Danger Run Interview

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Danger Run: The Most Fun You’ll Ever Have In Your Car
By Noah (AKA Jolly Pumpkin)

Today Joe Bulleit, the president of Danger Run in Louisville, KY is interviewed. You’ll learn about the history, the details and future surrounding Danger Run. This is a unique haunted event that can only be found in Louisville, KY.

What is Danger Run and how is it different from other haunts in Louisville, KY?
The Danger Run is a very unique event. In fact, to our knowledge, no other event of its kind exists anywhere in the world. The Danger Run is not “only” a haunt, but rather a full evening of fun and entertainment. It’s a driving game you play from within your vehicles and usually with a group of friends.

At the starting point (there are 3 to choose from) you will be given a booklet of rhyming limerick-style clues that test your logic, perception and reasoning abilities. Each of these clues, when solved correctly, will reveal the next turn, or sometimes series of turns. You are to make in an attempt to stay on the correct route. Along the way, you will encounter and experience two of the area’s premier haunted attractions.

The Danger Run offers unparalleled value, in that the entire cost to play is less than half of the regular price of the included haunted attractions alone. The event is well established, having operated for 15 years. It’s enormously popular and seen by many as a Halloween “tradition” in the Louisville area.

Tell us a little about yourself and how you are involved with Danger Run?
My name is Joe Bulleit. I am the original founder and creator of the Danger Run and still serve as the President of the company. I have some fine partners that are integral in pulling this thing off each year, but I still write each and every Danger Run clue personally. October is my favorite month of the year, and I have always been an absolute puzzle fanatic. So The Danger Run is the perfect combination for me.

Give us a little history of how Danger Run first began. What was the inspiration in creating a unique haunted event like this?
The Danger Run was not entirely my idea, but simply the evolution of older “Ghost Run” events existing throughout the Louisville area for many years. I absolutely LOVED these ghost runs and found myself looking forward to them all year long. My wife actually encouraged me start my own after a particularly disappointing excursion on one of the other local “ghost runs” that existed at the time.

It was 1993. We had just finished a set of what we felt were unimaginative easy clues; that were little more than flat-out directions, leading us to the Run’s only haunt. We were horrified (and not in a good way) to discover that this “haunt” was literally comprised of garbage bags stretched over monkey bars and playground equipment at a children’s elementary school playground. – Really – I’m not kidding. Sarcastically, I proclaimed that even “I could put together a Ghost Run better than this!” My wife simply replied: “Why don’t you, then? You love it so much, who better to put one together than you?”, and thus, The Danger Run was born.

I realized that, above all else, if I was going to have any kind of success at all, particularly because I would be competing with older, more established ghost runs, I had to make it FUN. I would start by eliminating the things that made some other Runs NOT fun. That had to start with the “haunt”. I would not stretch garbage bags over monkey bars on my Run. Instead of a small haunt set up exclusively for the event, I decided that this Run would be the first ever to include a full-scale stand-alone commercial haunted house.

After all, if the haunt was good enough to sell tickets on its own and stay in business, it was far better than what other ghost runs were offering. My plan was to go to an existing haunt and purchase blocks of tickets for a discount. Pretty much the only haunted house in town at that time was The Haunted Hotel. Having no experience and no history to this event, the “discount” I was able to negotiate was meager to say the least. However, I knew that being the first and only ghost run to include admission to a premium haunt such as this would have long-term benefits.

Now that I had the haunt on board, I turned my attention to clues. I knew that I would typically spend about 3 hours on a ghost run, only 10-15 minutes of which is inside the haunted house. The rest of the time I was in my car, driving around solving clues. I realized that it didn’t matter how great the haunt was if I bored the pants off people for 2+ hours getting there, so my clues had to be more entertaining and had to be different.

This was the exact thought running through my head one day as I sat on the couch watching TV. I like old TV shows, and one of my favorites of all time is the Andy Griffith Show (but only the black and white ones – before Barney left). Anyway, the Andy Griffith Show came on while I was thinking about the whole clue issue. It was the episode where Barney stormed into the Sherriff’s office, all upset because of a poem he found written on the wall behind the courthouse:

“There once was a Deputy named Fife…
who carried a gun and a knife.
The gun was all dusty,
the knife was all rusty,
‘cause he never caught a crook in his life!”

THAT’S IT!, I thought. Instead of the traditional 2-line rhymes used by virtually every ghost run that had ever existed, I would write my clues in this 5-line limerick style fashion, focusing not only on the puzzle element of the clue, but actually making them entertaining to read as well. Every clue for all 15 years has been written this way, and it has now become a trademark of the Danger Run. – All inspired by an old Andy Griffith episode.

Finally, we needed a name and a way to publicize the event, on almost no money. Having already partnered with The WQMF Haunted Hotel, we were able to trade a title sponsorship to WQMF in exchange for some radio spots. I was fine with that, as I didn’t think anyone would want to go on “Joe’s Ghost Run” anyway. WQMF’s most popular show at the time was the “Rocky & Troy” morning show featuring “Danger Boy”, so they decided to call it “The WQMF Rocky & Troy Danger Run”. The following year, it was shortened to “WQMF Danger Run” and eventually just to “Danger Run”.

How many people purchase tickets to Danger Run every year?
We average about 11,000 people per season, but have had over 13,000 in a single year.

What is the typical demographic that usually attends Danger Run?
While the Danger Run enjoys success across many demographic groups, our target and group where we see our highest degree of success is considerably different than what you would expect for a typical haunted attraction. The Danger Run is seen as much more of an “outing” and social activity than a standard haunted house.

The typical Danger Run customer will spend about 3 hours on the Run, in the car with their friends and/or family solving the clues and playing the game. This strong social component tends to attract a slightly different and older crowd (often in large groups) than a stand-alone haunted house’s target demographic. As a result, most customers The Danger Run brings to the haunted attractions are people they may not have otherwise reached.

What haunts have been featured at Danger Run throughout the years?
Over the years, we have worked with many different haunted attractions. We find that many of our customers prefer not to know which attractions are included, thereby adding to the mystery of the event. For this reason, we don’t publicize which attractions are part of the run for the current year (although we will tell anyone who asks directly). We have worked with some fine attractions over the years, including The Haunted Hotel, Industrial Nightmare, Dementions, Pitch Black, and Psychomania.

What are the prizes people can win at Danger Run?
Prize packages vary each year, but some of the prizes include individual trophies, a VIP Limo Trip for the entire winning group on the following year’s Run, Gas Cards from Speedway, Danger Run jackets and other merchandise.

What is involved in organizing a unique event like this every year?
A lot more than most people think and more than I could have imagined when I started out 15 years ago. We have two basic philosophies that by which we operate and base every decision: 1) We treat EVERY customer as if they were our ONLY customer, and 2) We strive to make the Danger Run the event YOU want it to be. Because we are truly dedicated to those principles, rarely if ever do we open without significant changes and improvements from the previous season.

This year, for example, in direct response to customer feedback, we have made several improvements to start gate workflow, and even some to the route structure. Last year, we made significant improvements to the included haunted attractions. A few years ago, in direct response to rising concern over gas prices, we negotiated with Speedway to purchase and provide $10 gas cards for all carloads of 4 or more people.

We meet on a regular schedule beginning in January and sometimes spend hours debating and agonizing over seemingly the most insignificant details. When we no longer do this, it means we no longer care enough to continue the event.

How is it determined what time people complete Danger Run? What is the fastest time anyone has ever finished Danger Run?
The object of the Danger Run is to complete the route you are given with the fewest mistakes. We determine your accuracy by mileage accumulated on your vehicle. Actual time is irrelevant. To base the Danger Run on time in any way may encourage some to drive too fast. Our primary objective is to make the Danger Run as fun and as SAFE as possible.

How is it determined what correct route people need to take to complete Danger Run?
There are actually several different routes on the Danger Run each year. In fact, there are 12 different routes this year alone (4 from each of the 3 start gates). We have three reasons for doing this. First, this prevents “gravy training” in which each car simply follows the car in front of them. Also, this gives our repeat customers the opportunity for a completely unique experience the second time around. Finally, this minimizes the impact of unexpected road closures, allowing us to easily re-route traffic using one of the other available routes.

Who are some of the other people that are instrumental in the success of Danger Run?
I firmly believe that the primary reason for the success The Danger Run has experienced is the fine people we have working on it, and the passion we all share for the event. We all feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to create something enjoyed by so many, and we take the responsibility very seriously to continue to provide unequaled value to our customers.

Each of our three start gate locations are administered by Gate Managers who have an average of almost 12 years of gate management experience. They and their respective staff members are the “face” of this thing to our customers. They share our vision and philosophies, and their importance cannot be overstated.

From a creative and administrative standpoint, I have said in the past that no one cares about Danger Run as much as I do. That’s incorrect. There are actually two: Mike & Mike. Michael Book has been involved with Danger Run each year in some capacity for the past 13 years (when he was 14). In fact, I credit him with much of the “new look” of The Danger Run when we came back after our 1 year hiatus in 2006. You can bet that he’s behind any graphics you see online or in print. Mike Kimzey (the other Mike) was my partner in Danger Run from 1995 through 2001 and was instrumental during the early years when we were just getting this thing off the ground.

I’m pleased to announce that both Mikes are now equal partners/owners of the event, and I feel the Danger Run has the strongest ever 3-man team behind it. Our partnership and resulting new energy has already produced several changes and enhancements for the upcoming season, and will be the nucleus that carries the event into the future.

For more information on Danger Run, please visit www.dangerrun.com or call 1-800-771-9750.