In their 11th year of scaring the residents and tourists of New York City, producers Timothy Haskell (creator of Nightmare) and Steve Kopelman (producer of Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare) have once again devised an unforgettable haunted house, with the theme Nightmare: New York. Three knocks, and you’re in an interactive maze that lets you walk chronologically through the myths and legends of New York City—starting with those of the 1626 Lenape Native Americans up to Hurricane Sandy’s infamous roaches.
The production team for Nightmare has created a spooky atmosphere that builds anxiety. A word of advice: before you walk through the doors with the graffiti words “Welcome to Hell,” watch your back in case someone escapes from the maze. And if your mouth seems a bit dry from the foreboding, you can always grab a drink at the bar (both non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages are available).
With a different theme each year, even returning audience members won’t know what to expect once they enter the haunted house. This allows every audience member to be equally surprised and shaken inside the maze. On top of that, the actors keep everyone on their toes by jumping out of dark corners, screaming about their psychotic lives, or whispering into a random person’s ear when he or she least expects it. Depending on the scene, the talented performers may make audience members who enter the maze feel like they are the victims of a crime or bystanders who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The technical aspects of co-director Timothy Haskell and John Harlacher’s production all add to the eeriness of the house. The sets and props designed by art director Justin Haskell help transport the audience to a specific era in the Big Apple, whether it’s an early 20th-century hospital room with Typhoid Mary or a 1980’s subway car. Garin Marshall’s lighting, which may hide actors in corners or flicker in order to create surprise entrances, adds to the weirdness. And David Roy’s sound design contributes to the mood and helps there be no dull moments as you walk through the maze. But don’t forget, a haunted house is not complete without some special effects that jump out at you and make the most common object into something that might give you nightmares.
Overall, this experience is meant for audiences who want to be scared or want go to a spine-tingling event around Halloween. It does help if you know the history of New York City in order to recognize the rooms and the people who wander through this house, but understandably, no list of what to expect can be handed out, or else the mystery would be ruined.
On that note, there’ll be no more details about this production in order to leave its secrecy intact—so I can’t tell you that there might be rats, or maybe an alligator, or that you might be separated from the group at some point. But here are a couple more pointers:
First, don’t walk to the bathroom alone (potentially a bad idea).
Second, ask to get a bloody X drawn on your forehead for an extra-creepy experience—I dare you.
Nightmare: New York is playing through Nov. 1 at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center (107 Suffolk St. between Rivington and Delancey). For show dates and times, and to purchase tickets, visit the website at nightmarenyc.com.