Dead City’s haunting days deceasedSep 04, 2022 10:50AM ● By Shaun Delliskave
By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]
Local Halloween venue Dead City announced they were shutting down after failing to meet city building code requirements. The burgeoning spook house attraction felt timing and costs associated with bringing their facility up to meet code were impossible to continue.
“We have tried almost 100 different solutions and fixes to get on good grounds with the city planning officials, who have been extremely unhelpful ensuring we get answers before the operating season, which has been troublesome. We are now the furthest behind we’ve ever been, and things aren’t looking good while other shows are casting and we can’t open our doors,” Dead City marketing director Josh Sumsion said.
HAuNTcon and Haunted Attraction Network recognized Dead City in 2020 as a “Haunters to Watch.”
Last year, Murray City Fire Department used Dead City’s sets for its Community Emergency Response Team training. As reported in the Murray Journal in June 2021, Fire Inspector and Safety Education Coordinator George Zboril came up with the idea with the owners of Dead City. He asked their permission to use the facility, and they recruited volunteer “victims” for the training.
According to Sumsion, Murray FD used the facility for CERT training last October, in the exact same layout they suddenly had issues with this year. However, it wasn’t due to an inspection but by providing exterior security footage for a potential arson case near the building. While walking through the building, the new fire officials seemed to be on a different page than the previous officials and quickly demanded changes and re-inspections.
Murray Fire Chief Joseph Mittelman said, “CERT instructors are a group of part-time employees that are not certified or have the in-depth knowledge of all updated fire codes for Murray City. Their expertise is focused on emergency preparedness rather than code violations through occupancy type and classifications.
“The code violations within Dead City are specifically focused on special amusements. The code requirements are actually found in the building code and not the fire code. Both the fire and building codes work together to protect our citizens and businesses from unnecessary hazards. The special amusement section of the building code is not a common code that staff firefighters or other safety officials would recognize without being ICC (International Code Council) certified. These books are made to prevent catastrophes such as the Six Flags haunted house fire in May of 1984, Chicago night club fire of 2001 with flammable materials.”
After several attempts, Dead City owners appealed to the mayor’s office, but the city code is the law of the land.
“I was pleased to have the conversation transparently, getting to a common understanding. Basically, the new fire code determines what an entertainment venue should have now, unlike ever before in Murray. While unpleasant, they changed the rule book underneath us after four years of successfully operating, we understand we can’t change the city code,” Sumsion said.
Sumsion said some violations required sets to be torn down and rebuilt in complete drywall (gypsum) with fire retardant paint, materials, and coating every inch of the show. In addition, exit signs need to be quadrupled in visible appearances. Further, inspectors found that the building’s fire suppression system was choked with dust. After making modifications, Dead City invited the city to return and view its progress.
“They came back through to inspect again after that, and suddenly we became a city planning problem? Outside fences, reinforcing ADA, etc. A new list of issues after a failed path of solutions the fire department stirred up,” Sumsion said.
However, the city counters that they have provided Dead City with reasonable ways to meet the city code.
Murray City Chief Administrative Officer Doug Hill, said, “The mayor’s office and Chief Mittelman met with two representatives of Dead City to discuss their concerns. Mayor Hales asked Chief Mittelman to work cooperatively and quickly with Dead City representatives to make sure the building meets the building and fire codes to assure safety for the public.
“After this meeting and prior to this meeting, the requirements have been explained to the owner in the following process. First, request a DEMO permit for any non-permitted or non-code-compliant areas of the building. Second, submit new architect plans for any new construction required under the applicable codes of a special amusement occupancy. Third, complete the required work following Murray City Code and use applicable licensed commercial contractors. Complete inspections both during and upon completion of the construction phases.”
While the 2022 season is out of the question, Dead City did not say if they will try to update the building, find a new one, or call it quits altogether.