''We haunt to scare'': Scenes from SpookyWorld

A trip report from the land of nightmare wraiths, chainsaw butchers, demon clowns, and zombie paintball
By SHAULA CLARK  |  October 26, 2011


Folks, this weekend is your last chance to check outSpookyWorld for the year. We cased the scene earlier this month — here's the lowdown of what to expect (or what you'll miss.)

SpookyWorld is deadly serious business. The architects of this New England haunted-house juggernaut spend the entire year engineering new ways to get visitors to soil themselves with fear. But there is one thing that frightens these frighteners more than anything: the rain.

Which means that on my early October visit during the park's second week of operation this year — which brought a tropical storm hurtling through the region — was pretty much their worst nightmare. At a casting call back in September, SpookyWorld co-owner Mike Accomando told me that his he'll go to such lengths as ritual human bloodletting if it means keeping the bad weather at bay. "I’m willing to give a pint of blood every eight weeks because Mother Nature will have to look at that and say OK."

But on the night of our visit, Mother Nature was not impressed. She brought a torrential downpour earlier in the day to chase away the punters; then, out of spite, left SpookyWorld with a mostly gorgeous fall night and only a smattering of undeterred customers. Which meant the haunt actors were practically pouncing on any customer that wandered by. Or, in the words of SpookyWorld designer Tattoo, they're looking to "destroy everyone."

When we first strolled onto the lot, we're immediately greeted by a 10-foot-tall horned wraith with gnarled claw-hands and glowing eyes. All night long, the thing howled like a banshee and plodded menacingly across the Monster Midway, scattering packs of screaming tweens in its wake. A demented clown and a slack-jawed executioner clutching a squishy heart trailed close behind. Elsewhere on the midway, a guy in a repulsive chubby-cheeked-baby mask chased after a histrionic girl for a full 10 minutes. "I'm still after you!" the monster bellowed. "I didn't pay for this!" wailed his victim (totally loving the fuss). "What this place needs is a safe word," a friend observed.

After a few nomadic years, SpookyWorld (having now joined forces with Nightmare New England) has been settling into its home in Litchfield, New Hampshire. “The original SpookyWorld, in its heyday, was a scary, tough haunt. But as time went on, it became more family-oriented. SpongeBob was there — it lost a little bit of the hardness,” Accomando told me. “When we invented Nightmare New England, we wanted people to know that we are a haunt that haunts. We haunt to scare.”

This year, there are seven haunts, with the debut of two new ones: the Catacombs, a cave simulation; and the Colony, described to me as “a backwoods, down-South, kind of inbred, banjo-playing thing.'' Tattoo (a Wisconsin transplant) explained the Colony's Deliverance theme thusly: “In New England, people really like the outdoor feel; everyone wants the hayride or the corn maze. So last year, we had Raven’s Claw Cemetery out in the woods, and everyone really enjoyed that.”

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  Topics: Lifestyle Features , New Hampshire, HALLOWEEN, Tattoo,  More more >
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