Hauntrepreneur: Louisville’s Mad Haunt Doctor, Michael Book, Reveals the Secrets behind Two of the River City’s Newest Haunted Attractions.

Danger Run Legend at Pope Lick Black Orchard

We interview Dr. Michael Book about his two sinister creations, Legend at Pope Lick and Black Orchard Haunted Attraction, and the other creepy projects taking place in his secret laboratory.

Dr. Michael Book

Tell us a little about your earliest Halloween memories and what set you on the orange-and-black path as a ‘hauntrepreneur’.

When I was three years old, my uncle introduced me to scary movies. We watched a number of them, but the one that really captured me was “Nightmare on Elm Street.” Something about Freddy’s power to kill people in their dreams really terrified me. Being a kid with a vivid imagination, you can’t even conceive of the nightmares I had! I loved that movie so much, that instead of coloring in coloring books, I was using crayons to draw Freddy with his bloody glove. This of course caught the eyes of my preschool and kindergarten teachers and landed me in counseling for an assessment, only to conclude that “He just really likes Freddy Kreuger,”.

Do you remember the first haunted house you were taken to as a child?

Absolutely! By age four, the same uncle then took me to my first haunted house. That lifted me to an entirely new level of fear beyond just scary movies. As soon as we entered the first blacked-out room with chains, I immediately thought Freddy was coming for me. I freaked out and had to be drug, kicking and screaming, out of the haunt. Of course, it wasn’t long after that I gave it another go and fell in love with haunting.

What are the haunt brands you represent in the Halloween business?

Currently, I am one of the owners of Legend at Pope Lick and Black Orchard Haunted House.

What were some of the biggest hurdles to overcome starting a Halloween enterprise while earning your doctorate degree at the same time?

Ghostrun

It was the most challenging thing I have ever done. I’m still not sure how I did it! There are a couple of notable hurdles: 1) Time management was by far the biggest challenge. As you can imagine, getting my doctorate took the vast majority of my time and dedication, leaving me with very little time for extracurricular activities. Essentially every moment of free time had to be dedicated to my Halloween “hobby”. Some people have hobbies like sports. Mine was Halloween. Of course, even then it would not have been possible without our amazing team. 2) Keeping the two professions separate. Believe it or not, there was very little overlap in my two professional lives. Even today, I try to maintain a barrier between my two professions. People tend to make assumptions about things they don’t understand, so instead of having to explain, it is easier to maintain the two separately.

Who are some of the members of your haunt team and how big of a team is it?

We have a pretty incredible team; All told we have over 60 years of combined experience. My business partners include Mike Kimzey and Brian Ward, but our entire team is much larger. Some of the team integral in bringing these experiences into reality include our spouses (who we absolutely couldn’t do this without), Katie Rogers, Rod Whitenack, Garry O’Brien, Antonio Pantoja, Jim Bulleit, Dell & Fred Courtney, Paul Carroll, Cindy Fenwick, Ethan George, Chad Bennett, Tabby Gray, and so many others! Honestly, there are too many to even list! I am incredibly lucky to be a part of such an amazing team!

Legend at Pope Lick

Tell us a little about the origins of the idea for The Legend at Pope Lick and what people can expect from that particular attraction.

Well, I started designing and managing commercial haunted attractions when I was fifteen. Until I got my license, my parents would drive me to the haunt. I designed and managed that attraction until I graduated high school. Then I moved to Pittsburgh and received my first college degree in Industrial Design, focusing on special effects. I returned to Louisville and began working with Actor’s Theatre and the local haunts. Over the years, I have worked with and directed some of biggest haunted attractions in this area. Through these experiences the opportunity to become a partner in the Danger Run presented itself and I jumped at the chance.

Four years ago, Danger Run was put into a predicament of not having enough haunts. When that happened, it was decided we would introduce some smaller attractions to supplement the larger finale attraction. This was the first step into ownership of my own attractions.

During our location scouting, we found this unique property with an old, wooden trestle in the middle of the woods. When we found it, I immediately wanted to do some kind of Goat Man haunt. Unfortunately, that particular property didn’t have adequate parking and we ended up at two Metro Parks. While the concepts of the two smaller haunts were really cool that year, the size of the attractions were not well received and ultimately led to the necessity to “go bigger”.

With the Goat Man concept still in my head, I knew that the Parklands had recently opened Pope Lick Park located on the property of the actual legend of the Pope Lick Monster. We were able to forge a partnership with the Parklands of Floyds Fork and bring the Goat Man haunt to life. Legend at Pope Lick is now in its’ third year and it grows more incredible with every passing year. It is a must see! We have so much more in store at this haunt as it continues to mature.

Dr. Michael Book

Black Orchard

Tell us a little about your newest attraction, Black Orchard, and how that concept came about. What IS in the barn?

The overall concept/design for the barn was intended to provide an entirely different experience than Legend at Pope Lick. Legend is more of a monster movie style haunt while Black Orchard is much more of a gritty, bloody, Rob Zombie-style haunt. People like different things in haunts, and the entire purpose is to satiate different flavors. The story of Black Orchard is derived from a combination of actual events. I did considerable research on a variety of serial killers to arrive at the final concept of the haunt’s story. It was written up and from there we went to work bringing it all to life. Of course, this year we went above and beyond to really amplify this experience and truly immerse guests into the story of Black Orchard Meats.

Give the us inside story of one of Louisville’s longest running and certainly most unique Halloween events, Danger Run.

Last year (2017), we experienced the biggest challenge we ever had to face as a company. The founder of Danger Run, Joe Bulleit, suffered a heart attack and was forced to step back from his role in the company. At the time, we were already in a great deal of flux with adding on more haunts AND officially taking over production of the Louisville Halloween Parade & Festival. Joe had always been a mentor and leader of our company, so to lose him during this massive transitional period was the hardest thing we have ever faced. Luckily, we made it out the other side to tell the tale, but we couldn’t have done it without our absolutely incredible team.

This year, I am happy to report that things have leveled out and we were able to introduce some of the biggest changes to the Danger Run in its’ history. We now have multiple ways to win the Danger Run and also win instant prizes. It is far more forgiving than it has ever been, because now mileage doesn’t have to be perfect to win. We also integrated a story-line into the clues which is tied into the included haunts! It is a far more immersive experience than ever before and we are excited for you to play!

What can haunt fans expect from you and your team in the future?

In the future, you can expect to continue to see us push the bounds of haunt innovation; Introducing concepts and scenes that you’ve never before seen at a haunt. We pride ourselves with making our experiences totally unique and unlike anything you will see elsewhere. You can also expect to see the expansion of our partnership with Don’t Be A Monster, a Bullying Prevention Program that we have partnered with out of Denver, CO. You can also expect an expansion of the Scary, Good, Fun coalition of haunts and of course continued growth of Louisville Halloween and America Halloween. We have an exciting future ahead and hope that you’ll join us for the ride! Come out and visit us at one or all of our events! We have so much fun for you to experience, IT’S SCARY!

The Phantom of The Ville

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