Here's how Louisville's Danger Run, a "Halloween-themed road rally" (also referred to as a ghost run), works:
"The Danger Run is a driving game played in your vehicle, generally in groups of two or more people. You will be given a booklet of rhyming limerick-style clues that will test your logic, perception and reasoning abilities. Each of these clues, when solved correctly, will reveal the next turn (or series of turns) you will make as you attempt to stay on the route we have designed for you."
"The object of the game is to complete the route with the fewest mistakes. We determine the accuracy to which you are able to do this by the accumulated mileage on your vehicle. Speed and time have no impact on the game."
The game, played every Friday and Saturday night from Sept. 25 to Oct. 31, also includes admission to two haunted houses located on the routes as part of the $14.95 ticket ($15.95 if purchased at the start gate). And you can purchase tickets by phone at 800-771-9750.
Each player also gets free food from Dairy Queen and cars of four players or more get a $10 voucher for gas.
Joe Bulleit, president and founder of Danger Run, expects 12,000 to 14,000 people to participate this year in the event, which has three starting points: Lowes in Clarksville, the East End and Southwest Louisville.
The routes are about 45 miles and should take three hours to finish, although your results may vary. But hopefully you'll perform better than this one car did last year: "They should have had 44 or 45 miles, something like that. They came in with over 200 miles," Bulleit said "The funny thing is they thought they had done really well."
Monkey bars draped in garbage bags inspire
The New Albany, Ind., native and resident started Danger Run in 1994 after seeing one of his favorite Halloween traditions hit "rock bottom" in 1993.
"My wife and I went on one of these ghost runs. We were solving the clues and they were not very imaginative," Bulleit said.
"We got to the only haunted house they had put on the run," he said. "It was literally in the back of an elementary school. And they had taken garbage bags and stretched them over the monkey bars."
While in line for the monkey bars of terror, Bulleit sarcastically told his wife, "You know, even I could do a ghost run better than this."
His wife encouraged him to do so. But Bulleit thought more nothing about it until the following Labor Day weekend--less than two months before Halloween--when his wife brought it up again.
"I had no experience at this whatsoever," said Bulleit, who was working in insurance administration at the time.
Bulleit based the Danger Run on what he didn't like about other ghost runs he'd been on, starting with the need for quality haunted houses.
Bulleit outsourced the haunted house component of the run to existing ones that were good enough to succeed commercially on their own, negotiating a discount with the only commercial haunted house in Louisville at the time, the Haunted Hotel.
The deal wasn't great and Bulleit lost money on the first Danger Run, but the quality of the ghost run made an impression on its 2,194 customers (a number Bulleit is able to recite from his head).
"Taking the lump that first year from a financial standpoint actually helped build the reputation of the run," Bulleit said.
The following year the Danger Run doubled its customers. And it doubled that figure again when more than 10,000 people participated in Danger Run 3 in 1997.
Graffiti about Barney Fife leads to 7,000 limericks
"We specialize in creating the game component of it: writing the clues and making it a fun game to play. That's our specialty," Bulleit said.
The clue structure is the other aspect that differentiated Danger Run from its early competitors (there were two other ghost runs in town when Danger Run started in 1994, both had folded by 1997).
While most ghost run's clues rhymed, Bulleit wrote limericks, getting his inspiration from an episode of "The Andy Griffith Show" in which Barney discovered a limerick written about him on the courthouse wall (which Bulleit is also able to recite from memory):
"There once was a deputy named Fife
Who carried a gun and a knife
The gun was all rusty
The knife was all dusty
Because he never caught a crook in his life"
"It hit me when I saw that, that that's the way we were going to write the Danger Run clues," Bulleit said.
In Danger Run's 15 years, Bulleit has written almost 7,000 limerick clues.
Every clue Danger Run has used is filed in a database that can sort them by rhyming sounds, roads involved and the events that occur in the clue. And while Danger Run has never repeated a course, clues from previous years occasionally get reused or modified.
"It's a new experience for the runners," Bulleit said.
To buy tickets
Visit Danger Run's website at www.dangerrun.com or call 800-771-9750.
For more information: Make your own mask at the Museum of the American Printing House's Halloween Mask Workshop.
(Photo: Courtesy of Danger Run)