It was me.
I was the sarcastic asshole rabbit.
Dear Loyal Fans and Friends,
I’m exhausted. I have been for years but I can no longer delay or deny the truth of how I feel and what needs to be done. In 2015 I had a meeting with a group of people I respected and discussed the future of The Asylum and what my goals were. I didn’t really have any. This whole thing started on accident. It wasn’t even my plan originally to do this full time but I got stuck with it and I chose to see it through because my name was attached to it and too many people were already in love with the place. It felt selfish to take it away from others.
Was it easy? Fuck no! Was it fun? At first. It increasingly consumed my entire life. I made so many mistakes and failed so hard an immeasurable amount of times! It was at my own expense that this place managed to survive and then thanks to all the people that came and went along the way who contributed their time and friendship to me. Sheri Barnes, Raymond Cline, David McKee, Mary Freespirit, David Richmond, Rick Miller (his whole family honestly), Robby Smith and my Dad all deserve a huge amount of recognition for helping me get started. As do countless others that helped keep me going, but this will be long enough already so I must carry on– I’ve always told the cast and crew that this place would be nothing without them. It’s true. So many people contributed to the unlikely success of this place. The faces may have changed over the years, people coming and going…usually leaving to go and do their own thing eventually. School, jobs and even starting families!
It has been an absolute privilege to be in my position and to have shared so much time and all the experiences I have with them and you.This has become a tradition for many families that started out 10 years ago as a guy and a girl on their first date. Here! Now some of you bring your kids! That’s insane and makes me feel so VERY old. I don’t take those memories for granted. The good ones or the bad. But I’ve watched everyone grow up and start their lives for 15 years. It’s my turn.
I know I said 15 years, but we’ve only been in Nowata since 2011. Well…The Asylum started in 2006. In my high school. None of the original people are here anymore. It’s just me. I was 16 then. When I arrived in Nowata I was 19. In November I turned 30. My entire young adult life has been wrapped up in this. I’m thankful though. It was always funny that the haunt was an asylum; as it’s been a great source of therapy for people (as many of you have told me) and the same holds true for myself.
I wasn’t the cool kid in school. In fact, I got bullied quite frequently. My home life wasn’t ideal but I love my parents and they did the best they knew how. I internalized a lot as a kid and never learned to express myself in healthy ways. Nor was I good at making friends. There was a lot of baggage to unpack over the years. It’s embarrassing to remember all the anger issues I had early on in this venture. Thankfully I overcame those around 2014. Adding the stress and weight of responsibility this place demanded on top of all that though? Hoo- boy! With all the support and kindness I’ve experienced over the years, unfortunately there were many obstacles too. Learning the hard way that you can’t trust everyone and that small town gossip is real? Yikes. Trying to start a haunted attraction in a small town in rural Oklahoma? The bible belt? Double yikes. We never had bad intentions it was all good fun. Like making a movie or putting on a play. Not everyone saw it that way though and not everyone was open-minded in the beginning. Some people never “learned” not to hate me. But they don’t know me either so that’s their problem.
Nowata really is a cool and unique place with so much potential and here recently it’s been making some serious strides within the community regarding beautification and new businesses opening up! I couldn’t be more excited for the future of this town and the people within it. If you’re a resident here and you’re reading this– stop letting anyone say “it’s just Nowata” as if that’s an acceptable excuse for why we shouldn’t bother to strive for anything better than the present. “Just” is such a lazy and detrimental word to hopes and dreams. It’s not “just Nowata”. It’s whatever the hell you make it to be so fucking do something great!
The Asylum shouldn’t have worked. Plain and simple. We didn’t advertise (because we couldn’t afford it), we didn’t have a reputation! I was a nobody trying to make something out of nothing in a place nobody had ever heard of since the 1950’s! Fast forward 10 years later and we won accolades and recognition, pulling in droves of people by the thousands and numbers climbing higher steadily every year (again without advertising mind you) becoming one of the more well known and fan-favorite haunts in the state! No animatronics, No fog machines just purely actor driven performances! I never made these people do all the heavy lifting alone either. I wore the costumes as well. I would sweat and bleed with these marvelously talented people who had no idea how special they really were. But therein also lies the detriment of my journey here. I wore too many hats.
Coming clean entirely, I tried to kill myself in 2016. Stress and depression coursed through my veins. It’s still a constant battle in my head to not go into autopilot and do something stupid. Mental health is a serious thing to maintain. Too many of us neglect it but it should be normalized like going to the dentist. Your brain gets cavities too and you need to treat that shit! Don’t act like it doesn’t exist. But I digress; the stress of obstacles I faced over the years bogged me down more and more.
I was told by a peer that this kind of work was the loneliest thing you could ever do. I didn’t understand it at the time but I sure figured it out. I wanted to help people and have an effect on their lives in a positive way. It took several failed attempts for me to learn, however that you can’t help everyone. My dad likes the saying “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” It’s very true.
The hardest lesson I learned in all of this was that no matter how hard you try or what you sacrifice: you will always be the villain in someone’s story.
In 2015 when I had that meeting with all my advisors I set some goals. One of those was:
Reach a point where I could either pay myself to do this or at least begin moving into a bigger facility before I turned 30.
The timeline was five years…times up.
I never paid everyone as much I wanted to. But another goal was hourly pay. I strived for that and started with small amounts. Every year with an increase in customers we would pay more and more. It still wasn’t enough. I never paid myself though. Customers in line would say “man the person that owns this must make bank!” meanwhile I’m sweating my ass off in a rabbit costume thinking “Pft! Nah dude. I’m dressed like a rabbit.” I always knew I would be leaving one way or another. Just the circumstances aren’t exactly how I imagined them to be. I had other plans in mind and quite literally had every intention of just giving this place away. Because it doesn’t need me. It’s bigger than one person and it no longer belongs to me. It belongs to Nowata and the cast and crew that made it great. No amount of bull-headed determination, spite or lack of sleep would have made this place succeed if it was just me standing in an empty building. Not one single person can take credit for the success of this place. That would be arrogant and foolish.
BUT….I’m not closing the doors. Many of you heard whispers regarding a passing of the torch and some of you even approached me asking if it were true. I apologize if you felt I was dishonest. At the time, no deal had been set in stone yet so I had no truth to give. But yes, it’s true. And it’s done now.
I sold the Asylum. The new owner is Kevin Stich a husband, father and successful business entrepreneur who is no stranger to haunted houses. We’re so alike in our ideas and methods of operation that we’ve asked each other if we were twins twice now. That would be ridiculous though because he’s much taller. I grilled him for months about how he would treat the cast and crew. It was important to me that they be taken care of and be put in the hands of someone that wasn’t just a banker or someone trying to add another cash flow to their portfolio. All of my goals for this place can finally be realized. The Asylum will grow and be better for it and Nowata as well will benefit further from that. I only regret that I burned myself out and will be absent for this next big step. There’s little I can say because as it stands: I am no longer am in charge. I will serve as a consultant here and there throughout the transition though as The Asylum prepares for the 2021 season marking it’s 10 year anniversary in Nowata!
I’ve done all I can do here. And I need rest. There are so many other things I would also like to pursue because my life’s work isn’t “just” the Asylum. I’m proud of it and the people who make it breathe. But I’m ready to move on.
After all, 15 years is far too long to live among such admirable hobbits. I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve. I regret to announce, this is the end. I’m going now, and I bid you all a very fond farewell.
Former Owner & Performer
The Asylum Haunted Attraction