Family-owned, home-grown haunted house in Mexico, Missouri focuses on phobias.
Dead Factory, located in Mexico, Missouri, is a 30-minute, linear, walkthrough experience in a 12,000-square-foot building. Guests enter the realm of Dr. Phil Obrian (aka Dr. Phobia), a deranged neuroscientist who specializes in a wide variety of human fears. Dead Factory allows guests to get up close and personal with common phobias, which change yearly. The haunt is open from October 4th, 2019 to November 2nd, 2019 every Friday and Saturday night from 7:00 to 11:00 pm.
Dead Factory also represents how a hobby can turn into a seasonal business. Brian Foreman and his brother Scott Foreman bring their haunt to ‘life’ every year in between working full-time jobs. Brian has been learning the haunted-house game for the past 15 years, and he keeps working year-round to create the best guest experience.
“We try to do anything we can to give the customers a unique experience. To me, haunting is a mix of theater, horror, acting, being creative, and design, all the things I was into when I was growing up. I was into comic books, video games, and the nerdism of the ‘80s, so this brings in everything I’ve done. When I was introduced to the haunt industry, it was like, ‘This is great! There’s special effects stuff and how to make a mask and how to build a set, the blood and guts.’ I felt like I was home,” commented Foreman.
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Dead Factory’s Story: A Realm of Phobias
Each room in Dead Factory addresses a different phobia. “The first room is a glow room, and then there’s a vortex tunnel, snakes, dark mazes, torture, clowns, baby dolls, a swamp with a crocodile, large and small spiders, body parts, death and destruction. We move rooms in and out and change phobias each year. The medical theme always stays the same, but each room allows us to change things up differently. We might completely revamp a room as Dr. Phobia’s story keeps evolving,” said Brian. Because the phobia rooms change each year, as guests walk through, they don’t know if their greatest fear is coming up next.
Managing the Growth of Dead Factory
This is Brian’s fifth year professionally haunting. “The property belongs to Eric Smith, a friend of mine since high school. It’s his building, and my brother and I do all the creative stuff inside. We have about 50 employees. They aren’t all active at the same time, because I try to double-book my actors and use fewer actors,” he explained. “We’re a low-budget house. My brother and I make a lot of the stuff, which are simple scare props and techniques, but our actors are good. They jump out, and they scare you. People say that we’re one of the scariest houses around. During the first two years of Dead Factory, I played Dr. Phobia, but then the haunt got too big, and I needed to become a manager.”
And that’s been one of Brian’s biggest challenges—managing everybody. “I try to make sure the talent goes with the talent,” he explained. “I try to give my veteran actors placements with main roles and have other actors in secondary roles. And then I sometimes must move people around. We may realize an actor isn’t as outgoing as their character needs to be, so I’ll move them behind a puppet or doing something in a silent role. I want to make sure everybody is utilized in the best way. That’s what I mean by managing people.”
The Turning Point—Finding a Building and a Business Partner
Finding a building was the turning point for Brian, as it is for many haunters. “The first year, I didn’t have a building,” he replied. “Then Eric came to me and said, ‘I have this building.’ I partnered with Eric, and we broke even our second year. So, investing in Eric, investing in the building, investing in that whole first-year set-up, and taking that risk was the best investment we’ve made,” he said.
Working with a partner didn’t come without challenges, however. “Eric is a business guy, not so much the creative eye, so trying to make him see my vision wasn’t exactly a challenge, but, until it’s complete, you don’t what it’s gonna be. So, having that hanging over your head the first year and thinking, ‘Man, I hope people show up,’ was difficult. Also, doing the guerrilla marketing and deciding whether to spend money on Facebook or radio or a banner or billboards. It’s definitely a journey,” he said.
Focusing on Phobias
One of the main lessons Brian has learned through Dead Factory experience is going with what works. “For the first two years, we tried zombie paintball as a little-kid attraction. We focused too much on that, and then we got rid of it to completely focus on Dead Factory itself. I think minimizing can help you grow. You don’t want to have too much going on, so, I recommend cutting certain things that don’t work and focusing on things that do work,” said Brian.
Brian Finds His Tribe as a Haunter
Dead Factory represents 15 years of learning and work, most of which wasn’t possible without the tribe of haunters. Brian has chronicled his journey through interviews on his podcast HaunTopic Radio. Moreover, Brian is giving back to the community now with Haunter’s Toolbox—a site for helping you start a haunted attraction. “I came to understand there was an industry of people that scared other people. I’d been in haunted houses before, but I didn’t know anything about putting them together. But we always loved Halloween, and we’d scare people in our front yard,” he said.
“You realize you’re not alone, and you also learn how to do things. The community part of it is big for me. You realize there are people out there that are weird like you are. I found my tribe, and that changed me for the best.”
What Should New Haunters Do?
Brian’s advice to haunters starting out is to plan and research way before deciding to open a haunt. “I’ve had people say to me, ‘I’ve got six months to open this haunt,’ and my response is, ‘Maybe you can do it next year.’ I also suggest working at a haunted attraction to see what that’s all about and how they run things. Maybe they’ll want to co-op with you or help you start your own haunt. Just start doing things and practice, whether that’s in your garage or a display in your front yard. Learn how to do things. You don’t really need the experience to design and make things, because you can purchase most anything, but doing so will save you a lot of money. Also, work on scaring people. Mostly, it’s just about starting—whether at a haunted attraction or your front yard.”
Where is Dead Factory Located?
Dead Factory is located at 2100 East Liberty Street in Mexico, Missouri. Parking is free.
How Much are Tickets to Dead Factory?
Tickets, which are available online at the Dead Factory website or at the event itself, are $20 for everyone. The main sponsor of Dead Factory is the Dugout Bar & Grill in Mexico, and people can get coupons there for $3 off. Credit cards, debit cards, and cash are all welcome.