Rockford’s Own: Peter Dunn (Businessman & Co-Founder Of The Upcoming ‘Twisted Crypt’ Attraction)

Matthew Johnson & Peter Dunn

Matthew Johnson & Peter Dunn

We hear that you have an exciting local attraction in the works for the fall of this year: Tell us all about it!

“We sure do! The Twisted Crypt is slated to be Rockford’s newest Halloween Haunt Attraction. We will be offering all of the things that one might expect in a traditional haunted house (dark mazes, special effects, lighting, creatures hiding in the corners, props, etc.), but we are looking to take the experience one step further. We will be offering multiple, live show rooms where the guests will become an integral part of the attraction. They will be stopped in each room, in order to witness something and/or interact with our actors. The number one rule in any haunted attraction is that guests will not be touched and, likewise, guests cannot touch the actors. Above all else, we want our guests to not only be scared, but to be entertained by their discomfort, focusing on a realistic-feeling situation that is palpably surreal in nature. I do not want to give away too much of the story, nor any specific surprises, but the overall theme of the attraction is that the guests find themselves walking through a home belonging to a twisted, psychotic family. The guests are not supposed to be there and, when discovered, the family is none too happy to see them.”

 

Have you chosen a location yet?

“We have! We will be located at 5420 East State Street in Rockford. We believe this is a prime location for accessibility to anyone in the Stateline area.”

 

What about admission costs?

“As of now: $12 General Admission, $25 Express Pass (skip the line), $40 General Season Pass, and $60 Express Season Pass. This may vary at the time we open, however.”

 

Twisted Crypt Productions

Twisted Crypt Productions

When can we expect to first be frightened by the fruits of your labor?

“We plan to have a Grand Opening on Friday, September 20th, 2013. We will be open Thursday-Sunday through Halloween (with the intention of being open every day of Halloween week). For now, the hours we intend to operate will be 7 P.M. to Midnight.

“The attraction is recommended for ages twelve and over but – in the end – we leave it up to the best judgment and discretion of parents. As of this time, we are also considering discounted Saturday matinees for younger patrons, with adjusted lighting and no actor interaction, in order to allow them to enjoy the attraction as well, but in a more ‘PG-rated’ way. V.I.P. tours and/or ‘Behind the Scenes’ tours are also being considered during non-operating hours.”

 

Why did you choose a Halloween-themed attraction?

“Halloween has always been my favorite time of year: the fall weather, the activities, the horror movies, and the fond memories of going to haunted houses in the Rockford area as a kid. There were multiple haunted attractions here when I was growing up, and my friends and I always looked forward to visiting them.

“I started handing out candy and decorating my parent’s house at the age of fifteen, and I have not stopped decorating since. When I moved out at the age of twenty-three, I started decorating my own home. One of my best friends, Matt Johnson (who is the Co-Owner of Twisted Crypt Productions) and I would develop a plan, build props, and deck out my house every year. On two occasions we were fortunate enough to be featured on the local news for our “Home Haunt”. All of the props went up the day of Halloween, only to be taken down later that evening after trick-or-treating hours were finished, mostly to avoid potential theft and vandalism. What surprised me was how much the neighborhood really got into the experience, looking forward to it every year.

“If a child was lucky enough to make it all the way to the front door, their courage was rewarded with a king-sized candy bar. Not wanting anyone to feel left out, we also had a bucket of ‘smaller’ candy at the street for the kids that were just too scared to run the haunted gauntlet. The following mornings were always a bit surreal to me, as my house always looked as though nothing so grandiose could possibly have happened there the night before.

“At the heart of it? It is fun to be scared but, sometimes, it is even more fun to do the actual scaring!”

 

Do you have a favorite Halloween story?

“I will never forget Halloween, two years ago. Matt was in costume wandering the yard while his wife, Jen, was handing out candy at the front door. I was hiding off to one side of the house in full costume. Jen – who also doubled as our accomplice – would yell a code phrase when she saw a group of teenagers coming to the door. This would be my signal, and I would fire up the chain saw (no blade of course) and come running from around the house with it motoring away above my head. It would scare the crap out of people, and got them to run and scream – all in good fun.

“One situation, in particular, went just a little differently. Jen had said the code phrase as a group of teenagers were coming up the driveway. I came around the house, but headed for the front door – not the driveway. At the front door was not a group of teenagers but, rather, a little girl of about 10 years old and her father. They both looked at me right away, and I caught the father’s eye – his eyes got real big and he yelled “S***!” and took off running, leaving his daughter standing in his wake at the door. More to my surprise, she was not scared – at all – and proceeded to politely ask Jen for her candy. Eventually he came back for his daughter, and he was laughing so hard. For her part, the daughter was embarrassed by her father’s actions. It was just one of those rare, classic moments. That little girl was awesome.”

 

What prompted you to consider developing such an attraction in the Rockford Area?

“Over the last few years, it became all too clear that we could not fit anything else into my front yard. I believed that we were getting really good at what we were doing, so it was decision time. We loved putting on the show, and believed we could mold a successful business out of our experience.

“The first thing we did was to size up the competition in the area. There were only three other haunted attractions near Rockford last year, and only one was actually in the city proper. With this in mind we felt that now – unlike when we were kids, with multiple haunted attractions in the Rockford area – was the perfect time to start one up.

“In doing our homework, we then visited the three attractions and – nothing against the other local attractions (because we had a lot of fun visiting them) – we truly believed that we could do more, and do it better.

“It was also important to us to do the thing right, and to get the city’s blessing. With this in mind, we set up meetings with the Rockford Building & Zoning Commission and the Rockford Fire Department in January of this year. Over the past seven months, we have continued to meet and consult with them and they have been absolutely great to deal with.

“Matt and I are our own biggest critics. We know that if we don’t like something, or something does not look right, others will feel the same. On the other hand – if we like something – we believe that others will probably love it. Suffice it to say that our standards are exceedingly high. We both love Theme Parks, and pay close attention to companies like Disney, Universal, and Six Flags. Our goal is to be creative, and put our guests in another world – as those companies do – but to also be more local and affordable. We have laid plans to take what we see as the proper steps, so that this attraction may grow every year and – possibly – develop into a year-round attraction with multiple facets. For the past year, we have been planning, designing, writing, and building. It’s a lot of hard work but, we believe, it will be worth it in the long run.”

 

What is your business background, and how long have you been serving the Rockford Area?

“After college, I got into the family business of Real Estate. When the market began to suffer, the family bought a local Pub & Grill (Mulligan’s on North Main Street). I have been running that business for three years now, and still help the family with their Real Estate endeavors. I have a strong Marketing background and that, honestly, is my favorite part of the Real Estate business.

“As for Mulligan’s, I derive the same sort of enjoyment when it comes to marketing, but it is a much more informal endeavor. Both lines of work are enjoyable, but – in the end – Halloween is still a huge passion of mine.

“Matt Johnson’s background is in computers & technology, and he is currently employed in that trade. With his tech background, and my marketing background, we complement each other perfectly. Between our work backgrounds, our local experience, and feedback from our home haunt – dovetailed with our mutual love for horror and Halloween – we believe that we are going to put on one hell of a show.”

 

What is your fondest memory of Rockford?

“I just love Rockford! I married my high school sweetheart and we have two children, and are raising them here. My business partner, Matt, also married his high school sweetheart and resides here as well.

“Honestly? I have many favorite memories of Rockford but, to tie into the haunt, I would have to say going to the local haunted houses as a kid. There were so many: the House & Hayride out at Lockwood Park, the Harlem Community Center, The North Park Fire Department, and The Phantom Regiment. My Dad would take my brother and I to all of these, and I recall just being outside in the crisp fall air, the anticipation of not knowing what you were getting into, and the fun with friends and family that it brought about – it was the best.”

 

If you could recommend one place/attraction in Rockford for someone to visit, where would it be, and why?

Rockford has so many great local bars, restaurants, and attractions. I’m a huge Rockford IceHogs fan, so I would tell people to go and watch a game, and see the future stars of the NHL. There are numerous entertainment and dining options downtown – east side and west side. The Rockford City Market has been a huge success, Friday Night Flix, Rock Valley College has a wonderful performing arts center, The Coronado Theater, The BMO Harris Bank Center, Davis Park, The Discovery Center, The Screw City Beer Festival, The Tour De North End, our local golf courses, our Park District is amazing… does that count as one thing? [Laughs]“

 

If there were one thing that you could change about Rockford, what would it be?

“Crime & unemployment – because they go hand-in-hand. I am not a very political person, but those two items seem to me to be a huge burden on our community. People have the right to feel safe living in their community, and businesses have to feel safe investing in that same community. Rockford does not have many of the “tourist traps” remaining that it once boasted. In that regard, I would love to see more attractions – for all ages – open up in the area, marking a return to those days of more abundant tourism. That is a huge part of our fundamental goal at Twisted Crypt Productions. We want to provide one of those year-round destinations, with multiple attractions. I believe that the city, and the surrounding area, have been making great efforts at hosting some phenomenal events, offering fun things for people to do – but we need more. In the end, more events – and more tourist-driven attractions – will yield jobs and economic growth, in my opinion.”

 

Cheers,

Heath D. Alberts – Co-Founder, Digital Ninjas Media, Inc. (heath@digitalninjasmedia.com)

Author of: “Terminal Beginning” (2010) | “Guerrilla Business” (2012)

Follow me on: www.heathnwanda.com/blog.htm | Riffle | Shelfari | Goodreads | Facebook | Pinterest

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