18 years on, Terror of Tallahassee still spooks
by Neil Coker, Democrat writer
Anyone who has lived in the capital city long enough has experienced or heard of Terror of Tallahassee. The city's flagship haunted house destination, it's been a constant every October for what has now been nearly two decades. But along with so many other developments city-wide, the funhouse of fright has been through its share of changes.
For most of its 18 years, its home was a creepy-on-its-own warehouse on Gaines Street, recognizable year-round for its spooky decor. But in 2014, the owner sold the property for a handsome profit, and Terror of Tallahassee was suddenly in need of a new venue.
"They ended up selling it for almost $2.5 million as the Gaines Street development went crazy," said principal ringleader Kurt Kuersteiner. "We were always very pleased to be two-tenths of a mile from the stadium. We scrambled to find another place, and lo and behold, this old stone factory was available. It wasn't available for rent, so we had to buy it and it was going to take a big commitment."
But, he said, they had so much fun in the previous decades that they couldn't help but purchase the building. Their new location, an old stone factory that once produced marble and granite, is located at 1408 Lake Bradford Road, half a mile south of Doak Campbell Stadium.
Each season, the attraction changes its theme. "This year, it's all maggots and brain matter," said Kuersteiner, who went on to mention that what they have planned is based on recent events that should hit home for Floridians.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the morbidity, the crowds keep coming. Kuersteiner said that Terror of Tallahassee is unlike anything he's ever seen in his time scouring the competition.
"When I worked for a TV station in Harrisburg, they had a whole bunch of haunted houses, the 11th largest market in the country. [Yet] I've never seen anything like what we are putting on here. I've been very, very pleased with the reactions of those leaving, which is why we have a high return," he said, citing surveys that show 65 percent of attendees have previously been.
And there's more in store. Realizing the limitations that come with a seasonal franchise, and with the financial burdens of owning their space, their next venture will be an appointment-only escape room, framed around evading zombies. It will be a year-round project, and interested parties can learn more at escaperoomterror.com
They're also changing things up as far as their normal tours go. Next Thursday, guests can opt for "Lights Out Night," where the horror happens in the dark and they have only a glowstick to guide them. For this, those under 13 years of age are prohibited.
According to Kuersteiner, what separates "Terror" from other haunted house attractions is the way tours are divided.
"We emphasize performance first, so we don't do the continuous conga line thing like at Universal. We split them into groups because we don't want them to anticipate the scares as they're seeing the reaction of those ahead of them. It's a vital part," he said.
It's like clockwork. "We manipulate it in such a way that we can put people through in 2-minute intervals."
Large crowds are anticipated, but the wait is reasonable. "When the line is really long, it's usually nothing more than an hour wait. Nothing compared to the 7-hour lines at Universal."
When asked what inspires his group to uphold the Terror of Tallahassee tradition, Kuersteiner said, "We don't have much in common, except that we love Halloween, pranking people, and scaring friends and neighbors."
Quickly, he added, "With their permission, of course."
Terror of Tallahassee runs nightly 8-11 p.m. through Halloween. Tickets are $15 general public and $10 for kids 12 and under. Get them at the door with cash or credit card. Visit http://www.terroroftallahassee.com/
From 11/02/16: http://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2016/10/28/18-years-terror-tallahassee-still-spooks/92837396/
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