The Haunted Hotel: The Story of a Haunt Masterpiece
By Todd Moore
Edited By Noah, Creator & Webmaster
A small hotel in the outskirts of Louisville breathes terror from the moment you lay eyes on it. Rather you stay for a visit or run in fear the living nightmare that is The Haunted Hotel will never leave your restless mind. You may check in, but you won’t check out.
Lets hear from Todd Moore, the Inn Reaper and one of the masterminds behind The Haunted Hotel you see today.
Haunted Hotel has been around for around 20 years. Two Hollywood special effects guys from California opened it in conjunction with WQMF radio station. They worked on the film American Werewolf in London. The radio station got away from sponsoring haunted events and more about selling them radio commercials.
The two original creators sold the event to the person who owned Industrial Nightmare in Indiana. He owned it for about seven years and had my partner run it. My partner Terry Campbell was frustrated about the partnership. The previous owner would not put any money into the event.
By that time he owned Nightmare Forest, Haunted Hotel, Industrial Nightmare, Nightmare Run and Danger Run. The Haunted Hotel wasn’t the biggest money maker so it got neglected. My sister had worked the ticket booth in the two previous years so I had an idea about how many people came through.
My sister introduced my to Terry and we hit it off pretty well. We started negotiating in May for me to buy out his partner. He strung us out until August 30th. We had (3) weeks until the house had to be open and it was a wreck. There was water damage from a leaking roof, someone had broken in and stolen all the stereo equipment and we hadn’t ordered any props.
My partner Terry Campbell, myself and 2 dedicated haunted hotel workers Nick and Van worked our ass off 12-16 hours a day for these 3 weeks. We ordered one prop that could get there in time. It was the bum puker that pukes in the barrel. This was the first year of our partnership and we had a great year.
I knew nothing of the haunted house business but I loved the type of business. It’s kind of like being an artist with doing haunted houses , but different in these ways. The art has to be functional, durable, realistic and gory. It not only has to be appealing to the eye, but it has to mix perfectly with sound and music to give the overall effect.
Haunted Houses have come a long way since the Jaycees were doing them for charity. I believe you have to change 50-60% or more depending on your size every year. The better the scene the more reason to change it. The bigger the prop the less you can use it. We spend anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 a year on new props and automation. The better your event is the more you have to out do it the next year.
We try to lay our haunted house out for flow. We try to run groups of six though every 2 minutes. We like chainsaws. Our actors have to be off the charts and part crazy. We are a small house so we have to get you at every corner. We like to use programmable logic controllers and photo-eyes in every scene.
You can have a great actor and a great scene, but you have to make things jump, go dark, clang and light up to grab the patrons attention to give the actor the best chance to do his work. To pay for an event like this you have to move people through. This is why I mentioned flow.
Our actors are trained to scare forward. This is one reason I don’t like mazes in the beginning or middle of a house. A maze tends to create bottlenecks and groups get caught up with each other. The next thing you know you have 20 people in one scene and the actor can do very little. A haunted house has to be designed up front for how many people are going to be in the group and if you exceed this, the scare had less of an effect.
My experience has been in assembly line manufacturing. If Ford or Toyota can run 500 cars through an assembly line in 8 hours without breaking down then why can’t we. So we build for durability; we use the same materials for mechanical and electrical in every room. This way when something breaks down it is not an old ball part and in the long run The Haunted Hotel will outlast other haunts in the area.