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Scaring Up Insurance for Haunted Houses

It’s that time of year again for not only pumpkin spice everything, falling leaves and apple picking, but also scary movies, Halloween and, of course, haunted houses. According to America Haunts, there are more than 1,200 haunted “attractions” throughout America, and the industry generates roughly $300 million in revenue.

Depending on the size of the haunted house, the types of “scare tactics” and how long the haunted house will be open, insurance policies range anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to as much as $20,000. Haunted houses have come a long way from just people popping out in costume; there are now pyrotechnics, stunts, moving floors and other equally horrifying things to scare the wits out of visitors.

With all the craziness that goes on while putting on a production for these haunted attractions, having insurance policies is a must. Some policies haunted house operators need to consider include general liability/personal injury insurance, workers’ compensation and property damage insurance. This may seem like a lot, but it is crucial—and there are ways to reduce your premiums if you’re a haunted house owner and operator.

General Liability/Personal Injury Insurance

One of the most important insurance policies haunted house owners and operators must have is general liability/personal injury insurance. Artificial fog is commonly used in many haunted houses and it seems harmless. However, if the enclosed space isn’t ventilated properly, the chemicals in the artificial fog can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, which could result in a potential law suit.

The most common form of injury in haunted houses includes sprained ankles and knees or other torn muscles and ligaments. When visitors are scared, sometimes they can’t control the urge to run. Instincts kick in, and they want to flee as quickly as possible—while definitely not paying attention to their surroundings. This is dangerous because they can trip and fall over cords or loose floor boards, or even run into sharp protrusions and exposed screws. The dim lights in a haunted house can also cause the visitor to become disoriented or unable to see these obstacles.

If the actors inside of the haunted attraction go too far, e.g., grabbing visitors to scare them or touching female visitors inappropriately, haunted house owners and operators need general liability insurance to cover both parties. The policy must prevent the visitor from suing for harassment or any injuries, as well as provide coverage for injuries resulting from a visitor assaulting one of the haunted house actors.

Workers’ Compensation

In an office environment, it’s important that workers are covered for any type of work-related injury. Haunted house actors and operators are no different, and in fact, they arguably need workers’ compensation coverage more than office workers. As the actors must interact the visitors—and try their hardest to scare them—it’s not uncommon for people to become so shocked or startled that they strike or push the actor by sheer instinctually. 

The actors also need coverage in case they get injured while “on set.” It’s usually pretty dark in most haunted houses, so it is easy for actors to sometimes trip and fall over objects or even people. Even props can be dangerous for actors; in 2011, a 17-year-old employee got tangled in a prop noose and was found unconscious inside the attraction. She thankfully recovered but if weren’t for the fellow employee who found her, attraction visitors probably would have simply thought she was doing her job.

Property Damage Insurance

Running a haunted house is not an inexpensive endeavor. Not only is there the cost of paying employees and general operations, but there’s the cost of special effects, props, costume and advertising. Because of the huge expense of running a haunted house, having good property damage insurance is non-negotiable.

Haunted houses are unique from other types of businesses when it comes to property insurance, because most business don’t involve people running amok in the dark in fear. The wear and tear that occurs inside haunted houses is a result of visitors repeatedly touching everything, making props and other structural features of haunted houses unstable and more likely to break or fall onto someone—which then makes it a personal injury issue.

How to Reduce Your Premiums

Most insurance companies don’t typically like surprises—unlike those visiting a haunted house—so they want to ensure there is little to no chance that an injury or any damage can occur. Things most insurance companies won’t cover include slides and moving floors, most pyrotechnics, animals, and even nooses, because if made correctly, they could be used as a device to kill someone. If they do cover these things, it’s going to cost quite a bit of money for the policy.

If a haunted house owner/operator does want to include these things, it’s required that safety precautions are taken and appropriate signage is posted throughout the attraction to warn visitors of potential hazards and clearly delineate exits. Proper lighting—not strobe lights—is also important so that visitors are able to see where they are going. Haunted house owners and operators can also reduce their premiums by the choice of props; for example, not using trapdoors or slides and staying away from open flames—particularly if your haunted attraction includes some sort of hayride or corn field.

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