How a hippie art collective called the Foolkillers staged the first haunted house in Kansas City

Photo courtesy of the Foolkillers

The haunted house was an outgrowth of the Foolkillers, a countercultural organization that started in 1970 in Kansas City. We wanted to change the world through creating our own culture. The idea being that once people become more aware of art and their ability to create, they become more aware of their humanity and therefore the culture would change and modify politics. We thought we changed the world in some small way.

Some people came from the Carolinas and they approached us because they were looking for actors that were willing to put out a lot of hard work. It was really actor-driven and we were naive about the possibilities of what could happen in a haunted house. You get the best scares when you are up close and personal. We would alter people’s perception by putting foam on the floor or at odd angles. There were strobes and black-lights. Instead of using mechanics, there were real people shining lights on their faces. At a time there were fifteen or twenty people trying to scare them.

We quickly learned that you couldn’t scare people as they first came in because they would go backward and then you had to scare them back this way but then there was a bottleneck. We had no idea it was going to be successful. For the two weeks that we operated this thing people were lined up down the block. We had to have some people come in to give the actors a breather because it was just nonstop. You were moving and jumping around in a gorilla costume, which is a lot of hard work after three or four hours. Most people were there to have a good time and get scared, especially couples. But occasionally you would have fifteen and sixteen year old males who are full of testosterone with their buddies trying to be cool. And if you really scared them, like we did, they would take a punch at you. It got to the point where some of the female actors would carry squirt guns and spray guys who would act out.” — Foolkiller Bob Suckiel as told to Izzy Curry of Kansas City

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