Misfit Manor: The Closing of Rocky Point Haunted House

Posted April 16, 2007 in
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The history of Rocky Point Haunted House reads like something out of a Stephen King novel. Originally opened in 1965 as the Rocky Point Restaurant in Ogden by Scott Crabtree and his children, the show almost seems as if it were destined to happen from the very beginning. After losing the restaurant to a fire in 1968, rumors began circulating that it had been built on a sacred Indian burial ground, and everyone who has seen the move Poltergeist knows what happens should you be unfortunate enough to select one of those as a construction site.

In 1979, Scott Crabtree’s youngest son had the idea of staging a haunted house in the burned out restaurant that his father was still attempting to restore. The building seemed almost tailor-made to play host to a haunted house: it was dark and isolated, and rumors of actual hauntings continued to swell about the former restaurant. The initial show only opened for two nights, and was accomplished entirely with scavenged props and home-made flyers, but with 200 people attending was considered a rousing success.

By 1986, a group of early pre-Gothics who called themselves “The Maniacs” had convinced Scott Crabtree to allow them to continue to stage the yearly haunted house in the burned out building, much to the dismay of Scott’s youngest daughter Cydney who, upon visiting her father for a few weeks in the fall of 1986, was none too pleased with the business taking place on her family’s valuable property. She set out to close down the production, but was persuaded to let it continue on the condition that she stay to oversee the event, and with the understanding that this would be the last year of its operation.

Now, every Cure fan in the world is familiar with the tale of “The Robert Smith Who Cried Wolf.” Since 1989, Robert has made a point of telling his fans and the media that whatever tour the band is on would be their last, and whatever record was being made would be the last hurrah. Cydney Neil, the owner and operator of the Rocky Point Haunted House since 1986, has essentially done the same thing. Every year since she became involved, it seems as though she has been almost hoping that the show would close. And now, 21 years later in the spring of 2007, it seems as though Cydney is finally following through with her plans to end the show, and end it on a high note.

“I don’t know any other way to explain this, but I lead a very spiritual life, and this has nothing to do with religion, it’s just that I believe in a much bigger picture, and we don’t always understand the seeds that get planted, or what kind of trees they’re going to grow into,” Cydney says. “Initially, I wasn’t at all interested in planting that seed, but I took it over and, as it grew, I began to understand the value in seeing it become something. I started to understand that there was some real value in it; that there was something bigger going on than what I understood in the beginning.” Through this understanding, Cydney began to realize that she related to the so-called “misfit kids” that came to work for the haunted house, and seemingly created a place where they were able to feel like they belonged, and they were able to forget about the world around them, which helped her begin to see who she was, as well.

On the subject of her “misfits,” as she calls them, Cydney seems to be extremely proud of all of them. She tackles the subject head-on when I ask the obvious “what-about-the-rest-of-the-kids-you-are-shutting-out-by-closing-the-show” question. “First,” she says, “make no mistake- I consider myself a misfit, as well. When I was growing up, we weren’t really given any choices. We were expected to fit a mold and nothing beyond that. Personally, I never felt that I was meant to fit ANY molds, and I ended up taking charge of my own life and becoming my own person. This is what I try to teach my kids.” Rocky Point has had kids ranging from straight-A students to mentally handicapped kids, so it seems like it’s always been quite a varied group of people. Cydney’s banking on her belief that it’s time for the kids that have been helped by Rocky Point to take what they’ve learned with each other over the years and try to apply it in their lives by taking on new responsibilities and living their own lives. “Of course I find myself wondering about what other kids could have come in here, but I feel that I have been given the direction to bring Rocky Point to and end now, and I will always be proud of what we’ve been able to achieve in the past instead of dwelling on the “what-ifs” of the future. The life of this haunted house has been amazing, but it’s in its death where the real value is.”

I personally find quite a bit of honor in Cydney’s decision to end the show now, at what seems to be it’s most financially successful and creative peak. According to her, the 2006 year was far and away the most lucrative in the history of Rocky Point, and it would only continue to grow on all fronts if the decision had not been made to close the show. She explains that the main factor in her decision to end the show is due to her spirituality, and her feeling as if she’s finished this part of her journey and is being beckoned down a different path. “When you follow a direction, whatever direction it may be, it tends to be different that how you think it should be done. However, when you start to see results like the results I’ve seen, you begin to stop questioning those directions, and you just say “yes, sir!” For instance, if you’re at the gym with a trainer, he’s going to give you directions that may be uncomfortable rather than stick with the easy stuff. And yes, I’m being asked to do a hard thing, but I can’t see the bigger picture right now. It’s pretty humbling to know that you’ve essentially done what you’ve been asked to do and these are the rewards of it.” Cydney maintains that her decision is most certainly not about money; ironically, they’re closing at their most financially successful.

The fact that Cydney has touched on the financial aspect of Rocky Point begs the question “Why not just sell the damned thing?” To be honest, that would make the most sense to the average person, not to mention to average business person. Cydney has had multiple offers to purchase Rocky Point, and yet has turned them all down. Initially, this seems almost ludicrous to me, if not only for the fact that the show is one of the absolute best in the nation, if not the world. I mean, how do you close down a show that was given the title of “#1 Haunted Attraction in America” by the editor of Fangoria Magazine in 2001? “I get the feeling that anyone who would ultimately purchase Rocky Point from me would end up wanting to run the show differently, and would want to keep everyone that they possibly could who is currently involved. To me, this seems counter-productive. From a practical standpoint, we’ve outgrown our current building. It’s become “How do I put this many people through this Haunted House?” “How do I do all the other things I want to do AND continue with the Haunted House in a building that is no longer big enough to house it?” According to Cydney, the reality of the situation is that the show would have to be moved anyway, and neither she nor anyone currently involved with Rocky Point is up to the daunting task of moving the entire show, so the timing seems to work perfectly.

As our discussion is winding down, Cydney hits on the topic of the charities Rocky Point has partnered with over the years. “The kids raised money for different charities before I ever even got involved, but I helped bring in the Utah Special Olympics, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the American Diabetes Association, and then we finally ended up with the Boys and Girls club, which is really suited to us and what we do.” This should be obvious, considering that earlier in our conversation she spoke at great length and with overwhelming love and compassion about her own “misfits.” “I mean, Rocky Point is basically an over-glorified after school program, but for a little older group of kids. Again, it gives them an opportunity to come into a place that’s safe, accepting, and encouraging. I’ve been here for 20 years, and I’ve watched peoples’ lives change in HUGE ways, including my own.”

I gave Cydney the opportunity to wrap up our conversation in any way she sees fit. Fittingly, she reverts back to one of the analogies she spoke to me about earlier and continues to exalt her groups of “misfits” by concluding our conversation with what could very well be a complete summary of the entire existence of Rocky Point Haunted House. “It’s basically like growing a tree. If you grow a tree that produces 100 pieces of fruit, if I harvest them, all you get is 100 pieces of fruit. However, if I let those 100 pieces of fruit drop, there’s the potential of growing 100 trees which can each bear 100 pieces of fruit apiece. Nature tends to provide really good metaphors for our lives.”

Indeed it does. Rocky Point Haunted House will be open for one final weekend, Friday, April 13 and Saturday, April 14. Come down and experience the final “Scream Break” and bid farewell to one of the finest haunted attractions in the nation.