A new business hits the mark with themed, horror entertainment, axes and beer

Customers throw axes in lanes at Slashers Axe Throwing & Ales in Costa Mesa.
Customers throw axes in lanes with horror-character themes at Slashers Axe Throwing & Ales in Costa Mesa.
(Jessica Peralta)

On the hour, the head of a large, stuffed deer fixed on the bar wall begins moving and laughing maniacally with eyes lit up bright red. Bar staff also suddenly join in with creepy laughter, and then, just as quickly, resume their tasks when everything returns to normal.

The stuffed head of a 10-point buck on the wall at Slashers moves and laughs every hour.
(Jessica Peralta)

Horror movie fans will likely recognize the reference to the 1987 Sam Raimi-directed cult classic, “Evil Dead 2,” a sequel that follows protagonist Ash Williams’ comedy-filled battle against demons. But even non-horror movie fans will get plenty of entertainment from this and other theatrical elements that are becoming a calling card for Anaheim residents and local business owners Madison and Luke Rhoades. They opened Slashers Axe Throwing & Ales in Costa Mesa on Dec. 1.

“My favorite movie of all time is probably ‘Evil Dead 2,’” said Madison Rhoades. “So when we came up with this Slashers idea … a cabin in the woods is like the best place for ax throwing and horror movies. So I’m like well if we’re gonna have the cabin in the woods, then I have to pay homage to ‘Evil Dead 2.’ So I wanted to make this really cool looking cabin with a taxidermy deer head, which comes alive and laughs at you just like in the movie — that’s like my favorite scene.”

This isn’t the couple’s first Orange County venture into themed entertainment. They opened Cross Roads Escape Games in Anaheim with their flagship horror-themed Hex Room escape game in January 2016. While the activities are different, both businesses share a common vision of creating a theatrical experience for guests.


“My husband and I are really big theater people,” she said. “We both have a degree in theater and we loved ax throwing. But we felt that every time we went, the venues were kind of basic, maybe like just white with particle boards and fluorescent lights. … So we just felt that with our theater degree, we can add that theming and immersive atmosphere to it. And we just felt that horror movies was the obvious choice to go with ax throwing.”

Slashers Axe Throwing & Ales has 18 lanes — each named with a different horror movie character, including Chucky from “Child’s Play,” Ghostface from “Scream,” Norman Bates from “Psycho” and Pearl from “Pearl.” In addition to the deer head, the bar’s cabin-in-the-woods backdrop features shelving with an assortment of horror-themed products and decor.

Owners Madison and Luke Rhoades are fans of horror and theater.
Owners Madison and Luke Rhoades are fans of horror and theater and combined the two passions at Slashers Axe Throwing & Ales in Costa Mesa.
(Jessica Peralta)

“We have horror movies playing and then we also have a bunch of props from different horror movies scattered around on the shelves that I like to think is like a little bit of an ‘I spy’ for people to sit there and be like, ‘Oh, I recognize that’ or ‘Oh, that’s from that,’” said Rhoades. “And people do that, and it’s really fun.”

They’re also planning regular, seasonal themed events, like the Krampus vs. Santa photo op/ax-throwing competition between the two characters in December and the Axe Your Ex (bring a photo of your ex and throw some axes at it) event in February. Rhoades said they’re planning something for St. Patrick’s Day in March but haven’t fine-tuned the details yet.

Of course, the bar also sells alcohol (beer, hard ciders and hard seltzers) — and that’s themed too. February’s menu consists of horror-inspired cocktails like Killer Klowns Cocktail (with Ogopogo’s mango wheat ale, blue Curacao, strawberry cotton candy and a Krazy Straw) and What We Drink in the Shadows (with Brewery X’s Huckleberry hard seltzer, lemonade, a bloody rim and vampire teeth). Other drinks include Re-animator Honeydew Lime hard seltzer, Poltergeist pineapple cider, La Llorona Mexican lager and more. There are also some snacks, including Riff’s bacon, S’Mores Pop-Tarts and scorpion — dried, salted scorpion, that is.

There’s a maximum of three alcoholic drinks per person during a session (whether it’s for one or two hours). Guests can get more drinks at the bar after their session is over.

“I would say most people don’t spend more than two hours here,” Rhoades said. “Three drinks in two hours … that’s a lot of beer.”

The cabin-in-the-woods story line continues throughout the experience, including calling staff “camp counselors” and guests “campers.”

“The story is that your camp counselors here at Camp Slashers … we’re out in the woods one day and we came across this spooky-looking book and we read a couple passages from it, and now the camp is plagued by monsters and killers and villains of all kinds,” Rhoades said. “So we need to teach you campers how to defend yourself here during your summer camp stay. So that’s the reason why we’re camp counselors, why you’re in the woods, why you’re learning how to throw axes, why you have these villains as targets.”

Different themes and targets are projected in each lane at Slashers Axe Throwing & Ales.
Different themes and targets are projected onto the wood target wall in each lane at Slashers Axe Throwing & Ales in Costa Mesa.
(Jessica Peralta)

There are three throwing axes guests can use and each lane is equipped with software to play 11 different games using the axes, including “Battle Stations,” “Alien Attack” and “Around the World.” Theming and targets are projected onto the wood in each lane. Classic horror characters like Michael Myers, Ghostface, Chucky, Leatherface and Jason Voorhees can also be projected as targets through the software. Safety was also a big part of the Rhoades’ lane design.

“When we fell into love with like ax throwing … we just felt like they could be safer,” Rhoades said. “I mean not that anyone’s ever gotten hurt at other places, but we just felt that the safety precautions that other people were taking could be improved upon. So that’s one thing that was important to us. So for our axes, we have three different types to choose from. We have two hatchets and one big ax and all of our axes are specifically throwing axes. Other venues might just use an ax that you find at a hardware store that’s made for chopping, which is not necessarily designed for throwing. So ours are throwing axes.”

She said since they have the big ax, they have a designated safe area to throw at the big-ax length. They also have no-bounce mats that surround the targets on the wall. So if your ax doesn’t stick to wood, the mat itself is designed to absorb the energy from the ax so it can fall straight to the ground instead of potentially coming back at you.

“And then for our targets, we have end-grain targets, which just allows the axes to stick easier versus a traditional board that’s put like a vertical grain,” she said. “The end-grain target just allows axes to stick better, which just means there’s less chances of it kind of doing weird things, bouncing and not sticking. I think it also makes for a better experience too. You’re here to stick axes. Right? That’s what makes it fun.”

Jose Mendoza works at Slashers as a camp leader. He said his duties include a bit of everything — bartending, running the front desk, training the camp counselors and coming up with horror-themed cocktail and mocktail recipes.

“I knew very little about ax throwing before working at Slashers, but training helped change that,” he said. “Training was a lot of fun, we spent a good amount of time playing all of the games we offer at Slashers. We would coach each other, work on our rules speech, but most importantly we learned what it takes to have a safe yet exhilarating time at Slashers.”

Slashers Axe Throwing & Ales recreates a cabin-in-the-woods decor.
Slashers Axe Throwing & Ales recreates a cabin-in-the-woods decor with an assortment of horror-themed products in addition to the main activity — axe throwing.
(Jessica Peralta)

He said working with guests and teaching them to throw is very rewarding. Camp counselor training with campers starts with going over safety rules, which types of throws are acceptable at Slashers and how to make those throws. He said they train campers on two overhead throws, either single-handed or double-handed for the hatchets or a two-handed over-the-head throw for the big ax. After watching a camper take their first few throws, camp counselors offer coaching if needed by adjusting form and the ax.

“Sharing a celebratory high-five with a camper who, after a little training, hits a bulls-eye, is one of the best feelings out there,” he said.

Nate Javier, of Fullerton, who works as an escape room builder, said he learned about Slashers through some escape room owners.

“I was deeply intrigued and shortly after the official opening, I was hooked,” he said. “They’ve been open for a few months now, and I’ve been going ever since.”

He said he tries to go at least twice a month, but lately it’s been a bit more frequent.

“I keep coming back for the immersion, projected games, atmosphere, amazing guest interactions [and] customer service, and overall cleanliness of the facility,” he said. “I enjoy the balance of skill and physicality that comes with ax throwing. There’s something cathartic about understanding how to make an ax stick to a target properly and which type of hatchet or long ax may fit your capabilities the best. Plus, just getting the satisfying thump of the blade sticking to the target definitely spikes my dopamine.”