Larry Kirchner Talks About Running The US’s Number One Haunted Attraction, The Darkness

September 4, 2018

Written by Kelli Marchman McNeely

Kelli Marchman McNeely is the owner of She is an Executive Producer of "13 Slays Till Christmas" which is out on Digital and DVD and now streaming on Tubi. She has several other films in the works. Kelli is an animal lover and a true horror addict since the age of 9 when she saw Friday the 13th. Email:


It’s that time of year again when haunted attractions open their doors and hordes of folks seeking thrills and chills flood their halls. Larry Kirchner, the owner and operator of St. Louis’ best haunted attraction sat down with us to talk about how The Darkness came to be and what it takes to keep such a massive attraction fresh. Larry also filled us in on, his site that helps you locate attractions in your area along with a list of the US’s top haunts.

Horror Fuel: “How did you get into the world of haunted attractions?
Larry Kirchner: “When I was a kid – I think it’s the same for anyone who gets on your website they grew up watching Christopher Lee and big studio horror. I think my favorite movie was Frankenstein vs Wolfman. I was always hoping they would continue to fight and see who wins. I remember when I was a kid and I saw The Exorcist, it was things like that. Even a movie like Indiana Jones or Jurassic Park, those movies made you want to make something, make you want to create something. Some people collect, others want to create an environment. That’s the category I fall in.
When I was in about fourth grade, I created a haunted house in my basement and charged a quarter for people to see it. When I moved to Houston, Texas and into an apartment complex I used their community center to build a haunted house. It was always there, you know? When I was older what I really wanted to do was make movies. Somehow, there was a pitstop with haunted houses. With movies and haunted houses, in many ways, they are very similar. You are creating a story and you have actors. The difference is with a movie they may have a year to make and tell that story, but with an attraction, you only have thirty minutes. I was probably the first person in the country to make it a full-time job. When I would go to the retail shows, the first thing you would talk to a person about was ‘What do you do for a living?’ They would be a fireman or electricians. Now, you talk to people and it’s a full-time job.”
Horror Fuel: “Haunted attractions are awesome. I actually played the Grudge girl for a couple of seasons at the Haunted Manor of Davisboro, not far from my house. Every year all I hear during October are chainsaws and screams [laughter].”
Larry: “She is scary.”
Horror Fuel: “What scares people the most?”
Larry: “In a Haunted house there are only really two ways to scare people, one is psychological, people are more freaked out by, like spiders, heights. We have people who put one foot in the door and freak out. The other half are people who are just startled. Obviously, it’s fun to scare people.
We have this one guy, we call him ‘Little Man’, he no longer works there because he can’t medically. He had a hard time walking, he’s only like three feet tall. His name is Cameron. People would say ‘you have this doll that is the scariest thing I’d ever seen. This guy has all kinds of medical problems and can barely walk but he got such a thrill out of scaring people. He could make a three hundred pound man run, okay. That made him feel incredible.  His whole thing was to just stand there and barely move. It was a great thing. That’s the great thing about haunted houses, people who don’t really fit in can there.”
Horror Fuel: “Tell us about The Darkness.”
Larry: “It’s a haunted house that I started, this is actually the twenty-fifth year, by the way. I had been working for another guy who was paying me a percentage and I did all the work. He fired me because they were so successful. To make a long story short, I started looking around to find a place to open my own. I found the building where The Darkness is now. The way we came up with The Darkness is because the building was called The Sunshine Factory because when it was built, it had like 200 windows. Back then they used a lot of windows so that workers could see. All the windows were boarded up and I was like ‘It’s complete darkness”. That’s how we came up with the name. The first year we opened the local newspaper called it the best haunted house in St. Louis.
Ten years ago the haunted house industry held its first trade show, Transworld. It’s gone from 5,000 square feet to 50,000 square feet. We’ve been opening our haunt for the haunted house industry since. Because we’ve been opening for the industry, we’ve been pushing the envelope.
Literally, when The Darkness closes on the last day, we’ve already ordered new equipment and props and begin renovating the next day. We want to give them something they’ve never seen before. We also build attractions for people all over the world. They fly in and we show them what we have. That’s also why we have four escape rooms. Last week I had someone come in to see our escape rooms and he wrote me a check. That’s how it works. We had thirteen reps from SixFlags walk through our haunted house last month. The thing we like building the most is black light mini golf.
I work with a lot of vendors. Once I wrote a check once for $40,000. All custom work. Last year the movie IT was really popular. We built a sewer and filled it with clowns. It was inspired by IT, but we are not a movie-themed house.  In the second movie, IT turned into a spider monster. I went to this company I work with and said ‘You know that big spider prop you made a few years ago, what if you changed the head on it with a clown? And you remember the Krampus you did for me that went viral? Remember how he was holding the kid that was kicking and screaming? Let’s do that.” He made it for me and we brought it to the show. Somebody videotaped and put it on Facebook and it got over 100 million views. The point is, that really connected with people. That’s what you are trying to do, connect with people. Every year we try to do something disgustingly incredible.”
Horror Fuel: “I’ve seen that clip. It’s impressive.”

Horror Fuel: “Tell us about your site, Haunt World.”
Larry: “We started it over 20 years ago as a website for haunts to communicate. That was the only purpose. Then we started listing haunts. You can find haunted attractions, pumpkin patches. It’s a place where people can go and say ‘Hey, show me everything 100 miles away.’ You can evaluate them all. We started putting out top 13 lists.  Every year, we put that list out on Haunt World. You can still see the list from 2017. We even have a list of real haunted houses, best hayrides, we have a list for everything. We have a list of the best haunts you’ll ever see, like 13th Gate in Louisiana, the Syfy channel has made movies there. It’s that amazing. The Best of 2018 will come out in a couple of weeks on Haunt World.”
Horror Fuel: “We will definitely tell our readers to check Haunt World out.”
For more on The Darkness or to get your tickets please visit the official website. Don’t forget to stop by to find all the Halloween seasonal events and haunts near you.

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