In 2005, my friend Gene Henry and I wanted to have a haunted house. We wanted to create a fun, scary event for locals and donate a portion of the proceeds to a children's charity. The perfect location for our dream was Conway's Lower River Warehouse. Built in 1890 and located on the scenic Riverwalk, it was 8,000 square feet of spooky opportunity.
Starting a haunted house isn't easy. It especially wasn't easy in a small, conservative rivertown that wasn't sure if they wanted a late night attraction run by two 20 something year olds in city limits. The fun started with the special event application. Since we weren't a parade, outdoor concert or festival, no one with the city knew what to do with our request. There wasn't a form that matched up with what we were doing. Imagine the unwelcoming greetings we received when we filled out forms titled "Terror Under the Bridge" only 3 years after 9/11. Terror was a hot button word and most of the administrative workers with the city scowled at us.
Thankfully, we were persistent and we requested a meeting with zoning and planning, police, fire and anyone else who might either help or hinder our proposed event. I've rarely felt more intimidated. At that meeting, something incredible happened. We stood our ground, made our appeals and I watched a few people in the room get on board with having a haunted house in Conway. That meeting was followed by many more and a few meetings with City Council. At the time Alys Lawson was mayor and I'm convinced she was a big fan of our idea but she stayed mostly neutral. City Council approved our permits and we were official!
It takes more than permits to have a haunted house but they are a critical place to start. Next up was securing a loan to buy materials for walls, lights, fog machines, costumes, makeup and to pay for the onsite police officer and EMT the city required. God bless Tracey Vereen who took a chance on us and approved us for a personal loan for our expenses.
Lastly, it took a small army of volunteers. I asked everyone I knew for help and that year included family members, my girlfriend (my wife Adrianne now) and also random people who signed up via Facebook. Those volunteers became a close brotherhood and I still cherish those memories.
For 8 years, Terror Under the Bridge provided thrills and chills in the Lower River Warehouse for residents of Conway and the surrounding areas. It is still one of the most fun, rewarding and challenging things I've ever done.
In closing, I'm not saying we brought Halloween to Conway. But I have to think we planted a seed that blossomed into the awesome festivities that now occur during the entire month of October. If you haven't already, go to Halloween, SC and when you do... think that it all started with two young people with a scary dream.