By Ruth Ferguson
Some may be surprised that Halloween is second only to Christmas in terms of spending and sixth in overall holiday spending, according to the National Retail Federation. The jack-o-lanterns, candy and costumes appear on store shelves after Labor Day, contributing to the high volume of sales.
But Dan Hall, creator of The Boneyard Haunted House in Arlington, isn’t surprised. He said costumes bring back childhood memories for many, “Halloween is the only time of the year that everyone lets their guard down.”
Even with a weakened economy, Hall is not expecting a significant drop in attendance or on Halloween related spending. The Boneyard staff works closely with Halloween stores nationwide, and Hall said early polling indicates spending is right on track with last year.
And for Halloween decorators, Hall has a few tips for spending wisely. He suggests you first determine your target audience.
“Do you want little kids coming up to your front door to get candy? Then we still want to keep it fairly well lit and safe. So buy a blue or green light bulb, which will totally change the visual mood for just $2,” Hall said.
For more mood and atmosphere, Hall recommends searching online for free Halloween music to download. “Or, for nine dollars, you can purchase a CD with 25 tracks of spooky sounds, and set it up through speakers.” he added.
Although dry ice is hard to get, Hall said you can buy an ultra sonic water fogger at dollar stores.
Naturally, Hall believes the Boneyard is good value, considering everything that goes into making it the world’s largest haunted house and DFW’s top rated dark amusement park. Hall said they maintain their reputation by attention to detail and year-round preparation.
For lovers of a Halloween scare, limited lighting in the parking lot sets the eerie mood. And the experience just gets better with Boneyard’s blend of high-tech effects and good old-fashioned blood and guts scare tactics. The Boneyard has new scenes, animatronics and movie quality props.
18 year-old Cheridie, of Dallas, said the Boneyard is exciting. After her recent visit, she said, “As the night went on it kept getting better and better.” She added that she screamed throughout the show because actors popped out unexpectedly. Cheridie said she and her friends loved the maze, but they wondered if they would ever find their way out.
Hall said his customers’ expectations expand with the advancement of technology. Although it’s harder to impress guests, Hall said his team revels in the challenge. “Our customers are so much more sophisticated, making it harder to impress guests,” said Hall.
But as the technology advances, so do the possibilities for Hall’s team. That is why the team uses transparent technology. “The customers are not really aware of the technology, they are focused on the experience,” said Hall.
The Boneyard, which opened in 1998, has developed a loyal following. Hall said there are annual visitors who travel from Oklahoma and Louisiana. According to Hall they arrive on Friday and attend three consecutive nights. “That means a lot to me,” Hall said.
The facility also accommodates corporate and private events, such as team building staff retreats and company Halloween parties. Amenities include catering and multimedia capabilities, making it suitable for corporate board meetings.
And in his pursuit of the perfect Halloween park, “We have started on 2010 now – we try and get the 2009 show put to bed in August.” The staff orders new props and animatronics in March and April each year.
The program experience is re-examined annually to identify areas for updating. “Certain elements we retain, like the zombies, but we will change their location.” Changes are also made during the season if needed.
As a leader in the haunted house business, Hall hosts an open haunted house every June for operators around the country, with workshops on elements such as lighting. Full-time Boneyard staff members also attend tradeshows, and safety and crowd-control training.
Although Hall wants as many people as possible to visit the Boneyard, he said it isn’t designed for children under the age of 14, and especially not small children. “With the level we operate on, we do not recommend bringing small children because it is pretty intense,” said Hall.
Starting Thursday, October 22 through November 1, the Boneyard is open nightly 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Sunday – Thursday, and until midnight Fridays and Saturdays. The Boneyard Haunted House is located at 360 and Division in Arlington. For tickets and more information, visit the Boneyard’s website.
For safety tips and information on local activities community and church organizations are hosting as Halloween alternatives, download the 10-22-09 issue and read page 9.