The so-called Horror Museum & Chocolate Bar, a new place in Deep Ellum that advertises itself as "the scariest Horror Museum in the world," had what would have to be called a difficult opening night on September 27, with such scathing reviews that the owners shut it down early.
The idea of the concept was a permanent installation with a horror theme, and the owners raised expectations high with their promising description.
"Everything from scary movies to real life occult items," says the museum's Facebook page. "Inch for inch the museum houses the largest array of obscure and haunted artifacts. Items used in extremely dangerous occult activities around the world. If that’s not enough their [sic] are interactive anger rooms."
In a less horror-savvy town, that might fly, but Dallas-Fort Worth has a long history of elaborate haunted houses, from the showbiz gloss of Dark Hour in Plano to the award-winning Cutting Edge Haunted House in Fort Worth, resulting in a fairly sophisticated audience when it comes to the horror milieu.
That said, this is not a haunted house, which may have factored into customer dissatisfaction with the museum's glass-eyed dolls and hanging ghouls, communicated via hundreds of comments on the museum's Facebook page after its opening night on September 27.
But the facility also did not deliver on two features it had advertised.
One was the anger room, which a spokesperson claimed would be a place where patrons could break plates. According to a statement, that fell through "because of a permit issue — but we still want to add that."
The other was a "chocolate snack bar" with promises of chocolate cakes, ice cream, milkshakes, and fondue. But attendees found pre-packaged desserts such as chocolate cake, $6.66 a pop.
Spokesperson Javi Nelson says that their idea of a "bar" was a to-go bar, and that they'll update the description on their site.
Shortly after the museum opened at 5 pm, the event page for the grand opening began to get pelted with dissatisfied reviews.
"We went in and out under 5 mins and drove over an hour to and from. Biggest ripoff ever! It's just a 1 room with Spirit Halloween items and cardboard cutouts. You have a better chance going to Spirit Halloween and turning off the lights. Plus chocolate is not included you have to buy some pre packaged cakes (Walmart)."
"It's one room. Things you see at Spirit Halloween for free."
"You're all wasting your money I was so excited to go but it was trash.... 20 minutes...... ridiculous. I left after 10."
"By museum did you mean clearance section of Spirit Halloween?"
"It was TERRIBLE! One room filled with poorly put together decorations... no informative museum.... no real occult items. The Chocolate bar.... literally had no fucking Chocolate items... just some pictures of some Chocolate desserts you could buy SEPARATELY from the ticket cost. I swear I have more occult shit and actual horror merch at my house! I read the reviews in line as we were waiting to get in and should have asked for my money back then. I don't know how the fuck they built all this rapport and even got a really good write up in some DFW publications! This is like Fyre fest level shit."
"Pre-packaged cakes" are familiar words for this location, whose last business was the Magical Unicorn Dessert Bar, which was also using pre-packaged cakes for its unicorn-themed desserts, before the shop closed in the spring. Nelson says there's no connection between the two businesses.
One attendee, Dustin Ferris, said he was hoping to organize some kind of refund. "I'm a small business owner in the area and I feel like it hurts all small business locally to have places operate like this," he said.
By midnight, damage control had begun, with two videos posted to the page. One interviewed a group in line who awkwardly pledged their commitment to the evening ahead, regardless of outcome.
The other video shows the actual museum interior, with an introduction that says, "Good evening everyone this is the complete video of our museum, there is no guarantee that you will like this place. Please looks at the video if you are a horror fan or not everyone is welcome. If you don't like this video please don’t buy tickets because there is no refund. If you like it please buy tickets if not, it's entirely up to you thank you."
It was a good-faith gesture but not in time for those who've already bought tickets far in advance.
By 12:30 am, patrons arrived to find the museum's doors locked, despite their advertised 2 am closing time.
Nelson says that part of the problem is that some people are confusing "horror museum" with "haunted house."
"We never advertised this as a haunted house, but I think some people are expecting that," she says. "It's a museum, so if people are coming because they want to get scared, that's not what we are doing."