We are often asked "Where did you come up with this idea?" or more simply, "Why do you do this?" So, for those of you who wonder such things (or even care), we have added this history page just for you...
The Danger Run is a very unique event. In fact, no other event of its kind exists anywhere in the world, other than in the Louisville, KY area (now don't you feel special?). That being said, The Danger Run was not entirely our idea, but simply the evolution of "Ghost Run" events existing throughout the Louisville area for many years. I discovered these Ghost Runs as a child, riding along in the car with my older brothers and sisters. I have always loved puzzles and logic problems. Once I was old enough to take an active roll and could actually contribute to the clue solving process, I was hooked. As the years went by, especially after I was old enough to be the driver, I found myself looking forward to October, just so I could go on my next Ghost Run. Whether it was the Buechel Fern Creek Jaycees Ghost Run, the New Albany Jaycees Ghost Run, or the KJ-100 Spirit Chase, I could always count on such a Run to provide a full night of unparalleled fun.
My wife and I were married in October, 1989. A week before our wedding, I took her on her first Ghost Run. Like me, she enjoyed the experience very much. As we continued participating in these events for the following few years, however, we both noticed a gradual degradation in the overall quality of the Runs. The clues were becoming more unimaginative (and way too easy), and the haunts were anything but scary or fun. We finally hit rock-bottom in 1993. We were on one of the local Ghost Runs (I dont recall which one - and probably wouldn't say if I did), and had just finished a set of boring clues, that were little more than flat-out directions, leading us to the run's only haunt. We were horrified (and not in a good way) to discover that this "haunt" was literally comprised of garbage bags stretched over monkey bars and playground equipment at a children's elementary school playground. - Really - I'm not kidding. Sarcastically, I proclaimed that even "I could put together a Ghost Run better than this!" My wife simply replied: "Why don't you, then?", and thus, The Danger Run was born.
Even still, I never really considered it again after that night, until Labor Day weekend in September of the following year, when my wife, Mary, brought it up again: "What happened to that Ghost Run thing you wanted to do? You love it so much, who better to put one together than you?" So then, I really started thinking about it. Had I realized, at the time, the amount of effort this was going to require, or how utterly in over my head I was about to be, I would have run away like a frightened schoolgirl but sometimes ignorance is a good thing. Could I really do this? Could I do it in a month? What could I do differently than the other Runs to make people want to come on mine?
I realized that, above all else, I had to make it FUN. Since I didn't know much about creating fun things for other people at time, I decided it would be best to build my Ghost Run by eliminating the things that made some other Runs NOT fun. That had to start with the haunt. I would not stretch garbage bags over monkey bars on my Run. Instead of a small haunt set up exclusively for the event, I decided that this Run would be the first ever to include a full-scale stand-alone commercial haunted house. After all, if the haunt was good enough to sell tickets on its own and stay in business, it was far better than what other ghost runs were offering. My plan was to go to an existing haunt and purchase blocks of tickets for a discount. Pretty much the only haunted house in town at that time was The Haunted Hotel. Having no experience and no history to this event, the "discount" I was able to negotiate was meager to say the least. However, I believed that being the first and only ghost run to include admission to a premium haunt such as this would have long-term benefits.
Now that I had the haunt squared away, I turned my attention toward the clues. On average, people spend about 3 hours or so on a ghost run, only 10-15 minutes of which is inside the haunted house. The rest of the time they are in their car, driving around solving clues. I realized that it didn't matter how great the haunt was if I bored the pants off people for 2+ hours getting there, so my clues had to be more entertaining and had to be different. The problem was that I had no idea how I was going to achieve this.
This was the exact thought running through my head one day as I sat on the couch watching TV. I like old TV shows, and one of my favorites of all time is the Andy Griffith Show (but only the black and white ones - before Barney left). Anyway, the Andy Griffith Show came on while I was thinking about the whole clue issue. It was the episode where Barney stormed into the Sherriff's office, all upset because of a poem he found written on the wall behind the courthouse:
There once was a Deputy named Fife
who carried a gun and a knife.
The gun was all dusty,
the knife was all rusty,
cause he never caught a crook in his life!
"THAT'S IT!" I thought. Instead of the traditional 2-line rhymes used by virtually every ghost run that had ever existed, I would write my clues in this 5-line limerick style fashion, focusing not only on the puzzle element of the clue, but actually making them entertaining to read as well. True, it takes much longer to write a 5-line limerick than it does to write a 2-line rhyme, but every clue has been written this way, and it has now become a trademark of the Danger Run. - All inspired by an old Andy Griffith episode.
Now that I had the clue structure taken care of, I needed a name and a way to advertise with almost no money. WQMF was the biggest radio station in town at the time with the most popular morning show ever, featuring Rocky, Troy, and Danger Boy. Coincidently, WQMF also sponsored The Haunted Hotel (with whom I had already made a deal). With the help of my brother Jim (aka Danger Boy) I was able to convince WQMF to sponsor my Run. In exchange for naming rights, they would promote the event on air. Playing off their extremely popular morning show, they would call it The WQMF Rocky and Troy Danger Run. Hey, that was fine by me - I didn't think anyone would want to go on Joe's Ghost Run anyway. So that's how it got its name. Over the years, the name was shortened to The WQMF Danger Run and then to just Danger Run.
I nearly killed myself for 6 weeks putting the first Run together, but on October 14, 1994, The Danger Run opened for business at Levy's Lumber and Building Center in Clarksville. We had 238 customers that night, and just over 2,000 for the entire 3-week run. We thought Halloween night would be our biggest night that year. It fell on a Monday, and we had a total of 2 customers. Never since then has Danger Run operated on any night other than Friday or Saturday.
In 1995, I decided that the Danger Run would be the first and only ghost run to offer Start Gates on BOTH sides of the river. In addition to our Clarksville location, we would offer a starting point on Dixie Hwy in Louisville. It worked. Attendance in year 2 jumped to over 5,000 people.
In 1996, we thought that if 2 gates resulted in over twice the customers as a single, let's try a third! So, we opened a 3rd starting point at Bigg's Hypermarket in Middletown. Danger Run attendance jumped to over 10,000 people that year.
By 1997, the ghost runs that originally inspired the idea of Danger Run were all gone.
The Danger Run still operates with 3 Starting points, 5-line limerick style clues and included admission to 2 full-scale haunted attractions. As our reputation and following has grown, we have gained negotiating strength with haunted houses, and we pass the savings along to you. This is what makes The Danger Run the best value imaginable for your money. We have been fortunate enough over the years to develop partnerships with fine area businesses such as Dairy Queen, Domino's Pizza, Lowe's and Louisville Halloween. Without their help, the Danger Run, as you know it, would not be possible.
I have said in the past that no one cares about Danger Run as much as I do, but that's incorrect. There are actually two: Mike & Mike. Michael Book has been involved with Danger Run each year in some capacity for the past 20 years (when he was 14). In fact, I credit him with much of the "new look" of The Danger Run when we came back after our 1 year hiatus in 2006. You can bet that he's behind any graphics you see online or in print. Mike Kimzey (the other Mike) was my partner in Danger Run from 1995 through 2001 and was instrumental during the early years when we were just getting this thing off the ground. Both Mikes are now equal partners/owners of the event, and I feel the Danger Run has the strongest ever 3-man team behind it. Our partnership and shared passion keeps this thing going, and will be the nucleus that carries the event into the future.
We fully realize the extent to which thousands enjoy and look forward to this event every year, and our appreciation of your loyalty cannot be overstated. We take the responsibility very seriously to provide you with highest quality event and best value for your dollar possible. In fact, it is this simple concept on which Danger Run was founded. We promise to reward your loyalty with our very best efforts to provide you with unequaled value, and to make The Danger Run the event you want it to be for many years to come.