By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Epplesheimer was arrested at his house in Lewisville on July 18, 2011, and was ultimately convicted of three counts of sexual assault against a child and one count of indecency with a child. Several child porn possession charges, stemming from images he had on his Blackberry, were dismissed. He was sentenced to nearly 80 years in prison.
"DarkSide did play a big role in many people's lives," Eppelsheimer writes in a letter from Tennessee Colony, Texas, where he's serving his time. "It was a place where anyone and everyone could come to meet new friends and old. To have a good time, dance and laugh in a safe environment and a clean one too. Everyone was treated equal at DarkSide, no matter if you were fat or skinny, ugly or beautiful, Black, White or Green. Everyone could be themselves."
Epplesheimer, who's appealing his conviction, claims he never did drugs "and wanted to show others it is possible to enjoy yourself without all the bad things associated in [the] club scene."
Despite the piles of evidence against him, some of the DarkSiders still have a hard time criticizing him.
"To hear these allegations against him was really hard to accept," Danny Boy says. "Evidence is evidence. If he did, he did. I'm still not 100 percent on either side of the fence." He pauses for a moment. "I feel bad for Tommy. He was a real good friend of mine. I can't say he's ever done me wrong. I really can't."
Lacey says Epplesheimer "was a good man and a good father until all of this came up, and he lost everything because of it. Most of us did.
"All of this started with such innocent motives," she continues. "Money and power changed things — even in a place as simple as a dance club."
Just before Epplesheimer's arrest that summer, the DarkSiders held a couple raves in a field in Hurst, near a horse ranch Hudson said he owned. (There's no record that Hudson owns any property in Dallas, Tarrant or Denton counties.) John Wayne and Styx were out there for four days before the event, "shoveling horse shit," John says, building stages and DJ booths.
The field raves were a big success, bringing in a couple thousand people total. DarkSide was still open for business; a van shuttled party-goers back and forth. But John Wayne says Epplesheimer paid him and Lacey a pittance, so the two quit in a huff. They came back a couple weeks later, but nothing was ever the same.
Epplesheimer's arrest shocked the club. Two days later, Miles filed her complaint against DarkSide, and not long after that she filed one against the Playground, accusing it of providing a place for people to find "random consensual sexual activities." Detectives also saw topless dancers and porn playing on flat-screen TVs.
Miles asked a judge to shut down both clubs. But when Hudson insisted he was the head of a spiritual enterprise and vowed to fight the allegations, her request for temporary restraining orders were denied. In March 2011, well after he told John that the clubs were "spiritual organizations" — but four months before Miles and the city got wind of what he was doing — he'd registered a nonprofit with the Texas Secretary of State's Office called N.R.G. Mission. DarkSide, he said, was an "outreach event" for N.R.G. As for the Playground, he told the Morning News he had no affiliation with the swingers club, and that he ran a marriage-improving group called Members Only from the same location. His LinkedIn profile, meanwhile, described him as "CEO of the Playground AKA MAGIC CITY."
After Miles filed her complaint, Hudson seemed to realize that DarkSide needed to act more like a church, and fast. He told John Wayne to church the place up.
Oh my God, John Wayne recalls thinking. This is really happening.
He did some quick Googling: "Any spiritual scriptures that talked about singing, dancing, life." He printed up poster boards and banners with the quotes on them, hanging them on every wall. It gave the place "a more enlightened feel," he says. He renamed the rooms, too: the "Laser Lounge" became the "Temple of Lasers." Others became the "Enlightened Room" and the "Main Congregation."
"The kids walked in expecting a normal rave club," he says. Instead, "we had them sign membership forms, because it was now a private membership club." On the forms, they'd ask people if they needed prayer.
"A lot of people got freaked out," John says. "Of course. You've got rave kids tripping on drugs and you're gonna tell them they're in a church?"
The story hit the media, and TV news trucks started showing up at the club almost every night, making sure to get plenty of lingering shots of young women in very little clothing. One night, Gypsy suggested they start a "prayer circle" outside, for the benefit of the cameras. A DarkSider named "Rev Stiz" had 30 or 40 people join hands. He said a brief prayer, blessing everyone and suggesting they have a good night. Everybody in the circle quieted down and got very serious.
what a classy expose of what the Observer loves the most...trashy people doing trashy things with other trash.
Like I said before... Garbage culture for garbage peopleShareFlagLikeReplyKeepingitrealJul 25, 2011
Yea and your culture isn't garbage at all networks dont mind takeing money from calvin klien for exploiting under age kids in sickening ads , the mainstreme media doesn't point out that massive amounts of drugs are sold at topless clubs which stay open afterhours and allow the "rave" scene in after. Do you want your kid at the topless club at five am or in a club that atleast calls it self a church ? I dont know ? This is the same mainstreme media that blast out music lauding the merits of being a drug dealer "balling" hanging with your fellow gang members or being a "hoe" to those guys , all I can tell you is that kids are going out you cant stop it , they are either at a club with a cop at the door or a house party getting beaten , drugged , assulted , or initiated into a gang. Isnt bob johnson the ceo of black entertainment television friend of and investment partner of george bush in the caryle group ? And the carlyle group and haliburton are the primary owners of the private prision system that locks up these same young people suckered in to the very same "dope slanging, gang banging" life style they promote with the average 17 year old haveing seen 17,000 simulated murders on the networks they own. You have the garbage culture sir and before you tell us to clean our house........ you better clean up yours...... or should I say ours.... youre lucky if your kid becomes a raver until he or she grows out of it , the rave scene is the anti-violence antidote to your garbage culture at least our motto is peace , love , unity and respect whats the mainstreme medias motto , poverty , death , destruction , inequality , cast systems , addictions , murder and any mayhem to keep people divided and conqured. Turn off fox news and crack a book or something ! or just put a big mac in it and shut up..... like a heart attack billion calaorie burger and edible polymer aka "plastic" shake is gonna help you..... That's why there is a real symble on dairy products by the way......... our culture has a real symbole yours is plastic !!!!!!
Great job on the cover story, Anna. Its not often that there is a lengthy article in my weekly Observer that is worthy of letting one or both of my feet fall asleep when I am reading it on the shitter. Not only was your story worth the pins and needles I felt in my feet, it was also worthy of the semi-paralysis I felt while balancing against the wall of my shower..
BEST QUOTE EVER!!! "The media made it out to be a sex-infested, drug-infested underground rave club that was run by a pedophile and raver kids who didn't give a damn," he says now. His voice rises a little. "That's bullshit. Yes, there were drugs. Yes, Tommy is a pedophile. But there was a deeper purpose, a deeper meaning, a deeper connection.
Bwahahaha f'n idiots!
"she filed one against the Playground, accusing it of providing a place for people to find 'random consensual sexual activities.'"
I promise you "Darkside" was a fart in the Dallas Rave scene. Union Bower,IceHouse,Major Theater,Club Canie, just to name a few
"The media made it out to be a sex-infested, drug-infested underground rave club that was run by a pedophile and raver kids who didn't give a damn,...Yes, there were drugs. Yes, Tommy is a pedophile..."
Ok...that made me laugh out loud.
I believe this can be rated on the Vagina system since it touches on sex right? If so 5/5 Vaginas, I love Anna long reads.
This individual was never ordained by the one and only faith based Universal Life Church World Headquarters of Carrabelle, FL., nor was this establishment in congregation affiliation with us. Obviously this individual was ordained by the non-Christian, no doctrine universal life church of Modesto, CA., started by the self proclaimed Modesto Messiah Kirby Hensley. Universal Life Church World Headquarters, http://www.ulcnetwork.com
@JustSaying That's a beautiful sentiment, Kenny Powers. Have a lovely weekend.
@monstruss Why thank you.
@RoaminCadillac In my mind's ear, I hear it being delivered by David St. Hubbins.
@RoaminCadillac I've read this story nine times and laughed every time I read that line.
@ScottsMerkin Bahaha. Thanks, Merk.
@UniversalLifeChurch Off topic but I helped in the starting of the Carrabelle Speed Festival just down the road from you. Funny to see that city on a Texas site.
@Anna_Merlan Yeah, I hadnt commented on a cover story or anything outside of UP or CoA in a while, and I know we get different commenters here than in the blog so I figured I'd try to confuse readers more than I already do.
I can't say that I've ever heard of it, but that does not say it does not exist, it is just not my cup of tea. But Carrabelle, Florida is a great city in a great state, as is Texas. Carrabelle truly has a lot to offer thanks to folks such as yourself who have blessed our community with their presence. The seafood is fantastic.
@UniversalLifeChurch It happens twice a year and is just about 3 years old so it is pretty new. It takes place on the Carrabelle-Thompson airport. Whenever you see all of the fast cars in town that si where they are going. Actually had the event last weekend. Carrabelle is a great city. I am from Destin.