The creator of the Horror Museum and Chocolate Bar promised a whole heap of horrific fun for Dallas' horror fans. Founder Ali Sheikh said back in August that his Deep Ellum attraction on Main Street would feature unique horror exhibits like a collection of artifacts that carried macabre and sordid historical stories and an "Anger Room" where guests could smash plates to unleash their aggression.
However, the only "Anger Room" in the Main Street locale was the room where disgruntled customers were standing when they realized what they paid to see.
Since it opened last Friday, a large number of visitors complained that what Sheikh and his team delivered doesn't meet the quality standard that merits a $23 ticket before taxes and fees.
The lack of an "Anger Room" was just one of a long line of complaints and unfulfilled promises that guests say they expressed to the museum and filed on Facebook and other social media sites following the museum's opening. Some of the complaints include poor replicas of famed movie monsters and horror scenes, occult artifacts that had little to no historical significance as originally advertised, and chocolate treats that looked and tasted like desserts they could buy from a chain supermarket. One of the customers even started a page called "Horror Museum and Chocolate Bar in Dallas, TX is Awful".
"There was a guy who came out before we went in and he was yelling that they basically scammed us out of our money, and all you're looking at is Party City clearance animatronics," says Nick Woody of Carrollton, who attended the Horror Museum on Friday. "We were like, 'Oh great' but we'll check it out and go in anyway. We go in and much to our dismay, it was very much like that. It was just a red light with very cheap animatronics. It was just some mannequin with a costume on it and the 'haunted artifacts' were just things you could find at a garage sale."
Kavish Wazirali of Dallas says he waited in a line that snaked out the door for the museum last Friday and was disappointed with what he saw as he stepped into the bathing red light of the space. Groups were given 20 minutes to peruse the exhibits at a time and make a separate purchase of one of four single-portioned chocolate dessert items such as pudding, cake and brownies for $6.66 each.
"When you walked in, it just looked like a sham," Wazirali says. "Someone quoted it very well. It looked like Spirit Halloween with the lights turned off."
Guests first walk through a foyer before entering the main space, which consists of a small occult section with shelves of twisted looking dolls in glass shelving cases. Next to that stands a white door with a hole chopped out replicating the iconic scene from the movie The Shining, the only interactive exhibit where guests could take photos of themselves in scenes of horror.
"They were trying to give something life that didn't have any," Woody says. "They were trying to give a story that was false. It was all a lie."
Across the main entryway stands a series of adult sized mannequins dressed to look like horror movie characters like Jason Voorhees, Leatherface and Chucky that stands much taller than his toy-doll size counterpart from the big screen. Then down a narrow hallway are three more exhibit rooms with animatronic dolls that make minimal movements and emit sounds, showing scenes like an evil carnival, demon girls around a skeleton in a coffin on a lit floor and a "Haunted Asylum" of a macabre operating room.
"They said they were gonna have an 'Anger Room' and a bar that serves tons of kinds of chocolate," says Dustin Ferris, the owner of another nearby business, Art & Antique Restorations, who also toured the tiny museum Friday. "They were going to have the largest historical collection of occult and horror movie artifacts and literally not a single thing of that was true."
Despite the overwhelming mountain of complaints online and on the museum's Facebook page that's been taken down at least twice since Friday's opening, Sheikh says he will keep his museum open but will not issue refunds to any ticket holders, citing the warning on the museum's Ticketleap page. He also claims the page take-downs were to make "updates."
"It's no scam, and people may have a right to complain, but we didn't force anybody to buy tickets and it clearly says, 'No refunds,'" Sheikh says referencing a caveat on the Ticketleap page.
Sheikh insists that he's received some positive reviews despite all the negative complaints. He says the “Anger Room” attraction is still being developed for safety purposes. He also says that he doesn't discourage guests from taking pictures and videos. When the Observer visited the museum on Friday before the opening, Sheikh asked us not to post any interior pictures of the attraction.
As for the items and exhibits in the attraction, the museum's founder says that questions about the authenticity and quality of the artifacts and exhibits are an "irrelevant question."
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"I've put a lot of hard work into this place, and I tried my best to make this a place that would put a smile on people's faces," Sheikh says. "Maybe their expectations were too high and they thought a real ghost was going to come out and chase them. A lot of people love this place and are telling me they are liking this place, but a few people don't like this place and they're entitled to their opinion."
Ferris says his concerns about the Horror Museum go far beyond the $100-plus he spent on tickets for a tour. He's concerned about how the negative publicity generated by the museum's presence could affect his and other neighboring Deep Ellum businesses.
Ferris claims he's talked to 52 other paying customers on social media and at least two other local businesses to see if they can take any actions or defenses against the Horror Museum. He says they are "willing to do whatever it takes to get the money back."
"When you have a business operate like that, it's perpetuating the problem," Ferris says. "People assume there's crime and stuff, and now there's a business owner doing the crime. If I didn't live down here, I would never come down here again."