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Hauntworld Magazine Issue 38 and 39 Shipping NOW
Thu, February 12, 2015
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Hauntworld Magazine Issue 38 has shipped with features on several haunted houses including Dark Hour, 13th Floor and many more.  Hauntworld Magazine issue 38 also includes articles on how to build the ultimate 3D haunted houses, and how to create the best costume rooms for your haunt.  Hauntworld Magazine is the leading supplier of information for the haunted house and Halloween industry.  Get your subscription now at

Additionally Hauntworld Magazine issue 39 will be shipping by March and features an article from our friends at 13th Gate on how to create the ultimate make up room for your actors,  Hauntworld Magazine 39 will also feature Legends of the Fog and the secrets behind the most extreme haunted attraction in America. 

Get your subscription today! 

haunted house, magazine
Fri, February 06, 2015
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Hauntcon Haunted House Convention is almost here and Hauntworld has you covered with all the haunt tour details.

Hauntcon will present Baton Rouge this year with a tradeshow floor, seminars, and haunt tours.  Hauntcon is NOT a haunted house convention its more of a haunted gathering of haunted house enthusiasts, home haunters, and haunt owners.  Hauntcon features a very small but exciting list of vendors however they offer several educational seminars.  Hauntcon this year starts TODAY February 6th thru the 10th, 2015.  Get all the details at

Haunted House Tours are as Follows:

Friday Night Pre-Show Tour features a tour of a scary tour thru New Orleans during the day.  At night the biggest most detailed haunt in America 13th Gate will open its doors for an exclusive behind the scenes tour.  Additionally guests will tour Necropolis ... no actors, lights on, and the tour hosted by the owners.  THIS IS A CAN"T MISS EVENT!

Saturday Night Tour:  A new haunted house called 'RISE Haunted House' will feature a live actor event.  Rise haunted house includes several haunted houses and a paintball hayride.  Rise is located about 40 minutes from Baton Rouge in Hammond Louisiana. 

Monday Night Tour:  The Haunted Mortuary will open with a wrap up party of Hauntcon.  The Mortuary is located inside a REAL NEW ORLEANS style funeral home.

Again don't miss this event go to

Florida Haunted House The Shallow Grave Reviewed by
Tue, February 03, 2015
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Winter Haven, Florida - The Shallow Grave

By Hauntworld Magazine


Florida Haunted Houses are some of the scariest and best in America! rates and review the best and Scariest haunted houses, haunted attractions, and Halloween events in America!  The Shallow Grave is located in Winter Haven, Florida which is actually right between Orlando and Tampa Bay, Florida.   Prepare to scream!  This Halloween you can't miss the scariest and best haunted attraction in the entire state of Florida, The Shallow Grave.  Two of the biggest theme parks in America Tampa Busch Gardens and Universal Studios produce two of the biggest Haunted House Events and sitting directly between these two massive haunted house events is The Shallow Grave.  Orlando and Tampa are only 90 miles apart so Shallow Grave is less than 45 minutes from Orlando Florida and Tampa Florida.  To make people scream in the shadow of these two major Halloween Horror Attractions Shallow Grave must produce something scarier!  Now learn how by reading  our review of The Shallow Grave near Orlando and Tampa Florida.
To learn more about Florida's The Shallow Grave visit their websit below:
In Florida, you typically think of sun tans and flips flops, but in a darker part of Florida there lies a haunted house so sinister, you’ll never think of Florida the same again. Oh sure, for years Florida has had Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights and Busch Garden’s Howl-O-Scream, but til now, have they ever really experienced that grungy in your face, high intensity, wet your pants, riveting experience you can only seem to find in other states like Ohio, Georgia, Louisiana & Missouri, just to name a few? Well they do now! The Shallow Grave in Winter Haven Florida combines a haunting blend of over the tops sets, animatronics, and high energy actors to make a fear cocktail few in Florida ever get to experience at the big parks.  Located deep in the sticks between Orlando, FL and Tampa, FL, The Shallow Grave comes to life. The horror geniuses at Shallow Grave have taken a 30,000 sq ft warehouse built in the 50’s and made it home to the most talked about haunted attraction in Florida since the great ‘Terror on Church Street’.

Backstory:  The Shallow Grave and the mayhem within orbits around its resident trouble maker, Thaddeus Van Buren, a good guy gone bad with a tragic ending. Sound familiar? Not so fast… Thaddeus, a jack of all trades (when it comes to the dead that is), was a caretaker of the old cemetery on the hill around the time of the Great Depression. Things were good for the Van Buren family until that dark day. Poverty set in, then famine, followed by the horse of death. With more bodies to bury, it seemed as though Thaddeus was in high cotton. Only one problem…There was no money to pay ole Thaddeus for his services. Eventually, the same dead that fed his family were now starving them. Torn between his sense of duty to the community and the responsibilities to his family, Thaddeus came to a conclusion. He would continue to put the dead to rest, only in another way. Thaddeus thought he had it all figured out. Since no one could pay for his services with money, they would pay in flesh. One way or another, Thaddeus was going to feed his family. He pretended to bury the unfortunate all while loading the coffins with bricks and serving up the bodies to his otherwise clueless loved ones. Things were good for Thaddeus again. The community was happy, his family was doing just fine, and things started to get back to normal. But eventually the dead weren’t as plentiful, and food became scarce for Thaddeus again. Driven mad by his cannibalistic ways, the once gentle man just trying to do the right thing turned savage hunter. His thirst for flesh outpaced the dead, so he decided to tip the scales in his favor. With this came more problems; the souls of the dead were restless. They became furious with Thaddeus and his lust for the living as well as the dead, so those fortunate enough to be laid to rest refused to do so. They rose from their slumber to seek vengeance against Thaddeus and his family. And that’s exactly where you will find yourself, when you visit The Shallow Grave…Caught in a war between the dead and YOU the living.

How it all started: The Shallow Grave is the brain child of owner/producer, Joe Phillips. Joe always had a deeply rooted love for horror, but never imagined he’d be in the haunted house industry. Joe was raised in Orlando, FL and frequented the classic ‘Terror on Church Street’ haunted house often, but actually building his own haunt never even crossed his mind. Until one day, Joe found himself diving head first into the passionate yet stress filled grinder of haunted houses.

After driving home one day in October to prep for his upcoming Halloween house party, Joe took a peek at his groundbreakers from the big box stores in his front yard and the embarrassment he felt was demoralizing. That evening he hit the internet. “There has to be better decorations,” Joe thought. That night he came across Distortions’ Spitting Debbie and Poison Props’ Lunging Spider, plus he picked up an air blaster. “Well now what?” Without a haunt, a plan was crafted to booby trap the house for the party.  Just one problem… Joe didn’t know how any of this worked. Hours into internet research, he stumbled across Home Haunting. Puzzled, he watched a few videos about them. After about 100 hours or so of scouring the internet, he learned what NOT to do. From those lessons, he did what so many others have done; he started a home haunt. Not having anyone else to share his madness with, he began obsessively rigging his house with as many animatronics as possible in his free standing 725 SQ FT haunted joke (as he called it). With dark walls, $5 strobes, and whatever props he could muster, Joe quickly decided it wasn’t gonna cut it. It reminded him of how he felt that day driving home and seeing the pitiful attempt in his front yard for the party. But by year three and some help from friends, Joe went from 725 SQ FT to nearly 2,000 SQ FT with fully-equipped animatronics and ADA compliance, ALL in his backyard. Little did he know that the municipalities had caught wind of his venture into the dark world, so that didn’t last long, but Joe had three years in with hooks set deep. What’s a guy to do? As it turns out, there was another local home haunter in the same predicament.  “Chad Ashley (current house manager for The Shallow Grave production) stopped by my house on my last night open that season. He too was being forced to close his home haunted house due to complaints from neighbors that live to ruin things for everyone,” jokingly recollects Joe. So, the pair did the only natural thing. They teamed up and started planning a professional haunt.

Getting started:  “No amount of seminars at the tradeshows could prepare me for the coal raking I was in store for from the local powers that be,” said Joe. All the same, he pressed forward. Joe and his team aspired to bring Central Florida something they hadn’t seen before. He had been to HHN once before and enjoyed himself, but the bug never bit him until his first year at Midwest Haunters Convention. There the bug kicked him in his face when Joe was lucky enough to experience the Haunted Hoochie in Ohio. “Holy Cow,” he thought. “Florida is getting robbed!” Being a perfectionist, Joe knew he was going to set high standards, which is great for the paying customer, but typically not so great when it comes to setting a budget and trying to stay within budget. So YES, Joe broke the cardinal rule of setting a budget and sticking to it from year one.  

Fight or Flight:  At Shallow Grave, realism is paramount. “Just scaring people was never the plan. There is an art to being scary, the setting must be just right,” said Joe. At The Shallow Grave everything is done to trigger the “fight or flight response”. Even the props must serve a function. This is a fear symphony with every part in concert with another, constantly pushing those closer to the edge.  

High Praise as SCARIEST haunted house:  On one Friday night alone in 2014, Haunted Hills had over 40 people in one night quit. The Shallow Grave quickly gained the reputation of being the scariest haunted attraction in Central Florida. That’s high praise considering the competition. In fact, Orlando Weekly said, “I was impressed by the length, scenic detail and gooey gore of The Grave which rivaled or exceeded Universal’s mazes in most respects.” The Shallow Grave is by no means an “extreme” haunt, nor do they have any desire to be, but The Shallow Grave haunted house does allow controlled minor contact with some of its patrons from some of the more seasoned actors. Almost everything done is through a tactical filter, all to squeeze every bit of discomfort from the customers.

The Players: The design team and haunt ‘think tank’ at The Shallow Grave consists of Joe Phillips, Chad Ashley and Eric Dodson. Three very different people with very different views, which gives The Shallow Grave a plethora of ways to extract fear from the customers looking for more than beer and high prices elsewhere. The Shallow Grave has an all-volunteer staff of almost a 100 strong. The Shallow Grave pours everything back into the attraction in an effort to weather the storms. The building is leased year round so the design and build team can create breathtaking sets full of realism that can rival even the major theme parks in the area. Joe Phillips (owner), Chad Ashley (House manager), Eric Dodson (character Development\Wardrobe i.e. “Fabric Wizard”) along with Mike Grenfell (Technical Advisor i.e. “Prop Ninja”) all work their usual 9-5 grind only to hit the haunt for another 4-6 hours a day preparing for the next season. Together with Eric Lonski (make-up director) and Mike Ashley & Jeff Kistler (lead contractors), they hope to bring enough nightmares to quench the thirst of those willing to test their mettle with what The Shallow Grave has to offer.

The Future: With a third attraction in the designing stages, The Shallow Grave crew hopes to continue to push the envelope and feed the cravings that have been neglected for so long. Central Florida is becoming quite the hot spot for haunted houses as of late, and that can only mean good things for the industry. The Shallow Grave offers 2 attractions, and in 2015 (which is only their 3rd year), they will have Haunted Hills: The Rage and ADHD (Attention Deficit Haunt Disorder). “Haunted Hills is home to our beloved Thaddeus Van Buren, and unlike Halloween Horrors Nights or Howl-O-Scream only 6 or fewer at a time are subjected to our brand of torment,” informs Joe.


Haunted Hills - The Rage:  You will be dropped off outside the Van Buren two-story farmhouse next to the once quiet uneventful old cemetery. As you approach the porch of this playground from Hell you can see the living dead roam back and forth in the upstairs windows from the front yard. Enter the foyer and make your way through the house that holds so many evil secrets, as you lumber through the Van Buren house you will witness the havoc that Thaddeus wreaks on his victims as you try to keep from becoming one of them. Make an effort to survive where he prepares the meals or follow the stench of rotting flesh to the blood stained morgue and see where evil thrives. Thaddeus is everywhere in this old house. If you happen to make it through his abode, you still must trek through his backyard, work sheds and graveyard. Make your way through a fully themed environment of an 18thcentury, above-ground graveyard complete with fully scaled tombs and crypts laced with oversized monsters and enough walking dead to make the most seasoned Call of Duty player nervous.

ADHD (Attention Deficit Haunt Disorder):  This is a completely different drink of water for your haunt thirst. ADHD is a litany of nightmares experienced by the few victims that escaped the wrath of Thaddeus Van Buren, but never truly escape his grasp. It’s a phobia based haunt that blends all things: fear of being choked, snakes, spiders, clowns, serial killers and a dash of Voodoo. Then, sprinkle in a zombie or two, and ADHD is sure to have something for everyone. ADHD was added in 2014 to rave reviews and is a nice complement to the rustic, classic horror movie feel that Haunted Hills offers.

At Shallow Grave the scares are plenty yet the prices are way more competitive than the big parks. For the price of their parking alone, you should instead attend The Shallow Grave. Plus the length of attractions at The Shallow Grave haunted houses will blow away any competition. In fact, the Haunt per minute is equal to about 6-8 of the big guys individual events, so do yourself a favor and take the plunge into The Shallow Grave this Halloween season!


florida, haunted house, shallow grave
Cleveland Ohio Haunted Screampark Review - Spooky Ranch
Tue, January 27, 2015
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Cleveland, Ohio - Rockin' - R - Ranch Presents Spooky Ranch

By Hauntworld Magazine


Ohio Haunted Houses are some of the scariest and best in America! rates and review the best and Scariest haunted houses, haunted attractions, and Halloween events in America!  Spooky Ranch is located in Cleveland, Ohio and has one of the scariest haunted houses in America!  Prepare to scream!  This Halloween you can't miss the scariest and best haunted attraction in the entire state of Ohio, Spooky Ranch. Spooky Ranch features multiple haunted Halloween attractions including haunted houses, haunted hayrides, and attractions.  Cleveland Ohio has some of the best and biggest haunted attractions in America but Spooky Ranch is one that truely can make you scream!  Below you will read our review of Spooky Ranch In Cleveland.
To learn more about Ohio's Spooky Ranch visit their websit below:
WOW!  Sensational! Over the top! A knock out! A winner! A triumph! Incredible! Amazing! Astonishing! Exceptional! Heart stopping! Bind blowing! Remarkable!
Where do we even begin! This is one of the country’s BEST haunts.

Many years ago Cleveland, Ohio had the unfortunate stereotype given to it by a misguided, uninformed, non-talented comedian as the “mistake on the lake”. Today, Cleveland is a vibrant entertainment and health-conscious mecca. Inside this wonderful entertainment district are theatres showcasing Broadway productions, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cleveland Clinic Hospitals, the beautiful metro-parks, Lake Erie for boating, the Cleveland Cavs, the Cleveland Indians and of course the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland is a great place for seasonal entertainment due to the change of seasons each with different weather patterns. People in this neck of the woods think in terms of what they do for fun and enjoyment in relation to what season it is, such as snuggling together in front of the fireplace & drinking hot chocolate in the Winter, dreaming of the winter thaw and fresh flowers at the Home and Garden Show in early Spring, planning a trip to Cedar Point Amusement Park in the Summer to try out the newest roller coaster and checking out the beautiful Fall colors of orange and bronze, pumpkin carving, trick or treating and of course, haunted houses, in Autumn.  

Cleveland is quite competitive in the haunted house and haunted attraction industry with several new haunts popping up each year while several other haunts close every other year. Only the good ones last, and one of the best is SPOOKY RANCH also known as the Rockin’-R-Ranch.

Derek Vitas and his brothers Jimmy and Damian were mere teenagers back in 1990, twenty-five years ago when the Rockin’-R-Ranch, now known as Spooky Ranch began. The Vitas brothers did not sit down one day and start planning a haunted house attraction. The idea evolved when their mother almost lost the farm where they lived. “It’s uncanny how your survival mode kicks in when necessity of survival becomes a reality,” agrees the family.  The oldest son, Jimmy recalls how he used to make haunted houses in his basement and had his school friends come over to scare. “I remember thinking…If the farm down the road can do hayrides, why don’t we?  But to differentiate us, I wanted to make ours a haunted hayride. We didn’t have much money, but we had a couple of credit cards, an old tractor, a hay wagon and some hay. We had some talent, drive and a hard work ethic.”  They started making homemade props, and the rest is haunting history. The saga of Spooky Ranch at the ole Rockin’R-Ranch began with the introduction of the now famous Haunted Hayride, but originally it was called Spooktacular Nights at Rockin’R-Ranch. Time progressed, other haunted houses were added to the venue, and eventually the name changed from Spooktacular Nights to Spooky Ranch.

Most every haunt owner will attest that their haunt is the scariest, the best, the most frightening, the biggest, the most well-known, has the best actors, the most monsters, most gruesome zombies, most wicked creatures, most crazed clowns or whatever else they can dream up to say. Through the last 25 years, Spooky Ranch has provided all that and more which is why their customers (victims) keep coming back for more!
What sets Spooky Ranch apart from everyone else to be ranked so high in the haunted house community?  To be awarded an 11 out of 10 rating by the Haunted House Enthusiasts is quite an honor. They’ve been rating haunts for over fourteen years. Their average attendance is forty to fifty haunts per season. So why did they rank Spooky Ranch their rare 11 out of 10 rating when only 5 other haunts prior had been bestowed such honor?  Obviously, the simple math of that speaks volumes. Where Spooky Ranch goes above and beyond is the “quadruple threat” of acting, prop use, proper animatronic use and timing. Spooky Ranch hits on all cylinders. Some might say that every haunted house utilizes these 4 facets, but to say that all haunts use them correctly would be false. The Spooky Ranch team is expert! Here is an example: You walk into a room and are greeted by a monstrous actor. He introduces himself as your ‘master of ceremonies’ for the evening. As he gives his outrageous spiel, you fail to realize he has moved closer to you. Just as you notice the prop in his hand, the floor starts to drop & vibrate and a deep, penetrating laugh that emanates seems to shake the whole room. Without giving away the whole gag, I believe you get the idea. Not realizing that he changes his proximity to you as well as producing a scream rendering prop, gives you an idea of how Spooky Ranch interweaves the ultimate quadruple threat. Now, combine those scare tactics with the great sets and exterior designs, and that’s why Spooky Ranch deserves all the accolades.

What makes Spooky Ranch so special?  
“Our haunt is managed properly, professional and unique, but even more importantly is the family aspect.  I’ve learned… The family that scares together, stays together.  Who knew?” says Darlene with a smile, mother and CFO of this family operated business.

What could credit the success & longevity of this haunt?
Spooky Ranch has done such a good job at pleasing so many age groups at the same time. Even while being a hard core haunt, Spooky Ranch is also a major draw for families. It’s not easy to please so many age groups, but kudos to them for being the rare haunt that truly caters to all generations.

Weighing in on this is son, Derek Vitas, who is perhaps the creative genius behind the success of Spooky Ranch. “Spooky Ranch appeals to the masses not just teens,” says Derek. “We truly are the theme park of haunted houses, and our actors have speaking roles. Instead of giving the typical ‘boo’s and ‘rah’s found at other haunts, we give you a professional, theatrical production. People of all ages attend our incredible haunt. How we do that?...We have different levels of fright and fear. We have kids that will come with their parents to ride our now famous Haunted Hayride. This is a ride of terror and suspense at every turn.  We have Hollywood quality sets and scenes in the Forest of Fear including massive thirty-foot-tall, gigantic props, monsters and many surprises. The Haunted Barn is a theatrical production with all the glitz, screams, thrills etc. of a ride at Universal Studios. In fact, when the doors open to exit, our patrons are clapping their approval… That’s when you know you’re doing something right!  Plus, this is the only place in the Cleveland area to ride a haunted hayride.  Spooky Ranch has it!”

I couldn’t agree more with Derek. The ambiance is so electrifying as you drive up and immediately see the gigantic, lighted skull atop the barn. Nothing beats their Haunted Hayride. It’s the flagship of the production. After all, what’s better than a ride underneath the starry Autumn skies with the Halloween moon shining down as you timidly enter the Forest of Fear with creepy monsters, ghouls, zombies and ghosts lurking behind each tree and prop along the way.

“The second level of fear might be the Wicked Clowns in 3D or the new Blood Slingers Saloon with a western theme,” says Derek, “and the extreme level of fear & fright would be our new Bloody Mary’s Revenge haunted house.”  

Spooky Ranch is the only haunt in the U.S. to have the copyright to use the Bloody Mary name. Previously, Universal Studios Horror Nights in Orlando, Florida used it. “Children are not permitted in this house,” tells Derek, “not for vulgarity, but it’s just THAT frightening.” Spooky Ranch’s top actor, Gus Maurer, is the lead actor who sets the stage in this house. “He is well renowned in the industry, and for GOOD reason,” explains Derek.  I happen to know Gus, and I certainly agree with Derek.  

Other SPOOKY RANCH projects: Hauntville in Elyria, Ohio is another extreme, rare, totally out of the box, over the top, scary haunted attraction produced and operated by Derek Vitas, the family’s guru of haunted attractions. Derek designed and began this amazing haunt in 2010.  He and his scare-masters production team managed by Maureen and Krieg Hall is a whole new haunting experience. The five mind-blowing, awesome attractions are Cellblock 13, the Butcher Barn, Psycho Manor, Zombie Hunt in 3D and Wicked Clowns in 4D. Wicked Clowns is the first 4D attraction of its kind utilizing a whole new sensory perception of sight, sound and smell. For years, has recognized BOTH Spooky Ranch and Hauntville as two of the best, scariest, most well-done haunts and gives them extremely high ratings.
Also, back in 1995 the family started a daytime festival called The Old West Pumpkin Fest at the Rockin’-R-Ranch. This is a real Autumn treat for the whole family. It features hayrides, pumpkin patches, pony rides, animal petting farm and more.  They even feature a professional stage show with a live production of the costumed characters called The Country Kids Show.

Past, Present and Future:  Derek Vitas is the creative talent behind both Spooky Ranch and Hauntville, and with the invaluable help of his siblings, Jimmy, Damian, Travis and Allison they have moved way beyond that first haunted hayride experience twenty-five years ago. The original, old tractor used in haunt season one has been laid to rest many years ago. In Columbia Station, (Cleveland) and Elyria, Ohio you will find two haunts unlike any other in the country.  These creative giants led by Derek will give you an experience like no other. They will make you scream, laugh and be totally entertained and amazed. Derek’s plans are to imitate his success by expanding into other cities across the country as his family migrates elsewhere. It’s a natural progression for this well-run family business operating 2 of the country’s best haunts!

Spooky Ranch and Hauntville will be highlighted during the Midwest Haunters Convention (MHC), the largest Halloween convention of its kind in the US serving a primary audience of haunted attraction producers, actors, artists and home haunters, May 29 -May 31, 2015, featuring the pre-bus, spotlight tour of the best haunted houses in Northeast, Ohio.
Get on the bus and check them out, or go to,,, and


To learn more about Ohio's Spooky Ranch visit their websit below:
cleveland ohio haunted house
Haunted House in Dallas Plano Texas Area - Dark Hour Review
Fri, January 23, 2015
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Plano, Texas - Dark Hour Haunted House

By Michael Edwards


Dallas Texas Haunted Houses are some of the scariest and best in America! rates and review the best and Scariest haunted houses, haunted attractions, and Halloween events in America!  Dark Hour Haunted House is located in Plano Texas, Prepare to scream!  Sit back and prepare to scream through our review of Dark Hour. This Halloween you can't miss the scariest and best haunted attraction in the entire state of Texas, Dark Hour Haunted House.  Dark Hour is a very unique attraction as they are opening their haunted house year around with special events each and every single month of the year.  Dark Hour updates and changes their haunted house every month with a new theme for their guests in the Dallas, Texas market.  Fans of haunted houses in Dallas, Fort Worth and Plano Texas are screaming thanks to the all new haunted house in Dallas Texas called Dark Hour!  Prepare to scream as we give you all the details about this incredible haunted house.

To learn more about Texas' Dark Hour Haunted House visit their websit below:

Dark Hour Haunted House in Plano, TX is proof that nothing is impossible. Opening its doors in October of 2013, the attraction offered its guests over 30,000 feet of high quality Hollywood-style sets, a sound and lighting system that rivals modern concert halls, and eye-popping special effects. One would be hard pressed to believe it was originally built in just 7 weeks.

While much of the planning happened prior to the physical build, from July 10th until opening day, the former Sports Authority building became a blur of activity. Under the direction of owner Lucy Moore, COO Mike Arties, show director Allen Hopps, technical director Jake Farmer, and show developer Ed Gannon, plus a team of carpenters, electricians, special effects artists and set builders (some coming in from all over the country) made the impossible happen. The cavernous space was transformed into a state of the art haunted attraction. Dark Hour had become a reality.

The opening was met with great attendance and reviews, and it was quickly evident that this dark attraction was delivering what customers were looking for, but Moore wasn’t content to sit back and rest on the haunt’s laurels. She wanted to do something that would set Dark Hour apart and stand out in the industry. So together with her crew, they planned not only to open as a semi year-round event, but to offer 8 completely different shows throughout the year.  And between October 2013 and August 2014, that’s exactly what they did.

Dark Hour immediately targeted Christmas and Valentine’s Day, which in recent years have become a more popular time for haunted attractions. The decision was then made to include weekend events for St. Patrick’s Slay, Spring Fever, Walpurgisnacht (which is the halfway point between one Halloween to the next), Summer Spirits, and Dog Days of Summer. To say this was a challenge is an understatement. The sheer size of the attraction alone could make re-dressing it each time a logistical nightmare. If you’re a haunter reading this, just imagine it’s September…every month!

Hopps says of the many challenges, “It’s important to make sure that each show is a distinct and separate entity. All haunters have some go-to tricks, and I work very hard to make sure that each show is not a rehash of the previous show. I want the guest experience to be different from show to show. Wreck the Halls and St. Patrick’s Slay Weekend are dark but very fun. Spring Fever is very intense and very in your face. Walpurgisnacht in May is a musical. Making sure that each show retains its own identity when it’s produced by the same people is something we always watch. I never want to be accused of just throwing Santa hats on actors for the Christmas show.”

Time is also a factor according to Ed Gannon, “Eight different shows a year means eight completely different concepts, each done in 6 weeks, sometimes only 3 weeks!  We have no shortage of ideas, so one of the biggest challenges is deciding what we can squeeze in that will entertain, tell a story, and scare the heck out of our guests!  Then, it's a race against time to put the previous show away, put up the new one and add new frightening elements before we open.  Nothing goes in if it's not up to Dark Hour standards."
Sound and lighting are also crucial factors when you’re creating so many different shows in the same space. Painstaking hours are put into designing a separate scheme for each. This is where Jake Farmer’s expertise comes into play. “There are about 150 Gantom DMX fixtures throughout the haunt. They make up about 85% of the lighting fixtures in the show. There are a few small pin spot LEDs sprinkled in, some strobes and UV fixtures strictly for effects purposes, and 21 Source4 LED Ellipsoidals in the 20 foot ceiling that are typically used to simulate moonlight. Most remain in the same place from show to show, but their programmed cues change. Depending on where we want the guests’ attention to be, we will re-focus and in some cases re-locate some Gantoms or Ellipsoidals. All of the ambient sound in the building is run by Q-Sys. There are usually 45 different sound zones, but with Q-Sys the entire configuration can be changed from a computer, down to a single speaker. Several animations & other triggered events share a powered speaker with the ambient tracks from the Q-Sys system.”

Dark Hour also employs a huge cast during Halloween, but since the off-season shows utilize specialized characters, only certain actors work certain shows. Casting director LaNelle Freeman works closely with the Dark Hour Team in order to choose the appropriate people. “The decision making process has so many parts…costumes, stunts, vocals (if it is a speaking, singing or other language/accented role), characters, body size & abilities. I use an activity analysis, as I did when I was a practicing occupational therapist.”

Freeman adds that Haunt Scheduler has been invaluable in keeping up with everyone. “It used to be a game of phone calls, texting, Facebook messaging and email tag for availability and scheduling for a year round haunt. It is one thing keeping up with 100 actor’s availability for two and a half months but for eight shows it can be trying, especially if you add in special skills such as stilt walkers, wall climbers, bungees, descent rig and so on.”

Marketing also plays an enormous role in the success of any haunt, especially one that is determined to attract customers year-round. Graphic designer Laura Kilpatrick says her main focus is to ensure Dark Hour receives the same attention for the off-season shows as it does in October. “Making a haunted house an entertainment choice during Halloween is a no-brainer. Deciding to visit that same haunted house in May of next year is a tougher decision. Not many people think of a haunt in May. We want to be the reason they do.”
Hopps agrees, “Marketing is a huge challenge because we must have art approved and printed months in advance of the actual shows. So in February we are doing photo shoots for April’s show. Keeping my head wrapped around three different shows in three stages of development is daunting.”

Great care is taken for each show to create new and diverse visual concepts that can be used for its advertising. All the imagery is original & created in-house in order to allow Dark Hour its own unique look. Kilpatrick adds, “The ideas for the imagery that we create come about through research and inspiration. First, there’s the brainstorming process which includes word association notes that evolve into some light sketching. Because most of the team here at Dark Hour is visual, I put together an image concept composite using stock images and Adobe Photoshop. These image concepts are then presented to a panel including the owner, the COO and the show directors in what we call a 'look and feel' meeting. Together, we decide on a look for that specific campaign. Next, a photo-shoot is planned in order to capture the images needed to complete our design.”

To truly change things up, two of the shows are run in reverse. The exit lobby becomes the entrance. To make this a seamless and organized transition for customers, executive assistant Sally Edwards implemented mobile ticketing & souvenir sales options, using Square Register with iPads as well as rolling display cases for shirts. “Since ticket booths were built into both lobbies, I found it was the most efficient way to move back and forth without moving tons of equipment. Plus the system is very user friendly when offering new or limited edition t-shirts and it allows us the option of both direct ticket sales and accessing online ticketing.”

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what the Dark Hour crew has to keep up with, not just once a year, but all year long. In-house costume & makeup designs, masks, prosthetics… the list goes on and on. And there’s no sign of the Dark Hour team stopping any time soon. Hopps is hoping within five years Dark Hour will have expanded into its 5,000 square foot warehouse space to become a 40-min walk through. “Having a year round staff and staying the course with the same themes will allow us to saturate the attraction with detail throughout and develop our cast to an even greater level. In 10 years, who knows? I’m sure we’ll stay on the cutting edge of technology and have implemented many tech tricks that I have not even conceived of yet.”

Determined to be a leader in the industry, Dark Hour has also taken the idea of VIP tickets to a new level with an experience not offered by any other haunted attraction. The VIP Experience begins as guests have a brief meet-n-greet with a personal guide. Next, they enter the show bypassing the queue line. Then, they relax in the exclusive Dark Hour VIP suite for a special video screening of “The Making of Dark Hour” while enjoying snacks and refreshments. Meanwhile, the guide remains available for a Q&A session. Next, they enjoy a second trip through the haunt, again bypassing the queue line. The evening ends with a Dark Hour magnet, bumper sticker and their choice of t-shirt.

When asked what advice he might give to a haunted attraction that wants to try their hand at opening year round, Hopps replies, “To open year round, you need to bring different things to the guests. The same show over and over will only work if you are in a heavy tourist area, and even then most of those are still fairly seasonal. Having different shows and reasons to haunt can bring people in. Really, just change your show or you are the equivalent of a used car lot having multiple going out of business sales.”

The Coven (Halloween Season) – Witches from every country, each infamous throughout the world for the horrors they reap have gathered under the banner of Simone Noir’e, the on again, off again head of the Dark Hour Coven. The witches with specialties they have cultivated through the centuries, fight and argue among themselves over who is the best choice for leader. Thirteen witches live within this storybook coven; each year one is struck down and another rises to take her place giving no shortage of fresh hells to endure, guaranteeing new and terrifying evils will rise to bring about the sickening and vile time of the Dark Hour.

This is the show that starts it all. Dark Hour Haunted House is broken up into 3 main parts: Dominion of the Dead, Coven Manor, & Voodoo Vengeance, all of which flow seamlessly from one to the next. The witches are placed throughout, each lying claims to their particular area as they unleash their acolytes on unwitting guests.

In addition to the main haunt, during the Halloween Season Dark Hour offers a second attraction, Terra del Monstrum. This equally entertaining haunt encompasses Allen Hopps’ love affair with the old Universal Monsters. This actor driven show is presented in black & white which is a stark contrast to Dark Hour. Guests are transported into the days of the classics to come face to face with the likes of Frankenstein, Dracula, Werewolf and the Phantom of the Opera…offering a wonderfully scary tribute.

Wreck the Halls (Dec-Jan) – In an effort to reinforce the coven’s coffers, the Ice Witch, Frosne Wintergreen, has forged a deal with the notorious Christmas miser, Ebenezer Scrooge. While he believes he has hired the coven to prevent the spirits from haunting him as he continues his close-fisted ways, she has used the opportunity to harness the power of the season to summon something that is certainly not merry or bright. As her evil cold seeps and spreads across the land, so do the Krampus, the fabled Christmas demon, dragging with them the naughtiest of all the children to run amok in the Manor House. The North Pole penitentiaries find their halls empty as the evilest of elves take up residence with the witches to create the unholiest of jolly holidays.

Within days of closing the Halloween season, Hopps and his crew set to work turning the winding halls and massive rooms into a Winter Wonderland, albeit a rather twisted one. Some might think all that’s needed are a few holiday decorations and you have a Christmas show, but that’s not the case at Dark Hour. Great care is taken in designing a new look for the entire attraction. Snow is spread liberally throughout the outdoor scenes, lighting is changed to subtle hues of green & red, & Christmas trees are strategically placed. Even one of the attraction’s giant puppets is magically transformed into a Bumble. Everywhere you look, the holiday season is evident and actually quite beautiful to look at…when you’re not screaming, that is.

The fun doesn’t end there. Once you exit into the lobby, guests are encouraged to get their picture taken with Krampus or even our very own “Santa,” Carl Cleaver! (He was the lowest bidder.)

Love is Blind (Feb) – The air of love has a bitter burn when expelled from the lungs of Giselle Scuro. Giselle, a young witch, took herself away from Coven Manor across the countryside to spy for her sisters. Amongst the town folk, unrecognized for what she was, she met a handsome, young baron whose bold spirit and love of life rivaled her own. Despite herself, she grew more than fond of the young baron, and he for her as he flaunted her to his high-society peers unaware of her ghoulish secret. Their love was a burning, passionate fire, brightening everywhere they went, some even claiming that they could see the glow at a distance. Consumed by her fervent love of this mortal man, Giselle decided that she would tell him what she was, keeping her heart hopeful that he would join her. She rode to his home one evening to tell the baron her news, but found that she was too late; one of her own sisters in a terrible fit of jealousy had told Daniel the news and he hanged himself, unable to bear the disgust and horror at his deeds.

In a broken-hearted rage, Giselle now has cast a spell of darkness over the estates and surrounding countryside, determined that all would suffer as she is suffering, with sudden darkness and torment inside. Love is blind; I hope you aren’t afraid of the dark.

Over the past few years, Valentine’s Day has become quite popular for haunted attractions and for good reason. After all, what is more frightening than love?  For this show, Dark Hour offers up a “lights out” event. For most of the walk through, you are in the dark aided by only the light of a single red glow-stick. Many of the frights don’t come from what you can see, but rather what you can’t.  Actors surround patrons, taking care to be heard but not necessarily seen, until just the right moment.
While the idea of a lights out event seems simple, in many ways it offers quite a challenge to everyone involved. For example, rather than just turning out all the lights, Farmer spends days coming up with a design that allows pitch black darkness in just the right places, but uses subtle lighting to create distracting shadows. This allows guests some variety in what they experience. This type of event is also very challenging to the actors who need to familiarize themselves with their surroundings to a greater degree in order to effectively and efficiently move around to scare their victims. Quite a bit of training & rehearsal goes into this show to ensure a safe environment both for the guests and the actors.  


St. Patrick’s Slay Weekend (March) – The Irish hold the legend of Saint Patrick, whose story is a common one, and the witches know it well. They waited until the veil between the world of humans and the world of faeries was stretched thin and Shannon MacKenna rose to power in the Dark Hour coven. She called upon the Leprechaun & the Fomorian giants, the trolls, faeries & goblins. She demanded that they go out and hunt men using them in rituals as she makes mockery of the holiday. The numbers of the wee & faerie folk grew coming through the portal from the green isle, but the witch is too greedy and has reached too far. Even a magical hold of the little people is broken if you try to take their gold. Now they’re taking back what is theirs and more, and the witches are scrambling for power and dominance with you in the crossfire. You’ll need more than luck of the Irish to survive this struggle.

When a haunter thinks of St. Patrick’s Day, the first thing that comes to mind is Warwick Davis dressed as a malevolent Leprechaun creating havoc wherever he goes. So of course, during this time of year Dark Hour has the lion’s share of the evil, little green-clad characters. They invade a majority of the house, even going so far as to take over the foyer of Coven Manor and turn it into their own private pub, reminiscent of Gremlins 2. But the Dark Hour crew doesn’t stop there. The costume department creates a wide variety of mythic creatures to terrify guests. At any given time you might come face to kneecap with a Fomorian Giant or have trolls & goblins fighting over who gets to eat you. In terms of lighting and set re-dressing, imagine you’ve walked into a warped version of Alice in Wonderland, complete with giant mushrooms & dragonflies. While overall the theme of witches means magic is in the air, in this particular show the look of twisted enchantment goes into overdrive.   

Spring Fever (April) – They say the zombie apocalypse will never happen. Chemicals and science alone cannot blend virus and DNA to turn the living and the dead into dragging undead flesh cravers. The witches of Coven Manor have added magic into the mix in order to bring about the Zombie Virus. From fresh dead to rotten, the biters moan and wail, reaching, striving toward the life-blood that fills your veins and the warmth that covers your skin. Their skin is rotting, falling from them in slick, pulpy masses to litter the ground and be eaten by those no longer able to stand, still propelling themselves with their arms to seek your trembling legs and feet. The witch of contagion, Vera Blight, is bringing the undead to Dark Hour.

Spring Fever is Dark Hour’s most modern show. It was their goal to make this one of the most intense haunted attraction experience anywhere, and they succeeded. Everything about this show is designed to disorient guests to a higher degree than normal. The first and biggest challenge is to reverse the direction of the show. The exit becomes the entrance and in order to accomplish this, everything from the lighting, the placement of new props, and the training of the actors has to be meticulously thought out to control the customer flow. The exit is redressed and a secondary ticket booth is put into play.

Once guests enter, it’s evident they’re in for an extreme haunting. From the queue line, they can hear the overwhelming sounds of mass hysteria coming from inside. The Spring Fever show assaults the senses with overhead spotlights moving about, air raid sirens, and soldiers evacuating guests by getting them to the helicopters heard flying overhead.

“We really get to stretch our special FX and audio/visual muscles with this one. Some Dark Hour staff have said that the soundtrack alone stresses them out. I ALMOST feel sorry for the cast for the environmental beating we put them through. Everything is very loud and fast. It’s also one of the few times we can experiment with gunshot effects. Plus, the gore meter is off the charts for this show which is another reason I enjoy it,” says Farmer.

Dark Hour’s makeup department also goes above and beyond for Spring Fever, applying & painting over 100 prosthetics per night. YES, there are zombies…everywhere. Throughout the entire run of the house, they appear to be literally coming out of the woodwork. When you get to the graveyard (now the final scene due to the reverse flow), they hit you en masse thanks to guest actors from another local attraction, Zombie Manor Haunted House in Arlington TX.

Walpurgisnacht (May) – A night of celebrations! This is the evening that all witches look forward to, especially Maedina, a lively hag whose magic thrives on the energies and transformations of pleasure & delight. A dark night in the spring where the creatures & minions of dread come together across the globe, Walpurgisnacht is their time for terrifying revelry, the halfway point to that most celebrated of holidays – Halloween!

Dark music and art! All manner of expression is yours for the viewing, but if you come to join the festivities, be careful of the price you’ll pay, whether be your soul or your sanity. This is their one night to ‘let their hair down’ with other like-minded witches & supernatural creatures, building and boiling the energy and excitement to make their push through the year to Halloween when devious schemes are devised to bring about the Dark Hour. It is a fever dream of fun & fear, a name you cannot pronounce and an event you cannot miss.

This show is difficult to describe. It’s a creative masterpiece of music & sound, easily the most challenging to create. What is Walpurgisnacht? According to creative designer Ed Gannon, “It’s a witch’s holiday for the first day of Spring, and it's also an interactive expression of the arts. It's like a haunted house musical!  Part concert, part gallery, part performance art and all scary; this is simply the most unique show I've ever worked on. It's like Cirque du Soleil meets Blue Man Group in a horror movie made by witches!”  

Sound plays an especially important part in making Walpurgisnacht a successful show. Many of the creatures, witches & acolytes work musical instruments into their scares & distractions. At any given point you will find actors with electric guitars, bagpipes or even a theremin (look it up!). And like any good haunted attraction experience, the use of these instruments and sounds work to build the tension as you go through.

Gannon adds, “In keeping with the theme of the show, you exit into a ‘Night Gallery’ of sorts filled with Dark Art from local artisans in many mediums for you to peruse and even purchase.”  


Summer Spirits (June) – The Dark Hour witches have not always had a public hold over Coven manor. In the late 60’s, it appeared they were driven from it entirely and the manor became Annabelle Noire’s School for Troubled Girls. Young women sought refuge in the twisting halls and dark rooms of the school, but instead of being shown the light and the error of their ways, the darker sides of the girls were fed. Paranormal incidents occur with alarming frequency. Fire ripped through the manor, and while work was being done to repair the damage, rumors flew about curses on the workmen with builders finding early deaths or being driven slowly to madness. The manor itself and the spirits the walls contained conspired to make the little girls instruments of ancient dark forces. Travel through an almost all female cast as Dark Hour pays homage to what the world is truly afraid of…possessed little girls!

The Exorcist, The Shining, Poltergeist…Oh my!  Possession is the theme of Summer Spirits, and in many ways it is one of the most ambitious shows. Once again, the haunt is completely re-dressed to turn it into the school and surrounding grounds. The path of the show is actually changed at several points allowing hallways normally used as back areas to be brought into play as brand new scenes. To guests familiar with Dark Hour, it’s as if they appeared out of thin air. Along with the all-female cast (terrifying to our male guests), several professional stunt performers are brought in for some spectacular sequences that you won’t see in any other haunted attraction.

Dog Days of Summer (July) – One of the oldest witches, Baba Lupina, possesses a powerful talent for transforming herself into a werewolf. When she was called to lead the Dark Hour Coven, loyal Gypsies followed despite the long, treacherous voyage. Making their camp in the swamps near the manor, these Gypsies spread the werewolf’s curse throughout the land. Soon the pack will be strong enough to bring about the Dark Hour!

Travelers in this Louisiana Bayou will face many threats during the Dog Days of Summer. Not only must they be wary of the witches as well as the Gypsies and their blades, this season the Rugarou runs rampant. As Dark Hour pulls out all the stops, decide for yourself which fate is worse when dealing with werewolves, being turned or being eaten.

For their final show before the Halloween Season, Hopps brings to life his favorite monster in a battle between humans and werewolves. The flow is once again reversed from its original path and guests are in for a treat (or become the treat?) as they face werewolves and dodge bullets. Stylistically, this is an especially fun show for the costume department as they get to create as many different types of werewolves as exist in folklore. From the old Universal style Lon Chaney to “Dog Soldiers”, variety is a key element. And if guests survive the onslaught, upon exiting they can take pictures with a werewolf or actually become a partially transformed werewolf in an ingeniously designed “American Werewolf in London” prop table.

As you can see, the Dark Hour team is working hard to become one of the premiere haunted attractions in the country. Any given day, you can find up to 20 artists, techs and craftsmen busily changing and upgrading in order to offer its guests a wholly different experience with each show. If you get a chance to visit the Dallas area, stop in and see what has become a grand experiment in dark entertainment. 


To learn more about Texas' Dark Hour Haunted House visit their websit below:
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