we have three haunted houses and a midway. It's all set up then take down. So, we're very familiar with the temporary setup, takedown procedure, and all that. Then in 2020, we were able to purchase an existing attraction called Factory of Terror in Fall River, MA. That opened in 1996, so it's been a longstanding attraction in our market that's an indoor warehouse-style attraction, about 20,000 square feet. So, we have both ends of the spectrum between the two of them now.

Philip Hernandez: The goal for most people is to get a building, because then you don't have to tear up and tear down, and your costs are amortized over long time. So, tell me a little bit about that and maybe some of the misconceptions people have about that.

Mike Quill: Location is everything with haunted houses. We're picking great location that has parking, it's close off the highway, and also we have enough space. It's a great atmosphere; New England in the fall time, being outside. The downside is we have to set it up and take it down every year. On the positive end that gives us a clean slate to completely redesign from year to year. So, that's something we love to do on the creative end, totally have a blank slate that we can make it a completely different experience year to year. Now having a permanent setup with Factory of Terror, something we're learning is, there we can build sets that are going to be there for several years, whereas at Fear Town we know every year we can revamp it, see what works, what doesn't work. So, really that that comes down to location and we have a great spot there and that's something that we try and take advantage of.

Philip Hernandez: So do you think when someone is trying to decide between transitioning to a permanent setup, or keeping it a temporary setup, you think it's mainly the location?

Mike Quill: Exactly, and I would say in almost every case, it's ideal to have a permanent setup, but a lot of times if you can get a good a much better location that you have to do temporarily, you have to jump at that. That's what we did, and eleven years later we're still doing it, and we've learned a lot along the way on how to do it, how to not do it.

Philip Hernandez: Did you have an aha moment that has really improved your operations, or your process, or some way that you have made it to be a little bit easier to do? Because it's a lot of work.

Mike Quill: Yes, that's the understatement of the century. Yeah, it sounds stupid, but forklifts. In recent years we've started renting one, and now we design to make sure things are forkliftable. To make that a big facade, we can put up a second story and forklift that. Now we think back being like, "How did we do this with my pickup truck?" We have hundreds and probably thousands of wall panels that we're unloading and eventually reloading, but we used to do that all by hand into a truck and put it out. Now, we work a bit smarter with forkliftable stuff, and that makes our lives a lot easier.

Philip Hernandez: What do you think is a big misconception that people have about the temporary installations?

Mike Quill: There's a couple of things in that regard where, it's a lot easier to get help in terms of staffing for build crew on the front end because there's your people and everyone's excited to build and you're building towards something. It's a little more difficult after the season where you peak at the end of the season, everyone's tired from a long season, and it's a lot more difficult to have a strong crew because it's just as much work on the back end. The other big thing is that the average customer doesn't know and doesn't care that you're a temporary setup, they're just caring about their experience. So, whether I know how much more work it is to set up our attraction, than a permanent install that can tweak some scenes and put the lights on in September, but that doesn't matter. Customers are paying money to come through our show, it needs to be as good as, if not better than, any other show. The average customer just doesn't care that we're temporary. That's a logistic thing for us to figure out. So, even though it's way more work, and there are a lot more challenges, you got to roll with it and make sure you still put out a great show. It doesn't matter to the average person.


Brett Molitor: I am Brett Molitor from Huntington IN, near Fort Wayne, and I have Hysterium Haunted Asylum and Hysterium Escapes. I used to be an electrician for General Motors and retired a year ago.

Philip Hernandez: You were previously on the board. You, of course, were a previous President, and now you're coming back to the board. Where do you see the opportunities for HAA right now?

Brett Molitor: HAA is getting a lot of new enthusiasm in the last couple of years with Spencer's 2.0 plan that get more involvement from the board members, more involvement from the people on committees, getting more publicity out to send the haunts in the last couple of years. On the top haunts, we sent out press releases to local media that we solicited from those haunts. So, not only was there a national campaign that we were paying for, but we did the local media that was highly received. A lot of the haunts saw a lot more publicity from it, from our perspective, talks about safety and good business and stuff like that, in the press releases that go to local. So, a lot of the haunts are getting questions about safety, and it's always on everybody's mind, especially with everything going on. 

Brett Molitor: Another aspect that I feel I can help out with and I've got a lot of experience with is the CHAOS Training. The CHAOS Program is evolving, and it's been a slow process, but the certificates now are only valid for three years. The recertification process is going online this year. We're getting ready to get that active so people can recertify without having to attend the full 8 hours in-person. Crowd Control is a big thing, and child safety is constantly valuable, background checks became a big one this year. There were several haunts around the country that ended up having some bad publicity because they hadn't done background checks. Some of the hunts have been doing it for a long time, and some have weapons checks, that type of thing. We used to not worry about who was outside the door other than, "Hey, we got a big crowd. There's a whole bunch of people there. Isn't that exciting?" Now, we have to worry about if something happens and that crowd starts trying to disperse, what did we do to help set that up so that they can go safely?

Philip Hernandez: Do you think that safety is the largest challenge facing haunted attractions this season?

Brett Molitor: The big challenge is, are you up to date? Is your staff up to date? Are you doing drills? Remember when you were a kid, you always did the fire drill, "this is so boring and we always walk out in a line and stuff." Well, we all know how to do it. At my haunt, we do it every week. We come up with a different time, we don't announce it, it just happens. We've done it 10 minutes before we open one time. We block one of the exits, I have 7 exits plus the garage door on my building, so we have lots of exits. We already block one of the exits, and they have to use their alternative exit. Once the season, we block every exit and see what happens. You get new actors every year, so you have to constantly do that. A couple of years ago we had a deaf actor, we did a drill, and that deaf actor got left behind in the building. You can learn 911 very easy. So, that's now become part of our training orientation with all the actors. So, they all know that if there are staff or customers that are hearing impaired, they know how to say 911 and kind of gesture follow me, and we're always on this stuff.


Kevin Donovan: My name is Kevin. I own a small holiday attraction up in Western New York called EverHaunt, I also have a day job where I oversee a company up near Washington, DC, that's most of my life during the week and then the weekends are the haunt, which is great. I live in Buffalo, and have a wonderful wife and a beautiful 4-year-old daughter. So, I'm living a good life right now.

Philip Hernandez: I know having the perspective of you being in the haunt side, but also in the large company side, leadership has been a big focus for you. Why should haunt owners care about leadership?

Kevin Donovan: I think that leadership is the most important part of any high-level role of somebody leading a company. If you could create a culture that is about your team and serving them, I'm a firm believer and it's worked for me my entire life, that everything else falls into place. If you could create an environment where people want to be there, have fun, feel like they matter, and they do matter, have ideas, they're engaged, they want to make a difference with you, everything else, in my opinion, does fall into place. I learned that before the haunt industry, before I ever got into it. I was taking care of your people, servant leadership, now, is a big thing that's come around over the years, but for the last 15-20 years that's what I focused on. What I've noticed is, in the haunt industry, it's even that much more important to take care of your people and make sure that the culture is a strong one that puts them first, not you, not your money, not anything like that, it's about the people. And your customers, obviously, and your guests, but anyways, the leadership is so important.

Philip Hernandez: From your perspective, what does culture actually mean in a haunt capacity?

Kevin Donovan: To me, again, it goes back to having a heart. I know that sounds like a weird thing to say, but if you walk in or go to an orientation of our haunt, or walk in the back rooms, there are giant pictures of all of us together and there's this culture of family. It means more than any dollar coming through the door. Look, at the end of the day, we know that's important, we have to do that to make sure we have the place. But at the end of the day, if you could create a family that truly cares about each other, that truly buys into what you're doing, and truly feels like they're making a difference, or are part of something bigger, then that's a culture that I think people want to be in. If you look at our retention rates from our first year, my guess is 85% of those people are still with us. We very rarely lose people, you create that environment where people want to be, are having fun, and you're letting them be themselves, that's truly, in my opinion, what a great culture is about.

Philip Hernandez: How do you know when you might have room to improve your culture?

Kevin Donovan: I don't think back to the haunt much in this regard, but I worked for a company, many years ago, where you come in and the culture is the team members are wore down, they're beat up, they feel like they're not appreciated, and so on and so forth. You can tell pretty quickly, just by if the team is happy or not, if they're laughing, if you walk around and they're having a good time and they enjoy being there. We've had to go into some buildings and turned some pretty bad cultures around that were quite toxic, and the managers truly weren't doing it other than for a paycheck. There's an old way of management, it's the old iron fist management, and that might have worked 20-25 years ago, but the world's changed, people have changed, and you need to change with those times. If you don't, unfortunately, you're going to lose people, they're going to go work somewhere else, going to go do something else. So, it's always about, I'll say it again, the firm belief that if you put people first then everything else falls into place.

Philip Hernandez: So, if an owner is listening and they're thinking, "How do I start?"

Kevin Donovan: Honestly, this is going to sound silly, but the first step is getting to know everybody on your team inside now. Not just through the interview process. OK, so I met Jim in the interview process, he told me that he loves haunted houses and he can do this and that. But no, it's what makes that person go. You should be able to look at anybody on your team at any point and know what makes them happiest, and what makes them snap out of a mood, or they're in a rough mood. 

Kevin Donovan: I know it's so basic, but you get to know every single person inside and out, and that, to me, is the first step of creating a culture where those people matter first, and they are the most important thing. By the way, this isn't always rainbows and butterflies. You might have somebody who doesn't work, and I always say that you have to do your best to make that person part of the team, but if it's not going to work, one person could always also sink a ship. You know what I mean? So, there's a lot of that as well. You really have to create a team where everybody is there for each other, and if someone's not, unfortunately, you have to deal with that.

Philip Hernandez: I think haunts, once again, it's a little bit different challenge because so many of them are seasonal and the staffing is so fast, you're hiring so many seasonal employees. How do you balance these two things? How do you balance trying to learn that about every person, but you're having to hire 500 people that only are going to work with you for two months?

Kevin Donovan: So, I'm fortunate, I don't have 500 people, I don't have 100 people. I'm lucky a little bit there. Some of these big haunts, obviously, you're going to have to get like-minded leaders that are speaking the same language that you speak. I think you could do a lot through the interview process, a lot through the orientation and onboarding processes that you have. Literally, we set this culture up in our orientation. So, "This is how we are. This is how it's going to be. This is how this is, what our building believes in." We set that up from the beginning. Obviously, with us, we've been fortunate to have the same many of the same people year after year, which makes it easy. Usually, there's five or ten people that circle in and circle out, but that's about it. But as far as the bigger haunt owners, I would just make sure your executive team is on the same page, that has the same vision that you have, and you break it down a little bit further so that way it's not you against 500 people. You mentioned the short time frame of being seasonal employees. I don't think that matters one bit. Just think that team members are people who come to work at haunts just like anybody who works in full-time. Everyone's working a job. The seasonality of it, maybe that's even easier to create a culture that is better, because maybe they're not expecting that.


Philip Hernandez: Finally, I asked each new board member what advice they'd give to a younger haunter trying to make a career in haunted attractions.

Tyler Kozar: You have to plan for what's your end goal. For Hundred Acres Manor, it started as a 501c3. With Ted and Bill, who started it, they thought, "Oh, we're only going to put through 100 people and donate $100 to charity." Today it's $2.8 million to Pittsburgh Charities donated. It's where do you see your business growing? Where do you see it ending? I think that's all things you have to consider. If you're starting a nonprofit to raise money in your backyard, how much money are you trying to raise? How many people are you trying to put through? How are you going to achieve that goal? It's hard to say when is a good time to know your end goal, but I think it's something you need to think about from the start. Do I want this to always be a nonprofit and grow into a for-profit? Do I always want to be a brick-and-mortar store or do I want to grow it? Have a thought in the back of your head of, "OK, if this does take off, what's the next step? What's our next plan?" And then if it doesn't work, what are you going to do" Are you, "OK, my haunts not growing that much. Am I going partner with the haunt next to me? We expand our shows and we join up?" If you're experiencing the pain, chances are the person right next to you are too. So, is it working together to create a unique experience that people can do both haunts in one night?

Shalee Mudgett: There are those one-offs that, they decide they want to do this and they're successful out of the gate, but that's maybe going to be 5 out of 100 people. So, knowing that you're going to stumble, you're going to have a hard time, and know there's going to be stumbling blocks and don't give up. Where you start doesn't matter, where you came from doesn't matter. It's your dedication, your drive, and your passion about what you want to do and where you want to see yourself, and never giving up. That's like the women in the industry. You've got to have that drive, you've got to have that grit, you've got to have that determination. You are going to get knocked out. You are going to get knocked on your butt. It's a matter of getting knocked down 9 times and getting up 10.

Mike Quill: This was my dream as a kid, to run a haunted house, as weird as that is. But how much you can learn from other people, we're super lucky that this industry with things like the Haunted Attraction Network and information is out there. People are so willing to share things, and a lot you can learn just from working in the industry. You're not going to get, probably, paid a ton, but if you can just get involved, the information and lessons you'll learn, and if this is something you want to continue on doing. You can learn so much, and there's nothing like just learning on working in an attraction, and seeing how things actually are, but it's very eye-opening. I knew I wanted to do this and it was, "Do I get a real job for a while and try and then get into it?" I was just terrified that I was going to get you comfortable in that life and not go towards my passion. It's not ideal in a lot of ways, but I just went into it, kind of head first, as much as I could. It's such a great industry to learn from other people that it's great to be able to take advantage of that.

Brett Molitor: Follow your passion, if it's acting, learning acting, if it's makeup, learn makeup, and that's going in early, learning with the makeup people, attending the training sessions, going to the different Cons and the different shows, doing that type of stuff. Then, at some point, if you decide you want to become a manager or an owner, then, get involved that way and find out what you need to do; learn budgets, learn staff management, learn customer service, and start slow. I did a corn maze for a few years and every year we got bigger and better every year, it's very easy on the budget that way, and you keep reinvesting in the business. If you try to do everything like Disney World all at once, it's pretty tough, that's a high fail rate. But if you start slow and start small, and build from there, and you might only have a show that's a few minutes long or a few dollars, but every year you keep getting bigger and more complicated, that's the way to grow.

Kevin Donovan: Obviously, go out and learn before you do it. Before we opened up, I traveled, this is not an exaggeration, 170,000 miles. I met haunt owners across the country, I got to learn from people like Bill at Fear Fest in Missouri, his haunt was Necropolis, it's great. Matt at Pennhurst, Rich at Brighton Asylum, and Brent at Planet Doom, and so many. I would say network, get to know some haunt owners, get some experience, start to learn that stuff, but also, more importantly, take your time. 

Kevin Donovan: There's a lot of unexpected things that come up. You think you're going to make money in three years, it's going to be five years or make sure that you're able to do that. If you budget X amount of dollars, whatever that is, budget another 50% more, because the things that come up that we didn't know were going to come up... Haunt owners prepared us, they said, "Oh, expect the unexpected, because it's going to happen." I said, "Oh no, I got this. I've run businesses for a long time. I'm going to be fine. I got this all on paper. I have my 10,000, my 5,000 plan." Sure enough, they were 100% right. We ended up having to, in some ways, take from X to pay Y because we weren't expecting that. So, if you're not going to be able to, in the haunt industry, go from A-Z. You're going to go all over the place, you know what I mean? My advice is, take your time, expect the unexpected, and make sure you get out and learn from some people that have done it before.


Kevin DonovanProfile Photo

Kevin Donovan

Owner, EverHaunt

Kevin’s love for haunted houses started in childhood. A love that led him to travel over 170,000 miles to nearly 30 states gathering props and learning from some of the top haunted attractions. Five years later, with dozens of charities, and tens of thousands of happy (and scared) guests, his attraction is still growing each year. Aside from the haunt, he has over 25 years of successful business experience and currently leads a large company of over 250 team members and $30 million in revenue. He truly enjoys the training, development, and servant leadership aspect of it all.

Mike QuillProfile Photo

Mike Quill

Owner, Fear Town / Factory of Terror

Mike has been an avid home haunter and haunted house enthusiast since he was 13. Through various home haunt events and decades of research in his youth, later earning his BS in Business Management in 2012 and completing an internship at HAuNTcon he felt ready to take the plunge into operating an attraction in the industry he loved. In 2013, he opened Fear Town Haunted House in Seekonk, MA, as an outdoor trail through the woods. In 2020 he purchased the well-known Factory of Terror in Fall River, MA, and runs both shows with his year-round staff.

Tyler KozarProfile Photo

Tyler Kozar

Owner, Hundred Acres Manor / Mortem Manor

Tyler is the COO of Hundred Acres Manor Haunted Attraction (PA) and co-owner of the year-round Mortem Manor Haunted Attraction (FL). He also assisted the design & management team who built the first haunted house (Hysteria) in the Dubai Mall, UAE. He is also the Operations Manager of NCV Creative / NetherCraft vacuform and Post Mortem Horror Bootique. Tyler is excited to provide a voice for haunted attractions with various attendance levels and vendors in the industry.

Brett MolitorProfile Photo

Brett Molitor

Owner, Hysterium Escapes

Brett has been part of the haunted house industry since 1986 in Huntington, IN, while starting off assisting the local Jaycees with their chapter event. Since then, he’s owned several attractions (Haunted Cave, Hysterium Haunted Asylum, and Haunted Hotel -13th floor) and operates Hysterium Escape Rooms. He has served as H.A.A. President and Secretary, board chair of the C.H.A.O.S. Safety Program, and co-chair of the H.A.A. Auction. He continues to assist with many of the day-to-day tasks of the Association and keeps busy during his retirement from General Motors.

Shalee MudgettProfile Photo

Shalee Mudgett

Owner, The Fear PDX / RCFX

Shalee has an extensive history within the industry, owning a Haunted House (The Fear PDX) and RCFX (formerly R.I.P. City FX), an SFX Makeup and set design company that vends at various Conventions. She manages unique holiday horror events year-round and visits conventions nationwide, vending her unique products. Shalee has supported H.A.A. for over a decade and believes in the power of collaboration, change, and networking and is thrilled to be joining the board to represent other women of the industry who own businesses and make this industry what it is today.