How haunted houses became a booming billion-dollar industry.

It's time to carve your pumpkins. Get your spookiest outfit on. Scare the living daylights out of yourself by binge-watching horror movies. Because Halloween is here. 

In Australia, it's slowly but surely growing in popularity. But in America... it's not just a seasonal hobby. Oh no no. It's a lifestyle. And it's a billion-dollar industry that is absolutely BOOMING

A major aspect of the Halloween fanfare is haunted houses – the scarier the better. Punters don't want to just be a little spooked – they want to ride the rollercoaster of doom.

Larry Kirchner is the President of Halloween Productions and the owner-operator of the industry site With more than 25 years' experience in the industry, Kirchner has worked on building hundreds of haunted attractions globally. So he knows his Halloween stuff.

Watch: How to make a Halloween pumpkin. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia. 

Interestingly, he says that smaller businesses/smaller haunted houses are thriving - not just the ginormous ones. Many of these haunted house owners no longer have to supplement their income but instead work full-time in this industry. Because scary thrills sell when avid Halloween buffs are involved.


"As people call this their full-time job, they’re trying to find ways to make more money. That's why you see this outrageous explosion with things like escape rooms, zombie runs, zombie laser tag and zombie paintball. People are also doing things like opening for Valentine's Day or transforming their attraction to a haunted Christmas Show in December," he told Forbes.

Part of his business is building complete haunted houses, involving sound, props, animations, painting, theming, installation, shipping and more. Some of their haunted house packages go up to AUD $671,000. Interactive dark rides projects are more exclusive, complete packages starting at AUD $1.8 million.

Chris Stafford, the CEO of haunted house production company Thirteenth Floor Entertainment Group, told The BBC that all their projects are worth over the seven-figure number. 

Plus the costs of running these haunted houses is astronomical - think of the lighting, props, costumes, people to hire, special effects and more.

I wouldn't want to meet this zombie at a haunted house. Image: Getty.


Jim Lorenzo, who owns Blood Manor in New York City, says it can cost upwards of AUD$1.5 million to refresh and fit out these spooky mansions. But they certainly make their investments back, and more. 

America's National Retail Federation does an annual report every year focused on Halloween spending. 

This year, the season is expected to reach a record AUD$19 billion, exceeding last year's record of AUD$16 billion. That is equivalent to a sh*tload of scary costumes and haunted house visits. And because it feels important to know – the most popular pet costumes are a pumpkin, hot dog, bat, bumblebee and spider - some of the options certainly spookier than others.

But fear not (or... do?!) – Halloween isn't just an American thing now. In Australia, it is a growing industry and craze.


The spooky season is gaining momentum according to Shippit data, which shows a 60 per cent increase in Halloween-related purchases since 2019. And if you were wondering, fake teeth and fake blood have seen an uptick in online purchases.

But don't cringe too much, because it's actually really good for the economy – more than five million Australians will celebrate Halloween this year, with spending forecast to reach $490 million.

Dean Salakas is the 'Chief Party Dude' of The Party People, which feels like quite an apt job title.

For 35 years now Dean has seen Aussie consumers' interest in Halloween evolve. And from his perspective - and the data based on sales - it is a big booming business. 

"Forget Christmas or New Year's Eve – Halloween is our busiest event of the year. We're pretty much on target for last year in terms of sales, and given the current economic climate that's quite impressive," he tells Mamamia

The Addams Family costumes always go down a treat, especially Wednesday Addams this year thanks to the hit Netflix show. Barbie is also a must, but for more scary-esque options, zombies and devils are on top. 

"More and more Aussies are seeing one another celebrate Halloween in some way, and it's just grown from there. It's a whole lot of fun and it isn't just 'an American thing' anymore. Everyone is doing it."


Dean has also become quite the fan himself, decking out his house in all things spooky throughout the month of October.

Another massive Halloween enthusiast is Peta McConachie, who is a Sydney food blogger.

For as long as she can remember she has been Halloween obsessed – decorating her house, hosting themed dinners, and she even once celebrated Halloween at the Playboy Mansion. This year she has a newborn too – perfectly planned for the spooky season.

Peta loves all things Halloween. Image: Instagram @postcardsfrompeta.


"I started going over to the States when I was 21, and I've been back 10 times, mainly around spooky season because I love it so much," says Peta. 

"I prioritise my Halloween spending in my budget as well. Like I keep money aside specifically for it, because I spend a lot in October every year."

And over the years, she can see that the Halloween spirit is certainly growing down under – nowadays Peta's local area even holds local Halloween house decoration competitions. There's also a Halloween fan group.

The Brits are also jumping on the bandwagon more and more.

Perhaps the most iconic story to come out of the UK is of primary schoolteacher Michael Eley, 51.

He relocated his family just so he could live next door to Alton Towers, a theme park that has his favourite haunted house called The Curse at Alton Manor. He estimates he has been on the attraction around 15,000 times in his life.

He says each time he visits, the hairs on the back of his neck still stand up – always chasing the 'fun' fright feels. 

It's a sentiment that so many haunted house enthusiasts relate to.

Russ McKamey owns and operates what he says is "the most terrifying haunted house experience in America". And to be fair after doing a very serious deep dive into it (aka some good ol' social media sleuthing) it does actually look seriously f**king scary. 


To attend the venue you have to watch a two-hour-long video, sign a 40-page waiver, create a safe word, pass a physical, and more. Jeez.

"With fear experienced in haunted houses, people can enter into those situations knowing that ultimately there is no real danger," says Carly Dober, a psychologist and the Director at the Australian Association of Psychologists Incorporated.

"The amygdala is the fear centre of the brain and directs all sorts of responses – freezing, taking flight, hormonal responses and adrenaline. These activating chemicals can leave you feeling like you've experienced a rush, which can be very enjoyable for some people."

Those who create these haunted houses say their passion for the spectacularly spooky season is what keeps them going, although the booming business around Halloween certainly doesn't hurt either.

For the fans, they say chasing the thrill of a no-consequences scare can be intoxicating and extremely entertaining, especially when done in a controlled environment of their own free will. As Stephen King said: "Real life is much scarier than fiction."

Feature Image: Getty.

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