Michigan Filmmaker Transforms Old West Attraction into Year-Round “HorrorTown”

A spooky new attraction is coming to Onstead, Michigan — and not just for Halloween.

The Old West Stagecoach Stop at Irish Hills is being revamped by local filmmaker and director Nate Thompson into “HorrorTown,” a place to see all things horror: from artifacts, to merchandise, and even movies.

Opened in 1965, The Old West Stagecoach Stop was a premier attraction for Old West fans until its closure many years ago. The Stagecoach Stop was left abandoned until the property revamped it with new features, including gold-panning, a petting zoo, and horseback-riding. 

It shares land with the Cowboy Creek Lodge, where you can swim, host an event, and book a room. The two are combined for the true Old West experience. Every fall the property puts on a haunted house, and Thompson was recruited to help with it this year. While on a tour of the property, he spotted a group of buildings that looked like an old town square, and had the idea to transform the area into a year-round horror attraction.

The Stagecoach Stop is first being painted to turn the location into HorrorTown. Photo by Nate Thompson.

The Stagecoach Stop is first being painted to turn the location into HorrorTown. Photo by Nate Thompson.

Nate Thompson has had an interest in horror since childhood, so it wasn’t difficult for him to come up with some creepy ideas for the project. The buildings’ exteriors will have a more faded and abandoned look, painted with flat black to remind visitors of a witch town with an immediate spook factor right when you walk up to them. Thompson said he decided on what the buildings would hold by thinking, “What would have to be here to make it worth it?” The main features will be a horror museum, collectible store, and his favorite, a movie theater.

The museum will house all sorts of oddities, with various wet and dry specimens, skulls, preserved animals, and historical artifacts. These can date all the way back to the 1800s, like some porcelain dolls, or more recent times. To go with Thompson’s idea of a witchy film feel, the museum will feature a “Season of the Witch ” exhibit, focusing on the eerie happenings of the occult.

The collectible store will offer your most-desired merchandise of the horror genre. You can buy clothing, souvenirs, and various types of memorabilia in the shop to remember your trip to HorrorTown. 

The first painted section of HorrorTown. Photo by Nate Thompson.

The first painted section of HorrorTown. Photo by Nate Thompson.

As a filmmaker himself, Thompson is most excited for the movie theater. It will run classic horror films, with black and white movies that gave the genre its start. At no charge and open all day long, you can watch as many films as you desire while at HorrorTown. 

HorrorTown is estimated to be completed in August and open to the public by September, but an official opening date is yet to be announced. Thompson is working on this mainly as a solo project, with some help from his friends and fiancée. 

HorrorTown will double as a filming location as well as a tourist attraction. Thompson has been busy continuing to create films professionally, with The Soul Reaper premiering on August 20th of this year. 

He has created four short films in his professional career and this will be his first feature-length work, filmed right on the location of his latest creation of HorrorTown. Thompson notes anywhere from 30% to 45% of The Soul Reaper scenes were shot in Monroe, and the rest at HorrorTown. 

The Old West-style bank. Photo by Nate Thompson.

The Old West-style bank. Photo by Nate Thompson.

After learning about his films and plans for HorrorTown, it’s clear that Thompson has quite the vivid imagination. Thompson explains that he picks up inspiration everywhere and doesn’t have the most traditional ways of writing. 

When asked how an idea comes to him, Thompson says, “I could see an old rusty bucket, walk past it two or three times and it just hits.” He continues to set the scene of several random things coming together into a possible concept. “Maybe there’s a butcher driving an old Chevy Nomad through town, and maybe the bucket is full of heads,” he describes. “I could wonder, what is this town? Why is it here?” Before you know it, Thompson has created a thrilling idea for a film out of a simple object. 

There is no doubt this inventiveness can be experienced in the upcoming HorrorTown. A new sense of life (and death) will arrive just in time for the Halloween season. 

To stay up to date with HorrorTown happenings, check out the local filmmaker’s website here.  And for more information on the upcoming premiere of “The Soul Reaper” on August 20 at the River Raisin Centre (114 S. Monroe St., Monroe, MI)  for the Arts, visit here.  

 

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