What’s your worst fear, Denver? Whatever gruesome thought comes to mind, you’ll be sure to find it at The Frightmare Compound in Westminster. Holding the title of Denver’s oldest haunted house, the compound has become a staple to Halloween and all things horror in Colorado.
Those who dare to enter the compound become the star of their worst nightmares come to life. With 39 years in the business the fear factor in the compound has only elevated, and current owner Josh Holder doesn’t plan on taming the terror anytime soon.
Josh Holder has grown alongside the compound his entire life. Opening two years before he was born Holder’s definition of Halloween goes beyond terror to passion for the family business and it’s legacy in the community. Without the compound, there would not be Halloween for him.
”I’ve never known a Halloween without the haunted house. I’ve actually never been to a Halloween party. This is what I know. So every year I’m just here and I scare people for a living.”
Josh’s father, Brad Holder, brought The Frightmare Compound to life in 1983. Holder remains prevalent in the history of haunts in Denver as the compound has become a foundation of horror within its two decades of business. From ketchup to white sheets, his legacy continues in the hands of Josh who is running both a family business and providing home to the growing monstrosities lurking in the darkness.
The five acre property allows Holder to bring to life scenarios the Denver community have only seen in horror movies or their nightmares.
“We actually take all year to build these two or three scenes, and make sure they’re Hollywood style. That you’re walking into Hollywood Horror Nights, or you’re walking into a movie set.”
Those who go through the compound will feel that this wasn’t built overnight, as every turn provides that blood-curdling reaction.
Hollywood isn’t the only inspiration Holder takes from either. During the off season, Holder will travels the globe to keep in touch with the constant change and growth of horror and provide blood curdling reactions that elevate the fear factor.
“Now it takes a lot more to scare somebody. So we make sure that we travel around the world and find all the scary stuff we can.”
Holder knows horror unlike anyone else. He takes all risks to raise that bar, Holder hires only the best monsters known to Denver. Auditioning for the job is a beast.
“We actually put them in a spot and give them props, give them masks, whatever, and make sure that they can actually scare us and they know how to be a zombie how to actually get into character.”
Auditions are from August to September. Holder provides an outline of things he expects to bring his visions and creators to life. When asked about an experience that left him frightened, he chuckles and shares about the actors that make him question whether they’re acting or not,
“You always have the people that you don’t know if they’re actually acting or they’re actually going to kill somebody and they’re terrifying. Background checks, always.”
All of these elements are what bring the Denver community to The Frightmare Compound for 39 years.
“I’ve got grandparents that bring their grandchildren now because they came here in high school. So it’s really cool to be able to see that and these families come back every year because we change it and it’s something new for them.”
Each season there are new means of screams. Authentic props from the 1800s and 1900s get reused in new scenarios to make the experience bigger and better.
“Every year, we actually don’t take down. We’re one of the haunted houses that we can actually build off of every year,” says Holder. “The compound is basically a museum so you can go through the mineshaft and we have over a quarter million dollars in just mine and mining equipment from Colorado. All of the props and sets here are real; we don’t do the foam carves. Everything’s real.”
Holder taps into older fears, staple fears and new fears so everyone leaves the compound horrified.
“You have to kind of play on everybody’s senses. Certain things that scare one person, don’t scare another person. So you have to have a mixture of different scales all the way through.”
For Holder the reward is on opening day when he sees and hears the reactions of people exiting the compound.
“We actually sit under the stairs of the barn here when they come out. You can listen to people that just had a great time. And you know, people that literally peed their pants, they’re telling their friends, they peed their pants, and it’s just so cool to hear that you actually did your job.”
As he finishes this statement, the rev of a chainsaw is heard, followed by a shrilling scream and Holder bows his head. He has absolutely done his job.
Holder and his monsters await your arrival at the compound at 10798 Yukon Street in Westminster. The Frightmare Compound is open Sunday through Thursday from 7pm to 10pm and Friday to Saturday from 7pm to 12am. As Holder says, “You haven’t experience Halloween until you’ve experienced The Frightmare Compound.”