Archive | November, 2010

Are you afraid of The Darkness? St. Louis’s top haunted house

2 Nov

The Darkness, located in downtown Saint Louis, lies quiet after a busy night of frightening thrill seekers from around the country.

Creepy music, flashing lights, a dark mirrored maze and a 3D corridor filled with evil clowns are just a few of the scare tactics employed by The Darkness in hopes of making people’s skin crawl this Halloween season.

From the outside looking in, The Darkness looks like any other brick building in Soulard, but the inside hosts a wealth of horrors. Over 20 national publications, including USA Today and Forbes, have named it one of America’s top haunted houses.

The Darkness is open to thrill seekers from Sept. 10 through Nov. 6. It is a part of St. Louis’s Scarefest along with CreepyWorld, which includes seven different haunted houses in one location. The Lemp Mansion, also part of Scarefest, is located in nearby Fenton and is rumored to be truly haunted by evil spirits. The Darkness is set apart by its detail, set design and animations.

A bearded man in bloody garb who calls himself Scary Gary greets visitors outside the haunt event night with his chilling smile. He has worked at The Darkness for the past 17 years.

“I’m just nuts, I guess,” Scary Gary said, explaining his love for his job.

Scary Gary, longtime Darkness actor, greets and scares visitors at the entrance of the haunted house.

Scary Gary works with about 120 other actors at The Darkness. Lauren Loboski, a Saint Louis University graduate, manages the actors. She was impressed when she first visited the haunted house as a student and started working there as an actor and is now a manager. Loboski looks for actors who are energetic and creative. She said a good actor uses the scenery in innovative ways for the best and scariest effect.

The actors at The Darkness have plenty of spooky scenery to work with. Its realistic sets include a swamp, butcher shop, ancient tomb, and many more. HauntWorld.com, a prevalent haunted house directory, names it the best, most detailed haunted house in America. For this reason, The Darkness attracts almost 6,000 guests each weekend of the season. The haunt attracts many local visitors, but people come from around the country for what is said to be the best scare around. Many celebrity guests have also attended.

“The Rams players go down the quickest,” said Scary Gary, obviously tickled by how tough football players are the easiest to scare.

Many more celebrities, such as Robert Englund, Linda Blair, Cassandra Peterson and Lisa Loring have also been in attendance. They may be better known as Freddie Kruger, Elvira, the star of The Exorcist, and Wednesday Addams. Music stars Young Money and Miley Cyrus both attended last year while in St. Louis for concerts.

Scary Gary straps unsuspecting visitor Kaitlin Deutsch to a mechanical replica of an electric chair in the museum at the exit of The Darkness.

Though the cast and crew are proud of their long list of celebrity guests, it is not what keeps them coming back year after year. The actors say the job is a lot of fun and a great place to meet new people. For many, the appeal of the job is the thrill of frightening the guests.

“It’s the rush, the rush of scaring people,” said Jeremy Nelson, an actor who has been spooking visitors at The Darkness for 13 years.

Over the years, Nelson has been able to develop his signature move, a sudden, low growl at the nape of an unsuspecting visitor’s neck. He said that at the very least it will send chills down any spine, but also sends many people running in fear.

The Darkness has renovations annually, which totaled more than $1 million this year, to keep the element of surprise, add new technology, and keep its standing among the top haunts in the country.

The Darkness is located at 1525 South 8th Street. Cost of admission is $20. For more information and a downloadable coupon, visit www.thedarkness.com.