A Ghost Run is a scavenger hunt style game played in the car, similar to a road rally. Ghost Runs also went by the name Spirit Chase or Spook Run. Ghost Runs came into existence in 1975 in Louisville, Kentucky with the local Jaycees formulated a game where guests solved clues to find their way to hidden haunted houses and spooky locations. At the time, the goal was to find the next set of clues to continue the Run until the end was found. The end was often hidden, kept sealed in an envelope that players were given and instructed to only open if they were unable to find the haunted houses. By openinging the emergency envelope, it disqualified players from qualifying for prizes. Over the years, this goal began to evolve as players became more competitive and it became necessary to provide all clues to players at the beginning of the route.
In 1994, a revised version of the Ghost Run concept was born called "Danger Run". Danger Run operated very similarly to the Ghost Runs, but with a major difference. Danger Run partnered with commercial haunted houses to improve the haunted house experience that was included with admission. Additionally, Danger Run was the first to standardize written clues in a limerick format. Until then, most simply used two line clues, often rhyming.
As the popularily of Danger Run surged, interest in the older style of ghost run waned. Eventually, Danger Run became the only remaining Ghost Run style game. In the late 90s, the creator of Industrial Nightmare created a competing attraction called Nightmare Run. Nightmare Run was similar to the Danger Run in that it included commerical haunted attractions. The clue formatting was a standardized two line rhyming clue. After the two experiences took to the streets, the two companies later merged. Nightmare Run was later closed in favor of its predecesor the Danger Run. The clue writer of Nightmare Run, Jamie Stephenson, left to create Baxter Avenue Morgue.
The Danger Run became so popular that it even went on to create an online, worldwide version of the game called GhostRun.com. It was the first and only game of its kind that even had a huge cash prize. Unfortunately, the game would not last long and would later shutter. The elements of the game was later used as a virtual test drive on DangerRun.com.
After creating Baxter Avenue Morgue, in the early 2000s Jamie went on to create another Ghost Run by the name of Haunted Run. The Haunted Run used the same clue formatting as the original Nightmare Run, this time ending at the Morgue as a final destination. The Haunted Run would run for 2-3 years until eventually closing its gates to the world. Baxter Avenue Morgue lives on to this day as one of Louisville's legendary haunted attractions.
In 2005, the makers of the Danger Run decided to revive Nightmare Run. Nightmare Run returned with the two-line clue formatting, and continued to follow the commerical haunt format established by the Danger Run. While the games were similar, the gaming experiences provided by Danger Run and Nightmare Run differed. Unfortunately, Nightmare Run did not re-open the next year. However, 18 years later Nightmare Run returns again in 2023, this time created by the mind behind Nightmare Forest, Jeff Howlett, and one of the former owners of the Danger Run, Mike Kimzey.
The Ghost Run is a concept that is alive and well in Louisville, Kentucky with hundreds of thousands of people enjoying ghost run style games for over 40 years. Although, the concept of the Ghost Run is not totally original. The premise of the Ghost Run is based on "The Game" also known as "The Bay Area Race Fantastique" created in Los Angeles in the early 1970s. The Game was a non-stop 24-28 hour treasure hunt, puzzle hunt or road rally. Teams would drive from puzzle site to puzzle site, overcoming outrageous physical and mental challenges. The Game become popularized by Microsoft's Joe Belfiore during his time at Stanford. The Game is thought to have continued on the West Coast until the early 2000s.
The Game was so popular that it inspired the Disney Motion Picture "Midnight Madness" in 1980. This was the first film appearance of Michael J Fox, which in that movie he only went by Michael Fox. The tagline for the film was "The Most Fun You'll Ever Have...In The Dark!" Sound famililar? New World Pictures spun out a similar tagline for the movie Creepshow in 1982, deemed "The Most Fun You'll Ever Have Being Scared!" The Game later inspired another Disney distributed film called "The Game" starring Michael Douglas in 1997. All fun films if you're looking for a flick to watch this weekend.
In 2021, the Danger Run took a nod from "The Game" and began to integrate elements of "The Game" into the Ghost Run experience to further evolve its game play. While the Danger Run still requires that guests follow clues and find the way to haunted houses and/or places, the Danger Run began to integrate puzzles/challenges that are found along the way. Danger Run clues have always been designed so that guests do not need to know the area in order to play. Gameplay was based on observation. Danger Run used the same technique to create puzzles that are solved based on observation and logic, tying in the older gaming style to further evolve the Ghost Run.
Danger Run also went on to expand the horizons of their game development techniques to create indoor and outdoor escape games. The reality is that Danger Run existed long before the existence of an escape room and in a way it paved the road for escape room entertinament.
To read more about the history of the Danger Run, visit this page.