New must-have haunt gadget: DMX-RT4

A few years ago, I posted a demo video of the Chauvet DMX-RT device. This tiny $100 box could record DMX lighting information and then play it back later without a computer. It even had a trigger input so you could have an entire show scene activate when a guest entered the room (via pressure mat, motion sensor, or actor pressing a button).

We created some generic looping light patterns which allowed a haunt operator to plug in a DMX, and select any effect they wanted just by changing the address on the back of a DMX light. Want pulsing green for the swamp? Set the two DMX lights in that room to channel X. Want flickering candlelight in the king’s chamber? Switch those lights to channel Y. This made changing fancy lighting effects easier than switching out a light bulb.

Chauvet DMX-RT4

I am pleased to announce that Chauvet has the new DMX-RT4 unit available for sale. This unit adds multiple trigger inputs (four instead of one) as well as an audio player! Put one of these in a room, and when the guest enters, sounds start playing as well as DMX lighting effects. The whole room can come alive without any actor control, OR, there could be up to four different scenes that play based on what is triggered… Hit the low scare button and less scary music and brighter light patterns play. Hit the extreme scare button and the lights go to near darkness with super scary music. There are many uses for this tech.

And, for haunts on a budget, you could have one box control an entire haunted house by daisy chaining all the lights over cheap DMX cables (as with the DMX-RT) BUT use this box to play the overall music loop for the entire haunt. The four inputs were designed so you could run a whole haunt like this, using the triggers for modes:

  1. Standby Mode – worklights are on (white lights) and no audio.
  2. Startup Mode – an audio message plays telling actors to get in to place as the lights fade down.
  3. Show Mode – show lighting is on and music loop plays.
  4. Emergency Mode – bright lights, and “please go to the nearest exit” message plays.

This device could replace the PC and expensive software in several haunted houses I helped with years ago. And, unlike a PC, the box should be far more reliable than Windows 😉

For more product details, here is the official page:

I need to check and see how much I can share about the development of this box, so check back for more updates…

Tormented Souls adds entertainment

For 2021, Tormented Souls Haunt and Scream Park has added some live entertainment on select nights — a fire act! Sabba Circle has been performing their “hot” show to great response.

Their website states “Not your typical haunted house experience. Give us your soul and we’ll give you the fright of a lifetime!”

Unlike most haunts in the area, Tormented Souls Haunt and Scream Park is a multi-attraction event. In addition to the one (large) haunted walk (containing enclosed “indoor” scenes and large open outdoor scenes), they also have the very first zombie paintball experience that was offered in this area. Zee-Pocalypse is a tractor-pulled trailer with mounted paintball guns. A small group gets to ride the route with a guide while they shoot at stationary targets and live actors (dressed as zombies in protective body armor). Round off the experience with a food truck (on busier nights) and live entertainment (this year featuring a fire show, on certain nights).

But the most interesting part about this haunt is probably how you get there… You do not drive to the haunt location. Instead, you park in a parking lot and a school bus (the “Terror Bus“) arrives and welcomes you onboard. You are then driven away from town, past the cornfields, then eventually in to the woods before you arrive at the actual scream park location.

And for those curious, the location is called Zook Spur, and it is based on a historical mining town that once existed in the area.

If you have never visited Tormented Souls, it’s worth the short drive to Madrid, Iowa. And, if you want a little extra fun, consider their “Seventh Sin Combo Discount” package. Instead of $20 for the haunt and $29 for the zombie paintball ride, you can get them both and save $5… which you can use to buy extra paintball ammunition while on the ride 😉

And tell them you saw them on DM Haunted Houses, please.

Two Tunnel of Terrors!

Joining the Tunnel of Terror in Ankeny, second (unrelated) Voodoo Tunnel of Terror has been added to the directory. Welcome aboard to the Voodoo Tunnel of Terror car wash in Urbandale. For $20, you can get your car washed in Halloween style, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Food Bank of Iowa.

I just made a new category for “Car Wash” since this is apparently a thing now 🙂

2021 versus 2020

One haunted attraction I heard from (elsewhere in Iowa, not in our area) told me that last year, 2020, they had their largest year ever. They were in a smaller community (less than 10,000 population) so perhaps the Covid impact there was far less than it was here in the big city of Des Moines.

I have not had a chance to follow up and get more details, but I can speculate:

  • Since many haunts were closed due to Covid concerns, customers had fewer choices and would be concentrated at the remaining open haunts.
  • If that is the case, even with fewer customers going to haunts, some locations might see increases as they absorb a greater percentage of a smaller number of customers (compared to normally getting a smaller percentage of a greater number of customers).

Locally, we’ve seen news reports from one haunt operator stating last year was down 50% from their biggest year. That is still much more than the haunts that were closed, which saw 0%, I suppose.

Of the attractions that operated last year, many did so at reduced capacity — not mixing groups, spacing out groups, etc. If capacity were reduced by 50%, then reducing guests by 50% would still be a pretty good turnout (i.e., 100% of what you could handle) on those busiest nights.

So far, reports are that opening weekend was still quite soft — but it normally is at most haunts. The big weekends are the one closest to Halloween and the one before it, usually.

Let’s see what weekend 2 is like, starting this Friday night at a haunt near you. Check the listing on this site to see what is operating. I have listed every haunt I have heard from, so far.

2021 Weekend 1 recap

Last weekend was opening weekend for some of the area haunted houses. These included:

Next weekend, Ames Haunted Forest will join them, then the weekend after that, the Trail of Terror. On the weekend closest to Halloween, the haunted house for your vehicle Tunnel of Terror begins.

Normally I hear all kinds of reports from folks who ventured out, but this year has been mostly silent. After some prompting on the Facebook page, we did get some reports from folks who visited Linn’s (seemed like less actors than normal) and Tormented Souls (no lines). I’d look up some of the other comments, but Facebook is currently offline so I can’t get to that page. Thank goodness websites are still a thing 😉

Haunted Barnless

Haunted Barn’s new expanded outdoor section for 2021.

In the meantime, the Ankeny Haunted Barn continues to be a no-go in spite of a petition (requested by the governor’s office for some reason?) and now a GoFundMe to help raise support for relocating the barn for next year.


The long-running Waukee Haunted House is also a no go for this season, with the decision to skip this year made back in August.


While Covid-19 concerns do seem less this year, it is clear that there is still a significant portion of the population that is being cautious. Some haunts have had struggles finding enough actors, but that should come as no surprise since most places seem to have “Now Hiring” signs on display.

Other forms of entertainment, such as movie theaters, are seeing crowds return, but still not to the level they were before the shutdowns last year. This can no longer be blamed on the lack of content to watch since multiple Marvel movies and other “blockbusters” have come out.

Let’s hope for enough safe support for the haunts this year that we won’t lose any of them.

Your thoughts?

Be sure to leave a review for any haunt you visit this season. This is a new feature of DMHauntedHouses, and one that has only been tried a few times so I’m not 100% it fully works.

Give it a shot.

Then check back for more updates as the season progresses…

2021 Season…

Some quick updates on the 2021 season.

As expected, things are moving very slowly this year due to ongoing Covid-19 concerns. Haunts I have heard from so far include:

  • Ames Haunted Forest – will be operating.
  • Ankeny Haunted Barn – will NOT be operating, as of an announcement they made on 9/28/2021. The City of Ankeny denied their special event permit this year.
  • Linn’s Supermarket Haunted House – will be operating.
  • ScareDSM – a new haunted house, to be added to the site soon.
  • Slaughterhouse – will be operating.
  • Tormented Souls Haunt and Scream Park – will be operating.
  • Trail of Terror – will be operating.

Other haunts are either not operating, or have not contacted DMHH to help sponsor this site and be listed here.

Site updates coming by opening haunt season the first weekend of October…

2021 Haunt Season Preview

So far, we have heard from…

  • Ankeny Haunted Barn
  • Linn’s Supermarket Haunted House
  • Slaughterhouse
  • Tormented Souls Haunt
  • Trail of Terror (Baxter)

In this list are two haunts that did not operate last season. We are off to a good start.

Initial site updates began today, but full information won’t be added until later.

Last two nights for Tormented Souls (10/29 and 10/30/2020)

There are only a few more days to get chased by clowns with chainsaws before the haunts close for the season:

Tormented Souls Haunt and Screampark will be open this Thursday (10/29/2020) and Friday (10/30/2020) night from 7pm to 11:45pm.

Remember: You do not drive to this haunt. You will abandon your vehicle and they will pick you up in their Terror Bus and drive you to the haunt location deep in the woods, far away where no one can hear you scream. . .

From their website:

Pick up the Tormented Souls Terror Bus, (if you dare) at Edgewood Park in Madrid, IA; it’s the only way to reach what lies in wait – out in the middle of no where! So hitch a ride on this scream maker with your eyes wide open in the pitch dark.

Have fun!