The price of the paranormal

A blog about the cost of hiring 'haunted' venues.

Whether you believe in them or not, ghosts are big business. Ever since the rise in popularity of shows such as ‘Most Haunted’, ghost hunting has become a popular past time for literally thousands of people. Today there are more paranormal groups in the UK than ever before, each with their own goals and agendas. Whether they are out to prove the existence of ghosts via scientific means, a group out to experience the paranormal first hand, or a purely commercial venture giving a thrill seeking public the chance to spend a night in a haunted house, they are all part of an industry that didn’t really exist in this country a decade ago.

There was a time when alleged haunted locations would welcome groups into their premises to investigate for little or minimal cost to themselves. However, as more companies sprang up to offer ‘ghost experience’ nights with the aim of making a viable business, it was only natural that the locations themselves would want a piece of the action. This in itself was not a problem for these ‘businesses’ as they were making money from the paying public anyway. It did however start to become a problem for the paranormal investigation groups who were not operating as commercial ventures. Locations didn’t generally differentiate between the ‘businesses’ and the ‘interest groups’ and started charging the same rates for both. This meant that the ‘interest groups’ had to either finance their investigations out of their own pockets or look at the prospect of doing paid ‘guest nights’ in order to be able to afford the cost of gaining access to many locations for the night.

This was not really an issue at first, as prices were often kept to a minimum. I’m not suggesting that places shouldn’t make a little out of allowing groups into their buildings, but in recent years many locations have made huge increases in entry fees. In most cases the location owners merely provide the venue for the group who do all the work and organisation, which amounts to very little work for the actual location.

More locations need to be aware of the positives that people are coming to visit them and investigate their spooks, as the publicity they get from it (from across 100s of websites) can generate a lot of additional interest from people who may not have been interested initially. Now that locations can claim to be ‘haunted’ they can now attract a new category of paying customers who may think, “Ohhh… should we go to that haunted pub that those ghost hunters investigated?”.

Too many locations are of the opinion that they are providing groups a service by letting them in for a night, when really there are mutual benefits to be had by both sides. The groups literally give free publicity to every location they visit and raise the public profile, even if its nothing to do with ghosts people may still choose visit them out of curiosity. The amount of times certain locations appear on paranormal websites is huge and it is the groups that pay to publicise and advertise them.

Let’s look at the possible costs that a haunted location would have to incur. The location would invariably have to pay a member of staff to look after the property. Even at double time for a nights work, the cost of this would be unlikely to be much over £100. There is also a matter of insurance. In many cases the building will usually have insurance to cover the visitors and their staff on a daily basis, although there is most probably extra costs that would be incurred for over night ghost hunts. If we go for a high estimate on these extra costs then spread over the cost of a year, it would be unlikely to come to over £25 per night. The only other expense that I can see is the electricity costs, but as the majority of ghost hunts take place predominantly in the dark this would be unlikely to come to much more than £10 per night. So the average cost of renting a location for the night should be about £130 max.

Only last year NGI paid £170 for a well known location that had been featured on Most Haunted. This seemed a fair price as it made it worthwhile for the group to run the guest night as it could provide a small profit on top of outgoings, and also provided a profit for the location owner who really only had to provide someone to open up and keep an eye on the place for the night. A year later the price of this location had risen to £300 for no apparent reason. This is not the only location to have raised it’s prices dramatically. The most expensive place we’ve paid for to date was £500 for the night. Strangely they would have let us have the place for £250 if we were doing it as a team only investigation, but as it was a guest night the price would have to be doubled even though it would amount to no extra work for them. I am not against locations charging two different prices for Team Nights and Guest Nights respectively, as long as it a fair pricing structure.

Worst offenders are the places that charge on a per person basis (for guest nights at least) as normally you have to pay for your team to enter too. A well-known North East location charges £20 per person. When we last went there was 24 guests who cost us £480 to get in. If we had to pay for the team too – it would have cost a total of £680 for a ‘normal’ team attendance.

This is thrown into sharp contrast when you compare it to the first investigation I went on with my team. This was another high profile northern location that cost £40 in total for the entire group, just over a year ago. It makes you realise how little these nights could actually be put on for, although this location has also increased it’s rates enormously in the last year.

The more they raise their prices, the more groups will charge the customer which in turn will cause the location to raise their price. It’s all well and good if a couple of groups charge £99 a ticket, but they are the exception and not the rule and locations need to be made aware of that. It is a sad fact that many paranormal interest groups are often seen as ripping off Joe public, when they are in fact making very little or even nothing from the guest night and the profits are going straight to the location owners.

The money to be made out of ‘ghost nights’ has become so lucrative that places with no recorded history of a haunting are, some would say rather suspiciously, coming out and declaring their property as having ghosts. The biggest quotes I’ve seen recently range between £1000 and £2000 for a night. This kind of profiteering is making it almost impossible for groups with a genuine interest in the paranormal to gain access to places.

So what can be done? Well, as long as people are still willing to pay the prices I can’t see the venues dropping them any time soon. The only thing that might work is that if all these groups joined forces and declared that enough is enough and refuse to book locations until prices are more realistic. But some groups are out to make money and if people are willing to pay, they will likely continue to use these locations or make exclusive deals to prevent other groups getting involved.

In America and a lot of other places it’s a different story. The locations usually pay the groups to go in! But I can’t see this happening here though they’re a few exceptions.

Now that the public paranormal frenzy has probably reached it’s peak, we should see a slow decline as people move onto other things, and the amount of money to be made out of ghost hunting will decrease. What effect this will have on the genuine paranormal groups that are left remains to be seen, but heres hoping that both groups and locations will learn to work together to enable this fascinating area of research to continue.

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