Plano, Texas - Dark Hour Haunted House
By Michael Edwards
Dallas Haunted Houses are some of the scariest and best in America! Hauntworld.com 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.