PLEASANT GROVE — An enormous, gothic-style mausoleum made of stone is being erected just off I-15. Halloween will come and go, but the mausoleum is here to stay.
“There’s something beautiful about the architecture, but also kind of creepy,” said Ken Bretschneider, the man responsible for the structure. “There’s this fun spookiness to it.”
Bretschneider said it features underground catacombs, as well as European sculptures from as far back as the 13th century.
The mausoleum sits inside Evermore, a sprawling new fantasy park opening Sept. 29 in Pleasant Grove. It’s has been years in the making — Evermore was originally scheduled to open in 2015, and more recently, on Thursday, Sept. 20. Its grand opening is now scheduled for Sept. 29. Like a good Halloween haunt, Evermore itself has been brought back to life.
“A lot of people don’t understand why this has taken so long. It’s because there’s no magical money out there,” Bretschneider said. As the founder of DigiCert and People Water, he's accumulated his share of non-magical money, and as the primary backer for Evermore, pretty much all of it became necessary.
“You can’t find a lot of investors that’ll invest in a project like this,” he added. “My wife and I have put everything into this. So if this doesn’t work out, we’re broke.”
‘Lord of the Rings’ meets ‘Westworld’
Not that Evermore doesn’t have investors. Bretschneider said the park has received $4 million from such folks — but he’s personally funded the majority of Evermore. Part of that challenge, he said, is that something like Evermore hasn’t really been done before. Equal parts “Lord of the Rings” and “Westworld,” the park is fashioned after an old European hamlet, and attendees can don costumes and mingle with hundreds of hired actors to uncover an elaborate fantasy story. For certain costume parties, which will happen several times a year, costumes are required — either your own or ones you can rent from Evermore.
“Because if I put them inside that world of a costume party and I allow you to wear sneakers and jeans, you kind of pull them out of the environment,” Bretschneider said.
Each building will have its own control center that handles lighting, sound, music, special effects, etc. The park’s central courtyard is a free-roaming area with shops, food, music and dancing, and the outer gardens put users in a more linear, plot-driven mystery narrative that takes about 45 minutes — guests sign up for time slots. This narrative will change over time, as will the park. Every few months, Evermore will be briefly closed and redecorated with a different theme, time period and accompanying story. The story plots of these successive seasons will all tie in to a larger overarching narrative. There will be all-ages story quests, and others aimed at adults.
“Kids and adults like to play. And a lot of times we grow up and we pretend that we don’t — but then we go home and we hop on a game system,” said Josh Shipley, Evermore’s chief creative officer. “There’s this idea that as an adult you can’t play as much. And here, we just don’t believe that.”
Shipley, a former “Imagineer” at Disney, helped conceptualize various Disneyland attractions and joined Evermore last fall. At Evermore, he’s overseen development of its storylines and characters. That involves working with the park’s actors, coaching them about how to engage with attendees.
They got their feet wet during a recent pre-opening party, where Evermore hosted FanX visitors. Shortly after the event, attendees started a Reddit discussion thread dissecting the park’s characters and plotlines. Shipley said they were surprised how deeply the attendees dove into things that night. It made Evermore’s staff reassess how they divulge story details. Moving forward, Shipley said certain actors will keep details about their characters secret from their fellow actors. That way, attendees aren’t the only ones learning the story as they go.
“It’s really nice to be here creating our own content because the only reason we would say no is if we physically cannot build something, or if may not be safe from a creative storytelling standpoint,” he added.
Far from finished
Though it opens in a few days, Evermore is still very much a work in progress. Future plans include a massive haunted mansion with secret passageways. Scale models of the park show Evermore draped in green foliage, but during the Deseret News' recent visit, there was more dust and dirt than greenery. There are still thousands of trees to be planted and buildings to be constructed. Oh, and an old European graveyard — Bretschneider bought a bunch of previously used gravestones.14 comments on this story
“We happened to be there when they were pulling up an entire graveyard, so we bought an entire graveyard,” he said. “Minus the dead bodies, we have a real graveyard.”
If you go …
What: Evermore grand opening
When: Sept. 29, ribbon cutting at 4 p.m., all-ages "magical" show 5-7:30 p.m., more adult themed "cursed" show at 8 p.m.
Where: 382 S. Evermore Lane, Pleasant Grove
How much: Early bird pricing $29 for adults and $16 for children, standard pricing $34 for adults and $19 for children.