There are often fables that rise up and spread around from campfire to campfire about old places that once were that disappeared because of some unexplained catastrophe. Not all of those stories, however, are completely false. What if one of those old ghost towns resurfaced, 100 years later, and was filled with exactly the spooky things that were originally said to have driven the townsfolk away? I, Todd Ferren, believe I found one of those places whenever I stumbled upon the evil community... of Talon Falls.
One night, sitting around his very own campfire amidst the extravagant outdoor Theme Park Studio by which he earned his accredited notoriety as a photographer, Todd Ferren, his wife Shell, and a group of their friends realized just how eerie the quiet sets were, set against the backdrop of only partially populated forestry. That night an idea happened into Todd’s creative mind: ‘What if I were to turn this photography Theme Park into a veritable nightmare – my very own haunting grounds?’ What happened next, as they say, is history.
The Evil Community of Talon Falls Haunted Scream Park got its official start in 1999, opening for the last three weekends of October each year, allowing their creative team to travel to other haunts and enjoy the season as a spectator before diving into the business of running a haunted attraction. Set on two acres of land, the park never truly had a ‘humble’ beginning, but compared to what it has grown into, one could say that it is obvious to see how Todd’s passion and ambition for the haunting business has grown over the years.
Looking back to before the idea of Talon Falls blossomed, it is not hard to recognize Todd Ferren’s creativity. In 1989, the one of a kind Theme Park Studio broke ground and began its own unique growing process. Over the years, the park had upwards of 100 or more outdoor sets including a Wedding Garden and Chapel, three waterfalls, tiki huts, a Bronx, a South Beach setting, plus so many more! Using these sets as a foundation, Todd then had his team go to work building mazes that he could place within or around his photography sets and suddenly a waterfall would become a swamp land and a the Bronx would become a junkyard, etc… (
So, now that we see what he has accomplished and continues to build upon, we have to take a moment and ask, ‘Who is Todd Ferren?’
Todd Ferren has been a professional photographer for 25 years, with his home base being in Western Kentucky. From the very get-go of his photography career, Todd has quickly climbed ladders to become now nationally known for primarily swimsuit fashion photography in magazines and calendars. When he endeavored to combine his photography studio with a new concept for a haunted attraction, his creative and his business mindsets married to birth a brilliant conclusion. By building Talon Falls around his studio, he was able to cross promote both by the other to high school and college age kids. With his photography, he would promote Talon Falls by offering those for whom he would shoot senior pictures roles in the park, and he would promote his photography by offering those who portrayed characters the opportunity to also come and get their pictures taken. The marketing was genius.
Todd’s Theme Park Studio has now been featured on “Extra” and Fox Television as one of the countries hottest spots for fashion shoots. Yet every fall Todd and Shell transform their beautiful top hot spot into a grotesque, gory ‘shock spot!’ Honestly, I think they prefer the screams and moans to the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’, but that’s just my opinion.
So, why then the name ‘Talon Falls’? Easy! Already working with his own moniker ‘Todd Ferren’ attached to his unique concept ‘Theme Park Studio’, he simply wanted to take a frightening, entertaining play on words and create his haunts name. Thus, Todd Ferren became Talon Falls, and ‘Theme Park’ became exactly what he intended should happen: ‘Scream Park.’ Todd utilized the word talon based on the viciousness of an eagle’s talon and he used falls because the primary attraction of his studio were the three beautiful water falls.
After a few years of testing the waters, then the addition of the remaining weekends to the attraction, Todd realized he wanted to do more – he knew he could make it even better than it already was. Talon Falls had outgrown its beginnings. Add to that the second attraction he added in the Dead End Haunted House – an homage to one of his favorite dual haunts in St. Louis’s own Darkness and Creepyworld – Todd soon realized that having two separate locations in a smaller area such as western Kentucky was not as economical as it might have been in St. Louis. Therefore, in 2007, Todd began to move.
To initiate the move, Todd commissioned the building of a brand new Dead End Haunted House (moving it from its abandoned warehouse near the original Talon Falls out to its own private location), using the skilled hands of his son, Kathan Ferren and long-time friend Thomas Bostic. Over the course of the year, leading up to the inaugural opening night, the two worked with a small crew, around the clock, to build a brand new building and fifty foot façade and create an entire new haunt.
During the second year of the new Dead End, Todd began work on building a new Talon Falls, starting with the creation of his third haunt, ‘The Pirates of the Dead End.’ This third attraction actually became a crowd favorite and a wonderful stand-alone, albeit short, walk through. By the third year of the new location, Todd managed to build an entire new Talon Falls Scream Park. Therefore, in 2008, the 10th year of haunting, Todd Ferren held one last ‘Hoorah!’ at his original, beloved starting grounds, and then shifted his entire product out to the massive acreage on which his other two haunts were located.
The move was definitely a huge crap shoot. Having to prepare two Talon Falls, since he was working on building the new park while the old park was still running, was a financial risk, to say the least. Add to this the possibility of taking the location within the metropolitan area of Paducah and shifting it 30 minutes into the middle of county farmlands in Melber, KY, Todd was in jeopardy of losing a lot of his customers to the drive. The gamble, however, paid off big time. Bigger and better than ever, curiosity brought people to the new location initially, but the grand scale and amazing team kept them coming back over and over again! One of the big reasons for the move is to expand and take Talon Falls Screampark to the next level and create a hayride, after visiting the 4 best hayrides in the country the Headless Horesman, Spookywoods, Bates Motel Hayride and CreepyWorlds Tombstone gave Todd many great ideas from each to create his own unique style of hayride.
I would go so far as to say, in my humble opinion, that once he added the third attraction – Blood Creek Haunted Hayride – Todd and his wife Shell solidified the success of a masterpiece haunt for as long as they endeavor to have it.
So, what will someone experience when they visit his massive, elaborate three haunts? A whole-freaking-lot!
First, a person who has a three-haunt combo ticket will be escorted through an elaborate labyrinth of roped off lines to a saucy saloon girl who’ll introduce them to an amazing CGI zombie attack, getting them warmed up for what’s to come. Then they’ll be taken to get on a tractor-pulled wagon to visit the decaying ruins of Blood Creek, the Haunted Hayride. From there, that person will be taken on a 15-20 minute journey through a half mile of various intricate sets including the Wolf Barn, the Slaughter House, and the Black Widow Saloon. Just past the saloon the wagon comes to a stop in the old western town of Blood Creek, where a few ghastly zombie cowboys have it out over and over in an old fashion, western shoot out. Once the shots are fired, the wagon trails them through the towns old cemetery and finally through the Mine Shaft before returning safely to the 21st century loading dock from where they came.
The Evil Community of Talon Falls, which features a new, interactive theme every year with an all-original cast. You will not run into any Hollywood monsters in this haunt! You will encounter over 100 live actors to entertain and terrify you throughout your 40+ minute journey. Talon Falls is a combination of indoor mazes and outdoor paths being the main and original product, has held onto its dominance as Todd’s most popular haunt, largely to do its variety of mazes. In the year 2011, in fact, the haunt will include seven different, unique mazes, including:
A combination of large culverts joined together by rooms, one being with a grid floor to allow fog to rise from beneath, it then takes you up through a huge culvert into a fan room, which only functions to slowly blow more fog at the guest, keeping him completely disoriented. From there, you choose either the stairway or the slide, which most people crawl through a 4’ diameter, 20’ foot long tunnel until they reach the slide room. The last stop in the Toxic Waste maze is the Toxic Bus, filled with dummies and an actor or two, so the guest is constantly guessing which guise will prove to be alive! If that wasn’t enough, add more fog, loud music, and strobe lights, and disoriented becomes the persons state of being for even a few minutes beyond exiting the bus.
Next she will find herself in the cemetery. Zombies abound, roaming in and out of larger than life tombstones, Mausoleums, a rocking hearse, and a large Manor façade featuring a statue of the Angel of Death.
Crypt of the Vampires
For obvious reason, this is one of the constant most popular mazes within Talon Falls itself. This maze features an abundance of aspiring models dressed in Victorian dresses, pale skin and vampire fangs who work for the haunt during October to earn photo credit with Todd for shooting their portfolios. With a dozen beautiful women and a few grotesquely painted men, each turn offers a sensory overload of seduction and scare tactics to keep the guest completely off guard throughout.
The Asylum features Talon Falls iconic characters Dr. Feelgood and Nurse Cadaver, who obviously have their hands full with a hospital filled with bizarre patients. This is one of the most detailed mazes in Talon Falls, however, and alongside its intense cast, it is thus also one of the top frights. The luck of the draw would have it that Todd managed to buy a lot of authentic props from a hospital auction, and then he went overboard on creating the façade. You start your walk through in an old hospital, pass through a long hallway that, with a little haunt magic, seems to neer end, and then lastly you pass through the padded rooms and cages of the Asylum itself before passing by the Krazy Kristen animatronic at the exit.
Before Talon Falls was located where it is, the Pirate Ship was its own haunt. Once Talon Falls moved, it became an integrated, integral part of the attraction. The maze is a two story series of themed rooms that, from its crow’s nest first room to its end, truly makes you feel like you are exploring the innards of an old wooden pirate ship. As you walk up and down the stairs leading through, portholes showing skeletal fish swimming by, plus the chilled atmosphere and eerie soundtrack of a rocking ship, truly create a fantasy-come-true environment, if it weren’t for the wenches and scallywags leaping out to terrify you every time you catch your breath!
Killer Clown College
As you leave the Pirate Ship and move on, you suddenly pass through an outdoor carnival with the Ring Master urging you forward and into an Ice Cream truck and leads you right into an indoor maze. The clowns within the maze range from ridiculously funny to ridiculously frightening, and you never know which is going to be which. By combining old high school props with locker rooms, classroom settings, and a collage of color combinations, you truly get an atmosphere of learning – unfortunately the education is how to kill with pun and punch! Finally, you end with the dizzying vortex and disorienting dot room, where tiny people dressed like the walls wait to pop out of nowhere!
This is Todd’s favorite outdoor maze. To get through this part of the park, you first walk through a Tiki Hut porch, around through a detailed Voodoo Shack complete with witch doctor, then onto an old, rickety rope bridge crossing the lagoon itself, filled with gators and snakes and the infamous half-woman, half-creature swamp lizard, who hides in the murky waters. Finally, the guest comes face to face with a two story shack and an amplified Voodoo Queen!
Talon Falls is carefully planned so that the maze walls and fencing can be taken down and rearranged to create new, unique paths for the next haunt season. Many of the facades, in fact, are double sided! This means that one side of them, for instance the que line Mausoleum that has a movie screen on it (with a projector hidden in a tombstone), which is the opposing side of the Tiki Hut a guest would see as they walk across the porch. To add to it, the inside of that same building is actually a break room for the ‘ Midway’ actors. The largest set located in the heart of Talon Falls is a two story theme room, which has a different two story facade on all four sides of the building, a Crypt, Industrial Warehouse, Swamp Shack and a Manor.
Dead End Haunted House
Last, but certainly not least, you embark on a journey through the Dead End. Once inside this massive façade, you step onto the ‘Hellavator’, which transports you (through some more haunt magic!) from the entrance to the inside, revealing a house full of peeling wall paper, cracked plaster, and antiques and props everywhere. This journey lasts about 15-20 minutes, taking you from the house, through the cellar, through to a butcher shop room where you get to meet a variety of gory, slaughtered animals (including a giant cow, several pigs, and some turkeys) and also the room’s feature creature, Pervis the Butcher. As you walk through, you come across countless actor drop panels and animitronic frights, all keeping your nerves racked within the claustrophobic environment, only to finish the maze by going through the claustrophobia room, forcing yourself between two giant ‘balloons’ which threaten to squeeze the life out of you!
Todd & Shell created the Ultimate Midway at Talon Falls, which is one of my favorite parts of the event. Guests are greeted by erie music, movie screens, massive facades, three concessions, Miss Shells Ghoulish Gifts, and this year the all new Deadly Desserts Cafe. With scarecrow stilt walkers, stalkarounds, and originally themed icon characters many guest entering this festive midway say “Talon Falls atmosphere is like Disney”.
The Scream Team consists for approximately 150 actors, 75% of them volunteers and the other 25% support staff from managers, security, tractor drivers, concession and gift shop workers, and parking attendants. The team has two airbrush artists and four make-up artists who work with prostethics and their own artistic talents to create fantastic creatures and special effects. The volunteers are all offered photography credit for family portraits, senior pictures, or modeling portfolios. Also, a portion of the profits earned are donated to Child Watch, Red Cross and Crime Stoppers. To date, Talon Falls has raised over $80,000.00 for these charities.
Todd uses several forms of advertising radio, television media and mall displays.
Mall advertising has been a huge success for Todd’s local photography business, so he built five 1880s style hurst and put them in malls in the five state area with large posters inside and flyers for guest to pick up to promote Talon Falls.
Since Talon Falls is in a smaller market, Todd wants everyone to be able to afford to experience his shows, so he has multiple tickets to fit any budget.
Guest can easily get up to $10 off combo tickets with a Hardee’s Talon Falls souvenir cup and a $2 off of any single haunt with a Hardee’s coupon. Hardee’s is the title sponsor and exclusive coupon outlet with over 40 Hardee’s restaurant locations in the quad state area marketing the Talon Falls Screamfest. This year Hardee’s bumped the production of Talon Falls cups from 100,000 to 300,000 and had a contest for the Hardee’s employees that sold the most large sodas. The reward for the most sold was passes for all the employees and one guest to visit Talon Falls. (www.talonfalls.com)
Talon Falls Future
Talon Falls is only moving onto bigger, better things! The Pirate Ship is coming out to create a new prison theme maze, ‘Cell Block D’, there is going to be a more intense focus on the actors and quality of the show. The Dead End will feature its first ‘theme’ as a ‘doll factory’ theme, with its main attraction being ‘Dollface’ and adding several new additions to Blood Creek Hayride. With 40 acres to grow on for future expansion Todd & Shell will continue to create one of the most unique Screamparks in the country! (www.talonfalls.com)
NAME OF HAUNT: Talon Falls Screampark
LOCATION: Paducah, Kentucky
NUMBER OF ATTRACTIONS: 3
ANNUAL ATTENDANCE: 30,000 plus
ADMISSION: $12.00 to $40.00 for Combo
NUMBER OF YEARS IN OPERATION: 13th year of Fear
AD BUDGET: $35,000.00
WEBSITE ADDRESS: www.talonfalls.com
Check out Transworld pre-Convention,
Talon Falls Haunt Tour on March 8th, 2011
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