- As a kid, Jeffrey Schiefelbein loved the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland.
- He started a production company, purchased a house, and recreated the Haunted Mansion in each room.
- Now, he rents his haunted home on Airbnb for $679 a night during the week and $779 on weekends.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Jeffrey Schiefelbein, an Airbnb owner with a Haunted Mansion-themed property called the Ghostly Retreat in Fullerton, California. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I’ve always had a love for Halloween. People ask how I got into it, and it all goes back to when I was younger and was inspired by the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland. I don’t specifically remember going on it for the first time, but I do remember that it fascinated me.
As soon as I rode it, I wanted to create ghosts and monsters and all those things. I went on to found my own production company, Sinister Pointe Productions, doing general production work for all kinds of different things — music videos, TV shows, films, and amusement parks. I’ve been doing it for the last 22 years.
Growing up, I thought it would be amazing to live in the Haunted Mansion
As I got older, my house was even decorated like the Haunted Mansion. At some point I thought, “I can’t live like this — I’m not The Munsters,” but the idea stayed with me.
The haunted house game room.
I thought having an Airbnb would be the perfect opportunity for me to create something I’ve always wanted to create and make it an investment that people could come and enjoy. I found a house in Fullerton close to where I live and near Disneyland. It took me a long time to find because I wanted to make sure it wasn’t close to any neighbors to avoid possible complaints.
It was a dump that needed a lot of work. I used my production skills to start creating my vision. I went on the Haunted Mansion ride and started taking thousands of photographs to recreate all the elements from the ride. Then I started incorporating them into the house.
I think if someone had called a production company and contracted the renovation out, it would have cost $1 million. Luckily, I was able to get my family to help me. My brother is a general contractor, my cousin is a cabinet manufacturer, and my uncle is an electrician. I still had to pay people to do the work and for the materials, so I would estimate we put about $250,000 into renovating the house and backyard. Then I probably put another $200,000 into the production, like the special effects, lighting, the sounds, custom wallpaper, and furniture.
All the doors are exact replicas of doors on the ride
I used my graphic design skills to recreate all the wallpaper. I used my special effects knowledge to recreate the changing portraits on the walls — which I’m really proud of. I also love that there’s a motion sensor so when guests walk into the house, the Haunted Mansion music starts playing to welcome them.
I don’t have any Haunted Mansion memorabilia. There aren’t any pictures of Mickey Mouse on the wall. I wanted it to look like the actual house — not a house with Haunted Mansion memorabilia in it.
It’s been a year and a half since I posted the house on Airbnb, and it’s been an overwhelming success. There are more than 100 reviews, and they all say something like, “You walk in and your jaw drops.” I built it for the fans. For the people like me who are obsessed with Disney and the Haunted Mansion. I think you can feel that when you walk in. It’s great to be able to bring that joy to people.
I expected it to do well. I was thinking if I booked it 50% to 60% of the time, I could pay all the bills and put a little money in my pocket. However, we’re usually booked closer to 90% of the time, if not more, every month. We had a couple Disney influencers come stay with us when we opened, and it blew up. Other than that, I don’t do any marketing.
We usually rent it out for $679 a night during the week
On the weekends, it’s $779 per night. A lot of people in my life tell me I don’t charge enough. When I first launched the Airbnb profile, I was charging something like $349 a night, and bookings started filling up fast. I had to raise my prices, but if you look for deals, sometimes you can still book for something like $400 a night.
This year, we’re setting up a Nightmare Before Christmas overlay with themed decor complementing the Haunted Mansion design, which will be on display until January 8, so the prices will go up approximately $100 a month on the weekends.
I’m at the house a couple of days a week for half an hour to do maintenance and check on things. We have really amazing housekeepers who go above and beyond to make sure everything’s good, but I like to make sure all the special effects are still working.
Otherwise, it’s very low maintenance, and it’s the first thing I’ve ever done that’s provided me with passive income. It’s given me the ability to only work on the production jobs I want to work on, and not have to work 24 hours a day. I’m even planning to open another property in Florida.