Meet Allen Hopps, Haunt Director of the Texas-sized Dark Hour Haunted House!

Dark Hour Haunted House

Take a strange journey with us through the life of haunter jack-of-all-trades, Allen Hopps, Haunt Director of Dark Hour Haunted House in Plano, TX.

Allen Hopps, Dark Hour Haunted House

Everything is big in Texas, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that one of the biggest haunted attractions in the country is located in the Lone Star State. The Dark Hour Haunted House is nestled inside 47,000 square feet of a former sporting goods store disguised by a 42 ft long, 32 ft high rust painted facade. What might come as a surprise is that Dark Hour never really closes after Oct. 31. The slogan for Dark Hour is “Fear All Year” and the attraction hosts five completely different events outside of the regular Halloween season: “Love is Blind” in Feb., “St. Patrick’s Slay” in March, “Spring Fever” in April,Dog Days of Summer” in June & July and “Wreck the Halls” in Dec.

It requires 20 full time, year-round employees to build and maintain the two haunted attractions on site under the direction of lifetime haunter, Allen Hopps. “We completely re-do our show every time we open up,” confesses Hopps. “Every show has its’ own flavor and needs a new marketing campaign, new artwork and new videos for Facebook and YouTube. In the March show for St. Patrick’s Day, the haunt is infested with leprechauns and looks like the bar at the end of ‘Gremlins’.”

Hopps, whose job description involves designing, building, making costumes and doing make-up has been with the Dark Hour since it opened in 2003, but his involvement in the haunt business goes back much further. “I’ve been involved in haunted houses since 1986 when I acted in my first haunt and I haven’t missed a season yet,” he testifies.

“The first Halloween costume I wore was that of a construction worker that my mom dressed me in. At three years old I looked in the mirror and thought, ‘I could do better’,” admits Hopps. “When I was 10 years old, there was a haunted house very close to my grandmother’s house in Maryland. One day I just walked down there and said, ‘I want to scare people,’ and for some reason they let me. They took a ceiling tile out of the building and put me up there with a fishing pole that had a spider on the end of it. I needed a ladder to get in and out. It was a logistical firetrap nightmare now that I think about it.”

Dark Hour Haunted House

“Anyway, there was a school gym teacher who hated me and constantly tormented me and one night he came through the haunted house,” continues Hopps. “I scared him so bad with the spider that he fell down. Then I put the spider on his chest and stuck my head out of the hole in the ceiling so he would know who it was who put him on his butt. Stupid, Mr. Jenkins!”

Dark Hour Haunted House

“That spider on a fishing pole started my lifelong love of haunted houses.”

In 1995, fifteen days after Hopps graduated from high school, he drove a moped from Baltimore, MD to Orlando, FL where he had secured a job at the legendary Terror on Church Street Haunted House. “That’s when I started sculpting and making monster masks,” he says. “They had a pretty good gift shop and one of the things I loved doing was unpacking shipments and looking at the new monster masks. I put on every single mask that came into the gift shop before it landed on the shelves, and I couldn’t see or breath out of any of them. I realized that if I wanted to use masks for the haunted house that I’d have to make them myself.”

“Most monster masks make great sculptures and not great masks. Good masks don’t often make good sculptures.”

The initial vision for Dark Hour was the creative and financial investment of Haunt Owner, Lucy Moore. “A good haunted house reflects its’ owner,” admits Hopps. “It’s like how you can tell the mood of a painter by looking at what he painted, but on a much larger scale because you have to walk through it. For example, I can walk through Netherworld and I can see what’s important to Ben Armstrong or I can walk through The Darkness and I know what matters to Larry Kirchner.”

“There are two attractions inside Dark Hour,” Hopps elaborates. “The first is called Carl’s Playground. It’s like what you would experience if a serial killer opened a Chuck E Cheese’s. Carl has made his own animatronic “murderbots” using surplus Soviet military parts. It’s more of a low tech, low thrills kind of haunt.”

Dark Hour Haunted House

“The second attraction is the Dark Hour itself, and it has a very different flavor. It’s a very processed and polished, multi-million-dollar show,” he continues. “The main backstory is that there is a coven of 13 witches and a different one comes to power each month, changing the flavor of the show. The Queen Witch takes over at Halloween.”

“There are 42 haunted houses in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex and they are all very good shows,” Hopps confesses about the competition for consumer interest, “so we knew when we opened Dark Hour we had to think big. Most of the haunts in the area have a similar flavor mostly because they are bound by smaller budgets. I want to put you in a set that’s 40 ft by 40 ft and have you seeing multiple monsters that are twenty feet tall.”

“I love monsters. I don’t really care about horror movies per say. I can see people killing other people everyday on CNN. I like monster movies. There has to be a creature or a supernatural element to it, and I think I bring that love of monsters and fantasy to the haunt.”

“The best scene in any haunted house is when you scare a person and they run for three steps then start laughing,” explains Hopps. “Haunted houses really are a public service. We remind people that there are bigger problems in the world than whatever it is that you’re afraid of right now.”

“I will make you scream. I will make you cry,” says Hopps. “You can take all that stress and fear you have inside you and you can pin it on me. I will make you run for three steps and then hopefully I will make you laugh. Laughter is all that built up stress leaving the body. That’s what it’s all about.”

The Phantom of The Ville

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