But first, some history…
2010: The Beginning
In 2010, a new haunted house appeared in Des Moines: Big Al’s Slaughter House. The cost was $12. It was not open when I tried to visit, but I recall it listed a whole bunch of nights of operation. They were clearly thinking big. This began the evolution that led to today’s downtown location.
2011: Skate South
In 2011, the haunt returned as simply “The Slaughter House.” It also moved to a different location – 10506 Southwold Rd. (just behind Skate South, and currently home of an auto repair store). The cost remained $12 (or $10 with a coupon). This was the first time I visited. This was also the first video interview I did for this website:
This in-character interview with “Trig” let us all know that this would be a different type of haunt. The theme was a pig rendering plant — with visitors acting as the pigs. In the interview, you can see some clips of the original “long metal wall hallways” that made up the majority of the path through the haunt. I do not know if the 2010 location “rolled visitors in” on a platform like 2011 did, but you can see this concept appeared very early on in the evolution of this attraction.
2012-2013: Pleasant Hill
In 2012 and 2013, the haunt was held at The Batter’s Box at 1300 Metro East Dr Suite 126, in Pleasant Hill (currently Becky’s Dance Studio). The price remained $12 and a $15 “front of line” ticket was offered online. These early editions of the haunt features crawling, and the cart to pull visitors in was upgraded. I seem to recall they used a movie dolly track.
In 2013, they were awarded “Best Actors” (always in character) and “Best Theme” (consistent throughout) by Des Moines Haunted Houses.
And that, we thought, was the end of The Slaughterhouse. No event was held in 2014, but the website had some interesting messages:
And while today they have over 11,000 followers on Facebook, that wasn’t the case back then. Here is a list of Facebook likes after 2014 to show where The Slaughterhouse was after three years of operation:
In 2017, Slaughterhouse returned in a brand new downtown location. Instead of temporary metal walls put up and torn down each season, they had a location that allowed them to build permanent sets. These sets were incredibly detailed and looked like something from Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights or even a movie. The price for this upgraded experience was $20.
In 2018, something happened that changed the landscape of haunted attractions in Des Moines forever: Slipknot. Slaughterhouse partnered with the Iowa-born band and got national attention. News articles that formerly would list all kinds of haunted houses to visit began only reporting on “the Slipknot haunted house.” My news alerts went crazy that year, picking up articles and blog posts from across the country discussing this collaboration. To this day, when folks join my discussion group on Facebook and are asked “what is your favorite haunted house?” quite a few will still simply type “Slipknot.” The price remained $20 with a $30 VIP ticket available.
Things continued at this location in 2019.
2020: Locust Street
In 2020, the haunted would move deeper into downtown at 500 Locust St. The new 20,000 square foot facility allowed building even larger sets and gave it room to add a heavily-themed escape room experience and, coming soon, a speakeasy (bar) called The Haunt. The new bar is expected to open in November 2023.
After four years in the same location, it looks like Slaughterhouse has found a permanent place to call home. Along with this new home, a new theme has replaced the “here, pig!” rendering plant motif. Visiting today leads guests through a detailed story about finding old coal mines below ground and exploring them to find all kinds of places—including a hideout once used by Al Capone. About the only thing remaining from the “pig rendering” versions are their actors who refer to guests as “pigs” or “piggies.” (So don’t be offended if someone calls your significant other a “short pig.” It’s not like that. 😉
DMHH visited on Halloween night. This was my first time going through since it moved to this location. We purchased tickets in advance and were part of the first group to enter when they opened at 7pm. After being wanded for weapons, we were give the chance to get a photo at a backdrop which featured a “face in a hole” over two human torsos.
After this we waited for a bit, then a group of about eight of us was lined up against a chainlink fence. An amplified worker gave us the rules (basic stuff like no touching, no lights, etc.). The outdoor music was very loud and drowned out most of what she said, but we all got the gist. (There is also a warning sign next to the entrance door.)
About about two minutes, we entered the building. We wandered through some halls and were lined against a wall by another worker. She quizzed us on the “gosh darned rules” we just learned outside. Someone answered wrong and was sent to the back of the line. Hopefully they was able to rejoin their group later 😉
A minute and a half later, we were sent down a hallway to a flight of stairs. (A bypass elevator is available, so be sure to ask about that if you have trouble doing stairs — you’ll have stairs coming up when you exit as well.)
Our group of about eight kind of got lost down a backstage path and had to be nudge back on course which they did as soon as they found us about thirty seconds later.
“This is not good. We’re lost already.”Someone in our group
We were ushered in to an “elevator” (which worked perfectly fine and absolutely nothing terrible happened to it), and then we were lined up against a wall a third time (akay, is this a Slaughterhouse kink?). They started splitting us up and loading us in to four-seat mine cars which where then pushed through what can only be described as a “kick ass classic carnival dark ride.” Nothing in town comes close to this. It was my favorite part of the visit.
Up to this point, I think most of the experience could be described as “rules and preshow.” At about ten minutes in, we leave the cart and a more traditional haunted house experience begins. For the next twelve minutes, we wander through dark hallways, amazing sets, scenes of gore, caves-, and basically more different scenes than I can recall. The final one is a walk through The Haunt, the upcoming speakeasy that is one big show scene during the haunted house.
It finally exits through the gift shop where you can buy shirts, coozies and more. (There are no photos allowed while inside the haunted house, so this photo was taken on the day I did the video interview with Ian Miller. The normal work lights were on. Even the gift shop is spookier when the haunt is in operation.)
Our total experience from being lined up outside to exiting the gift shop was about twenty-two minutes. Oddly, we came out alone and do not know what happened to the rest of the group we were initially in. Did they get out before us? Or did they get stuck inside? (There is one particular thing in the haunt which caught us off guard — even though we had been shown it during the interview — which may have allowed us to get separated from the rest.) If you are with a group that is more cautious (I was leading for the beginning section of the tour, blindly walking in to the darkness without hesitation because I’m totally that brave), I could see the whole experience lasting longer.
It is a heck of a bang for the buck.
I have never seen a haunt in Des Moines that had sets as detailed as the ones here. The place is designed with many (many) actor hiding spots that allow them to “boo” at groups multiple times as they twist through the hallways. There are several very large moving props (our favorite was in the “sewer”), a squish hallway, a laser swamp and even a Vortex Tunnel. It felt very much like the Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights houses, except is was four times longer and the actors get to be characters rather than just endlessly acting to a sound track throughout the night. (This let some ass-hat hidden in the walls call out my name repeatedly during the first section. Hey, Slaughterhouse! NO ONE LIKES THAT. Which is exactly why the haunts love to do it…)
It was a fun time. For those who appreciate details, the rooms were generally too dark to really catch the level of detail they have. Many areas could have just been black painted plywood as we bumped our way through them. But, when they do want you to see something, it’s usually large, epic and scary.
Slaughterhouse separates itself from other haunts in the area by being more of a “lifestyle.” It has a huge following of loyal fans. This makes it unique and it stands apart from anything else we have in the area. Whether you find it scary or not is up to what scares you — just like with any other haunt around.
And if you missed out, they will open for one special night on December 2nd, 2023 for a “Christmas” overlay featuring Krampus. We already have our tickets, and you can get yours at https://slaughterhousedm.com.
Maybe we’ll see you there. (Or not. Since this version is a “lights out” version.)