HAUNTED HOUSES: Why Des Moines Only Has One

Halloween is just a few weeks away, but we already have plenty of haunted houses up and running.

Thrill seekers can check out more than a dozen haunted houses in the metro, but our state’s largest city has only one.

Linn`s Haunted House doesn`t have a lot of gory props. Merlyn Linn says his setup is simple, and it works. Linn says, “It`s more of the suspense type that you don`t know what`s going to happen. You can`t see anything until we want you to see it.”

His house competes against almost 20 other haunted attractions in the Des Moines area. But he`s the only one actually located in Des Moines.

The reason, in the 90s Des Moines created a haunted house ordinance scaring away the competition. Linn says, “Everybody pretty well left and I said what do I have to do.”

Linn had to install extra smoke alarms and sprinklers, provide security, and go through numerous inspections.

Ian Miller runs a “Slaughterhouse” in Pleasant Hill, where there are no requirements. But he says his place is plenty safe. Miller says, “We have people pee their pants all the time, but as long as you follow the rules and you`re not doing any horseplay and you`re not running around. You`re going to have a safe experience.”

He hasn`t had any incidents since opening four years ago.

Captain Steve Brown has never heard of anyone getting hurt in any haunted house in the metro. Brown says, “The occurrence of fires in them are few and far between. But just that one time it could cause a huge loss of life.”

It cost Linn about $9,000, but he says it was worth it. Linn says, “I wanted it to be safe. I wanted it to be fun and have people laugh and enjoy it.”

He says the only thing that scares him more than his house, is the thought of one of his customers getting hurt.

Many cities across the US created these ordinances in reaction to Six Flags haunted house fire in 1984 that killed eight teenagers in New Jersey.

The City of Des Moines officials could not confirm if this was the reason for starting the ordinance, but said they will continue to uphold it for the safety of the residents.



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