The Bizarre Life and Troubling Death of DarkSide, the Dallas Rave Church That Never Was

Page 7 of 8

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.

"They actually took it as a prayer," Gypsy says. "At the end of it, he forgot to say 'Amen.' Nobody caught it but me."

With Epplesheimer locked up and Hudson's "associates" assuming more control over DarkSide, John Wayne and Lacey finally quit for good. Styx and Danny Boy stayed involved, though. Styx even came up with the idea to change the club's name. For the last couple weeks of its existence, DarkSide was the "Fenix Project."

"I figured there was such a negative stigma surrounding the name DarkSide," Styx says. "I was gonna take the word 'project' off if it succeeded." They packed the house most nights.

Meanwhile, Miles approached John and Lacey, asking if they would testify against Hudson. "Of course," John told her. When he and Lacey arrived at the George Allen Courthouse that August morning, they saw their old friends. "They came to back up AB," John says, sadly. He and Lacey sat directly in front of them. No one spoke.

Just before the hearing began, Hudson suddenly said, "Hold on." He and Miles disappeared into a back room. When they emerged, Miles announced that they had reached an agreement. He would immediately shutter both clubs and never operate another in Dallas again. "We had sexually graphic video that belied Hudson's claim that the Playground was a 'youth outreach ministry,'" Miles says, so Hudson cut a deal to keep it from being played during the hearing.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Anna Merlan
Contact: Anna Merlan