Save this content for laterSave this content on your device for later, even while offline Sign in with FacebookSign in with your Facebook account Close

'Truly, truly haunted': New Colorado Springs attraction a real fright

October 5, 2017 Updated: October 5, 2017 at 6:02 pm
0
photo - Harleigh Quinn lets out a high-pitched scream as she plays the demented comic book villian Harley Quinn inside the Sinister Haunted House Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, at the old Cowboys Nightclub at Palmer Park and North Academy Blvd.   (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Harleigh Quinn lets out a high-pitched scream as she plays the demented comic book villian Harley Quinn inside the Sinister Haunted House Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, at the old Cowboys Nightclub at Palmer Park and North Academy Blvd. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)  

The man with the bloody, rotting face uses his ax to tap the peeling spot on the former dance floor.

"Two people dropped dead right there," says his boss, Vince Stites, wearing a T-shirt with the undead creature above the company name, Hellscream Haunts.

Alongside his henchmen - a hammer-wielding Mike Meyers look-alike, a clown nurse and a voodoo queen, to name a few - Stites is telling the story that makes this hidden place east of downtown Colorado Springs a spooktacular attraction.

Filling a whopping 20,000 square feet with terror is one thing. But what really gives him the heebie-jeebies that industry people like him love is the lore within the former Cowboys Nightclub, between Palmer Park and Academy boulevards. It is now his first-year Sinister Haunted House, and of the sites he's used since starting Hellscream Haunts in 2009, it's the one of which he's most proud.

Reece Stengle plays a clown nurse as he scares spectators in the Sinister Haunted House Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, at the old Cowboys Nightclub at Palmer Park and North Academy Blvd. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)  

"It is a truly, truly haunted location," Stites says.

That deadly spot is known as "Dead Man's Curve." But what Stites considers most eerie about this building at the corner of a crumbling strip mall is its supposed connection with Robert Charles Browne.

The serial killer now in Florida State Prison confessed to the 1987 strangling of a 15-year-old Springs girl as well as another local victim whom investigators referred to as "Cowboy Girl," former El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said in a news conference 11 years ago.

"Her last known location was here," says Jesse Clark, the man with the bloody, silicon mask.

Harleigh Quinn plays the demented comic book villian Harley Quinn inside the Sinister Haunted House Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, at the old Cowboys Nightclub at Palmer Park and North Academy Blvd. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)  

For further explanation of the building's haunted-ness, Stites turns to the voodoo queen, also known as Natasha Laster. She's swept the place many times with Cheyenne Mountain Paranormal Investigators.

"At the women's restroom, you can stand there and hear voices and laughter," Laster says.

She and investigators know one ghost as Cowboy. "He's basically funny," she says, "and then we have demons and residuals here."

It's a perfect place to continue her 17-year career as a haunted house actor. A haunted house is only as good as its actors, says Stites, who is frustrated by "haunt snobs" - customers who are quick to post online about the phoniness of their tour, what with the maniac butcher taking a bathroom break or the zombie taking a sip of water.

"It's about always being on our 'A' game all the time," Stites says.

So for four hours on weekend nights, 64 people at Sinister Haunted House become something else.

Except, perhaps, for Harleigh Quinn, who plays the demented comic book villain Harley Quinn.

Sam Craig scares visitors inside the Sinister Haunted House Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, at the old Cowboys Nightclub at Palmer Park and North Academy Blvd. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)  

"Hearing the scream and shouts from others!" Quinn says in the signature Quinn voice, playful. "I play jump rope with their intestines!"

You won't hear them talking about it - they're too busy shrieking or growling - but the actors are quite familiar with Sinister's infamous history. Oh yes, that's the name given to this complex for founder Sid Inneas Nash (SIN). Yes, since June 5, 1982, it has been a boarding facility for "the hurt, helpless and homeless" and a medical facility for mental and physical needs, however disturbing.

You won't hear Venom tell his story. He's too busy chasing guests at Sinister in his dark military outfit and creepy mask. But Venom knows his story.

"Venom is part of HURT, the Hellscream Urban Response Team," says Venom, also known as Perry Echevarria. "A choo-choo train came crashing through hell, and his job is to clean up all the mutants and zombies and trap all the animals."

Jesse Clark plays the Ice Man inside the Sinister Haunted House Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, at the old Cowboys Nightclub at Palmer Park and North Academy Blvd. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)  

"Including customers," adds the voodoo queen, whom SIN captured and turned evil.

When she is not the voodoo queen, she is Laster, mother of a 5-year-old who is scared to see his mother as the voodoo queen, so Laster cannot be the voodoo queen around him.

Another mother on the Sinister team, Heather Hughes, says she's always happy to come to her side job at the haunted house. Here she is the Woman in Black, with a veiled face.

"I work, I'm a student too, and I have a family, and it's nice to not have any of those roles here and there," she says. "Just to be a character that's as weird and as wild as I want."

Scenes from the Sinister Haunted House Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, at the old Cowboys Nightclub at Palmer Park and North Academy Blvd. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)  

They hide in the shadows of the haunted house, waiting to pounce in its 50-plus sections. Strobe lights flicker in a child's bedroom, where a voice whispers "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and the walls are lined with ghastly colorings. A bridge tilts in a rainforest where massive snakes hiss and plants chomp. The smell of dead flesh and chainsaw fumes wafts in the air of the nasty "Sanitarium."

Sensory overload is the point, Stites says. Kids are not recommended, because Sinister is disturbing, and that is also the point.

"The old-school haunted house with the black plastic and the cheesy lighting and the mummy, the wolf man and Frankenstein, it doesn't cut it anymore," Stites says, "because society has become so desensitized."

Maybe it's video games or TV or social media, he says. The truth is, society experiences something disturbing all the time. So at a haunted house, they want adrenaline, the feeling of being alive in a truly inexplicable place.

That they are in a "truly, truly haunted location" might help, says Stites, who keeps his distance as he passes the women's restroom.

"Yeah, no thanks," he says. "I like the fake stuff."

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Incognito Mode Your browser is in Incognito mode

You vanished!

We welcome you to read all of our stories by signing into your account. If you don't have a subscription, please subscribe today for daily award winning journalism.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

Wake up with today's top stories in your inbox

Wake up with today's top stories in your inbox

or
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?
 
This is your last FREE article for the month
This is your last FREE article for the month

Subscribe now and enjoy Unlimited Digital Access to Gazette.com

Only 99 cents for Unlimited Digital Access for 1 month
Then $2.31/week, billed monthly, cancel anytime
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?

 
You have reached your article limit for the month
You have reached your article limit for the month

We hope that you've enjoyed your complimentary access to Gazette.com

Only 99 cents for Unlimited Digital Access for 1 month
Then $2.31/week, billed monthly, cancel anytime
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?

 
articles remaining
×
Thank you for your interest in local journalism.
Gain unlimited access, 50% fewer ads and a faster browsing experience.