Barnum/Bussey Circus of Freaks

I previously hosted the website for Circus of Freaks in Bussey, Iowa. The last time I posted about them was in 2020 when they announced they would not operate that year but stated “huge things are coming for the circus. (Ah, Covid, we lost so many things to you that year).

At the time, I had a site category of “Circus of Freaks” for them. With the new-for-2023 Barnum Circus of Freaks, I kept accidentally using the old “Circus of Freaks” category in posts about them. I have now renamed both categories so we will have:

  • Bussey Circus of Freaks
  • Barnum Circus of Freaks

And they both start with ‘B’ so I’ll try hard to select the correct one. For now, I think I have the Barnum posts updated to use their new category.

I also added a new tag in the Directory for “Women Owned“, assigning it to Barnum. I may need to add “Women Managed” as well since in her recent video interview she mentioned this.

I need to see if there are more. Tormented Souls Haunt is led by Kumari Henry (she’s the Walt Disney of that operation), and Haunted Woods is led by Marilyn Harris. They might need one or both of these tags added. I am not sure how many women-owned haunts we have had in this area, but Ankeny Haunted Barn was ran by Mindy Bales after her husband passed, then later ran by her daughter and sons. Going back twenty years, several of the haunted houses at Sleepy Hollow were designed and managed by women. Have there been many/any others?

More to come…

Farewell, Ankeny Haunted Barn

Ankeny Haunted Barn was selling off all it’s haunt inventory, including brand new items they have purchased (but didn’t get to use) last year. I have been informed they did find a buyer, so somewhere out there will be a little bit of the Haunted Barn DNA operating somewhere else.

Old haunts never die — they just get reincarnated 🙂 Parts of Tormented Souls are from a haunt that once operated in Urbandale, for example. This makes me wonder what happened with all the stuff at Whitewater Haunted House … they had some neat effects and props. Anyone know if those items went to a new home?

2022 season!

Well, the last two years have been quite … different. Many haunts didn’t operate at all in 2020. But, with less competition, the audience was funneled to the ones that did operate. I have been told that Trail of Terror had it’s best year ever in 2021. (I tend to believe them, since they are a fundraiser and not a for-profit business; seems every year the haunts will say ”this is our best year yet!” 😉

While I did visit Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights (as well as seeing the new Halloween offering at SeaWorld Orlando), the only visits I made to local haunts was for technical support. (I can now say I’ve ”fixed a dragon” at two haunted houses.) I have similar tasks lined up this year to install new effects, and possibly produce a video documentary with a haunt operator near Clear Lake/Mason City area.

As far as this website goes, a few years ago, I invested in software with a yearly license fee of $300/year. It offered automatic features I had been doing manually on this site since 2010, so I really liked it. The downside is the listing went from a simple one-page ”easy to view” listing to dozens of pages, and a cumbersome directory that was hard to view on a phone.

I have currently let that license lapse, so only basic listing information will be available this year, and I’ll go back to manually doing the Map and Calendars. More work for me, but I think it makes this a more useful site.

Look for updates for 2022 to start, soon. And, if any haunts want to sponsor this site, get in touch with me. If I can generate $300 in donations, I’ll re-activate all the fancy features for this season.

COVID-19 Updates

Although COVID-19 is still alive and well, and there are still people very concerned about it around here, the majority of folks seem to be accepting that it is now just something we all have to live with. I have heard from many who will 100% still NOT go to haunted houses, but overall the mood is much more pro-haunt this year than it’s been the past two seasons.


After failing to convince the City of Ankeny to grant them a permit last year, Ankeny Haunted Barn is now officially gone (for the second time, so maybe we’ll see it return for a third time some day). Their inventory has been sold, so if they ever re-start, they will be starting from scratch.

The new owners of Adventureland Resort owners (Parques Reunidos out of Madrid, Spain) are starting their multi-haunt Phantom Fall Fest. Admission at the gate will be $69, and there is a $9.99 fee on top of that to enter one haunted house. As always, this site will track any known discounts so you can save some money.

ScareDSM opened during Covid and lumber price increases. News reports last year covered the challenges of not being able to afford lumber. Let’s consider last year a test run, and see what they do for 2022.

Slaughterhouse continues to pull out all the stops, and is also staffing for the Adventureland event. This is a good sign, since many of the 10+ years of this site (including the years before Covid), the haunts I visited all struggled with getting enough reliable workers to fully operate their haunts. (I would count the number of empty rooms as I visited each haunt.)

Sleepy Hollow Sports Park was sold to Polk County, and we are in their final year or two of them operating special events there. While most expect/hope/plan for it to continue, it will be up to the government about what happens in future years. There’s even been talk of others renting the government park out for their own events in October.

Tormented Souls in Madrid is installing some new effects and scares for this year, but I won’t know the details until I visit them (hopefully soon).

Trail of Terror was the second haunt to contact me this season, making sure I know they are back. Their $15 long forest walk is still the best haunt value around. As a fundraiser, they are just stuffed with actors. Don’t go if you can’t keep up – it’s a huge walk.

Ames Haunted Forest hasn’t updated their social media in years, but they have announced dates for 2022.

Linn’s Supermarket Haunted House still has 2021 dates on their website, but I’ll share news when I have it.

…and I am sure there will be many more updates in coming weeks.

While price increases, inflation, gas price and other factors have put stress on many of our budgets, hopefully folks will still have a Halloween entertainment budget to get out and see some haunts this season. If we don’t support them, they will go away.

More to come…

Ankeny Haunted Barn for Sale

After the City of Ankeny denied the Ankeny Haunted Barn a permit to operate last year, it looks like the barn is calling it quits, for now. (Recall, they were originally the Bondurant Haunted Barn, then moved it to Ankeny and renamed it. They shut down for a few years, then returned, so who knows what the future will hold…)

All of their equipment is being sold off, including brand new items (like flame throwers) that were purchased for last year.

Drop by their website/Facebook page and let them know if you are interested in seeing what they have.

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.

DMHH calendar updated

Each year, I maintain a Google Calendar that has daily entries for each haunted house. You can subscribe to this on your phone and always know what haunt is operating that night, as well as the hours.

It has been updated again, and now includes the dates and times for the haunts I have heard from so far: The Slaughterhouse, Ankeny Haunted Barn and Tormented Souls.

Ankeny Haunted Barn update.

2010 was a good year for haunted houses in Des Moines. That was the year “Big Al’s Slaughterhouse” opened (today known as The Slaughterhouse) as well as “Bondurant’s Haunted Barn” (today known as the Ankeny Haunted Barn). Both of these haunts ran for a few years then took a break, and both have since returned.

I guess you can’t keep a good haunt down.

Opening year isn’t the only connection these two haunts have. After the Slaughterhouse took its first operational break, its assets (props, wall panels, etc.) were purchased by then incorporated in to the Ankeny Haunted Barn. Some haunt fans may have noticed the “bone corridor” the Barn had and found it somewhat familiar… Yep, it was from the Slaughterhouse!

The Ankeny Haunted Barn had intended to return last year, but circumstances delayed their re-emergence until the 2020 season. Since all the original Barn props were sold off, this meant they had to start from scratch and create an all-new experience. While they were always known for rearranging their layout each season, this year the construction style is completely new. It will still have aspects that are familiar to Ankeny Haunted Barn fans, but the path through the haunt should be quite foreign.

This year there are more indoor show scenes than ever before. In a pre-opening visit, we counted at least 15 unique “rooms” (and probably more if you count how multiple sections of a long hallway will be separated and decorated differently). Usually the building has one side left for backstage access, but this year they are using the entire facility — with the exception of their security office (yeah, the place is loaded with security cameras this year).

Then, being the Ankeny Haunted Barn, the haunt will exit the building and then turn in to a haunted walk that goes around and behind the building with, I expect, a final scene where some chainsaw maniac will chase guests back out to where the line is. (I have no information on this; I’m just assuming since that’s always been a trick the Barn loved to do.)

And speaking of things the Barn is known for … shall we expect to encounter live rats and live snakes? They aren’t saying… but there was a suspicious cramped area with some plexiglass in place almost as if it was going to keep snakes or something from getting too close to the guests…

Another new thing is wide paths that have been designed to allow a wheelchair to experience the action. Some key elements have also been made on a lower level for those viewing things from a sitting position. Spread the word!

Des Moines Haunted Houses has been installing a new multi-channel sound system for them this year, as well as programmable lights. This will allow the Barn to make changes from night-to-night, if they desire, both in music and soundtrack as well as in room lighting. I hope this will enable them to change things up a bit between opening weekends and the final week of Halloween. This might be a good year to visit early, and then return near the end of the season to check out that version.

And DMHH has given the Barn many awards over the years for their unique rooms and surprises. This year they have one truly unique set piece you won’t find anywhere else. It’s so large and heavy, I expect they had to forklift it in and then build the walls around it.

It should be a fun time!

This year they will be open 19 nights. There is a $5 OFF coupon you can print out (yes, you must print a copy for each person that wants to use it) and a VIP pass is available for those who want to skip the line.

Welcome back, Ankeny Haunted Barn, and thank you for supporting Des Moines Haunted Houses!

P.S. This is planned to be the final year the Ankeny Haunted Barn will be in its current location. If you’ve enjoyed it in the past, make sure you check it out this year as any future version will be at a new spot.

For more details, check out their listing here.