When it comes to Shock and Awe, Haunted Overload’s Eric Lowther doesn’t do anything small!

Haunted Overload

Haunted Overload creator and owner, Eric Lowther, reveals what it takes to run one of the largest haunted attractions in the Halloween business.

Eric Lowther Haunted Overload

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Go big or go home,” but you just can’t completely visualize the realization of that mantra in the Halloween business until you’ve seen the colossal structures towering above guests at Haunted Overload at the DeMeritt Hill Farm in Lee, New Hampshire. Bathed in eerie lighting and enveloped in mystical fog, these 30 to 50 foot monstrosities are a signature element in delivering the scope and scale of autumn entertainment intended by creator and owner, Eric Lowther.

The genesis of these larger-than-fright monoliths actually took place in the less grandiose milieu of Lowther’s front yard. As a home haunter since the age of 12, Lowther bought his own house in 1999 and ultimately decided to stage a huge Halloween party for the neighborhood in 2001.

“I had a very small front yard,” admits Lowther, “so the only way to make things impressive was to go very tall instead of spread out.”

“I built this 20 foot scarecrow in the front yard, and people driving by would just throw on their brakes and stop to look at it,” he elaborates. “I built a 30 foot one a couple of years later, but when I was taking it down, the pole holding it up snapped completely in half. By that point I was doing the event for charity and all the money went to the CVHS (Cocheco Valley Humane Society), so a contractor offered to plant a 30 foot telephone pole in my front yard. In a couple of years, we had three of those 30 foot creatures rooted to telephone poles: a ghost, a witch and the scarecrow.”

“At a certain point there were so many freakin’ people coming from out of state to see it that I realized I only had two choices: I had to stop or I had to make a business out of it. Or I would’ve gotten shut down at some point.”

Haunted Overload

At 12 years old, when Lowther determined he was too old to continue trick-or-treating, he and three of his best friends dressed up like KISS and put on a tribute concert for the neighborhood kids on Halloween night. Over the next couple of years, he and his friends also created their own haunted houses in their parents’ basements. After graduating from high school, Lowther found inspiration in the ads placed in comic books and monster magazines for the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. Kubert, who is renowned for his work on DC Comics’ Sgt. Rock and Tarzan, became one of Lowther’s teachers and mentors.

In 2005, his home haunt had outgrown its’ backyard origins and Lowther made the pilgrimage to the TransWorld Halloween and Attractions Show in St. Louis to take as many courses as possible in professional haunting. Taking the sage advice of veteran haunter, Rich Hanf, Lowther decided the best way to get into the haunting business was to hook up with someone already operating a successful business so Lowther began interviewing farms in a quest to find a home for his concept.

Lowther secured a piece of land for his attraction at a small farm, but it was shut down after three years under duress from “conservationists and small town politics.” In 2010, Lowther finally found a proper home for Haunted Overload at the DeMeritt Hill Farm in Lee, New Hampshire and each year since the attraction has grown incrementally until it has seemingly reached overload itself, or at least full capacity.

“There’s just not enough parking at the location to support the masses that would like to show up on peak nights, so we’ve taken to selling advanced time slot tickets that allow you to purchase your parking spot during specific time slots,” says Lowther. “We can process around 2,000 people per night between 6:30 and 9:30, putting through about 250 people every half hour. We try our best to keep the wait under two hours, but the queue line itself is filled with giant creatures, corn fields and actors so the Haunted Overload experience begins the minute you leave your car.”

Haunted Overload

In 2014, Haunted Overload appeared on ABC’sThe Great Halloween Fright Fight,” a reality show competition that it ended up winning and becoming the official “Scariest Haunted Attraction” in the nation. “The exposure from that program caused a huge jump in attendance,” admits Lowther. “We went from 8,000 to 13,000 in one season with our maximum capacity being about 15,000. We actually had to stop advertising at that point!”

Haunted Overload

ABC was looking for something to compare to their Great Christmas Light Fight special,” says Lowther. “We’ve been donating to the CVHS every year anyway and each season we host a Howl with the Animals night event that brings in about $5000, all going to the charity. So we entered that reality show contest with the CVHS as our charity. The problem was that they wanted to shoot it in late August/early September. We don’t even have pumpkins yet! So we had to spend $1500 importing pumpkins for a one night shoot. They all melted and rotted in the 90 degree heat overnight, but all the prize money we won went to the animal shelter. They are trying to build a new shelter and our donations go a long way.”

The Haunted Overload website promises the attraction will “be open in rain, snow, sleet or any other New England weather condition” and Lowther is serious about keeping that promise. His haunt trail is paved with wood chips and Lowther is committed to “educating his audience” that the show will go on no matter what Mother Nature has to say about their ticketed timeslot. “I’ve found that rain crowds are actually some of the BEST crowds,” he confesses.

One of the most unique qualities of Haunted Overload is that the attraction is so visually impressive that it can also be toured in broad daylight. Lowther opens his fright trail on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 11 AM until 3 PM for a scare-free experience to entertain kids and people that enjoy the visual spectacle without the high startle atmosphere of the regular show.

“The farm had a corn maze that was open during the day anyway,” says Lowther, “so we decided to offer daylight tours for a low price that hooks kids early. They’re already curious about it, but once they get over their fear and get a

Haunted Overload

little older, they become our new customers at the regular show.”

“The fact that we’re open in broad daylight and that we allow people to roam the trails with cameras means that we have to really put in the extra hours to make sure the detail of our sets looks like Disney World. Whatever the absolute worst angle is of any of our scenes or the slightest skimping on detail we allow is exactly what’s going to show up on YouTube for everyone to see. So we put a lot of work into delivering massive eye candy. We spent an entire year on building the haunted mansion set alone.”

Haunted Overload has recently debuted a 50 foot tall pumpkin man that lords over the entire attraction.

“I can’t honestly think of a harder f***ing business to get into,” confesses Lowther. “Anybody that’s thinking about opening a haunt for the sole purpose of making a lot of money is doomed to failure. It requires a passion beyond the love of money to do this. If you can stay in it long enough and work hard enough, there’s a chance of financial reward but it takes around 10 years of hard work to get there. The public doesn’t see the hidden expenses and thousands of dollars spent on fire safety consultants and insurance, etc.”

“I approach every year like it could be my last,” admits Lowther. “The challenges never end. Every year presents brand new freakin’ challenges you didn’t expect. But some things remain the same. It started as a home haunt and in some ways it feels like a much bigger home haunt. I treat our cast and crew like a family and many of them have formed bonds that last throughout the year.”

Lowther freely expresses that he would rather, “keep the passion and sell less tickets” than to overload his cast and crew in an effort to push through more ticket sales than the current quality of his show would allow. His passion for both Halloween and for “all creatures great and small” continue through Haunted Overload’s contributions to the CVHS while he and his crew are dedicated to building greater creatures to entertain and amaze the public at large.

When it comes to magical Halloween spectacle, Haunted Overload delivers. HUGE.

The Phantom of The Ville

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