Slaughterhouse owner to bring haunted attraction to downtown Des Moines
The Slaughterhouse, a Des Moines haunted house embodying Slipknot imagery, music and iconology, opens Friday at the Barnum Factory. Des Moines Register
The Slaughterhouse is a staple haunted attraction in Iowa, bringing in horror fans from all over the world.
Now located at 97 Indiana Ave., the attraction will relocate next year to downtown Des Moines at 500 Locust St. — underground next to the old Kaleidoscope, and a short walk from the Court Avenue entertainment district.
The new site is set to open in September 2020, according to co-founder, creative director-producer and director, Ian Miller.
"Slaughterhouse is moving for more space, bigger attraction and better accommodation," Miller said. "There will be an indoor bathroom facility for guests, which we don't currently have, and parking."
Working with 14 people, six of them designers, the Iowan is also partnering up with Kyker Johnson Architecture to help design the space.
Miller estimates that the new location will be able to grow to an attendance of 40,000-plus within a season. However, he told the Register that he hopes it will move beyond that to 60,000-plus around Halloween alone. Last year's annual attendance was just under 13,000.
Slaughterhouse plans to go beyond opening only during the Halloween season to include events such as Krampus, Bloody Valentine, Leprechaun mid-summer and more.
The new space is 40,000 square feet, but Miller won't be building into it immediately.
"We'll build into a portion of that, and then we'll be able to grow from there," he said.
The current Slaughterhouse location is roughly 8,500 square feet.
"The new space is going to be crazy because we can control the audio aspects and the immersion much better. Where we're at now, it's huge ceilings and dead space," Miller said. "The sound and light flow through, and you can't control it. With the new location, we can build right up to the ceiling and have cavities that we can control the sound and the lights."
Slaughterhouse's move to downtown is self-funded, and Miller said it will involve at least half a million dollars in new investment for himself and his business partner, David Hukill.
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Once Miller is ready to get into the season, he will begin the promotion of Slaughterhouse's last days at the current location. The first nod to the new site will be Dec. 7 — a Krampus photo op and crawl sponsored by Full Court Press and including Hessen Haus, The Royal Mile, and a finishing party at Skol.
For Miller, Slaughterhouse's uniqueness is the culture of the people and the narrative. The theme is a 19th-century hog rendering family called the Biggs Family — cannibals who had a rendering empire that was rooted in diabolical acts. As far as inspiration goes for the new space, Miller is inspired by Netherworld Haunted House and Erebus Haunted Attraction. But, "we have our strong theme that we will maintain," he noted.
Miller believes the new haunted attraction downtown will bring in more people throughout the year and offer another element of entertainment in the rising arts and culture scene.
"My mission and goal are to provide more opportunity to creatives that don't have the outlet currently," Miller said. "Haunted houses are where I found my niche in this community, in terms of providing a financial opportunity for other creatives. It is a labor of love more than anything else."
Miller grew up with staunch Christian parents that didn't allow him to play with He-Man figures, Smurf dolls, or go trick-or-treating. The Willy Wonka of haunted houses, he played with the kids in the neighborhood who showed him what Halloween was all about. One year, at the age of 7, he built a haunted house with friends in a shed out of bed sheets and cheap rubber masks.
"I took the tickets, and we had three guests that year, so we had a total of 75 cents in revenues," Miller said.
From that point on, he became inspired by the idea of creating his own world. His love for fantasy grew with creators such as Jim Henson, Lewis Carroll and Tim Burton.
His chance to build his first professional haunted house came in his late twenties. In 2009, he created a haunted attraction for a charity organization and had been creating them ever since.
"We operated 2009 at the American Family Thrift Store building on Southwest ninth," Miller said. "It was not until 2016 that we started building for 2017 to reopen again at our current location."
Miller wants Slaughterhouse to become a nationally recognized haunted attraction. For now, the creative survivalist is partnering with legendary Iowa band Slipknot for the second year for a feature dedicated to them.