Besieged by bad reviews and the wrath of dissatisfied customers, the Horror Museum and Chocolate Bar in Deep Ellum went on hiatus during opening weekend, shutting down its Facebook page, and with it, customer complaints and requests for refunds.
The museum made its debut with a vow to be "the scariest Horror Museum in the world," with "the largest array of obscure and haunted artifacts, everything from scary movies to real life occult items."
But the weekend proved to be a bit of a cluster, with customers unimpressed by the museum's layout, exhibits, and staff.
The facility did not deliver on two features it had advertised: an anger room and a chocolate bar. The anger room was MIA, while the chocolate bar was described as a refrigerated case with pre-packaged cakes and frozen items that seemed to be store-bought.
"The museum was literally a single room you can walk through in less than 5 minutes and they were charging people $25," says Cat Anton, 30, a Dallas horror fan who went to the museum on opening night.
"There was no real chocolate bar, just a girl behind a bar selling chocolate items off a menu," Anton says. "There was no actual 'museum.' All the decor and 'occult' items looked fake or purchased from Spirit Halloween. The 'tour guides' tried to tell stories about these occult items, but they couldn't tell a single story that sounded coherent or believable."
As for the anger room, a spokesperson said they ran into permitting problems but planned on adding it after they opened.
Negative reviews began to surface on the museum's Facebook page on Friday, opening night. The museum responded with two videos: One was a testimonial from customers; the other video shared a tour of the museum — exactly what you'd see if you bought a ticket.
It was posted with an intro that said, "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."
At 12:30 am, they shut their doors, 90 minutes before closing time. CultureMap posted a story about the early closure, in which museum co-owner Jessica Nelson, who went by the name "Javi," speculated that customers were expecting a haunted house instead of a museum.
On Saturday night, the museum re-opened, posting a video on Facebook of another testimonial. But commenters accused the couple in the video of being paid actors; the negative onslaught continued.
By noon Sunday, reviews and comments on the Facebook page were disabled. Sunday afternoon, the page was gone, although it was reinstated early Monday morning.
The Horror Museum took over what used to be the Unicorn Magical Dessert Bar, which is owned by Usman and Javi Babar. Prior to opening the dessert bar, the couple invested thousands into the building at 3408 Main St., which they rented from Deep Ellum property owner Al Jernigan Investments.
Unfortunately, in 2019, a customer claimed she found mold on cake purchased at one of their shops, and both DFW shops closed in the summer. A location opened in Houston in March and has earned positive reviews; another just opened in Austin on September 26.
The first information about the horror museum came in August via an email from Usman Babar. "I want to introduce you to the Scream Museum Team," the email said. "His name is Jay and Jessica. They are doing the Spooky Museum with chocolate desserts in Deep Ellum."
"Jessica" identified herself as Jessica Nelson and the horror movie fan as Jay Walker, and said they had no connection to the Unicorn dessert bar. The story was published on CultureMap Dallas on August 9.
A more detailed story by the Observer had a different name for the horror movie fan and founder: Ali Sheikh, an ex-New Yorker who moved to Dallas.
(Yelp has a user named Sheikh N. who has given positive reviews to both the Fort Worth and Houston locations of the Unicorn Magical Dessert Bar, as well as Chills 360, a rolled ice cream concept the Babars also own.)
According to filings with the Texas Secretary of State, the president of Unicorn Magical Dessert Bar is Javeria Nadeem, who also owns businesses under the names Chills 360, Monkey Business, and House of Unicorn.
But Usman Babar says he is not behind the museum. "I'm not involved with it, we sub-leased the space out to this guy," he says. And someone named Ali Sheikh called from a private number to assert that the concept is entirely his. "I just want to bring people a good time," he says.
The Horror Museum and the Unicorn bar have both been criticized for using packaged cakes from a grocery store. But supermarket cake seems a minor offense compared to the museum's nondelivery of a promised anger room and chocolate bar.
In the museum's video, there's a homespun vibe to the exhibits that might be seen as charming — were it not for the $23 ticket price and a finely tuned local standard accustomed to high-quality haunted houses such as Dark Hour in Plano.
Meanwhile, an email from "Jay N" sent on Monday, September 30, stated that the show will go on. Unsuspecting consumers can still buy tickets on TicketLeap, a Philadelphia service that does not give refunds and did not respond to emails.
"Hey we are open :) — we are just closed on weekdays," the email says. "We are open on weekends. We are planning to be open on the last 10 days, but are still planning."