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A one-stop scary shop: Inver Grove Heights haunted house adds creepy escape rooms, mini-golf for year-round scares

The owners have hosted seasonal haunts like “Cupid’s Revenge” and “Yule Scream,” centered around dark but true Christmas folklore.

Nicole Ross and her family used to decorate their home and yard so extensively for Halloween that limousines would line up to drive past it, she said. As their four children got bigger, so did the home haunting display.

Now, Ross and her husband, Galen McKay, are part owners of Nowhere Haunted House in Inver Grove Heights along with Halloween enthusiasts Ian Knutson and Mike Reimer. Together, the four owners build sets, design costumes and — new this year — operate an eerie mini-golf course, arcade and unsettling escape rooms.

The 13,000-square-foot indoor haunted house sits in an open warehouse-like space that used to be a Pawn America. The haunted house, which officially opened last fall, runs through Nov. 4 this year. To keep business coming in over the last year, Ross said they hosted seasonal haunts like “Cupid’s Revenge” and “Yule Scream,” which was centered around dark, but true, Christmas folklore.

Their first season wasn’t as busy as they hoped, so this year to keep folks coming and cater to the horror-averse, Nowhere is now home to a custom-built 13-hole mini-golf course.

Putt putt or die trying

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“I am not a horror person or a person that goes to haunted houses,” Ross said, which is why she and the other owners made sure to toe the line between creepy and downright terrifying at their business.

The mini-golf course costs $10 and, while exceptionally crafted, tops out at creepy, which Ross said was the goal.

The four owners worked together on themes, Ross said, which range from killer wasps to an abandoned New York City alleyway to a cemetery complete with an authentic coffin and a wrought-iron fence that once surrounded an actual cemetery.

Co-owner Knutson designed each of the 13 mini-golf holes. Every element of the course was meticulously hand-painted by Ross over the course of three months, she said. Ross, who was an avid painter before becoming a business owner, said learning how to paint props for Nowhere has been a welcomed challenge.

“It’s harder than you think to make things look gross,” Ross said, adding that she has a newfound appreciation for movies with stellar production design.

‘Truly unique’

Doug Sievers, a paranormal investigator, first learned about Nowhere on Facebook through a promotional deal. He and his wife, Greta, paid a visit to the mini-golf course, which he called “amazing” with neon colors, black lights and different textures to hit the golf ball across.

Sievers, who runs a Minneapolis law firm by day, is one of the owners and founders of Haunted Soulz Paranormal, an investigation crew that travels across the country looking for spirits.

Hunting down the paranormal has been a hobby for Sievers for the last seven years, he said. He has plans to return to Nowhere with friends to try out the escape rooms and this year’s haunted house.

Although he runs a business traveling to haunted locations, Sievers said he has yet to see a one-stop scary shop like Nowhere. “I would say it’s truly unique,” he said.


Tailored frights

The haunted house, which employs some 45 actors, offers varying levels of “scare” for thrill seekers, said Emily Ludewig, one of the actor managers.


Visitors can buy tickets for about $24 for “no scare,” which has full overhead lights and no actors present; “low scare,” with low lighting and animatronics; or the “standard haunt,” with menacing lighting, animatronics and actors, said Ludewig, who also plays the role of Clacky the Clown.

This year, the haunted house will also feature a few 18-plus nights, Ludewig said, which offer elevated scares as the actors are allowed to touch attendees as they move throughout the house.

Elements for the haunted house are hand-built or found secondhand, Ross said, which is her husband’s specialty.

“He can find anything on Marketplace or at auctions,” including a 50-year-old taxidermy alligator, an authentic dinghy for a shipwrecked boat and a vintage dentist’s chair, she said.

McKay said he once drove over eight hours away for an animatronic piece for the haunted house.

Eternal unrest

Co-owner Reimer said he builds everything from walls to props for Nowhere, but his true passion lies with animatronics. Visitors to Nowhere will find animatronics throughout the haunted house as well as the two escape rooms.

The escape rooms, which are available when the haunted house is not in season, launched this year as a way to bring in more revenue throughout the year, Reimer said.

The Lucky Skull is a pirate-themed escape room where players are on a quest for the booty. An animatronic skeleton, affectionately named Handsome Hank, offers clues to the players. Built by Reimer with the help of YouTube, Handsome Hank’s jaw moves as he speaks.

The other escape room, Eternal Unrest, is essentially a supernaturally charged game of “Clue” where players have to figure out who killed the owner of a funeral home and how.

Ross and McKay said Nowhere has turned into somewhat of a family affair as Gertrude, the owner of the funeral home, is voiced by Ross’ mother, Cathy Ross, and the escape room puzzles are designed by Ross and McKay’s 19-year-old daughter, Riley.

Reimer said while neither escape room is easy, Eternal Unrest has one component that tends to trip players up — dialing on a rotary phone.

McKay said feedback from the community has been overwhelmingly positive since expanding.

While they don’t see other haunted houses as competition, McKay said the addition of mini-golf and an arcade has set their business apart and helped to fill an entertainment niche in the community.

When you step into Nowhere, it’s evident that each prop is built, painted and placed with intention. There is not a maggot, streak of blood or animal skull placed by accident — even the golf balls are ghoulish.

The owners get to let their imaginations run wild and work together to bring their ideas to fruition.

“It’s like building a treehouse every weekend,” McKay said.