CHRISTIAN COUNTY (Mo.) KY3 - Dozens of people in Christian County reached out to KY3 News Saturday after they say they didn't get what they paid for at a local haunted attraction.
The Forest of Terror and Haunted River near Nixa had its grand opening on Friday the 13th. The attraction's website promises guests the most terrifying experience in the Ozarks, but customers said the scariest part of the evening was paying hundreds of dollars for, what they've called, false advertising.
"It was nothing like what we were told it was going to be," said Chelsea Navarec.
Navarec and her friend Allyson Applegate had been planning their trip to the Forest of Terror for weeks. They spent $45 per person to go through a haunted maze, but both said it was a let down.
"It was supposed to be a whole lot more than what it was. There was supposed to be three attractions, the haunted forest, the haunted river and a haunted house. When we asked about the haunted house, they didn't have any idea what they were talking about," Applegate said.
A man named Tim had the same experience. He didn't want to share his last name, but said he spent $120 for he and his daughter to be VIPs at the forest.
"Yep, it's a lot of money. And they lied about everything. They said it was 20 acres, it took us maybe 10 minutes, and that was for both attractions," Tim said.
Tim said the VIP experience was supposed to include closer parking, and skipping long lines. He and his daughter wanted a fright, but all they felt was frustration.
"There's like four or five people in the forest. They don't even scare you or nothing, they're just standing there. You've got strobe lights, you can't see. There's holes in the ground, water puddles, tree limbs you run into. People got hurt. It was just terrible," Tim said.
Donald Grimm saw an ad for work at the Forest of Terror on Craigslist. He went to orientation on September 7.
"We went out into the field and they showed us the area of where everything was going to take place outside, which was basically in their backyard," Grimm said.
Nathan and Mary Powers operate the Forest of Terror at their home. Viewers might remember them from previous On Your Side segments. Nathan Powers operated two motorcycle shops in the Ozarks that closed abruptly. Upset customers with lost titles and out thousands of dollars contacted On Your Side and filed lawsuits.
After learning this, Grimm decided not to work at the forest.
"It seemed a little sketchy at first, and he had an ankle bracelet on, which, I'm like, okay, 'Why?' So I looked him up, I googled them, I found out who Nathan and Mary Powers were. I saw some things about their prior business ventures," Grimm said.
Grimm said part of him is glad he had nothing to do with the attraction, but feels bad for those who lost money.
"In the end, it seems like it was a scam. I can't say that was there intent, but it seemed like, in hindsight, it was," he said.
Mary Powers refused an interview, but said in a statement, "...it wasn't false advertising, it was that we had a very bad opening night."
"Do not put your money into this guy's hands. He's just taking advantage of everybody," Navarec said.
"There's much better haunted houses and places to go that are worth the cost," Grimm said.
Mary Powers added in her statement, "We planned this haunt to be a positive fun recreation for our community, we apologize for a rough first night!"
Powers did not address any possibility for refunds in her statement.
Christian County tells KY3 News that, since the Powers home is residential, they were denied a permit for the forest weeks ago.
They still do not have one.
Nathan Powers was also arrested Friday for felony property damage. KY3 News has been told it has something to do with a neighbor's property.
When asked about Nathan's arrest Mary Powers told us, "This legal matter will be dealt with in court, and when the facts are shown he will be exonerated."
Grimm mentioned an ankle bracelet Nathan Powers was wearing. That GPS monitor is from a restraining order On Your Side's own Ashley Reynolds filed after threatening online posts about the stories she did on him. He pleaded guilty to violating the restraining order and is required to wear the monitor.
Deputies tell KY3 News Powers could face additional charges in that case because of his arrest last night.
Click HERE for the latest On Your Side Investigation about Powers' businesses.
Click HERE for the latest On Your Side Update about the second motorcycle shop closing.
Here is Mary Powers' full statement:
"We reached out to the Christian County Health Department to verify whether a permit was needed for our concessions, we were told we did not need a permit as all of our foods were prepackaged. The property where the haunt took place was zoned A1 (agriculture district), this allows for a recreational facility, which is indeed, a Haunt.
As far as Nathan’s arrest, there is an easement and the neighbor locked him out of the easement. He talked with neighbor, and neighbor refused to allow him access to his rightful and lawful use of the property. This legal matter will be dealt with in court, and when the facts are shown he will be exonerated.
As far as false ads, it was at guests request. Those who requested prior to going through the haunt, were blindfolded and dropped off, if they didn’t ASK, it didn’t happen. Website says your choice! As far as anything else, it wasn’t false advertising, it was that we had a very bad opening night.
We planned this haunt to be a positive fun recreation for our community, we apologize for a rough first night!
The Forest of Terror and Haunted River Team"