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Nightmare on 13th celebrates a spooky 25th birthday.

Salt Lake City -- How do you run a business that's only open six weeks out of the year?

"Very carefully," jokes Mike Henrie, owner of NIGHTMARE ON 13TH.

The popular Halloween attraction is in its 25th year of delivering frights, and Henrie says this year's show has been in the works since January to do the milestone just right. "We've resurrected and perfected a lot of the old stuff, and there's a lot of new stuff, too," Henrie says. "This is the best of the best of 25 years."

Twenty-five years ago, Henrie had just graduated with a degree in business administration when he and a partner, Troy Barber, came upon the opportunity to buy the defunct Institute of Terror, which had been running for eight years in the 1980s before the sale.

At first, the seasonal venture was just that: a seasonal addition to Henrie's lawncare service and his partner's wedding videography business. But over the next several years, the autumnal diversion grew until it allowed them to work on it full time. The duo moved into the current 36,000-square-foot location on 1300 South in Salt Lake in 1993; the iconic "castle" exterior paint followed later. Last June, Henrie bought out Barber to run the venture on his own.

From the end of September through Halloween, Nightmare on 13th is bustling, with hundreds of customers coming out on even the slowest of weekday nights, and thousands lining up on weekends.

Henrie employs 150 actors, security guards, cashiers and other staff yearly to make sure the show goes off without a hitch. Nightmare on 13th is a no-contact haunted house, meaning actors are prohibited from hitting or grabbing patrons. Henrie says he, and other members of the national haunted house organization America Haunts, believes the hands-off policy keeps the focus on the sets, props, acting and timing. "Our characters will not touch the public. They'll invade your space, sure, but they won't touch you. We don't need to do that to be scary," he says.

And Nightmare on 13th does take those things seriously. High-end latex masks, careful costuming and skilled makeup jobs help make the actors look the part, and cameras monitoring every room along the way allow managers to radio instructions in real time to make performances pack as much punch as possible. Each of the rooms are carefully designed, with months of detailed artistry and craftsmanship to make them look just so.

Henrie believes the best frights involve several senses all at once. "You've got your eyes telling you something, and touch and sound and smell. When little kids come through here and they're really scared, I tell them to plug their ears, because that makes it less scary," he says.

Because so many patrons come year after year, Henrie says he and the staff take great pains to make sure to keep favorites while constantly changing out about 60 percent of the rooms.

While Henrie has orchestrated scares for the last quarter century, he says he himself can still be scared in haunted houses. It's a fun part of the season, and he takes pride in how they have and will continue to execute it at Nightmare on 13th.

"We just do Halloween right," he says.

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Title Annotation:Around Utah
Comment:Nightmare on 13th celebrates a spooky 25th birthday.(Around Utah)
Author:Biton, Adva; Christensen, Lisa
Publication:Utah Business
Date:Nov 1, 2015
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