Haunted house operators have ghastly amounts of stuff to store, so it would seem they’d make great self-storage tenants. But it turns out some of their storage practices are downright scary.
Once Halloween is over, it’s common for haunted house owners to rent or buy used semi truck trailers or shipping containers to hold their stuff, said Stan Jung, a conceptual engineer based in St. Louis who has designed haunts all over the world.
However, there are some big problems with that strategy, Jung said. Because there’s no temperature control in the trailers or containers, expensive latex masks and other props break down quickly.
“They become almost like goo,” he said.
Haunt owners often buy used trailers or containers to save money, Jung said. Those trailers can have holes and gaps that allow insects and rodents to get in and eat away at props.
“They go to get their stuff out and they’ve got mice and rats jumping out at them,” Jung said. “It’s their first scare of the season.”
Monster of a problem
Storage problems can haunt haunted house owners, as Brad Leith found out during the 10 years he operated The Dunbar Haunted House in Vancouver, BC. At first he ran the haunt out of his own home using a crawl space to store his costumes, machines and props. But then his haunted house took on a life of its own. “It grew rapidly,” he said.
By the time the haunted house had been operating for nearly a decade, Leith’s stuff filled nine storage units at different storage facilities all over the city, costing him tens of thousands of dollars a year.
“Storage was the biggest expense by far,” Leith said.
Devil in the details
Items he kept in storage units included: an enormous hairy werewolf with blood dripping from its fangs that took up the whole bed of Leith’s pickup truck, evil clown masks and about 150 figures that looked like “corpses, frozen bodies and hanging bodies.”
Aside from the expense of renting the storage units – which eventually drove Leith to buy a warehouse that served as both storage and haunted house venue – Leith’s biggest problem was logistics. Before Halloween, he’d make multiple trips to different storage units, hunting for different props, working on them, and putting them back in storage. Leith said that logistics were a real nightmare.
Shift to ownership
There’s one group of haunted house owners who do not need to rent storage space: those who own or rent permanent locations, according to Leonard Pickel.
Pickel runs Hauntrepreneurs, a consulting company that brokers the sales of used haunted houses, haunted hayrides and props.
See more stats about Halloween in the U.S.
As haunted houses become bigger moneymakers, it’s become less common for owners to run temporary haunted houses that move from year to year, Pickel said.
In fact, about 65 percent of haunted houses are located in permanent spaces that can be used as storage for props in the off season.
Haunted house operators with temporary spaces can make good self-storage tenants, Pickel said. They operate out of their homes or lease vacant space when they are open for business.
Even haunted house operators who use semi trailers for the bulk of their stuff – say, fake stone walls and plywood partitions – could save money by renting a climate-controlled self-storage unit, or several, to store delicate items. An average haunt owner might need one 10 x 20 foot unit for fragile items, while a large haunted house might need double that, according to Pickel.
Protecting their investment
Many haunt operators waste money ruining expensive props with less-than-optimal storage, according to Jung.
“Climate control is very important for the longevity of props,” Jung said.
Pickel said an average haunt could lose $10,000 a year in ruined props. Even dust can ruin masks.
Want to attract haunted house owners to your self-storage facility? Here are three tips:
- Track them down. Hunt for prospective tenants by going to FindaHaunt.com and entering your zip code. Consider offering a 9- or 10-month storage package at a discount for the owners of haunted houses,.
- Haunt them around Halloween. Haunt owners start thinking about storage toward the end of October, Pickel said. Try picking up the phone on weekday morning early in the week, and you’re likely to catch the owner at a less busy time.
- Provide a safe haven. If you have climate-controlled units, emphasize the benefits of storing latex, silicone and expensive animatronic devices away from the horrifying temperature extremes of the summer and winter and safe from hungry critters.
One amateur haunt owner, Matt Champneys, who runs Haunted Halloween Lair, a free haunt in Spanish Fork, UT, rents a storage unit where he keeps props including a creepy old organ and a giant fake pirate ship with a hole blown in the side that he uses as an entryway to his haunt. When you have that much stuff, self-storage is a great solution, Champneys said.
“I’d recommend it for any haunter,” he said.