Posted // 2011-09-08 -
As fall sets in, so does the horror season, and piece by piece the Wasatch Front turns into a gallery of dimly lit mazes filled with every kind of fright you could think of. With so many choices across the state, you could literally pick a different place to go to every night and still have leftovers after Oct. 31. But of all the attractions opening in 2011, the Fear Factory looks to be the biggest on everyone's list, and not just by promotion, either.
The haunted attraction opening up in the industrial area of downtown SLC (666 W. 900 South) will take over an old cement factory and its surrounding areas to become one of the biggest in the United States, with the intent of running well beyond the standard haunting season. I got a chance to briefly chat with two of the men behind the project, Rob Dunfield and Keith Sharp, about the attraction and the work going into it, as well as what people can expect to see when it opens in a couple of weeks.
Rob Dunfield & Keith Sharp
Gavin: Hey, guys First thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Rob: I’m a personal trainer and I own a fitness center in Holladay. I have family, wife and five kids, all girls. And I’m just having fun building a haunt.
Keith: Born and raised in Salt Lake City, I’m 34 years old and I have a wife, three kids.
Gavin: How did you each first take an interest in horror and haunted attractions?
Rob: I grew up in haunted houses from the time I could walk. My dad started the March of Dimes haunted houses and I spent most of my childhood building and haunting.
Keith: I loved horror movies and scary shows my whole life, and from a very young age have always been scaring people and scaring my mom, basically anything I could do to get people to crap their pants.
Gavin: When did you first come across the cement factory, and what was the appeal of the place that made you think it would be a good “haunted” location?
Rob: Well, once the idea was conceived, we just started looking for buildings that were suitable.
Keith: Bob wanted to go back to the Old Mill. So we looked there first, but the availability and the structural integrity of it was never going to happen so we scoured the Wasatch Front looking for something that had potential, and I think we found that.
Rob: The unique features of this property, being the underground tunnels and the heights, really pushed this property to the top of list.
Gavin: The property sits in the industrial section of downtown near the highway and major train lines. Were you kind of surprised to see this sitting here or do you chalk this find up to a failure of the “Downtown Rising” project?
Keith: We are excited to take on this challenge and try to help boost the downtown area. The thing of it is that you couldn’t do much with the property besides a haunted attraction. It would have cost developers millions just to level the place.
Gavin: The building itself is from the 1930s and hasn't been in use in over a decade. Considering the structures around, how much work did you have to do on it before you could start transforming it?
Keith: We spent the first few months doing major clean up, There were people living on the property and the place was filthy. We had to secure the building first. We installed a security-camera system and really just took back the area. The daily presence has definitely helped.
Gavin: Who are some of the artists and designers you got involved with the project to create the artwork, both inside and out?
Keith: We were lucky enough to be introduced to Kier Defstar, a local graph artist. Kier and his crew have their art throughout the haunt, not just the mural. It’s amazing what a guy can do with a spray can. We also have a crew of highly skilled foam artists. They have created some impressive pieces we are proud to display.
Gavin: Just looking on the outside, you can see its a multilevel compound, not including the underground areas. How much of the property do you plan on using for the public and where will people be able to go?
Keith: The entire property is being utilized. We have an area for on-site parking and cast building; other than that, all 2.6 acres will be haunted.
Gavin: On a talent level, how have auditions gone to get people to play the roles inside as well as makeup and costuming, and who are some familiar names people might know who will be involved?
Keith: We have had a very diverse group of people come down and audition. We have 65-year-old men working on the project and we have young 14- and 15-year-olds helping with makeup and promotions. There is a lot of talent here.
Gavin: You told Fox13 back in July that you were aiming to make it a Disneyland-type park for haunted attractions. By that comparison, what have you got in the works to make that a reality?
Keith: Well, it’s a comparison of creating a quality event center that will be open for all sorts of occasions. We plan on being a year-round destination that can feature weddings, concerts. Obviously, we are trying to reach a level in the haunt industry that most people don’t bother trying to reach.
Gavin: When everything is complete and running, the Fear Factory will be one of the biggest haunted attractions in the country. What's your take on having that kind of status right off the bat, and how do you believe that will benefit in the long run?
Keith: We didn’t come into this for the money; we aren't interested in what other haunts are doing. We are just focusing on putting on a great show.
Gavin: What are your thoughts going into the opening night and knowing what's in store for the SLC crowds who come to visit?
Rob: Part of me is already looking toward next season just due to the stress of it all! It should be an exciting season, though.
Gavin: Moving onto local stuff, what's your take on the whole haunted house genre in Utah, both good and bad?
Keith: I think it’s growing and there's room for more growth. If we do our job right, we are only going to perk up more interest in the haunt scene.
Gavin: Do you believe some places have lost their originality by having all the gimmicks (e.g., Freddy, Chainsaw Guy, Crazy Doctor), or is that just par for the course when it comes to haunted places?
Rob: I don’t know. You’re always going to have your classics and you have to be creative in how you present them. It’s like the chainsaw guy -- you can say “everybody's got a chainsaw guy,” but if you don’t have a chainsaw guy, you are the place that doesn’t have a chainsaw guy. It’s hard to please everyone.
Gavin: What can we expect from both you and the Fear Factory the rest of the season?
Keith: You can expect us to work night and day preparing our show to be the best it can be. We want to really freak the people out and we really want to impress our haunting peers! Check out our Facebook page
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