PHOENIX - When Halloween spirits begin to rise, so too rise the many ghouls of days gone by, even in and around Phoenix. From haunted trails to ‘trunk or treats’, the scary scales up, in and around, offering one more tale to tantalize the locals. It’s the story of Grimsley’s Gorge – a tale presented this year at the Sweet Memorial Building as Halloween week unfolds.
According to the story, it is said that once upon a time in our own backyard, there lived a Dr. Grimsley – who had a small medical practice off Main Street in the village. His methods were considered strange by some, with new theories and procedures which whisperings claim caused all manner of mutations, deformities, mental illnesses and, sometimes, even death! Convinced he would find cures, Grimsley continued his work, tapping into ever more extreme tests and longer trials, in seeking answers for his ‘patients’. Other doctors and many experts opposed his highly suspect, unorthodox, and barbaric ways, hoping against hope that he would abandon his ‘call’.
As time went by, Grimsley, they say, began to go mad, declining with his ever-increasing failure to cure the sick, and, eventually … Disappeared.
However, the story goes, after his disappearance and assumed demise, residents of the village began mysteriously disappearing themselves – with no explanation of how or why. Rumors spread rampant, suggesting that the doctor had actually retired to an estate to secretly practice ‘his medicine’. It was believed he had transformed the mansion into a sanitorium, for those needing his twisted services and ‘cures’.
Around the village, on windless nights, they say you could hear the screams coming from the mansion, and some claim to have seen unknown creatures around the grounds. Curiosity prompted some to wander ever closer and deeper towards the Gorge, in order to sneak onto the grounds, hoping to get a glimpse of Dr. Grimsley and his sadistic secrets unveiled!
They were brave souls that embarked into that wicked walk – and there were few that returned. The survivors, they say, are forever changed – ever broken and fearful – and quick to warn others away.
For years, the story stayed quietly buried in the annals of time. Now it’s dastardly death has resurfaced at the Sweet Memorial Building in Phoenix, where seekers of the truth are ready to present the Grimsley Gorge haunted walk experience in October. Their hope is that it will open some doors to a spooky time, and mark the Halloween spirit through the eyes of a new generation in community history.
Stephan Smith has always loved the Halloween theme. He and his family began a few years back just decorating their backyard for trick or treaters on Halloween night. Family, friends and volunteers jumped in and, as more people came by and items got added, the experience evolved – resulting in several nights of a self-guided haunted house walk inside the house centered on the story of Grimsley’s Gorge. As they honed in on their specific Halloween-focused tale, the simple became more complex, with audio and visual scenes, smells, and animatronics. It became far more than originally expected, or even anticipated, as it got bigger and better drawing in thrill-seekers each year.
After he himself moved to Phoenix and began to get involved in the community, Smith made a connection with members of Phoenix Rising – a group focused on small acts of kindness and creating events that draw folks in to the unique flair of Phoenix. Smith’s group of ghoulish volunteers were outgrowing their prior space, were evermore beholden to the fall weather, and were ready to make a change. When they learned that their haunted mansion could live right in the center of town, in one of the most historically significant buildings of Phoenix, it didn’t take long to scope out the stairways, halls and dungeons of the Sweet Memorial Building on Main Street to make it happen.
The Grimsley’s Gorge haunted walk will be open to spirit seekers on Friday, Oct. 25, Saturday, Oct. 26 and Sunday, Oct. 27, as well as on Halloween night, Thursday, Oct. 31 from 6-10 p.m. Admission is free, with a free-will donation bucket at the end. Visitors are sent through in groups of two to six at a time and while guides will not restrict age allowed through the haunted mansion, organizers suggest children be at least eight years old, and be accompanied by an adult.
Relocating the Halloween season event at the Sweet Memorial Building allows for better layout of the story, Smith explains. Those entering,“are going into our creation of the doctor’s world – a depiction of it as real,” he says. Being able to go into an elevator from the main foyer, and then into a basement cell, a lab, a crypt, or failed experiment scene allows ghoulish caretakers to “tell a story that makes sense,” says Smith, “but also makes for a scary scenario that taps the height of almost too real,” he adds.
Although the line between fun and frights may get blurred at Halloween, Grimsley’s Gorge is one haunted house open to explore in Phoenix this year. It promises to tug at the fright strings, and leave survivors with a Halloween hometown story that never really goes away. Come out for the “FUN?”