2004 -- "THE
DRAGON'S EYE" BEGINS...
It all started in late 2003 when
Kelly's daughter, Krystle, needed to write up a business plan for her
entrepreneurial class at NIACC. She wanted to write one up
on a horse business but instead Kelly suggested she do one on a Haunted
House business since it was October and all thoughts were on Halloween
at that time. That would be something very unique and
Kelly said she would help her put something together.
Krystle ended up getting an "A" on that fake business plan.
That was no surprise ..... Krystle always got "A's" on everything she
did .... but what WAS a surprise was the overwhelming response she got
over the whole idea. ......and that's when we started to
think ..... hmmmm, maybe this isn't such a crazy idea. ?? ...might
this be something people will want??
So Krystle and Kelly went to work
planning a Haunted House FOR REAL. They both researched the
industry and found out what it would all entail.
Insurance, codes, laws, scare tactics, props, etc.
Once they got going, everybody said they were crazy. Many
friends said, "NOBODY is going to drive out in the country in the middle
of nowhere in Hampton, Iowa to walk through your stupid haunted house.
They said you guys are going to put all your time and money into this
and nobody is going to show up. Kelly and Krystle
really had no idea what they were doing aside from
gathering a few prop building
books and visiting a lot of haunted houses in the state.
Well, first we
need a name, Kelly thought. She came up with the
name "The Dragon's Eye" one day when she was mowing. She always
liked the name the place in Chicago had -- The Raven's Grin Inn ---and
wanted something unique like that. Then they saw
lots of haunts had 'legends' that went with them so they came up with a
that had five dragons in it to go along with the name of the haunt.....
then they started
thinking of ways to scare people. -- but they seriously
still had no clue how to build this stupid thing.
They flew by the seat of their
pants and put something really neat together in hopes it would entertain
people that chose to come see it.
The girls scrambled each and every night and sometimes only had 6 people
show up to help. Those actors would duck under walls
and move from room to room trying to follow the guests to scare them
since there wasn't enough people to go in every room.
They would panic every night they were open ...... it all started around
6pm ..... when people started calling in telling them they weren't
coming to help ..... so the girls would get on the phone and call in all
favors from everyone they knew -- PLEASE come help us scare people!!!
If they only ended up with 6 people ...... they did the best they could
with who they had.
2004 ROCKED! The
Dragon's Eye Haunted Barn was born. Kelly and Krystle were
absolutely shocked that about 1,000 people came to visit the haunted
barn over the 5 days they were open that first year in 2004. At the end of the
season Kelly and Krystle congratulated themselves on a job well done, tore the maze down, packed everything up, and
started planning for the next year ....
2005 -- "THE
what could they do to change things up a bit? They didn't
like going to the same old haunted houses each year. Those that
never changed things up were boring. Kelly
decided they would NEVER be boring. The Dragon's Eye
has the ability to start from scratch every year since they were
building from the ground up each time.
Kelly decided to give this year's haunt a theme that related back to the
original name ....... and continue the "Legend"
2005 would be known as "The Dragon's Revenge." The
dragons were so mad that they've been locked up for an eternity that
they have kidnapped many of our family and friends. Kelly told
people that they lost a lot of people who tried to walk through in 2004
....they went in but never came out. SO, this
year we're going to open up ONE MORE YEAR to try to save these lost
souls from the Dragon's Revenge .....
What a BLAST 2005 was!!!!
Since this was the SECOND year, word of mouth started spreading and
crowds were a tiny bit bigger and there were a few more kids volunteer
to come out and help. There were still many nights of sheer
panic when the girls would look around at their volunteers and count 10.
....but there were 13 rooms to man. ....and a
ticket booth and the door and the concession stand.
Yikes!! So, once again EVERYONE manned their phones and by 7pm ......
they managed to beg enough people to come out to help scare.
The number of days open were
increased to 7 total in 2005 plus guests
were asked to bring a can of food with them to donate to the food pantry
and they could take $1 off their admission. A lot
cans of food were raised for the local pantry and the group made a LOT of
new friends. Now there
were actors coming in from all over Iowa to help.
There was one unfortunate
accident in 2005 ....... one of the overzealous adult actors (Tim M)
accidentally knocked the
big 'dragon's eye' off the door when he was trying to scare the crowd
waiting in the main barn. When the big eye fell
off the door, it shattered in a hundred pieces ---- uh oh.
Little did Kelly know that was the best thing that could have happened.
A couple little boys in the line up yelled out --- OH NO!
The eye just fell!! That means all the dragon's can get out now!!!
Hmmmmmm........ they're right. Little did they realize that
they had a following and that original legend was known by all.
Removing that eye from the door at the end of the season was just what
the gang needed to step into the next season ........
2006 -- "THE
2006 rumors had spread that the Dragon's were released from the dungeon
and now could walk freely among everyone outside the dungeon.
OH NO! Now the mayhem and madness was not just
contained INSIDE the barn .... but now guests would see monsters OUTSIDE
in the fields and in the line up area. This was
EXACTLY what was needed to step up to the next level.
The Dragons RETURN .... and they're on the loose!!
Word quickly spread that The Dragon's Eye Haunted Barn was one scary
place! Kelly put together a promotional gimmick that
year to see if the kids were telling the truth. Many of the actors
claimed they had made guests 'pee' their pants after jumping out of the
and scaring them. Kelly bought a bunch of t-shirts that said
"I peed my pants in the Dragon's Eye Haunted Barn" and told the guests that if they would let
her take a picture of their 'peetality, that they could have a free
t-shirt. The shirts didn't last for
long. At first the kids were shy and didn't know if they wanted
their 'accidents' publicized but once they saw the neat shirts they
would receive --- their modesty quickly flew out the window.
Peetalities were being posted on the website.
2006 saw record numbers of
guests. Over 3,500 people walked through the dark, scary
maze. The number of volunteers were also increasing. There
were only a couple nights of the seven nights open that
they had to call for back up help. Most nights there were
plenty of actors ...... and the more actors ...... the better the scares
2007 -- "THE
By 2007 the Dragon's Eye Haunted
Barn had become a major contender in the Iowa Haunt Industry.
This haunt was quickly becoming known as one of the best haunts in Iowa.
For a fleeting moment, Kelly thought about maybe not opening during the
2007 season. Krystle had now moved onto other interests so
it was just Kelly at this point. It was so much work to
build this thing and then turn around a month later and tear it back
down again. But the outcry from the public was
overwhelming. So many people had begun to count on "The
Dragon's Eye Haunted Barn" and the kids BEGGED Kelly to open up.
So with the help of many super friends (including the gang from Horrid
Hollow pitching in) --- they opened for another year.
....and this year Kelly bought DOUBLE the amount of free t-shirts to
give to the peetality victims in exchange for posting their 'accidents'
on the website.
She also increased her promo
budget and went all out with live remote broadcasts on THREE radio
stations. She knew getting the word out was the only way to
increase traffice so what the heck --- why not. If they're
going to go for it -- let's go all the way. The
word was spreading through local schools and the volunteers were
exploding. Now Kelly had to keep a list of kids who volunteered
ahead of time because they actually had TOO MANY kids coming out and
Kelly couldn't believe how
this thing had grown so massive over just a period of 4 years.
Amazing. Lines would sometimes be so long it would
weave clear out to the road. The wait could be
over 2 hours on peak nights. CRAZY!!
There were literally THOUSANDS of people coming to walk through this
stupid horse barn from all over the midwest. Some
people were driving HOURS to get here because of what they were seeing
on the internet and hearing from their friends.
What had started in 2004 as
a plain, simple cemetery set in one of the front horse runs had grown
through 2007 into a massive electronic light show that would entertain
people even if they didn't want to walk through the haunt itself.
People were coming to the farm bringing lawn chairs and sitting outside
the haunt just watching the light show, eating dinner from the
concession stand, drinking hot chocolate and listening to the screams of
the people running out the exit. They didn't have to
walk through to be entertained. Kelly also
had started a room called the "Pumpkin Patch" where people with big
families could drop their younger children while the older kids and mom
and dad could walk through while the kids watched cartoons and colored.
That caught on VERY QUICKLY and the Pumpkin Patch was PACKED almost
every night we were open. Young and old sat in there.
There was no age limit. There sometimes were 40 year old guys that
were too scared to walk through by the time they got up to the entrance
door and they opted to 'sit out' while their friends went without them.
Dragon's did REIGN in 2007. This haunt was a force to
be reckoned with. By the end of the season Kelly and Russ's arena
was torn apart and their yard was emaciated. That'll happen
when there are THOUSANDS of cars coming in and out of the driveway and
thousands of feet walking back and forth over the grass.
But it was well worth it. Kelly and the rest of the
Dragon's Eye gang met so many amazing people and made lasting
friendships that no amount of damage can destroy those things.
If she had to do it all again --- she'd do it in a heartbeat.
2008 -- "THE
DRAGON'S TAKE A HOLIDAY"
...and as that heart beats, 2008
was here. There was no question Kelly was going
to open up. --- but she had exhausted just about every twist
and angle she could with the name. What would be their focus in
2008? They needed something to make them stand out from all
the other haunts in Iowa. During their pizza
pre-planning party in March, Kelly came up with an idea so off the wall
that everyone thought ........ you know, this just might work.
This might be the exact thing they need to get the attention they wanted
from all over the midwest. That's when "The
Dragon's Take a Holiday" was born. They decided
to take every beloved holiday that familie's celebrate and twist them
into something disturbing. The haunt featured the Evil
Easter Bunny .... Santa Claws ... a deranged Tooth Fairy .....
Thanksgiving Terror .....
to name a few. There was no other haunt in Iowa
that had the types of whacky scares that The Dragon's Eye Haunted Barn
As expected, the crowds
continued to EXPLODE. Kelly was turning
volunteers away because now some nights there were over FORTY
volunteers. There was a monster hiding in just about
every corner PLUS they were scattered all over the place outside.
There were school bus loads and hay racks and car after car after car
coming in droves. Kelly had an idea to offer a
FREE ADMISSION night in 2008 and asked the guests to please bring 3 cans
of food each to get in that night. They collected over 2,000 cans
of food in one night. It was amazing. The
monsters would seldom get a break because the lines were so long.
There were no more 'lulls' in the crowds like there were in the early
years. Once the doors were opened it was go, go, GO!
all night long. They had some kids that would stay
'reserve' and would try to break out the other kids inside needing to
get a drink or go to the bathroom. It was seriously
out of control.
By 2008 the "I Peed My
Pants" t-shirts were becoming collectors items and kids would drive in
JUST to get one of those t-shirts. They would drink
lots of water right before getting there and then intentionally have an
'accident' inside so they could get their picture on the internet.
What was once before an embarrassing incident was now a badge of honor.
The kids couldn't wait to get their pictures on the website.
Kelly now had a full time photographer and a separate videographer
roaming the haunt and the line up area snapping pics and taking video to
later publish on the website.
At the end of the 2008
season, the farm was once again completely trashed.
Garbage everywhere. Cigarette butts all over the yard.
Grass worn down to nothing on the pathways that thousands of feet had
traveled over the 7 days we were open. The east driveway
was torn up ..... the poor field was so torn up from hundreds of cars
parking on it...... the horse barn and arena were a mess.
The clean up continued to be harder and harder each year as the crowds
grew larger and larger. This time it took
several months to pick up the pieces after it was all over.
--but again, the videos and
pics that result from all the hard work and effort are priceless.
The smiles on all the people's faces who came to be scared cannot be
duplicated. That's what makes it all worthwhile.
That's what makes the clean up and damage tolerable.
2009 - The Dragons Go To The Movies ?
So you may be wondering ........
what happened in 2009? Well,
the kids all came together in March 2009 like they had for years prior
to do their pre-planning party. Since "The
Dragon's Take a Holiday" went over so well spoofing Santa Clause and the
Easter Bunny and other beloved characters, the kids all voted to theme
the 2009 haunt "The Dragon's Go to the Movies."
Ideas were thrown out on how
to twist beloved movie and cartoon characters kids love.
Like turning Spongebob Squarepants into something evil and disgusting.
Winnie the Pooh would be one bear you will NEVER forget. The
Cat in the Hat and Thing One and Thing Two would leave the kids walking
through our haunt with nightmares FOREVER. ....and if
you think clowns are scary ..... wait till you encounter the Teletubbies
we have here ..... that carry GUNS!!! Scooby Doo
with rabies, Dora the Explorer Zombie, ....and the list goes on.
The kids were incredibly
excited. The maze was designed completely different just like
every year before and all the rooms had it's own 'movie' theme.
Unfortunately, by the time fall arrived Kelly was having a lot of issues
with her bad leg and both Kelly and Russ had just come off planning a
huge Arabian Horse Show that had taken up so much of their time that
they just didn't have the energy to begin building.
They also knew that this year the numbers were going to be even bigger
than the years before. They knew the crowds and the
resulting damage to the farm would be overwhelming.......and the clean
up would be massive. ---so the very tough decision was
made to not open in 2010. "The Dragon's Go to the
Movies" would have to wait.
2010 -- The Dragons Say Goodbye...
was incredibly disappointed that The Dragon's Eye Haunted Barn didn't
open in 2009 but many were optimistic that this was a short break and
Kelly would be back up and ready to go in 2010. The
horse show that Russ and Kelly managed over Labor Day Weekend continued
to grow just as the Dragon's Eye Haunted Barn had over the years.
In the spring of 2010, Kelly needed to make a decision ...... something
had to give. Running both huge events back to back was
just too much. It was then that Kelly made the
ultimate decision to shut down The Dragon's Eye Haunted Barn for good.
She called some of her haunted friends and offered her props to them as
a donation to keep their haunts going strong.
There's not many props left out in the garage.
Everything has been passed onto others that will hopefully keep the
smiles and screams coming for years and years in the future.
So folks, that's the story
of "The Dragon's Eye Haunted Barn." Those of you that
were lucky enough to experience a walk through the barn of terror will
likely never forget it. Some people screamed so much
they can't remember anything they saw. Some laughed so much they
almost hyperventilated. Some were unimpressed
because when they walked through half the actors were outside at the
concession stand getting hot dogs and pop and visiting with their
friends, but such is life. Trying to control a
bunch of kids in costume is like herding cats. They go
where they want to go ..... and most of the time that's to food.
doesn't matter what your experience ..... if you were just a guest
passing through or an actor working inside or someone that just
volunteered to come out and string cobwebs through a room one day.
Everyone has a unique memory they take away from the experience.
Everyone was somehow changed ..... hopefully for the better .... because
of an idea a couple girls threw together in an old barn with some scary
looking props years ago. Lasting friendships were
made. Personalities were discovered. Kids that
were shy, broke out of their shell. Teens that didn't seem
to fit in anywhere finally fit in somewhere .... and found others that
had their same interests. Those that believed they weren't good at
anything found out they were incredible at scaring people.
Adults were allowed to let go of all their problems and pretend to be
someone else ... if only for one evening. Good,
honest, sincere smiles were captured on film.
..... and just like Kelly was heard saying to many people going through
the door into the haunt --- "It's ok to scream. Really....It's ok.
Now's the time to let it all out. There's no other place in
the world that you can scream at the top of your lungs ....... and it's
completely appropriate. Let your troubles go, and scream
until you can't scream anymore. That's why we're
The Dragon's Eye Haunted
Barn. It was a good thing. Remember us