Business behind the screams

Rachel Davis’ haunted house is part of a bigger plan for a new local entertainment enterprise


Rachel Davis’ haunted house in Wausau Center mall is part of a larger business model of her Imaginar Adventures.

You step into an enchanted forest that’s been enslaved by an evil witch. You and your companions are the witch’s latest victims, and you’ll meet characters along the way to help you out—or will they betray you?

That’s the premise behind Imaginar Adventures’ The Haunted House, which opens Oct. 20 in the Wausau Center mall in the space formerly occupied by Cherry Pickers, and once upon a time by Walgreens. A Halloween event in partnership with the Wausau Children’s Museum (also located in the mall) The Haunted House is more than just a gory scare-fest, though there are plenty of those thrills along the way. Imaginar Adventures founder Rachel Davis says storyline is key to the experience and plays an important role in where she’s taking her entertainment business, which she plans to expand beyond seasonal events. “We believe in make-believe and the power of play,” Davis says. “This is a healthy escape that is going to give people those positive experiences.”

The Haunted House is replete with actors in elaborate costumes, detailed sets and a huge labyrinth through more than 185 different walls that create the forest. Creating this kind of attraction is probably a perfect fit for Davis. A longtime fan of science fiction and fantasy, Davis has been involved in acting and production through several Wausau Community Theatre shows. She has amassed an impressive costume collection to draw from and help sell the experience. And it all combines her love of theater production with a love of storytelling and make-believe. Plus, it complements her chosen field of study — Davis is pursuing a masters degree in mental health counseling with a focus on AODA, and children and adolescents.

Davis isn’t new to the haunted house business. She has done them for five years, with organizations such as the American Indian Center and, for the last year, the Wausau Children’s Museum. This year’s attraction is by far the most elaborate, with upwards of 50 actor volunteers and separate events for adults and children (less scary). Thrill seekers will navigate the forest labyrinth with a guide, and can request not to be scared too much.

The Haunted House is only the beginning for Davis’ Imaginar Adventures. She plans to develop more story-focused events that will incorporate interaction, such as escape room elements. And that leads to the core business Davis is trying to develop: A mobile escape room that can be taken to classrooms and to companies as a team building exercise. That’s the idea Davis pitched at Wausau’s leg of Hatch, a privately-funded investment program where entrepreneurs pitch their business in a Shark Tank style competition. While her idea didn’t win the $2,000 award, it seemed to draw the most interest from the Hatch crowd at the YWCA in June.

As escape rooms and other shared-experience entertainment become more popular—escape room attractions opened within the past year in Weston and Stevens Point—Davis’ company could capitalize on the trend in a unique, theatrical and storytelling way.

The Haunted House runs Oct. 20-21, Oct. 27-28, and Oct. 31. Kids shows $7: 11 am–5 pm Fri.–Sat., and 4–6 pm Oct. 31. Night shows (scarier) $10: 6-10 pm Fri.–Sat., and 7–10 pm Oct. 31. See the Big Guide in City Pages for information on other haunted houses around Wausau and Central Wisconsin.