ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – Haunted houses aren’t the small attractions at the local festival they were twenty years ago.
Nationally, the spooky attractions earn hundreds of millions of dollars every Halloween and have helped propel the holiday to the number two grossing season behind Christmas.
But the spooky attractions may also be a barometer of what’s going on in an economy haunted by months of unemployment and sagging retail sales.
“At the end of the day it’s still a business,” said Dan Hall, who runs the sprawling Boneyard Haunted House in an abandoned Sears store at Six Flags Mall in Arlington. “Even though it’s a fun business, you’ve got to watch every penny now and make sure you deliver the best product you can to the market.”
So what scares the owner of a haunted house? Well, a bad economy. “The last two or three years have been flat,” Hall said. “I would say we peaked in 2008.”
The economy scared people away from The Boneyard. “You just don’t have the money to spend, the discretional income, on entertainment be it a movie or going to a haunted house,” Hall said.
But this year attendance at The Boneyard is steadily climbing. Hall says falling gas prices are making a big difference. “Even if its just a psychological effect, at the end of the day on pay day if the family has a few dollars in their pocket they’re going to spend it on some form of entertainment,” Hall said.
And there’s one more factor. Hall says people are ready to escape the monotonous and vicious political season. And in the dark, disorienting corridors of a haunted attraction, there is no fear of what a November election will bring.
“I think most people are just ready for it to be over,” Hall said. “The Democrats want you to think your glass is half empty. The Republicans want you to believe your glass is half full. I think I’m like most Americans, I just want them to stop drinking out of my glass.”
If the haunted houses are a barometer Hall says the economy may be a little less frightening in coming months.
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