Pay haunts are probably what most people commonly think of when talking about Halloween events. Put simply, a pay haunt is an attraction that you pay for. While this is the the easiest way to distinguish these types of haunts from others you might encounter, there exist several different types of pay haunts within this category.
While any haunt that charges admission falls under this header, these types of haunts can range from simple, local events that benefit a charity or other organization (such as a local Jaycees chapter or park district) all the way up to professional haunted houses run by companies who are in the haunting business, with different variations in between. Examples of the former would be Nightmare in Crete or Scream Scene, while the latter includes such haunts as Dream Reapers and Screams in the Park.
Designs in pay haunts range from simplistic sets made from common household materials to elaborate, professionally designed sets that remain standing year round, even if the haunt is only open during the Halloween season. Actors pay haunts haunts usually range from grammar school kids (at a lot of Jaycees haunts) to high school and college kids (at some semi-professional haunts), to regular adult actors (at most of the high end haunts. However, age range is not necessarily an indicator of quality. In our experience, we have been to haunts run by grammar school kids that were just as well done as the higher end ones. However, it is something to keep in mind, depending on what you're looking for.
As far as pricing goes, pay haunts generally range from about $5 all the way up to $40 or so. This varies depending on region, with haunts in the south suburbs or central Illinois generally charging less than those in the city of Chicago, for example. Also, as with age range, price is definitely NOT an indicator of quality. In the pay haunt world, more dollars does not always equate to more quality or a better experience. Contrary to the old saying, when dealing with pay haunts, you sometimes definitely do NOT get what you pay for. For instance, we have experienced $6 or $7 haunts that were as good or better (in our opinions) than some haunts that we paid $20 or $30 for.
We at the Horror Tourers believe in the maxim of "buyer beware", particularly when it comes to professional pay haunts. Our suggestion is to do your homework. Don't simply look at a haunt's web site to determine its worthiness. Search for the haunt independently to find other reviews and read them.. You don't want to set out looking forward to a great night of haunt experiences and come home with nothing but a bad taste in your mouth and significantly fewer dollars in your pocket.