The Psychology of Haunted Attractions
Creating a haunted attraction isn’t just about profits. For a lot of haunt owners, a haunted attraction is a work of art. It’s an opportunity for self-expression. Many haunted attractions are immersive works of art with a spectrum of experiences for the senses. But there are psychological principals that haunt owners can incorporate into their works of art to make them even better for patrons. Because when it comes to haunted attractions, the details often go unnoticed.
When people get really scared, parts of the brain shut down. In a crisis situation, like when a person is attacked on the street for example, the victim may actually lose their eyesight temporarily, or they may go deaf very briefly. In an emergency, the brain will shut down sense information that isn’t useful. So, in a dim environment, a person may experience tunnel vision, or lessened vision due to trauma or fear. In a situation that doesn’t offer any auditory cues regarding a threat, like a really loud environment, a victim may simply “go deaf” and have no memory of auditory data during a fearful event. A person can practice martial arts or hand-to-hand combat to train themselves to react differently in these situations, but for ordinary people including those who are walking through haunted attractions, it’s unlikely that they’ll notice all the details put into haunted sets.
That doesn’t mean that haunt owners shouldn’t spend time creating cool environments. Flooding patrons with a lot of stimulation that targets all of the senses at once can have a decidedly hypnotic effect on people. This being the case, nudging patrons into an altered state of consciousness gives them a better bang for their buck, since their imaginations will do a lot of the work for haunt owners.
But if you’re going to play off the altered states of mind that your patrons are experiencing, be sure the you use sound effects in your haunt. Visual effects are important, but sound stimulates the brain in ways that our visual sense just can’t compete with. Sound effects encourage patrons to fill-in-the-blanks and make up storylines for the haunted attraction. To spend hours and hours on visuals only to leave out the all-important sound effects is truly a tragedy.
As you work to put together a spectacular haunted attraction, remember to use psychological principals to make the event even better for your patrons. Though you may view your work as an art project, the patron experience is more than likely an important facet of the overall experience for you. So as you build, take human consciousness into consideration.