On September 24th, day 24 of the 61-day Hauntathon, Tyler with teams Zombillies and Scarefactor.com is at Land Of Illusion located in Middletown, Ohio, talking with the owner, Brett Oakley. Today they discuss some of the issues of scalability for larger haunt events, how Land Of Illusion retains actors, and what to expect for the 2021 season. Land Of Illusion scored an 8.14/10 for their review on Scarefactor.com, to read more click here.
What Is Land Of Illusion?
Originally known as The Middletown Haunted Trail, the Land of Illusion Haunted Scream Park is a one of a kind celebration of terror – featuring four fear filled, bone chilling, blood curdling, mind blowing, haunted attractions including the haunted hospital. Open just two corpse-cold months a year, The Land of Illusion is Ohio’s premier horror fest.
Buy Tickets Here for Friday or Saturday through October 30th
- Friday/Saturday General Admission -$50.00
- Friday/ Saturday General + Fast pass-$75.00
- Friday/Saturday 1 Attraction-$25.00
- Haunt Family of 4 Season Pass-$299.00
- Haunt General Admission Season Pass-$99.00
- Haunt VIP Season Pass + Fast Pass-$199.00
Where Land Of Illusions Started And How They Scaled Up
Brett: We started out with Middletown Haunted Trail originally, and then we went from there into a complete park. The problem with any place when you get this much overhead, you have to expand. We went to a water park, and then we added a Christmas event. You start fighting that scalability on, how do I get to that next step? So, there’s a lot of repercussions that come with every step that we take. A lot of people don’t understand, it is about the customer one way or the other. So how do you put on a safe haunted house at the same time you try to put a decent show on? It’s a challenge for all haunted houses in today’s world.
Probably one of the biggest things that I think really helped us is, you’ve got to remember that getting them into a haunted house is just one piece of it. How do you add more things for more experiences? I think the customers are looking for that. I think it’s a big mistake when you don’t add more too, thinking away from the haunted house, think of The Sweet Tooth (Land Of Illusion’s new Donut Shop), think of the other things, that’s a big piece of advice I think a lot of haunted houses need to look at.
Tyler: What year is this for you guys? How long has it been going since the start of the Middletown Trail?
Brett: 25 years. Yeah, been a long time.
Setting Land Of Illusion Up For 2021 With Presale Tickets And Dates
Tyler: Did guys find if you needed to add or cut any nights this year? Or you try to stick with the same number of weekends?
Brett: We shifted a little bit, the biggest thing we’re trying to do is look at numbers. When you get a park of this magnitude, it’s totally a different animal on, what’s it takes to get to the next level? So, with Land Of Illusion, I’ve never taken 1 penny out of the park, I’ve never taken one paycheck, and I’ve been doing this 25 years. Every dime goes back in the park, and that’s the only way we can get it. You don’t get a lot of people that’ll do this, but that’s why we keep fueling this park. So, this year we set 1.4 million in the park with Aqua Adventures, some things in the haunt, but everything is just so expensive to get to that next level it’s a nightmare
Tyler: Did you guys do any ticket presale this year?
Brett: You know we did some we, we do it more with Aqua stuff, we haven’t done a lot on the haunt. I think that with COVID and everything going on, nobody really knows what’s going on and when it’s going on. So, I think it’s held back on some of the presale tickets. I’ve not pushed it really hard.
Tyler: Would you say that ticket sales are pretty well on trend to meet your goals this year?
Brett: Yeah, absolutely. You know we had a great weekend so far. Good kick start, hopefully we can keep the weather on everybody’s side. We’re happy with the improvements we’ve done. So, we think we’re heading in the right way.
Land Of Illusion Retains Actors By Treating Them Right
Tyler: Are you noticing any particular struggles this year compared to previous years as far as staffing? Like getting people in the door or incentivizing them to come work for you?
Brett: No, you know what I’m not following the trend of Corporate America. I think that trying to create a happy, humble group, but the haunted house industry is not about money. If the people that work in a haunted house or just here for the dollars to here for the wrong reasons. It’s about the camaraderie of your actors, it’s about, let’s be nice, let’s do something different.
It’s very difficult as you get bigger, but I’ve got to give a big pat on the back to a lot more managers; it’s not about me, it’s about them. They work throughout the year, creating schools, trying to work with the actors, and trying to build their foundations. But it’s about camaraderie, it’s about caring about people, and that’s the biggest message I can give to any haunted house. You’ve got to build that camaraderie to build your foundation.
Tyler: Totally agree, that’s something I have noticed here with you guys, you tend to let each house kind of run itself. Like each house has got its own managers and you give them a lot of creative freedom to make each show the best as it can be, is that right?
Brett: Absolutely. Every manager got their own ideas, their own character, and all we try to do is assist and give them some input. I think that’s what helps people buy in and engage to say, how do you scale? Without them, you can’t scale.
Tyler: Gotta have somebody help keep the gears turning for sure.
Brett: Yeah, there’s a lot to it, especially when you get to park this size. I’m just a firefighter, all I do is trying to put out the problems.
Policies For 2021 Health And Safety; Ready If Needed, And Those Continuing
Tyler: Are you putting any policies in place as far as requiring your workers to disclose any kind of vaccination status or anything like that?
Brett: You know what, we’re sitting back and sort of evaluating and watching things. We want people to be themselves, and I’m not going to climb in the political road being left or right, I’m going to be very neutral, and sort of let people do what they feel they need to do to be in their comfort zone. I think everybody has the right to sort of choose, and with that being said, I think that we’re all sort of just muddling down the road and saying, where are we going? Nobody knows in this country right now.
Tyler: Now, are you carrying over any of the COVID policies that we had in place last year? Like the sanitizing and the masks or anything like that?
Brett: Not a whole lot, but we have a lot of things outside. Again, we’re just trying to muddle down the road here.
Tyler: Are you guys prepared to make any big moves like that later on in the season if there are any mandates that come down or something?
Brett: Yeah, I think so. You know we can move pretty fast here. We’re not here to argue with people, we’re not here to fight people, we’re here to have a good time.