When Scary is the Family Business

October 2011

Like most kids, brothers Randy, Ryan, and Robby McLellan couldn’t wait for Halloween each year. But it wasn’t the thought of candy apples and sugary treats that got them excited—it was the annual tradition of turning the family's Loveland garage into a scene from a horror flick. Dressed as ghosts and zombies, the boys would delight in terrorizing any neighbor who dared enter the unholy space. Each year the garage got better and better, and by the time they were in high school, they were designing haunted houses for several nonprofits.

Fast forward 15 years, and the brothers are still up to their Halloween hijinks, only now they’ve turned the hobby into a thriving business. And this time, they’re doing it big. Each year Haunted Concepts, the company they formed with friends, hosts an elaborate production called City of the Dead —a zombified “city” that hosts more than 15,000 visitors each year. 

City of the Dead isn’t your average haunted house, though. Entering its walls is like being on a Hollywood movie set, complete with wrecked cars, special effects, and elaborately made-up actors. It takes a team of 15 people—artists, engineers, sculptors, and makeup artists—about six weeks to set up shop. Every mask, wall, and prop is hand sculpted and painted. “I think what sets us apart is that we’re not afraid to show people in the light,” says owner and public relations manager Lindsey Smith. "We’re proud of our attention to detail.” 

When Halloween is over, it takes that same core crew about two and a half weeks to disassemble the city and its businesses—like Gory Rory’s Garage, Scalpie’s Barber Shop, and the town cemetery. Then the pieces go into storage until the following August.

City of the Dead is open Halloween night. Come prepared for a fright: Smith says several people each night don’t make it through the haunt—something the staff is (a little too) proud of.

By the Numbers

Gallons of face paint used: 2.5 

Gallons of “special recipe” blood mixed: 10

Number of actors: 45

Gallons of fog juice used: 100

Days of safety workshops and acting lessons for staff: 6

Average length of time a victim—er, visitor—spends inside the haunt: 20 to 25 minutes

 

Image Courtesy of James Nevious