It all started with a simple hayride…
Chris Michaels married his wife Linda in May of 1987. As October rolled around, Chris dreamed up the idea of hosting a hayride on Halloween for all of his friends and family. Little did he know he was laying the groundworks for what we have today- Nightmares Haunted House, the highest ranked haunted house in four states.
Starting near Cave Springs at the farm where Chris grew up, the hayride would travel to Osage Creek where the night would conclude with a bonfire, hot dogs, and s’mores. Because of the positive response and great turnout, the hayride began to evolve and improve each year with the addition of scary stories and simple scares. Chris added friends to hide along the route and in a cemetery to scare the hayride passengers on the way to the bonfire. A cousin on a horse dressed as a confederate soldier and an uncle with his head through a hot dog table were just a few of the early scares. In 1994, the scares were ramped up with the addition of Randy Gaudian, who has been a scare partner ever since.
As the years went on, the weather proved to be occasionally uncooperative so the hayride turned into a haunted house set up at Chris and Linda’s home in Rogers. Now the Michaels family, along with Randy and their friends, began to ramp things up for all who would dare to visit… and visit they did. As one room became too small, the garage and then the back yard became dedicated to the Haunted House as well. Popularity grew and available space didn’t so it was time for another move, this time to an unused part of the Kozy Heat warehouse.
With this larger space, Chris and Randy let their creativity run amuck. Donations were made to support the bonfire activities and the end of the night. Continued growth and visitors quickly forced the Haunted House to move to an even larger metal warehouse on the grounds operating only one weekend around Halloween. Averaging 200 to 300 visitors that weekend alone became very hard to handle for this small group of scare technicians.
In 2003, the Haunted House partnered with the Bentonville Breakfast Lions Club and began a new era that would take this small operation to the big leagues. Lions Terry Franklin, Tom Gray and Ron Guadian were instrumental in this merger and continue to play key roles today. Ron funded the construction of a new building on the grounds which is the current location of Nightmares Haunted House. The first year Ron would drive the visitors to the Haunted House from Kozy Heat in a truck. The second year, Chris and Randy had the idea to incorporate a scary bus ride, complete with a movie playing and a crazy bus driver that made the ride feel like a roller coaster.
The bus became an attraction of its own and when paired with a great Haunted House- the Nightmares Haunted House and Phantom 13 bus ride took off. Today, the Lions Club handles ticket sales and concessions, while also getting to decide which charitable organizations to donate the Haunted House’s profits. The actors are primarily high school students who are donating their time. Overtime, Chris and Randy have brought on new partners who bring additional creativity and resources that have contributed to record breaking visitor counts each year. In 2017 alone, over 12,400 people visited Nightmares Haunted House thanks to the efforts of our staff and continued record breaking visitor counts each year.
As time has gone on, the Nightmares Haunted House has evolved with its growing popularity and space but its core values and goals have remained the same- to create a fun and memorable scare for friends and family to enjoy in order to give back to the community on a grander scale.
Chris Michaels Founder, Bus Driver and Creative Design (The Boss)
Randy Guadian The Bus, Sound, Technology, Creative Design, and longtime partner
Jeff Newton Control Room, Video, Technology, and Creative Design (and a Lion)
T.J. Michaels Talent Recruitment & Development, Creative Design and involved since birth
Danny Smith 3D/Graphic Artist, Talent Development, Make-up and Creative Design
Billy Deatherage Talent Development, Make-up and Creative Design
Coye Cripps Talent Development, Bouncer and Creative Design
Carlos Mancia Web Design/Maintenance and Creative Design