BILLINGS — A new fire suppression system at the Billings Depot is allowing the first legal, public indoor haunted house within Billings city limits.
This new upgraded system, paired with the Billings Depot's accessibility, is allowing a new crowd of folks to come down and participate.
For Billings resident Mitch Bohn, who’s relied on a wheelchair since age 13, this was his first time in an indoor haunted house.
“Thank you to Sean and to Rachel for putting this on and making it inclusive to everybody. It's a great, great opportunity to not only have this haunted house but to include everyone. I appreciate you guys a lot,” says Bohn.
Even Billings Fire Marshal Bill Tatum is applauding the people who made it possible.
“In my 20 years in the Billings Fire Department, we’ve had plenty of people who wanted to try and do a haunted house in a building, but because the requirements are so strict, that was a deterrent to it happening,” says Tatum.
State Farm Insurance agent Sean O'Daniel and his business are footing the $40,000 bill for a new fire suppression system that permanently upgrades the Billings Depot from a general event center to a special amusement venue.
“Because of the disorientating features of a haunted house, the lighting, the darkness, people jumping out and scaring you, this system is automatic,” says Tatum.
The alarm is like a universal kill switch. Once smoke is detected, it turns off all special effects, turns on all lights and prompts an automated voice to calmly direct people out of the building.
“Definitely a labor of love, but it's definitely worth it in the end, especially last night. We had a few kids in a wheelchair, one of the kids at the end said he can finally go to something like this. This is the first time he’s ever been able to do something like this, so that was pretty cool,” says O’Daniel.
“The Billings Depot is ADA compliant, we’re also a certified autism center, so we’re really excited to be able to be completely inclusive and welcome individuals with sensory sensitivities as well as wheelchairs and special needs and in a lot of cases this is the very first time a lot of these individuals are being able to experience an event like this,” says Billings Depot Executive Director Michelle Williams.
If you want to know just how scary this haunted house is, you’ll have to see for yourself.
“Thankfully I had a friend of mine in front of me, so she told me when all the jump scares were going to be by her screams,” says Bohn.
“Come on down it will be the best haunted house you’ve ever been to,” says O’Daniel.