Halloween people don’t stop being Halloween people just because their favorite holiday was months ago — or is still months away.
Haunted houses, or “haunts,” often offer their dedicated fans offseason programming, and on Saturday, July 20, The Legend at Pope Lick Haunted Woods is mixing that special haunted feeling with the excellent summer tradition of outdoor movies on a big screen. The result is the Creature Feature Free Movie Nights.
Insider caught up with Michael Book — co-owner of Louisville Halloween, the company behind the Pope Lick Haunted Woods, the Black Orchard Haunted House and several other haunted attractions in the area — one of the folks behind the Creature Feature event.
He gave us the back story on how he into got into haunting, why The Parklands of Floyds Fork Pope Lick Park was excited for the creation of The Legend of Pope Lick Haunted Woods horror attraction, and what we can expect from the Creature Feature.
Book has been a huge horror fan since he was 3, when a favorite uncle started showing him horror films. Then that same uncle started taking him to haunted houses.
“He took me to a couple of different ones,” recalls Book. “Being 4, I can’t actually remember if my first was Culbertson Mansion or The Haunted Hotel.”
From there, Book developed a fascination with horror, haunts and special effects that led him to start making haunted houses in his basement and garage as a tween, then working for and running professional haunts as a teen.
He worked at just about every major haunt in town, including spending time as the creative director at Industrial Nightmare and running Nightmare Forest.
But his longest-running association is with Danger Run, which he first joined in its third year, back in the late ’90s.
For those unfamiliar, Danger Run is scavenger-hunt-style game that includes local haunts. At first Danger Run worked with other haunts and had scare fans finding spooky experiences run by other companies. But eventually, it started running its own haunted attractions and formed Louisville Halloween as a parent company for the different entities.
One of the haunted attractions the company runs is The Legend at Pope Lick Haunted Woods.
Organizers of the attraction — and the Pope Lick Park — definitely want to scare folks, but they also hoped to help make the park less likely to attract seekers of real danger, the ones who want to climb the trestle and look for the legendary Goat Man.
“They wanted to change the public image around the monster, because that folklore is a big deal for people … and give people an outlet, a safe outlet, to explore that folklore,” says Book.
Last year, Pope Lick Park and Louisville Halloween decided to throw their first Creature Feature. Book says the event is a great opportunity for the haunt.
“We get to interact with these people during the offseason in a way that’s a little bit different than going to the haunted house,” he explains. “So when they come to the Creature Feature, they get to see a movie totally for free, and in addition we also have costumed characters. Sometimes they are characters from the movie, and sometimes they are characters from the haunt itself.”
Last summer, Creature Feature ran one night of programming and featured the ’80s horror film “The Legend of the Pope Lick Monster” and paired it with “The Blair Witch Project.” Book says those films complemented the parks natural beauty — and spookiness.
“They’re surrounded by woods, it’s in the dark, they’re under the stars,” he says. “We wanted it to feel spooky and scary. And we wanted the element of the Pope Lick Monster.”
But the first Creature Feature almost didn’t happen.
“There was a torrential downpour the day we were going to have our movie,” says Book. “It was dumping rain and it was 6 o’clock, and I was looking at one of my partners and I said, ‘We really just need to cancel.’”
But Book and company decided to have the event anyway, and roughly 400 people showed up.
“It astonished everybody,” he recalls. “We had no idea it would turn out like that. So when the park saw that, and we saw that, we were like, ‘Well, this works. We have to do this again.’”
So this summer, which started with “Ghostbusters” in May, Creature Feature is offering a total of four free nights of monster and horror-oriented entertainment.
For Saturday’s event, they decided to mix in America’s other favorite holiday.
“This is our Christmas in July,” says Book. “We’re going to put up Christmas decorations. We’ll have the real Santa and Mrs. Clause, but we’ll also have characters from the haunt dressed in Christmas costumes. So the Goat Man is going to have a Santa costume.”
The free film includes some free stuff.
“We’re going to do some giveaways that are actually wrapped Christmas gifts, so (winners) will have to unwrap their gift,” Book adds. “It’s all part of the scene to make it more immersive.”
Finding the right feature film for Christmas in July was tough, according to Book, with the two possible movies being “Krampus” or “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
“Ultimately we decided there’s a bigger fan base for ‘Nightmare,’ and I love ‘Nightmare Before Christmas.’”
Creature Feature kicks up some ho-ho-horror on Saturday, June 20, at the Pope Lick Haunted Woods, 4002 S. Pope Lick Road. Activities start at 8 p.m., and the movie starts at dusk. The event returns Saturday, Aug. 17, with a double feature of “Night of the Living Dead” and “Seven,” then haunts again on Friday, Sept. 13 with “Friday the 13th: Parts III and XI.”