During the fall of 2008, I was in North Carolina after having attended my very first horror convention. There just weren’t a lot of things in this genre to attend in our area at the time. I’d attended a very small “ZombieCon” in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I saw a flyer for the Originial Hollywood Horror Show and was intrigued. What is this? What does Hollywood have to do with North Carolina? (A lot, but I’ll get to that.) So…I had to check it out.
I followed the directions and wondered if I had taken a wrong turn. I wandered the flat farmlands of North Carolina and then came upon a place in Snow Camp. It looked like it would be amazing…and it looked closed. I debated hanging around until it opened but ended up coming back home to Virginia. I should have stayed because I surely missed out.
Fast-forward 13 years, and here I was sitting in the backstage area of the Hollywood Horror Show chatting with one of the owners and learning about his expansive career in film and efforts to bring the film industry and more opportunity to North Carolina.
The Original Hollywood Horror Show is the project of Dean Jones and his brother Starr Jones. They have worked on a mile-long list of films and projects. Dean shared many stories about the people he has met along his career and how he got his start. I was able to talk with him at length and story after story was shared! He shared that he was most proud of the buildings on the Horror Show property that his brother Starr constructed. Dean shared that he moved away from his North Carolina home to work in Hollywood films. Films in his resume include Blue Velvet, Pirates of the Caribbean 2,3,4, and several incarnations of the Star Trek television series.
The Original Hollywood Horror Show began in 1989. This is the only haunted attraction that is owned and operated by actual film industry special effects artists. Dean explained that people from his local community come to help operate the haunted attraction and he allows all of them to participate and help in any way they can. He is cultivating the next generation of effects artists, film directors, and producers in North Carolina. This venue is a very unique opportunity for local teens and young people to come together and learn about special effects, haunt attraction design, props, and sets. Horror-loving misfits can find some common ground with their peers and make friends as they earn skills. I’m just sad this misfit didn’t know about the Hollywood Horror Show back when I was a teenager.
It even has a ghost…..
The haunted attraction is said to be haunted by an actual ghost. The cast and crew have reported the ghost of a young girl on the property. They characterize her as a friendly entity. She is thought to play with green marbles and leaves them on the ground for people she likes. No one has had any negative experiences with her. They have named her “Annabelle,” and did so before the movie by the same name. There is one actual marked grave in the haunt cemetery, of a child. Could this be Annabelle’s final resting place?
This is more than just a haunted house. It has a dance party! It has a dance troupe performing at the venue. There is also an attraction called “The Last Ride.” It simulates riding to your grave in a casket. The rider is enclosed in the casket in total darkness, only feeling and hearing the ride. There is a camera inside the casket so spectators can watch you take your last ride. If you’ve ever wondered what your last ride might be like, head over and check it out!
There is also a Houdini show that Dean performs in. He has an affinity for Houdini and he performs a stage show as Houdini. Houdini tragically died on Halloween night in 1926. You can also get snacks and drinks while you wait, or tour the museum. I walked into this space and was completely floored. Dean explained that the props were at the studio and the museum was sparse at the moment.
….But what it did have were walls of head shots from who’s who in films…all autographed and all people Dean has worked with over the years. Bruce Campbell! R. Lee Ermey! Sid Haig! Bill Moseley! were just a few that leapt out to me. I backed into an empty casket in my star-studded stupor and turned and was face to face with a Klingon bust that Dean had made.
This place was amazing– and I saw it before it was completely ready for opening, before the fog and lights and music set the scene, and before the actors donned their costumes and took their places. Dean commented that music and sound can make or break a film scene as well as a haunted house. Sound and music can put us on edge, preparing us for the big scare….making us jump out of our skins!
Speaking of films…
Dean has brought a studio to the Burlington North Carolina area!! Atlantic Pacific studio is part of a complex along the river. The studio has multiple sets, sound stages, and river access. He has plans to increase kayaking on the river, open a restaurant, and an airsoft area. All of these contribute to the economy and well-being of his home area. He is hoping to give filmmakers the opportunity to work on projects right there, instead of having to travel to Wilmington or Atlanta, which both have some film production activity. He talked about a current project that is currently being filmed and I was able to meet some of the actors over a late lunch, along with Sam Bernardo, who is working on this new film as well. I was also able to meet Dean’s partner and his father. They showed me wonderful hospitality and shared amazing stories with me.
It was exciting to know that films are being made just a short road-trip away from me and rural residents can pursue their dreams in film-making and learn about special effects from masters without leaving their home areas.
Check out the Hollywood Horror Show! Just a short drive from Burlington, NC. It’s open weekends in October with some special additional hours as Halloween grows closer. I was thrilled to know more about this gem and have several other stories for other articles. I definitely will go back to explore the studio and learn more about the films that are being produced there.