With hundreds of thousands of guests over the years, we are often asked "Where did you come up with this idea?" or more simply, "Why do you do this?" So, for those of you who wonder such things (or even care), we have added this history page just for you...
The Danger Run is a very unique event. In fact, no other event of its kind exists anywhere in the world. That being said, The Danger Run was not entirely our idea, but simply the evolution of "Ghost Run" events existing throughout the Louisville area for many years. Founder Joe Bulleit discovered these Ghost Runs as a child, riding along in the car with his older brothers and sisters. He always loved puzzles and logic problems. Once Joe was old enough to take an active roll and could actually contribute to the clue solving process, he was hooked. As the years went by, especially after Joe was old enough to be the driver, he found myself looking forward to October, just so he could go on his next Ghost Run. Whether it was the Buechel Fern Creek Jaycees Ghost Run, the New Albany Jaycees Ghost Run, or the KJ-100 Spirit Chase, he could always count on such a Run to provide a full night of unparalleled fun.
Joe and his wife Mary were married in October, 1989. A week before their wedding, Joe took her on her first Ghost Run. Like Joe, she enjoyed the experience very much. As they continued participating in these events for the following few years, however, they both noticed a gradual degradation in the overall quality of the Runs. The clues were becoming more unimaginative (and way too easy), and the haunts were anything but scary or fun. They finally hit rock-bottom in 1993. They were on one of the local Ghost Runs, and had just finished a set of boring clues, that were little more than flat-out directions, leading to the run's only haunt. They 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. Sarcastically, Joe proclaimed even "I could put together a Ghost Run better than this!" Mary simply replied: "Why don't you, then?", and thus, The Danger Run was born.
Even still, Joe never really considered it again after that night, until Labor Day weekend in September of the following year, when Mary brought it up again: "What happened to that Ghost Run thing you wanted to do? You love it so much, who better to put one together than you?" So then, Joe really started thinking about it. Had he realized, at the time, the amount of effort it would require, or how utterly in over his head he was about to be, he would have run away like a frightened schoolgirl but sometimes ignorance is a good thing.
Joe realized that, above all else, he had to make it FUN. Since he didn't know much about creating fun things for other people at the time, he decided it would be best to build this Ghost Run by eliminating the things that made some other Runs NOT fun. That had to start with the haunt. Joe would not stretch garbage bags over monkey bars on this Run. Instead of a small haunt set up exclusively for the event, Joe 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. The 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" Joe was able to negotiate was meager to say the least. However, he believed 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 he had the haunt squared away, Joe turned his attention toward the clues. On average, people spend about 2-3 hours or so on a ghost run, only 10-15 minutes of which is inside the haunted house. The rest of the time they are in their car, driving around solving clues. Joe realized that it didn't matter how great the haunt was if the game bored the pants off people for 2+ hours getting there, so the clues had to be more entertaining and had to be different. The problem was that he had no idea how to achieve this.
This was the exact thought running through his head one day as he sat on the couch watching TV. Joe like's old TV shows, and one of his 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 he 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!" Joe thought. Instead of the traditional 2-line rhymes used by virtually every ghost run that had ever existed, Joe would write his 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. True, it takes much longer to write a 5-line limerick than it does to write a 2-line rhyme, but every clue has been written this way, and it has now become a trademark of the Danger Run. - All inspired by an old Andy Griffith episode.
Now that he had the clue structure taken care of, Joe needed a name and a way to advertise with almost no money. WQMF was the biggest radio station in town at the time with the most popular morning show ever, featuring Rocky, Troy, and Danger Boy. Coincidently, WQMF also sponsored The Haunted Hotel (with whom he had already made a deal). With the help of his brother Jim (aka Danger Boy) Joe was able to convince WQMF to sponsor the Run. In exchange for naming rights, they would promote the event on air. Playing off their extremely popular morning show, they would call it The WQMF Rocky and Troy Danger Run. So that's how it got its name. Over the years, the name was shortened to The WQMF Danger Run and then to just Danger Run.
Joe nearly killed himself for 6 weeks putting the first Run together, but on October 14, 1994, The Danger Run opened for business at Levy's Lumber and Building Center in Clarksville. We had 238 customers that night, and just over 2,000 for the entire 3-week run. We thought Halloween night would be our biggest night that year. It fell on a Monday, and we had a total of 2 customers. Never since then has Danger Run operated on any night other than Friday or Saturday.
In 1995, Joe decided that the Danger Run would be the first and only ghost run to offer Start Gates on BOTH sides of the river. In addition to our Clarksville location, we would offer a starting point on Dixie Hwy in Louisville. It worked. Attendance in year 2 jumped to over 5,000 people.
We thought, if 2 gates resulted in over twice the customers as a single, let's try a third! So in 1996 we opened a 3rd starting point at Bigg's Hypermarket in Middletown. Danger Run attendance jumped to over 10,000 people that year.
By 1997, the ghost runs that originally inspired the idea of Danger Run were all gone. Danger Run still operates to this day and has grown to be a tradition for thousands of people not only in Louisville, but across the country. We have been fortunate enough over the years to develop partnerships with fine area businesses such as DQ, Papa John's, Lowe's and Thorntons. Without their help, the Danger Run, as you know it, would not be possible.
During the late 90s and early 2000s, the Danger Run was taken under the umbrella of the Nightmare Network, which also owned Industrial Nightmare, Haunted Hotel, Nightmare Forest and Nightmare Run. There the Danger Run would continue operation in the Nigthmare Network until 2009 when the Nightmare Network was dissolved.
In 2009, a new partnership was formed by Joe Bulleit, Michael Book and Mike Kimzey to reclaim the Danger Run. Joe, Michael and Mike had been involved with the Danger Run together in some form or fashion since its inception. The three man partnership vowed to make Danger Run better than ever and went on to see some of the largest attended years in event history.
Tragedy struck in 2018 when founder Joe Bulleit suffered from a heart attack. After that time, Joe made the difficult decision to retire from the business, leaving the business in the hands of his partners Michael Book and Mike Kimzey. That year, winner of the Danger Run Garry O'Brien was inducted as the official cluemaster, taking over Joe's clue writing responsibilities.
After surviving the season, in 2019 Michael Book and Mike Kimzey welcomed Brian Ward, previously of Waverly Hills, as a new partner to the business. Brian has decades of experience with Halloween attractions, including legendary Rocky Point Haunted House in Salt Lake City Utah. The business continued to blossom as Danger Run started creating their own haunted attraction experiences.
Marking what would be the most challenging year for the company, at the beginning of 2020 Mike Kimzey decided it was time to retire and leave the business in the hands of Michael Book and Brian Ward. Not long after this decision, COVID struck forcing Michael and Brian to re-envision the entire guest experience. They created an experience that was 100% in the car, keeping guests safety as their #1 priority - which has been foundational in all decisions made by the company throughout its history. The reimagining of the Danger Run in 2020 resulted in the creation of TWO all new versions of the game called Rudolph's Run and Romance Run. Both improving upon the experience they had created in 2020.
Building upon their momentum, in 2021 Michael and Brian welcomed cluemaster Garry O'Brien as the newest partner to the Danger Run. The three man team had become an unstoppable force. The company ventured into uncharted territory and took Danger Run and Rudolph's Run to Indianapolis and Chicago making it the first time EVER operating outside of the Kentuckiana area. One of the biggest steps in the history of the company. To do this, the company created an online platform that allowed them to create games virtually anywhere in the world.
Currently, the company is taking the gaming experience a step further by creating outdoor escape games that are played on foot. To jumpstart their endeavor they partnered with Cluetivity to create immersive outdoor games using augmented reality and GPS technology to bring a unique world class gaming experience that would soon influence all adventures created by the company. The remainder of 2022 remains to be written, but the most exciting times are still to come!
"We fully realize the extent to which thousands enjoy and look forward to our attractions every year, and our appreciation of your loyalty cannot be overstated. We take the responsibility very seriously to provide you with highest quality attractions and best value for your dollar possible. In fact, it is this simple concept on which Danger Run was founded and continues to direct every decision we make as a company. We promise to reward your loyalty with our very best efforts to provide you with unequaled value, and to provide the best entertainment for all ages and all walks of life for many years to come." - Michael J. Book, Ph.D., CEO, President
About the CEO: Michael began his Halloween career as a teenager, creating his first commercial haunted attraction over 25 years ago. He has been involved with the design and development of many of your favorite Halloween attractions in Kentuckiana, including the Louisville Halloween Parade & Festival. Michael has a degree in special effects and has worked in film, theater and attractions across the country. In addition, Michael earned his doctorate in Physiology and Biophysics and is active in clinical research to improve healthcare in the community. Michael has been an active educator at local universities, helping others to reach their career goals. Finally, Michael is an ambassador of Bullying Prevention and is an active supporter of local animal shelters. His personal mission is to "Solve problems that improve the quality of life and the success of others." This business has been a part of this mission and his passion for the majority of his career.