Rob Sanchez is a haunted-house connoisseur. He should be: His grandparents operated one of Colorado's first-ever scare sites back in the '60s and '70s.
"That's what got me into the industry," says Sanchez, who operates Haunted Denver, the city's largest directory of spooky attractions. "My mother's parents had a turkey farm for decades up by Standley Lake in Arvada. So back in the '70s, they started running a haunted attraction out on the farm. They would try and incorporate stuff that was scary back then. A headless horseman would take people through the slaughterhouses where they really did prepare the turkeys."
The 25-year-old Sanchez never got to actually visit the family fantasy factory (which he believes was sanitized for visitors), but the stories are a big part of Sanchez lore. So, too, is Frightmare (108th Avenue and Old Wadsworth), which was Sanchez's first experience with a haunted house, at age twelve, and his first job, at thirteen. "A lot of my history has to do with Frightmare. I'm told by my grandparents that the guy who started Frightmare got his inspiration from the turkey farm."
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Even though he has a warm spot in his heart for the enterprise, he hasn't always given the location glowing marks on his five-year-old site, www.haunteddenver.com, on which he and his brother, David, review and rate more than twenty spectral mansions. But this year, they give the spot bloody thumbs up. And Rob Sanchez proclaims Scream Park at 16001 Riverdale Road in Brighton "one of the best" he's ever seen. "Haunted houses are expensive, so if it's over in ten minutes, you feel ripped off. That one was at least half an hour, and it was nonstop. They had a lot more actors, somewhere in the vicinity of fifty people. And they did a lot of different ideas I hadn't seen other places, like a House of Wax and a military compound with people firing machine guns at alien monsters."
For all his experience and passion, Sanchez's whole life doesn't revolve around Haunted Denver. By day he works in finance at Kaiser Permanente; by night he's a husband and father of two young children, who have not yet visited their first spook shack. But they'd better beware of Dad as they're growing up. "I like scaring people more than I like being scared," he says.