All trick, no treat: 13th Floor Haunted House frightens visitors with chainsaw-handling monsters

Elena Waldman

The only thing scarier than the thought of climate change completely wiping out all of humanity within the next century is 13th Floor Haunted House. But with this spooky attraction, folks may actually make it out alive.

Thirteenth Floor, recognized by many as one of the scariest haunted houses in the U.S., is not for the faint-hearted. The attraction resides on 52nd Avenue in Denver in a massive warehouse, remote from any other popular destinations. Doors open around 7 p.m. every night, and as soon as a visitor walks on to the premises, they’re immediately signed up for a terrifying trip. Monsters roam around the outside of the building, scaring people who are waiting in line before they’ve even entered.


Upon entering the haunted house, a visitor might already be scared off by the narrow halls and fog that fills the air which makes it incredibly difficult to navigate. Thirteenth Floor consists of three houses with a handful of rooms to walk through. Each house has a different theme, and each room gets scarier than the last.

people get ready in dressing/makeup room
Employees in the 13th Floor Haunted House wait for their turn in the makeup chair. They dress in costumes resembling soldiers, priests and monsters to prepare for their next shift inside the house. (Brooke Buchan | Collegian)

The first house is called “Half-Alive,” and follows a “science facility gone wrong” storyline. The second house, “Possession,” features a nun who is haunting an orphanage. The last house, “Trick or Treat,” follows a classic Halloween theme with several spooky archetypes haunting the halls.

In each room there are characters covered in blood or armed with weapons hiding in every corner and crevice, waiting to chase and scream at people walking through. Soundtracks of haunted souls screaming in agony reverberate throughout the building, so groups of people trying to navigate the complex halls have difficulty communicating with each other. The very dim lighting and heavy fog lend themselves to the claustrophobic feeling, especially in rooms with lots of twists and turns.

There are several myths surrounding the haunted house have been going around during its 17 years of running. Some of these are true, but many are not.

“The rumors that were all in my middle school and high school, was that it was 13 floors stacked up, and you had the potential to earn money as you move up- but it’s really a basement,” said Marshall Dunham, a junior journalism major at CSU. “(There’s) just typical haunted house sh*t…but it is scary, I think.”

We get a handful every night that we’ll have to pull out if they’re too scared to move.”-Erin Urban, general manager of 13th Floor Haunted House

It is commonly believed that getting through all 13 floors is so rare that people who actually make it through end up getting their money back. While it is difficult for some to make it to the end entire attraction, general manager Erin Urban said this rumor is false.

“It’s a rumor that’s been going around for years, and we don’t know why,” Urban said. “Most people make it, though. We get a handful every night that we’ll have to pull out if they’re too scared to move.”

Some of the word-of-mouth that goes around is that the employees are allowed to touch visitors, but this is only the case during their “Blackout” event in November, which is a much more extreme version of the haunted house than what visitors will see during the regular season.

“During Blackout, you’re allowed to get touched (not inappropriately),” Urban said. “You are gonna be bumped into, and it’s completely black in there so the walls will move and you’ll be tricked into going in different directions. During our regular season, if you get touched, it’s on accident.”

people get ready in dressing/makeup room
An employee in The 13th Floor Haunted House gets her makeup sprayed on before the touring of the house opens to the public. (Brooke Buchan | Collegian)

Roughly 250 people work to put the haunted house together, many of whom are actors, stunt people and “icon” monsters who appear in commercials and outside of the building. For the many people in costume and makeup, there are only five makeup artists working every night to get everyone ready.


For the amount of detail and uniqueness each character has, the process of creating the monsters is much more time- sensitive than one might think. Professional makeup artist for 13th Floor Lili Aguilar said the length of the process depends on the specific aspects of a character.

“Getting someone all in makeup…depends on the spot,” Aguilar said. “Sometimes they require minimal (makeup) like we either focus on the arms or just the face. I would probably say anywhere between 5 to 15 minutes is how long the makeup takes per person. We go through about 10 to 15 people (per night).”

Right after visitors think they’ve made it through the entire house, a masked face will chase them out of the building with a chainsaw — a weirdly relaxing indicator that the experience is over and folks can go back to their daily existential lives that don’t involve screaming bloody monsters. 

Tickets and more information for 13th Floor can be found at

Elena Waldman can be reached at and on Twitter @waldmanelena.