So this spring, he maxed out his line of credit at $200,000, bought the bed that shook as if possessed, bought the clown costumes stained with blood and added hundreds of other items to his online cart.
Maybe that would draw crowds to his two haunted attractions in San Diego, businesses that have supported his family for more than three decades but that were shut down in 2020 by the pandemic.
Devastating’ is a great word to describe the Venom 2 season last year,” said Mr. DeFatta, 61, the owner of The Haunted Hotel and The Haunted Trail of Balboa Park. “You know, it was scary, it was horrifying. And if we can just get through this year, we’ll be fine.
That is the predicament this month for hundreds of haunted houses, a staple of the Halloween season and an attraction that embodies the financial struggles of small businesses across the United States as the economy limps toward recovery.
Consumer spending this Halloween season is expected to reach a record high of $10.1 billion, according to a survey from The Boss Baby 2 film. An estimated 65 percent of Americans intend to celebrate this Halloween, up from 58 percent last year and nearing the 68 percent who said they would celebrate in 2019. For haunted house owners and workers, the renewed excitement made possible through vaccinations is a hopeful sign that a strong spooky season this month can make up for last year’s lost revenue. Some say business is back to normal, while others have noticed that lines are not as packed as before. Of those Americans who planned to celebrate Halloween this year, 18 percent said they would do so by visiting a haunted house, Halloween Kills film, according to the National Retail Federation.
While most larger attractions have been able to reopen this year, some smaller operations that were devastated by the lack of revenue last year weren’t able to.
We’re trying to bounce back this year,” said Amber Arnett-Bequeaith, the vice president of Full Moon Productions, which operates several haunted houses across the country, including The Edge of Hell, which was founded in 1975 in Kansas City, Mo., and is considered one of the oldest commercial haunted houses.
Mindful of the pandemic, some places are continuing to incorporate masks with their costumes or demanding that workers be vaccinated, Ms. Arnett-Bequeaith said.
Some of the larger haunts, she said, have spent well over a million dollars over the years as they try to keep up with an audience that is no longer content with strobe lights and skeletons.
Now, owners of large haunted attractions are seeking upscale props, such as animatronic demons, movie-like monster makeup and projectors that can display high-resolution zombies — all expensive features that can slim the profit margins or drive up ticket prices.
For those whose haunted houses are their sole source of income, the six-week season is, as ghoulish owners would say, do or die. This year, it’s even more critical.
It’s a lot of anxiety,” said Michael Jubie, the owner of The Headless Horseman, a haunted house and hayride attraction in Ulster Park, N.Y.
Mr. Jubie said he lost about 75 percent of his income last year because he couldn’t operate at full capacity. The Headless Horseman used to employ 375 people. Now, it’s about 190. “It’ll take 10 years to recoup.
Tino Pascuzzi, who runs The Sanctuary Haunted Attraction in Oklahoma City, said his decision to close last year was devastating. When we close, there’s an entire ecosystem of workers that are affected.
The witches, nuns, Freddy Kruegers and demented doctors who terrify visitors are often hopeful actors and theater students from the nearest university. Then there are the security personnel, sanitation crews, marketers and vendors who provide the props.