COLORADO SPRINGS – Long lines, large crowds, and thousands of dollars flying in- it’s what people see every year as they venture to haunted houses.
Carolyn Jones, who visited Haunted Mines, said, “I like the mystery of it and just the surprise.”
Jones and people of all ages come to attractions like this every year “just to get scared.”
Her friend, Tanya Rodriguez, said, “I’m super scared of clowns so that’s what I’m most terrified of.”
The master behind this terror is Vince Stites, owner of Haunted Mines and Hellscream Haunted House.
“Everybody asks me well how’d you get into this business? Some kids want to be a fireman, some kids want to be a policeman, whatever, I wanted to be a haunted house owner.”
Decades later, that childhood dream is alive.
Stites took News 5 on a partial tour of Haunted Mines and said, “This is our cemetery scene…we’re checking out the fictitious town of Cold Falls, Colorado and this is the hotel we’re walking into…we want to transport the customer to that crazy, creepy, alternate reality.”
However, the true reality for Stites and his business is “nobody’s getting rich off of it.”
Despite huge crowds (about 13,000 last year and 16,000 to 20,000 this year) and thousands of dollars in profits the overhead costs to operate these attractions, Stites said, is into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The lights, sounds, and animatronics are just the beginning.
Stites said, “We have a budget that we have to set aside for mortgage, lease payment, utilities, insurance, permitting.”
General Manager Jesse Clark said, “Most companies have the ability to go through the entire year and make revenue the entire year. We have seven weeks.”
However, the prosperity of the business isn’t being measured by dollar bills.
Stites said, “I think the success for us is the fact that we’re still open.”
It’s been 10 years of triggering blood-curdling screams. It’s rare as Stites said a lot of haunted attractions fail within the first three years of opening.
He said, “Through the years we’ve really, really tried to step up our game.”
The company has been able to do that with the help of about 200 volunteers.
Clark said, “It’s all a labor of love.”
Stites said, “We do it because we love it and also there’s a massive feel good side of it for the actors and the staffers.”
It’s a Halloween project that isn’t about making a buck. For Stites and his band of ghouls, it’s the sounds of terror echoing through their houses of horror that are priceless.
Money may be tight, but the company has grown. This year it was able to acquire a new location for Haunted Mines. The dream is to maybe expand to Denver and other cities in Colorado.
Both attractions are open until November 3.