In the haunted house business | Weatherhead School at Case Western Reserve University

In the haunted house business

Posted 10.23.2015

Case Western Reserve University sophomore finance and computer science major Max Simon runs Fear Experience, a haunted house enterprise in Parma, with his cousin. Their business was recently featured in this article by Michael K. McIntyre,

It's a Friday night in October and two things are putting fear into the young entrepreneurs who operate the haunted house enterprise in Parma known as the Fear Experience.

First, are the port-a-potties being delivered to the parking lot?

"Scariest thing here," says Max Simon as his cousin, Nick Francis, boldly sticks his head into one of them and, emerging without so much as a scream, declares it fresh and ready for use.

The second fear is that the crowds won't show.

That all the fake blood and real sweat will give way to expensive tears if people don't line up to pay $25 each to file through four indoor haunted houses -- shoulders hunched, heads on a swivel -- encountering the screams and menacing laughter within.

Or that they won't part with another ten bucks for a chance to blast away at the undead, armed with a 100-round air rifle -- in a fifth exhibit known as Zombie Warfare: Death Row. It's like laser tag with zombie inmates as your prey.

Fear, as the proprietors of a haunted house will tell you, can be a healthy thing.

It drives them to cover every detail, from a fresh port-a-potty to professional props, from the gore-makeup worn by howling actors to the broken door in the zombie exhibit, kicked in by an over-excited patron who thought he was on the set of the "Walking Dead." Splinters and nails were crowbarred out before doors opened.

The fear keeps them on their toes.

But, being afraid of sparse crowds at Fear Experience, especially this year, is like being afraid of the imaginary monster in the closet. The crowds are thicker than ever. Saturday the business set an all-time night record, though they won't share exact attendance numbers.

"We're really good at marketing," says Francis, who is heavy into Internet analytics, social media and search engine optimization. The pair were even tapped this year because of their success using Facebook to be on the social media company's 12-company Small and Medium Business Council. They were flown out to California and celebrated famed founder Mark Zuckerberg's birthday with him.

How, exactly, are they bringing in those crowds?

"That's kind of a secret," says Simon, 21.

"Yeah, we're not just giving our formula away," says Francis, 23.



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