This once-modest scare house helped bring a forlorn warehouse district back to life

Each autumn for 29 years, Bricktown Haunted Warehouse has drawn scream-seekers who, in the process of fostering fright, also contributed to bringing the former distribution district back from the dead.

As the horror genre enjoys a surge of interest, reflected in huge box office numbers and television ratings, audiences are hungry for the all-out gore of The Walking Dead and the cerebral, psychological scares of American Horror Story.

Some might think this puts attraction organizer Brent Brewer and his team in the seemingly precarious position of competing with desensitized crowds and soaring expectations.

But he’s not worried.

“I grew up in the time of slasher films like Halloween, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street,” he said. “It’s a combination of the characters, the dialog, the scenes and, ultimately, the scare. If you can line up the stars like this, then it will provide a memory that the customer will leave with for a lifetime.”

Brewer has had many, many years to perfect his formula.

“The best scare is providing a suspenseful atmosphere that builds up to the element of surprise at a time when no one expects,” he explained. “Chainsaws never disappoint.”

Brewer, son of Bricktown legend Jim Brewer, recently told Oklahoma Gazette how the simple holiday fright house in a dilapidated part of the city became a holiday mainstay.

“A group led by Jim Brewer was looking at foreclosed buildings in the Bricktown district for potential investment and redevelopment,” he said.

At the time, the Hunzicker Building, filled with cobwebs, was being used to store antiques.

“[While touring the facility,]” Brewer said, “a person within the group said, ‘This place is scary and would make a great haunted house.’”

That is a sentence from which legends are built.

Jim Brewer contacted friends of friends who operated a haunted house in Kansas City, and they helped him design the first Bricktown Haunted Warehouse.

“We had to advertise it being located three blocks east of the Myriad [now Cox Convention Center] since at the time, very few people even knew that the Bricktown district existed,” Brewer said. “We drew 18,000 people the first year.”

Jim Brewer and his sons have owned and operated the attraction for almost three decades.

“We have built an experience that people look forward to,” Brewer said. “We consider ourselves mainly an ‘old-school’ haunted house, [focusing] on the elements of suspense and fear as well as providing a funhouse experience to the customer. We draw a fine line between technology and the art of the scare.”

This year, organizers also invited Oklahoma’s growing film community to participate as actors.

“The more job opportunities we can provide these creative professionals, the more likely they are to stay in Oklahoma City to build their careers,” he said.

Plus, it benefits his business.

“Horror … helped introduce people to Bricktown in the beginning and has remained a Halloween tradition ever since. We love doing it and think the film community can help us do it even better,” he said.

Bricktown Haunted Warehouse opens 7 p.m. nightly through Saturday.

Print Headline: Ghastly resurrection, In many ways, this once-modest scare house helped bring a forlorn warehouse district back to life.

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