Video by Jackson Brown
For the past 18 years, Dr. Slaughter’s has been a haunted house located in Idaho Falls, attracting thousands every year. Darrell Wagner, the owner and operator, has decided to step down from his position and close the theatrical attraction.
Here are some of Dr. Slaughters’ greatest highlights throughout the years.
1. Do you DARE to be scared?
What started as a birthday party in a basement, the haunted house quickly grew into a place not only where people get scared in October, but also a place of refuge for teenagers. The Drug Abuse Resistance Education program asked Wagner and his team if they would want to make a few dollars for the DARE program. In 2009, when Gov. Butch Otter cut all funding for the programs, Dr. Slaughter’s became the sole source of funding for Idaho Falls and Bonneville County.
Wagner said these funds allowed officers to go out to all the schools to teach the kids throughout the districts.
“We have promoted what DARE actually is doing rather than just promoting drug abuse,” Wagner said. “Officers are going out day and night to promote self-worth, self-confidence, values and morals.”
Dr. Slaughter’s brought kids in who wanted to work and be a part of the operation, but Wagner turned them down if they were struggling academically. With more motivation, teenagers would come back within weeks with higher grades and more drive to try again.
2. “The largest appropriate gang you could belong to.”
Wagner calls Dr. Slaughter’s his “sanctuary,” employing 21 adults, 20 dancers and 80 to 130 scare characters. Mostly teenagers who come from broken families, they come to be a part of another family. The work culture at Dr. Slaughter’s may have a lot of blood and gore, but Wagner and staff say that the heart of the operation runs on compassion and concern for one another. Wagner hired almost anyone and everyone, even dancers with little to no experience. Wagner has sought to change lives by accepting everyone, not based on their past.
3. Homemade props
When going through the haunted house, the props and decorations have a big effect on people. One should note the stunning craftiness and creativity of the props, while also realizing that Wagner and his team made almost all of them. In the alien room, you would find a huge alien dinosaur contraption built right there in the shop, according to one of the hired security managers.
4. Service: the foundation of the operation.
Wagner and his staff contributed to the community through various acts of service and activities around the two districts. They supported a local teenage crisis center, created development workshops, and even made lunch for them. For the past six years, the dancers have performed for about six senior citizen homes around the community.
“All of my staff give back to the community every time they walk through my doors,” Wagner said. One of his dancers gave around 700 hours of community service in a single year. “They’re all my family, and together we have made this successful. We have all put our time in, now it is time for us to step down and move on.”
5. Maxing out the limit.
Because of the culture and haunted house strategies and props, the house attracts thousands every year to come and get scared. One of Dr. Slaughter’s proudest moments came when they counted a total of 17,000 people who came in the span of 24 days.
“This has been my life, I have a family of my own,” Wagner said. “I come from a broken family as a kid, and in order for me to give back I had to gather as many people as I could to encourage one another and promote good morals.”
Whether the DARE program will continue to run Dr. Slaughter’s is still up in the air. Wagner plans to retire to enjoy his family and the rest of his life after the many hours of service he has devoted to the Idaho Falls community.
In light of the occasion, Dr. Slaughter’s will be re-opening for the last time on April 13 and 14 from 7 p.m. to midnight.