Five years of scares


Queenstown’s house of horrors is celebrating five years of scares by getting ready to terrify a new town.

Shotover Street business Fear Factory recently notched up half a decade of scaring the bejesus out of people.

The people behind the frights are now gearing up to open a new branch elsewhere in New Zealand – but the location remains a mystery.

Boss Simon Smith says he had no idea the business would take off the way it has.

It was a trip to a haunted house at Niagara Falls about 10 years ago that first sparked the idea.

“I thought ‘it’s fake, how can it be scary’.

“I just remember the lights going out and being absolutely terrified.”

He returned home to Queenstown and started crunching the numbers with dad Andy.

“I thought, ‘Queenstown has nothing in the evenings, or on a rainy day, that’s affordable and fun to do’,” he says.

It became a true Addams Family affair, with mum Viv and brother Matt also getting in on the scare business.

It took about five years and a few proposed locations before they opened the doors in Queenstown’s CBD, creating a quirky new tourist attraction touted as ‘New Zealand’s scariest haunted house’.

Venture inside and you’ll find all the classic horror tropes, from creepy clowns and nightmarish nuns, to devilish doctors and their unhinged patients.

“I never imagined it would be something quite like this,” Smith says.

They’ve managed to keep things fresh through their staff, he says.

“Every time we get a new staff member they bring a new character, new voices. It’s always evolving.”

There have been a few horror stories over the years, so to speak.

“We’ve had people crawling, people vomiting because they’re so scared, people fainting,” he says.

They recently racked up 16,000 “chickens”, who were too scared to complete the haunted house.

There might be a few more on Saturday, when they celebrate their fifth anniversary with a carnival-themed night.

Now they’re looking ahead to the next five years.

They’ve got set designer John Howe, who worked on Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, creating a new street-front entrance featuring animatronics.

They’ll also begin selling videos, as well as photos, Smith says.

Then there’s the new branch.

Smith’s brother Matt has moved away to set it up.

They hope have it up and running within eight months.

But he’s keeping mum on the location, for now.

“It’s a whole new era, we’re really, really excited.”