Lesbian-owned haunted house in Plano grew from private Halloween gatherings into a business
Rich Lopez | Contributing Writer
PLANO — By the looks of the new Dark Hour house in Plano, Lucy Moore and her crew dug deep to say “boo” in the most frightful ways.
Everyone wants to be a little scared at Halloween, and haunted houses, those dark mazes of lurking monsters and chilling props, inject terror into people willing to pay for the spookish experience. Moore’s macabre enterprise is the only game in town, and she and site director Allen Hopps set a high bar — to scare the pants off people.
“When we create our scenes, it’s a combination of references incorporated into the house and just our own demented brains,” Moore said.
Demented is good when it comes to designing a haunted house, and Moore is a veteran. In 2001, she opened her home to friends after converting it into a creepfest. Her interest in horror (The Exorcist and Nightmare on Elm Street are her faves), as well as scaring the bejusus out of loved ones grew into Dark Hour, a gutted Sports Academy located next door to country restaurant Love and War in Texas.
The haunted house is a reflection of its owners, Hopps said, and he and Moore discuss their enterprise with calmness, a veneer that hides the ghoulish ideas churning inside their heads. Hopps winks and nods, implying their maniacal charm, and as a professional haunted-houser since the age of 10, he knows all the buttons to push to sell the product, as well as predict horror trends.
“Dark Hour has a witch theme, and they are kind of coming into vogue right now,” Hopps said. “This was before we knew about American Horror Story: Coven or other witch fads right now. Zombies are kind of on the way out, and before that, it was vampires.”
Dark Hour visitors are greeted by a large Gimble Witch hovering over a cauldron, the frightening partner of a larger-than-life skeleton-driven chariot. Hopps and Moore’s attention to detail bring the monsters to life despite the outlandish effects.
And it all begins with white space.
“We have a voodoo room, a plague room, [and] we needed a ritual sacrifice, but it all starts with a blank slate,” Moore said. “We say we want this and then work to create it. Once created, then it’s trial and error on how we scare the folks.”
Moore’s bogeyman ventures got a boost from Jim Shackelford and Jay Westerman, owners of Legends Creative, a creative development company. They developed Dark Hour’s concept earlier this year before relocating to Orlando. While working with Moore, Shackelford was impressed with her talents, impressive even when compared to his.
“Lucy has a great imagination, and I’m mesmerized by her knowledge of horror films,” he said. “I’m a pretty big fan of the genre myself, and we would be in meetings, and she would throw out film and television references I had never heard of. She has a strong intuition about what people will find creepy and scary, and I think that comes through in Dark Hour.”
Like other theatrical productions, Dark Hour’s cast and crew rehearsed and then went through dry runs with audiences comprised mostly of family and friends. Hopps trained the cast of about 90 while playing the character of Carl Cleaver. The well-planned horror production takes visitors through a graveyard, caged monsters, a maze of mirrors and tunnel of lights, but that barely covers the eerie offerings. For those who have survived a walk-through, Hopps said they shouldn’t expect the same show.
“We’re always tweaking the story and adding stuff, so this final week will definitely not be the same as it was the first week,” he said. “And by this time, the actors are on their game, so these last few days [until Nov. 2], Dark Hour will be a well-oiled machine with even more elements.”
The passing of Halloween doesn’t end Dark Hour, either. Events are planned for other holidays, such as Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day.
“We even want to have weddings here,” Moore said.
But for Halloween, Dark Hour has only one goal — to scare people to death. Figuratively, of course.
“We’re all just human, and we all get scared,” Moore said. “But Allen and me like to do the scaring.”
Dark Hour Haunted House, 701 Taylor Drive, Plano. For more, visit DarkHourHauntedHouse.com.
Block Party still the biggest Halloween attraction
The crowds at the annual Halloween Block Party along Cedar Springs Road have nearly doubled over the last several years, peaking at about 20,000 revelers the last two years, according to a police official.
Dallas Independent School District Detective Sgt. Jeremy Liebbe, who’s openly gay and serves as co-security liaison for the Street Party, said more than 20,000 people attended last year’s party, roughly the same number as in 2011. That’s nearly half the size of the Dallas Pride parade.
However, the Street Party is contained in a much smaller area than the parade, Liebbe said. The parade route spans several blocks of Cedar
Springs Road, but the Block Party is fenced in from Reagan Street to Knight Street along Cedar Springs.
“It is definitely a packed crowd,” Liebbe said. “There is a limit. You can only fit so many people in so much area.”
Fencing in the block began two years ago to help crowd control, as well as prevent outside alcohol and glass bottles from entering the party.
Liebbe said the majority of injuries at the event are accidental, and the fence helps keep the glass containers out, reducing the number of injuries.
“The first year it was fenced, it just eliminated that completely, and that was great success,” he said. “We feel it makes the event a lot safer for everybody.”
Liebbe said the same barriers would be in place this year, and 30 police officers, the same as last year, will patrol the area. Officers have managed the crowd with only a small number of public intoxication arrests and a few minor fights despite the large number of party-goers.
“For the most part it’s a quiet, fun event,” Liebbe said. “Quiet as far as what I call quiet. If I’m not having to do police reports, it’s quiet.”
In addition to the glass container ban, Liebbe encourages people not to bring realistic weapons with their cosumes so no one is alarmed. He also encouraged people to have a designated driver, a car service or to use the taxis that circle the area throughout the night.
“We want people to make sure they can come to this event, enjoy it, show off some really creative costumes and go home safely at the end of the night,” he said.
2013 Halloween Block Party, 7 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, 3900 block of Cedar Springs. Costume Promenade begins at 9:30.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 25, 2013.