Haunted attractions continue to outspend each other in terms of presentation, and promotion, each claiming to be shows that “bring horror movies to life”, and present press packages that depict monsters and ghouls rarely encountered in the actual show. Slick marketing ploys, and well placed promotional images are the norm within the haunt industry, hyping attraction as the “scariest” or most “extreme” among the pack of growing competition.
More often than not, such powerful marketing fails to capture the reality of each show, instead leaving guests with sub-par entertainment and a gaping hole in their wallets. Four years ago we first began visiting the highly touted Brighton Asylum, in Passaic NJ, and at the time felt that the attraction fell short of the incredible marketing and hype surrounding this show. Reflecting on our first visit, we respectfully voiced our opinion of the show at the time and for the past four years have witnessed firsthand the incredible growth and continued innovation driven by the attraction each season.
With every new event, Brighton Asylum has not only exceeded our expectations but has become one of the must-see attractions on the East Coast.
The exponential growth of this attraction is a direct reflection of the obsessive commitment to a first-class show conveyed by Mr. Gonci and his talented staff that each season raise the bar in haunt quality. First class marketing clearly depicts and reflects the quality of each show, and what you see online in so called “press images” can be witnessed during each visit. Brighton Asylum refuses to relent, and focuses on providing each customer with the best show possible. Quality scare acting coupled with some of the finest attraction designs you will ever see make Brighton Asylum a premier entertainment venue, a true destination attraction that has risen above the competition.
In our preparation for the 2018 haunt season, we had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Gonci in advance of its upcoming Friday the 13th special off- season attraction. Brighton Asylum features a variety of horror infused special events and haunts throughout the year, catering to those who crave a horror fix throughout the year.
Electroshock Entertainment (E.E.): Mr. Gonci, thank you for taking the time to speak with us and provide insight into your show. If you could please provide your background in the industry, it would be most appreciated.
Rich Gonci (Gonci): I have been in the haunted attraction industry for fifteen years. I started as a cooperator of “Night-mares Haunted Attraction” in Montvale, NJ and took over operations in 2009. In 2011, I opened Brighton Asylum, and have focused on this nationally known attraction ever since.
In 2016, we began operating “escape rooms” opening up several themed rooms at Brighton Asylum known as “Brighton Asylum Escape,” and in 2018 we are preparing to launch a brand new attraction, the “second level” of Brighton Asylum known as “The Bleeding Grounds” which promises to break new ground in haunted house evolution.
E.E: Please describe the history of your attraction, and how you chose the location of your haunt.
Gonci: When planning for the ultimate immersive, interactive, indoor haunted house experience, we wanted a location that had authenticity. We wanted a location with history, personality, and ambiance. It took over a year to find Brighton Asylum and countless locations were scouted. But ultimately, we fell in love with Brighton. Right from the first tour through the facility, the stories were already being told to us. The rumors about Brighton’s past and shadowy history raised the hair on the back of our necks.
We knew this was it. Google searches of the location’s history resulted in no hits, but virtually everyone we encountered at the complex relayed its sinister past any chance they could. And to our surprise, not only were we intrigued by its rumored past, but the current events going on being reported by those still working in the complex. Unoccupied areas of the facility lighting up, footsteps on the second level with no signs of human life, items going missing as well as being moved around mysteriously.
E.E: An intriguing aspect of your attraction one that I believe is sometimes lost in the hype and promotion is that your location is reportedly haunted and paranormal occurrences have been the norm.
Gonci: An agreement was signed in April of 2011 and the proper channels were consulted for the work to begin in order to get the facility read for the public. During this time, many of our own workers encountered the same mysterious anomalies that were reported by complex workers before us. To this day, those who work in the attraction late at night, will report voices, music, footsteps on the second level, and moved objects. We have had the same reports by independent contractors who, after experiencing these anomalies, will not work at the complex after 11 pm. For some reason, that seems to be the magic time that these occurrences begin.
E.E.: Rich can you elaborate on the developmental history of Brighton Asylum to help your customers understand and appreciate the level
Gonci: Brighton Asylum’s construction originally took 7 months, approx. 10 hours per day to get ready for our 2011 season. And it was a great first season. However, we had some poor weather, including a bad snow storm in October that forced us to close our doors on a very important Saturday night. And in 2012, Hurricane Sandy closed us during our most important weekend of the season. Things were not looking good for us, and a lot of other people.
But, we held our heads high and decided that since our beloved guests had just as missed Halloween all together, we would make it up and create something truly unique and one of a kind. Hence, we created our “Santa’s Slay” haunted house event and opened that Christmas season to raving reviews and support.
This was the start of our off season calendar that has continued to this day. Since then, we open once per month for a special off season haunted house event after the Halloween season is over, each themed completely different than the previous event.
Our 2013 season was a huge success for us, with visits from The Today Show, Danielle Monaro from Z100, Astra from 92.3, and chosen as the #1 haunt in New Jersey by NewJerseyHauntedHouses.com. From 2014 on, we used this gained momentum and success to give back to our loyal fans by going on a streak of yearly updates that went, and continues to go, way beyond the typical 20-30% changes that the average haunted attraction gets involved in on a year to year basis.
From 2014-2016 we changed and updated nearly 90% of our show, and in 2017 we were thrown a curve ball as our newest attraction, “The Bleeding Grounds”, was supposed to debut on the 2nd level. Permit delays straight through the summer forced us to change direction quickly, and in an effort to continue our streak of amazing updates, we brought guests a fully immersive pre-show experience that rivals most theme parks! In addition, we created a brand new ending to both The Tunnel and Brighton Asylum.
E.E.: In terms of attraction design and development, how much emphasis do you place on “actor training” as well as the physical design of your show?
Gonci: As far as actor training is concerned, we take a very comprehensive approach. Some techniques are proprietary, and won’t be discussed here, but I can say that our actors are trained and prepared for all possible circumstances involving interactions with the public.
Our actors receive very specific safety training, fire drills, contact training, character training, character development, voice training, scare timing, as well as how to control conga lines and customer throughput. It’s extremely comprehensive. Guests will notice a very distinct difference between the quality of our actor’s vs other local haunts. Our actors are all seamlessly integrated into the environments which are created for them.
Gonci: Attraction design is approached from a variety of ways. We create our designs and updates based on guest input, unique story-lines, exploitation of fears and phobias, and inspiration from books, movies, games, etc. It’s a process but we believe we have a successful approach to creating immersive haunted attraction experiences due to the proprietary method in which we design our attractions. Some haunts build walls, then sit back and decide what they are going to do. Some have a scare in mind, and build the room around a scare.
We take a completely different, more complete approach to this, which allows us to take every factor we are considering in our design and implement it uniformly, so there are no “after thoughts”. Everything is planned together, down to the tiniest detail. We believe this is the best method for attraction design.
E.E: Can you provide us a brief preview or insight into next year’s Halloween show (2018)?
Gonci: For 2018, our pre-show, The Tunnel, and Brighton Asylum will be merged into one HUGE haunted house experience, as our guests made it clear that the multiple lines were not something that they were interested in doing so we have heard them loud and clear and are doing away with that going forward.
However, The Bleeding Grounds, opening Halloween season 2018, will indeed have a separate line and entrance as it’s a separate attraction, with its own unique theme. We are extremely excited about The Bleeding Grounds and we can’t wait to reveal more about this one-of-a-kind attraction we guarantee you will not experience at any other haunt, local or distant!
E.E.: Rich thank you for your generous time and commitment to the industry. Do you have any closing thoughts or feelings on the industry in general?
Gonci: My thoughts are pretty simple really. I love this industry. I love the opportunities I have been afforded by the great professionals in this industry, and the wonderful people who are fans of it.
Without both, there would be no haunting community. I feel blessed that every day, I get to wake up and see these other worldly ideas and creations come to life. The best part is seeing guests running out the exit door sweating, laughing, smiling, clapping, letting us know that they loved the experience and will be back to do it again.
E.E.: Any advice for prospective haunters?
Gonci: In terms of advice prospective haunters, this is tough because there is lots of advice that one could give on this industry. However, if I had to pick one piece of advice, it would be this. Don’t over spend. Make a budget for every department and stick to it. If you are not making a profit on paper, you can’t afford to operate.
E.E.: Thank you again for your time and we look forward to visiting your next show “Friday the 13th.” For details and ticket information please check out: http://www.brightonasylum.com