Wednesday, March 12, 2014
By Rod Harmon
Halloween is only a week away, and Maine is flowing with ghastly derrings-do, from costume contests and haunted hayrides to zombie dancing and scary poetry. (Don't laugh -- remember, "The Raven" is a poem.)
But if all that isn't enough to make you hide under the covers, there's a park just across the border in New Hampshire that rivals those of the big daddy of all major haunted attractions: Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights.
And that's appropriate, because before the folks behind SpookyWorld began adding elaborate haunted attractions to the go-karts, driving ranges and batting cages at Mel's Funway Park four years ago, they visited Universal's HHN with a studious eye.
More than $3.5 million dollars later, the park transforms every fall into SpookyWorld's Nightmare New England, a sprawling fright-fest encompassing six haunted attractions on 40 acres in Litchfield, N.H.
After visiting the park with my family earlier this month, I can say that it lives up to not only its name, but its goal. I've visited Halloween Horror Nights on numerous occasions, and SpookyWorld rivals -- and at times beats -- Universal's haunted houses for creativity and scariness.
Most haunted houses are pretty predictable. There are teenagers dressed like zombies or witches hiding around corners in a dark maze frequented by annoying curtains. Sure, they startle you, but after a while, you simply get bored.
Every haunted house at SpookyWorld is a different experience. The House of Eternal Darkness is just that -- nothing but a tiny glow stick to light your way. Willow's Asylum re-creates an insane asylum from the early 20th century. In a nod to SpookyWorld's roots as a haunted hayride, The Colony winds through the dark woods that border the park.
The best of the lot is the 3-D Freak Show, which combines glow-in-the dark paint, evil clowns and zombies, and 3-D technology for an attraction that not only scares you, it gives you a sense of vertigo. At times, you're tempted to crawl on your hands and knees just to get out of the place.
Not much scares my daughter, but after just one visit to a haunted house, she was content to stick with the batting cages and miniature golf. It still wasn't easy to escape the scare factor -- numerous zombies, vampires and other ghouls roam the park intent on scaring everyone who wanders their way (and posing for photos with those who don't mind getting a little Karo Syrup mix on their clothes).
"I want people to feel like they had a good time, that they were entertained, and that they felt the value was there," said Michael Accomando, who co-owns the park with Wayne Caulfield. "I want them to forget about their problems while they're here."
Whether you do that by peacefully hitting a golf ball through a miniature sand trap or by being chased by a chinless, blood-soaked corpse is up to you.
Nightmare New England continues today through Sunday and Oct. 28-31. Tickets are $34.99 on Fridays and Saturdays and $29.99 all other days. (VIP tickets run $54.99 and $59.99.)
For more information and hours of operation, visit www.SpookyWorld.com.
Deputy Managing Editor Rod Harmon may be contacted at 791-6450 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org