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How to Start a Haunted Attraction

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

How to Start a Haunted Attraction

Fast Facts

Investment range

$101,300 - $303,300

Revenue potential

$400,000 - $800,000 p.a.

Time to build

6 – 12 months

Profit potential

$120,000 - $240,000 p.a.

Industry trend




How to Start a Haunted Attraction

Many Americans are adrenaline junkies and love the thrill of going to haunted attractions to be spooked by zombies and other frightening sights and sounds. In fact, it’s estimated that haunted attraction ticket sales range from $300 million to $500 million each year. 

If you want to get in on the action, you could rent a vacant building or barn and start your own haunted attraction. 

But before you start buying costumes and makeup, you’ll need to understand the business. Luckily this step-by-step guide has you covered with all the information you need to scare up a successful haunted attraction.

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

Pros and cons


  • Get creative and have fun
  • Good profit potential
  • Only work on it a few months a year


  • Seasonal business
  • Takes capital to get started

Haunted attraction industry trends

Industry size and growth

It’s estimated that U.S. ticket sales for haunted attractions range from $300 million to $500 million per year.((https://www.americahaunts.com/ah/facts/#:~:text=Haunted%20House%20Industry%20Financials,that%20operate%20a%20haunted%20event.))

Trends and challenges


  • Virtual and augmented reality are being more frequently used in haunted attractions.
  • Fantasy haunted houses with dragons and other mythical creatures have started popping up.


  • Safety is always a risk at haunted attractions, which creates liability.
  • Many state and local governments have started to impose stringent regulations on haunted attractions.
Haunted Attraction trends and challenges

How much does it cost to start a haunted attraction business?

Startup costs for a haunted attraction can vary greatly based on the property you rent and the extent of your setup. Costs could range from $100,000 for a smaller property and set up to $300,000 or more if you rent a large facility such as an old prison. 

You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your haunted attraction business, including: 

  • Costumes
  • Makeup such as fake blood
  • Lighting, such as strobe lights, and sound equipment
  • Props
Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$100 - $500$300
Business licenses and permits$100 - $300$200
Website$500 - $1,000$750
Property rental $20,000 - $100,000$60,000
Set up of the property$50,000 - $150,000$100,000
Budget for actors and operating costs$30,000 - $50,000$40,000
Sales and marketing budget$500 - $1,000$750
Total$101,300 - $303,300$202,300

How much can you earn from a haunted attraction business?

Haunted attractions usually charge around $40 for admission per person. Your profit margin after the costs of overhead and actors should be about 30%.

In your first year or two, you might have 10,000 visitors a season, bringing in $400,000 in revenue. This would mean $120,000 in profit, assuming that 30% margin. 

As you gain traction, you might double those numbers and get 20,000 visitors. With annual revenue of $800,000, you’d make a tidy profit of $240,000. Not bad for a seasonal business!

Haunted Attraction earning forecast

What barriers to entry are there?

There are a few barriers to entry for a haunted attraction. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • Finding a suitable property to rent
  • Funding the startup costs

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Step 2: Hone Your Idea

develop a business idea

Now that you know what’s involved in starting a haunted attraction, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market. 

Market research could give you the upper hand even if you’ve got the perfect product. Conducting robust market research is crucial, as it will help you better understand your customers, your competitors, and the broader business landscape.

Analyze your competitors 

Research haunted attractions to examine their design, price points, and customer reviews.

  • Make a list of haunted attractions that offer similar services. 
  • Review your competitors’ services – their features, pricing, and quality – and marketing strategies.
  • Check out their online reviews and ratings on Google, Yelp, and Facebook to get an idea of what their customers like and dislike.
  • Identify your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. 

This should identify areas where you can strengthen your business and gain a competitive edge to make better business decisions.

Here’s a list of some of the most popular haunted attractions across US:

  1. Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia: A former prison reputed to be haunted, now offers “Terror Behind the Walls” tours.
  2. Queen Mary, Long Beach: A historic ocean liner that’s now a hotel, renowned for its reported paranormal activities.
  3. The Stanley Hotel, Colorado: Inspired Stephen King’s “The Shining” and offers ghost tours due to its haunted reputation.
  4. Waverly Hills Sanatorium, Kentucky: Once a tuberculosis hospital, it’s now known for ghostly apparitions and tours.
  5. The Amityville Horror House, New York: Famous from the horror book and film, this house’s alleged hauntings stem from a tragic real-life event.
  6. Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, Massachusetts: Site of the infamous Borden family murders, guests can stay and experience its eerie history.
  7. The Winchester Mystery House, California: Built by the widow of the inventor of the Winchester rifle, its design is said to be inspired by spirits.

Why? Identify an opportunity

You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a haunted forest attraction or a haunted house with advanced special effects.

You might consider targeting a niche, such as haunted hayrides.

Here are the most popular haunted attractions:

  1. Haunted Houses: Traditional walk-through attractions where guests encounter various scary scenes and actors.
  2. Haunted Trails or Forests: Outdoor paths through woods or fields with spooky settings and live actors.
  3. Haunted Hayrides: Tractor-pulled rides where guests experience scenes of horror and live actors throughout a journey.
  4. Haunted Corn Mazes: Large cornfields transformed into puzzling mazes with frightening surprises.
  5. Zombie Paintball or Laser Tag: Guests try to “survive” by “shooting” actors dressed as zombies.
  6. Escape Rooms with Horror Themes: Teams work together to solve puzzles and escape a scary scenario.
  7. Ghost Tours: Guided tours, often in historically haunted locations, sharing tales of real-life hauntings and mysteries.
  8. Interactive Horror Theatrical Experiences: Guests become part of a narrative, sometimes making decisions that change the outcome.
  9. Haunted Amusement Parks: Regular theme parks transformed with scary themes, rides, and actors.
  10. Pop-up Haunted Attractions: Temporary installations in urban areas, like haunted bars or immersive horror experiences.

What? Determine your services

Your services are essentially to scare people. You’ll need to come up with a design for your attraction and a script for your actors and how they should do things like jump scares, or act like someone with a mental disease or a monster.

How much should you charge for haunted attraction admission?

Your prices should be based on the prices of similar attractions, but also on your operating costs.

Once you know your costs, use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

Your target market will tend to be younger, so you should market on TikTok and Instagram.

Where? Choose a haunted attraction location

You’ll need to rent a property for your attraction. Choosing a location for a haunted attraction involves considering several key factors to ensure success and safety:

  1. Audience Demographics: Research the demographics of your target audience in the area. A location with a younger population might be more receptive to intense scares, while a family-oriented area might prefer milder attractions.
  2. Visibility and Accessibility: Your location should be easy to find and accessible. Being near major highways or roads can increase traffic to your attraction.
  3. Size and Layout: The property should be large enough to accommodate your attraction, parking, and any auxiliary spaces like ticket booths or concession stands.
  4. Zoning and Regulations: Check local zoning laws and building codes. Some areas might prohibit certain types of attractions, or there might be strict safety codes in place.
  5. Safety: Ensure the location is safe for both employees and visitors. This includes stable structures, clear pathways, emergency exits, and adequate lighting.
  6. Historical or Local Significance: If the location has its own haunted history or significance to the local community, it can be a big draw.
  7. Infrastructure: Check the availability of utilities such as electricity, water, and sewage. These are essential for most attractions.
  8. Community Relations: Gauge the sentiments of the local community. Some neighborhoods may welcome such an attraction, while others may oppose it. Building a good relationship with locals can be beneficial.
Haunted Attraction business idea rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Haunted Attraction Name

Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “haunted house” or “haunted prison”, boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Specter Spectrum” or “Haunt Horizons” over “Ghostly Galleries” or “Phantom Factory”
  • Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
  • Use online tools like the Step by Step Business Name Generator. Just type in a few keywords and hit “generate” and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead and reserve your business name with your state, start the trademark registration process, and complete your domain registration and social media account creation. 

Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick a name, reserve it and start with the branding, it’s hard to switch to a new name. So be sure to carefully consider your choice before moving forward. 

Step 4: Create a Haunted Attraction Business Plan

Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:

  • Executive Summary: Brief overview of the entire business plan; should be written after the plan is complete.
  • Business Overview: Overview of the company, vision, mission, ownership, and corporate goals.
  • Product and Services: Describe your offerings in detail.
  • Market Analysis: Assess market trends such as variations in demand and prospects for growth, and do a SWOT analysis.
  • Competitive Analysis: Analyze main competitors, assessing their strengths and weaknesses, and create a list of the advantages of your services.
  • Sales and Marketing: Examine your companies’ unique selling propositions (USPs) and develop sales, marketing, and promotional strategies.
  • Management Team: Overview of management team, detailing their roles and professional background, along with a corporate hierarchy.
  • Operations Plan: Your company’s operational plan includes procurement, office location, key assets and equipment, and other logistical details.
  • Financial Plan: Three years of financial planning, including startup costs, break-even analysis, profit and loss estimates, cash flow, and balance sheet.
  • Appendix: Include any additional financial or business-related documents.
what to include in a business plan

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to haunted attractions. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state. 

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your haunted attraction will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts. Here’s how to form an LLC.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation. Read how to start a corporation here.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
types of business structures

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have. 

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Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

  • Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a haunted attraction business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept.  

types of business financing

Step 8: Apply for Business Licenses and Permits

Business Licenses and Permits

Starting a haunted attraction business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your haunted attraction business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account. 

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.
types of business insurance

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

Launching a Business

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.  

You may want to use industry-specific software, such as VenueMagic, or HauntPay, to manage your ticketing, merchandise, and payments. 


  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.

Create a website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism. You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

Your customers are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. SEO will help your website appear closer to the top in relevant search results, a crucial element for increasing sales. 

Make sure that you optimize calls to action on your website. Experiment with text, color, size, and position of calls to action such as “Buy Tickets Now”. This can sharply increase purchases.

Online Marketing

Some of your business will come from the casual passerby or online visitors, but you should still invest in digital marketing! Getting the word out is especially important for new businesses, as it’ll boost customer and brand awareness. 

Here are some powerful digital marketing strategies for small businesses: 

  • Social media is a great tool for promoting your business because you can create engaging posts that advertise your products:
    • Facebook: Great platform for paid advertising, allows you to target specific demographics, like men under age 50 in the Cleveland area. 
    • Instagram: Same benefits as Facebook but with different target audiences. It’s a very good platform for creative businesses. 
    • TikTok: This social media platform has over 1 billion monthly active users and it is used primarily by a younger demographic.
  • Google and Yelp: For businesses that rely on local clientele, getting listed on Yelp and Google My Business can be crucial to generating awareness and customers.
  • Start a blog – Start a blog and post regularly. Change up your content and share on multiple sites.
  • Paid ads on social media – Choose sites that will reach your target market and do targeted ads.
  • Payper-click marketing – Use Google AdWords to perform better in searches. Research your keywords first.
  • Influencer marketing – Pay people with large social media followings to promote your haunted attraction. You can find micro-influencers with smaller followings and lower rates.
  • Post a video – Post a video about your haunted attraction. Use humor and maybe it will go viral!

Take advantage of your website, social media presence and real-life activities to increase awareness of your offerings and build your brand. 

Traditional Marketing

Traditional marketing is any form of marketing that uses offline media to reach an audience. Some options that might work for a haunted attraction business include: 

  • Signage – Put up eye-catching signage at your attraction and website 
  • Flyering – Distribute flyers in your neighborhood
  • Billboards Repeat exposure to a business message

Focus on USPs

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your haunted attraction meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your haunted attraction business could be:

  • Offering a truly immersive and spine-chilling haunted experience that transports visitors into a world of fear and adrenaline.
  • Catering to different scare preferences by offering options for both mild and extreme experiences, ensuring everyone can find their comfort level and enjoy the attraction.
  • Engaging multiple senses through atmospheric lighting, haunting soundscapes, eerie scents, and tactile elements to intensify the frightful atmosphere.
unique selling proposition


You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a haunted attraction business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in haunted attractions for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in haunted attractions. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. 

Step 12: Build Your Team

Building a Team for a New Business

If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a haunted attraction business include:

  • Ticket takers – sell and take tickets
  • Actors – perform in the haunted attraction
  • Marketing lead – create and implement marketing strategies

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. 

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent. 

Step 13: Run a Haunted Attraction – Start Making Money!

Running a Business

Are you ready to scare people and make some money?  Starting a haunted attraction could be a fun endeavor that could bring in a lot of profit in just a short time every year. You get to be creative and design your spooky attraction any way that you choose.

Now that you understand the business, it’s time to start your haunted attraction and scare up some cash!

Haunted Attraction Business FAQs

Is a haunted attraction profitable?

A well-executed and popular haunted attraction can be profitable. The profitability of a haunted attraction depends on factors such as location, visitor demand, marketing effectiveness, operational costs, ticket pricing, and visitor capacity. Additionally, offering unique and captivating experiences, securing sponsorships or partnerships, and implementing effective revenue streams such as merchandise sales and concessions can contribute to profitability.

What happens during a typical day at a haunted attraction?

During a typical day at a haunted attraction, various activities take place to ensure a seamless and terrifying experience for visitors. These activities may include setting up and testing scare elements, applying makeup and costumes for scare actors, conducting safety checks, managing ticket sales and entrance queues, coordinating timed entry for groups, monitoring crowd flow and visitor safety, maintaining the haunted environments, and addressing visitor inquiries or concerns.

What is the growth potential of a haunted attraction?

The growth potential of a haunted attraction can be significant, especially with the increasing popularity of immersive entertainment experiences. By continuously refreshing and innovating the scares, storylines, and immersive elements, a haunted attraction can attract new visitors and retain a loyal customer base. Expanding marketing efforts, introducing new themed experiences or special events, and building a strong brand presence can contribute to growth potential.

What type of business is a haunted attraction?

A haunted attraction typically falls under the category of entertainment and hospitality businesses. It can be structured as a standalone business or as part of a larger entertainment complex.