As Halloween winds to a close, people are trying to get their last minute haunt on. I’ve been to large scale haunts and amusement parks but the buildings dedicated to haunts have always passed me by. Whether it was the drive, the timing or the fact that no one would go with me and I’d be damned if my happy ass was going to show up at one of those places alone, I just never made it in.
I was lucky enough to be able to visit 3rd Street Asylum in Bonner Springs, KS. When one thinks of Kansas or Kansas City, MO, haunted houses are not what comes to mind but it may surprise you we have some of the best in the country just sitting right in the heart of the Midwest. I chose 3rd Street Asylum because it was voted the best haunted house in Kansas City by Pitch Magazine. I needed to see it for myself.
I got the chance to speak with a third of the masterminds that own the building, Steve Hoffine. If that last name sound familiar, horror runs in his family. His cousin is well- known horror photographer Joshua Hoffine. Steve and his family also own a Halloween boutique called Twisted Halloween.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Why did you choose to start a haunted house? Can you tell us a bit about its inception?
Steve Hoffine: Our family and close friends always held big Halloween parties, hayrides, and setting up scares for the kids. We held a hayride one year through our friends’ storage caves and someone posted about it on Facebook. We ended up with over 600 people coming. At that point we thought we could build something out of that. We approached the City of Bonner Springs about leasing the abandoned 1918 building and negotiated a contract. We are now into year 8 of operation.
NC: I see you won Pitch’s award for best haunted house and voted one of the best in KC. That’s amazing! Did you think it would become as big as it is when you started it?
SH: We always believed in what we are doing and we’ve been lucky enough to have great actors and supporters who’ve helped make it this successful.
NC: Did you have a favorite haunt in KC before starting 3rd Street?
SH: KC always had some great haunts, Main St. Morgue, Dr. Deadly’s and Mortuary Mary’s to name a few.
NC: You have a love of horror in the family; did you love horror growing up and did it inspire any particular aspect in the haunt?
SH: We’ve always loved getting scared or scaring other people, I guess it just runs in the blood.
NC: What’s your favorite part about your haunted house?
SH: I really enjoy watching people go through and having a good time, whether they are scared or laughing and knowing that we were able to entertain them.
NC: What’s your favorite scary movie?
SH: I love the classics, Frankenstein, Dracula and Creature From the Black Lagoon. For more recent (although old now), I would say Nightmare on Elm Street. That one really got to me.
NC: What can we look forward to in the future from 3rd Street?
SH: We are always looking for new scares, ideas and things to make the haunt bigger and better. We’ve started toying with the idea of expanding into other seasons, maybe a Christmas or Valentine’s Day event.
The building itself was built where the town’s cemetery used to be after previous buildings on the land burned down or were removed. Only those families who could afford to have their family members moved were able to move the graves to a new location. Thirty-two bodies were left, unable to be moved before construction of what became a high school started above them.
According to Steve, staff and actors experience real paranormal activity in the building. Actors have had their hair pulled, have been pinched, seen figures and apparitions and heard children laughing. The basement and doll room (of course) are the hot spots.
The haunt itself utilizes three full floors of the four-floor building for the haunt. Grab those fit bits because you’ll be walking nearly half a mile in this haunt.
As I stood on the stairs awaiting my turn, I spoke to a sweet zombie nurse. I learned during this visit that entire families are involved in the operation of this haunt. Whether they are crew, actors or ticket booth, it’s a family affair which turns it into almost a community project…but it is worth the hype? Let’s find out.
I will say this, 3rd Street Asylum utilizes its environment the best I have ever seen or heard. The trek is long and dark. There are hospital rooms, doll rooms, baby rooms, clown rooms, a sewer and more. When you think you’re getting close to the end, the haunt takes you down another floor.
There are rooms so filled with fog you can’t see what lies beneath, rooms with false walls, a fucking dentist which was not my favorite room at all. Some rooms relies heavily on animatronic use for the scares which lulls you into a false sense of security for a moment before someone with a drill and a metal drum wakes your ass up.
I think my only criticism of this haunt was its use of audio scares. Sometimes one room was so loud, you couldn’t hear the actor in the next room trying to scare you which took away not only from that room but from the actor themselves.
My absolute favorite part was right before the sewers that were straight out of IT. To get to the sewers, you go through a teeny, tiny hole in the wall. Nothing but darkness can be seen on the other side which resulted in a very audible “AW, HELL NO” coming from me before I was forced in.
The ending to the haunt was absolutely amazing and I want to say what it was so badly, but it was a hell of a way to end what was an amazing 30-minute walk where I may or may not have peed in my pants a little.
Steve gave a special shout out to his crew and actors that work so hard during the season. If you miss them during Halloween, don’t fret, they are considering opening for special Christmas and Valentine’s haunt.
If you are ever in the Kansas City area during the season, check out 3rd Street Asylum at 200 E 3rd St in Bonner Springs, KS. They have one more weekend left this season and tickets are $25.00. A big thanks to Steve and the owners for letting Nightmarish Conjurings into the brainchild of their own nightmares. Happy haunting and happy Halloween everyone!