Joey Arena Talks about His New Job Preserving and Restoring the Haunted House at Funtown Mountain!

Alley Theater Founder/Chairman and former Baxter Avenue Morgue Creative Director, Joey Arena, is the new caretaker of one of America’s oldest standing walk through haunted houses.

No pressure.

The job: Restore the original Haunted House at Guntown Mountain to its former glory, preserving its history as an iconic roadside attraction in Cave City, while updating it slightly to fix broken props and pump up the “lesser polished stuff.” Get it ready for re-opening as a preview of Funtown Mountain this Halloween in 2015.

The goal: Please both longtime fans who have taken dozens of trips through the dark and twisting hallways over the years and newbies who have never experienced this classic haunted walk-thru.

The man: Joey Arena.

“History is very important to me,” says Arena. “I want to keep all the original props and try to replace the broken ones. Will (Russell) has a lot of the original Funni-Frite props, like The Thing (a pair of hands that pop out of a mysterious box), in storage. I’m going to try to find a replacement of the Gorilla gag at the end.”

Arena has a long and fabled local resume in both the theater and the haunt business. As co-founder of the Alley Theater when it opened in the back of the Highland Grounds Coffee Shop 21 years ago, Arena has staged countless productions including “Evil Dead: The Musical,” which will be returning for its third blood soaked engagement in 2015. The Alley has moved recently to its most prestigious location on West Main Street between the Kentucky Center for the Arts and the 21c Hotel.

Arena was also one of the earliest Creative Directors at the Baxter Avenue Morgue.

“The Morgue opened in 2001 and I and my former wife, Verity Vice, worked there during the first season,” relates Arena. “After the season ended, the owner asked everyone working there if we had any suggestions for improving the haunt for the next year. We turned in what was basically an 8 page treatise on the improvements we would make.”

He laughs. “It was a ‘put your money where your mouth is’ type of situation, because he ended up hiring us as Creative Directors in 2002 and we took over the Morgue for the next five years.”

Arena and Vice married two days after Halloween during their time running the Baxter Avenue Morgue, but after they divorced amicably five years later, they decided to part ways with the Morgue as well.

“The Morgue was about us,” admits Arena. “We wanted to make it the haunt we always wanted to see but never saw. It just didn’t seem right for either of us to continue without the other.”

This Halloween, Arena is returning to the haunt biz in a big way as both the head haunter at the Haunted Hotel (formerly named the Haunted House) at Funtown Mountain and as the new Creative Director of Zombie City at the Asylum Haunted Scream Park where he’ll be putting his theatrical background to use in cooking up some “major story developments” in Asylum’s unique, interactive haunted attraction.

“The Haunted Hotel at Funtown Mountain WILL be open this Halloween,” states Arena. “We’re planning a big concert to be held there on Halloween night, but the plans are still in flux and I’m not sure who the headlining act will be at this time.”

“For the most part, we plan on keeping the Haunted Hotel an actor free attraction, but we certainly plan to have actors and entertainment set up to entertain people waiting in line during the Halloween season,” says Arena. “I can actually see us possibly putting an actor or two in there as something special for Halloween, but mostly we plan on keeping the attraction as it is.”

The rickety old Haunted House at Guntown Mountain was built in 1972 and designed by a defunct company called Funni-Frite Industries who specialized in building dark rides and funhouses for the amusement park industry. There were originally seven Funni-Fright pop-up gags that brave guests would encounter while exploring the tight and winding passageways, including the legendary Charmin’ Charles, a skeleton playing piano visible through the cobwebbed window on the second floor.

“Charmin’ Charles will remain exactly where he is,” definitively states Arena.

Other gags originally installed in the Haunted Hotel include the “box of moaning skulls,” the Mummy, the “Hang ‘em High” gag with a machine gun shock scare added, the Baron, the Troll and the Gorilla.

If you’ve never experienced the thrills of the Haunted Hotel, there’s a point midway through the attraction where guests emerge from the darkness on the second story balcony for a breathtaking view of the Cave City landscape that doubles as a great photo opportunity for friends and family waiting down below. The balcony also serves another sinister purpose during the daylight hours. Once brave explorers’ eyes re-adjust to the daylight, they must return again into the dark and disorienting hallways with renewed blindness!

This Halloween promises something old and something new in Cave City, and Joey Arena is the man in charge of making it all spooky. Now all we need is a time machine to speed up the next eight months.

The Phantom of The Ville

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