Touted as “the most fun you’ve ever had in your car,” the Danger Run, a fixture on the Louisville Halloween scene now in its 22nd year, returns every September and October to puzzle participants with its rhymes and riddles and indirectly lead them to two of the Louisville area’s top haunted attractions. The Danger Run is more than haunted houses – it’s a challenging contest that will test your quick wittedness, knowledge of area landmarks and patience for others in your car.
The premise is simple: You plus as many or as few as your car will fit show up at one of the three starting points (at the three different Kentuckiana Lowe’s locations), pay the reasonable $25 fee to play, receive your clue books and start off! Participants reset their mileage at the beginning of their run and follow several trickily-worded clues that wind through side roads and highways and eventually let out at the first haunt. Record your mileage there, and then do it all over again all the way to the second haunt. Those with a competitive spirit can then enter their final mileage online, and if it’s one of those closest to the correct number, they’ll end up at the finals.
It sounds easy enough but be warned, the clues are not terribly easy to figure out at first. For example, a clue such as, “Two turns will be when you’re stopped at a ‘T’/Only one turn is left: at the ‘POTS’ [read: Stop sign] in the middle” seems simple at first glance, but a second reading is certainly required to make sure you get it right. Other more difficult clues can sometimes lead to fervent debates with backseat drivers, frontseat drivers and every-other-seat drivers. But it’s when you work together and listen to each other that the real fun of the Danger Run comes out. The haunts then become simply a bonus.
Last weekend, I set out on the Halloween adventure with a group of friends to try our skill at the Run. One had done it before and two were new to the experience. They thought it would be a no-brainer and we’d be home in an hour. They were quickly proven wrong. After departing the starting gate at the Lowe’s on Hurstbourne Parkway – complimentary plastic vampire fangs in tow – we took off on our first clue. What seemed totally easy, in true Danger Run style, threw us for an unexpected loop. Not two clues in, I noticed my friend in the backseat with me audibly exhale, put her hair in a ponytail, turn on her phone’s flashlight and say, “OK, this is gonna be tough.”
Though it can all be a little baffling at first, once you get into the rhythm of it, it gets to be so amazingly rewarding. When the wording of a clue affirms you’ve made the right turn at the last “POTS” sign, the whole car just takes on this ebullient energy of triumph – like, “Take THAT, Danger Run!” Our team of four turned out to be the perfect size. I’ve done it in the past with as few as two and as many as five, but four was truly ideal – enough to get a few different perspectives without running into a too-many-cooks sort of situation.
When we arrived at the first haunt – The Legend of Pope Lick – we were already on such a rush of adrenaline that nothing could stop us from charging full speed ahead into the menacing and eerily quiet forest at Pope Lick Park in The Parklands of Floyds Fork. The haunt is new for this year and is a Danger Run exclusive; if haunt-goers show up outside of the Danger Run, they’ll have to buy a Danger Run ticket to get in, which, it should be said, is absolutely worth it as most area haunts run about $20 per person; a Danger Run ticket again is just $25 for two haunts plus the game.
In its first year, The Legend of Pope Lick is an expertly crafted haunt that capitalizes on the urban legend of the goat man who lives beneath the railroad trestle at Pope Lick Creek. The haunt is multi-layered and wonderfully original. I don’t want to give too much away as much of the fun lies in discovering the unfolding “scenes” of the haunt. Be assured though, it was the perfect break from the car that kept our adrenaline high but our legs moving.
The second half of the Run was, of course, just as delightfully difficult, forcing us to work together, listen to each other and enjoy the season while actively engaging with each other as opposed to a screen. And it’s no fluke that this year’s experience was so seamless. Michael Book, Danger Run vice president and owner, describes, “We are continuously evolving the Danger Run to make it the event that YOU want it to be. Each year, we take the feedback we get from our customers and identify how we can improve the event to make it that much better the next year. The 2016 Danger Run is the result of many years of feedback to make it the best and most personalized Halloween adventure yet. We are very proud of this year’s event, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Without question, the Danger Run is one of the most exciting and certainly one of the most unique Halloween experiences in Louisville. Set aside a few hours and grab some people you feel comfortable enjoying lively debates with, steel your nerves for some of the area’s most haunted haunts, pack some snacks for the road and set out on the Danger Run, which truly is “the most fun you’ve ever had in your car.” VT
The Danger Run is available every Friday and Saturday night through October 29. Starting gates are open 7-11 p.m. For more information, visit dangerrun.com.