By Stephon Moore
NEW ALBANY, IN, (Oct. 25, 2012) – As night falls, Michael Book (B.S. ’11) takes off his rubber gloves after performing heart surgery. It’s time for his night job, where the IU Southeast alum may just end up with more blood on his hands.
Sure, the daytime heart surgeries are on mice and the nighttime blood is a mixture of corn syrup and red food coloring, but Book doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty.
As somewhat of a modern-day Jekyll and Hyde, Book spends his days researching cardiology at the University of Louisville and his nights scaring the Louisville region as co-owner of the Danger Run haunted house scavenger hunt.
Book got his start in the horror business when the Louisville native worked at Actor’s Theater in low-budget movies and haunted houses.
“My work just didn’t feel fulfilling,” Book said. “It was the same work day in and day out; it got old. Now, I’m doing something new every day.”
He left the horror world to return to IU Southeast and earn a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and chemistry. After graduating in 2011, he moved on to graduate studies in cardiology at University of Louisville. He spends almost 50 hours a week studying in labs, the bulk of his time working to reduce infarction size in the heart.
Book said his day job is a place where he can truly feel like he’s doing something decidedly important.
“I wanted to give back to the community more than I was,” he said. “I decided to go into medicine; how can you not be fulfilled with a career like that?”
But his night job is where he can let his horror background come to the forefront. Instead of reducing heart infarctions, he’s providing heart-thumping entertainment. He has been involved with Danger Run in some capacity for 16 years, since he was 14.
Danger Run is a three-part driving scavenger hunt filled with riddles, road signs, zombies and monsters.
“The concept was taken from the old Ghost Run in Louisville,” Book said. “We really focused on writing the clues differently and more abstract, while improving the quality of the haunted houses.”
Participants in Danger Run are able to use a book of riddles and their own cars to travel through dark, spooky roads and find the destinations of two different haunted houses. The group that completes the scavenger hunt with their mileage closest to the actual mileage of the trek wins prizes including a $500 gas card and bragging rights for a full year. It’s an event that has reigned supreme in the local Halloween industry for 19 years now.
“We basically drive the haunted house industry around here,” Book said.
Glen Kleitz, gate manager and 17-year employee of Danger Run, can see the change Book has brought to the event, and the progress it has made.
“Business has boomed,” Kleitz said. “Everything from the artwork to the social media focus has really helped this whole operation progress.”
Kleitz has been around Danger Run since before Book became involved, and the mindset has always been the same.
“All the managers have been here a long time,” Kleitz said. “We all just work together, and do our jobs to achieve a common goal: a good time for each and every customer.”
Danger Run for most is an evening filled with twists, turns, excitement and haunted houses. But for Book, Danger Run is much more than the name of his haunted scavenger hunt.
“Danger Run is our way of giving back to the community, something that’s different and new each time,” Book said. “It’s an entire evening of Halloween entertainment unlike anything you’ll experience anywhere else in the world.”