Nightmare on 13th, that haunted attraction you’ve driven by on 1300 South with the big, red demon statue in its courtyard, scaring passersby and welcoming haunt guests to Hell, officially opened its creaking doors for its 31st Halloween season.
Once inside, past the demon and ghouls the courtyard, Nightmare on 13th guests can meander through 13 different haunted areas, worlds of their own, including three that are new this year.
The new additions:
- Black Water: The creative team added a Louisiana swamp to its building, where black magic practitioners lurk. It’s as intricately detailed as it is creepy.
- Deep Freeze: As snow falls, you’ll realize you’re on an ice-capped mountain where you’re not sure if the crumbling ice beneath your feet or a yeti poses the bigger threat.
- XScream: Open only to VIP guests, you’ll have to find your way through a maze of darkness while bumping into creepy props and creatures.
While Deep Freeze seems to be getting the most buzz as guests exit the attraction, creative director Jimmy Dilley says Black Water is, by far, his favorite this year.
“We spent a good three-to-four months on that set,” Dilley says. “The level of detail we were able to put in that makes you feel like you’re in the bayou.”
The Nightmare on 13th staff took a trip to Louisiana to find inspiration for Black Water, which includes water and textures similar to those in a bayou.
While Deep Freeze’s big, scary yeti pops out to give guests a jump scare, the area’s large, animatronic ice dragon is the reason behind its popularity this year. “An animatronic on that scale inside is definitely not something you see inside a lot of haunted attractions,” Dilley says.
Expect an icy blast of CO2 as you make your way past the dragon.
Along with a dragon, guests can expect a giant rat and alligator to jump out at some point. Each giant creature startled our group pretty good.
XScream is filled with sounds, scents, creepy things touching you, and very little light. Dilley says the theme is based on an alien research facility that the aliens have taken over. “So, you have to try to navigate your way through without getting caught by the aliens, so to speak,” he says. “It’s just a darker, more intense experience than the regular attraction.”
The haunt also features cannibal clowns, a cyclops and a bridge in a spinning tunnel that made us very dizzy.
Dilley says the actors go through a strenuous two-day training, where they learn improv, blocking and timing, body movement and more.
“We’re kind of like a big, scary improv troupe,” he says. “We also like to be the character and pull people into the reality we’re weaving here.”
Unlike at many haunted attractions, Nightmare on 13th staff are already working on the next season when one comes to an end.
“For me, I actually start designing or contemplating what I will potentially build back in June or July,” Dilley says. “And once it’s the end of October, beginning of November, that’s when I start going hard into design season.”
Many ideas stay on the drawing board until they’re perfected.
“Black Water was in the design docket for three years, and I did revisions of that four times before we landed on what we liked,” Dilley says.
In the past, the attraction pulled ideas from Hollywood, incorporating characters like Chucky, Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers. However, organizers found the characters didn’t scare as much as they hoped.
“Most of our demo either didn’t know who those characters were because they were too young, or they just weren’t intimidated by them because they’ve been around for years,” said Jake Mabey, general manager.
Today, all characters and experiences are Nightmare on 13th originals.
With last year’s Halloween pretty much on hold due to the pandemic, Dilley wants a trip to Nightmare on 13th this year to be a time guests cherish.
“The Halloween season comes and goes really quickly,” he said. “It’s a special time of year, and we’re here to scare them.”
Times, Ticketing and COVID-19 Precautions
Nightmare on 13th is open every day in October, excluding Sundays, 7:30–10 p.m. on weekdays and 7:30 p.m.–midnight on weekends.
It will also be open on Nov. 5 and 6.
Tickets and a $6 off coupon are available at their website. Notice that different days of the week have different prices, so budget accordingly.
Tickets are sold for specific time slots to encourage social distancing. Proof of vaccinations and masks are not required. Mabey said the haunt is working diligently to keep the facility sanitary and that most employees are either vaccinated or wear masks.
Based on our trip, we recommend masks for those moments actors get extremely close for a scare, and hand sanitizer for XScream, which you will likely have to feel your way through to escape.
There’s no minimum age requirement, but parents are asked to determine whether their child can handle the scary setting. Those under 14 are encouraged to go with an adult.
Nearby Dinner and Drinks
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