Q&A with the masterminds behind Legends: A Haunting at Old Town
We got a chance to talk to co-creator Jim Shackelford and the haunt’s fictional undertaker, Archibald Ashdown
Published: October 23, 2013
Legends: A Haunting at Old Town
5770 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, Kissimmee | legendsoldtown.com | $15
Legends: A Haunting at Old Town, Orlando’s newest haunted attraction, just opened this Halloween season, and we recently had a chance to sit down with Jim Shackelford, creator and co-owner of Legends Dark Amusements, which operates the attraction, to talk about the new project. He was accompanied by Archibald Ashdown, the fictional character (played by another Legends co-owner, Dan Carro) whose creepy funeral home is the centerpiece of Legends: A Haunting at Old Town.
Orlando Weekly: What made you decide that you wanted to break into the haunted house business?
Jim Shackelford: Honestly, I started when I was about 5 or 6 years old with one of my grandmother’s best friends who started a house in her garage every year for the kids from her church. So I got the bug back then, and quickly started doing a yard haunt with my father, which evolved into my doing a really large yard haunt when I moved into my first home.
From there, it just continuously snowballed. It actually got to the point where I’d have around 2,000 to 3,000 trick-or-treaters because of the displays on the yard. People were calling their friends on their cell phones saying, “You gotta check this out!” So friends and family were saying, “You’ve got to find a way to make a living doing this.” My background is actually in interior design and architecture, so it just bled over into doing entertainment design. So the path really started when I was 5, and just continued until today. I’m in my mid-30s.
So how did you two find each other? You know, with Jim allowing you to set up your undertaking business inside of his haunt?
Archibald Ashdown: Well, we were introduced through a mutual friend named Dan Carro, who did a lot of the artwork and creation for Legends: A Haunting in Old Town. I know Dan started at Terror on Church Street years ago, and then later managed Skull Kingdom. Eventually he just introduced the two of us.
Oh, and just so you know, for every question you ask me, I’ll need to ask you some questions.
Um … OK.
AA: What is your name?
AA: Very good, that’s your first question. Second question: cremation or burial?
I’d say cremation.
AA: Very good, I’ll make a note of that. Go on. Keep going.
You took over the space that used to be Grimm House. How did that opportunity come along?
JS: It was actually through Dan. I understand that the previous haunt [the Haunted Grimm House] was there for around 25 years and was there when Old Town originally opened. So it closed in December of last year, and because Dan produced the Halloween event in Old Town for the last two years, he was the first person the management called to say, “Hey, the house is gone. We need a new operator and a new show here. Do you know anybody who could do it?”
I co-owned a production house [called Haunt 2013] with Jay Westerman in Dallas, and Dan had been doing freelance drawings for us at the time. So he got a hold of us and asked what we thought about running a show in Florida. We weren’t sure, went back and forth a few times with Old Town, thinking about it, wondering, “Do we really want to try and run a show from there?” Then, fast forward a few months ahead, and we’re building a home here – moved the entire company to Kissimmee and running Legends.
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