At the Nevermore Haunt, a haunted house in a former furniture store on the Old Town Mall, staffers prepare to scare and be scared this Halloween season.
Dolly Parton famously said, “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap.” At the Nevermore Haunt in the derelict Old Town Mall, it takes a lot of effort to look this creepy. Owner Joe Hudson and his friends have spent much of the past year meticulously refurbishing the interior of an abandoned furniture store to look rusted and old, in preparation for the visitors that will soon start coming to get scared.
“The joke is kind of that we had to clean up the first floor,” adding plumbing, drywall, and more, Hudson said. “And then try and recreate the way that it used to look.”
In a sewer scene, puffy faux slime drips from rusting pipes. Skeletons hang from the walls; they resemble the Iceman, Otzi and are drenched in glistening fake blood. A piano sits near the historic entranceway. Blue and white the tiles on the floor read “THE GREAT HOUSE ISAAC BENESCH AND SONS.” Benesch ran a furniture store in the building through the 1800s and 1900s.
At times, the Haunt’s set decorators used the decay of the building for inspiration. “Rust is a surprising color,” Hudson said. “You cant just use any old brown.” But fortunately, when looking for a reference: “We have plenty examples in the basement and on the fourth floor of rusted pipes.”
It’s the Nevermore Haunt’s second year running. For this upcoming season, Hudson, 31, said he’s reworked spooky scenes that worked well last year to make them even more horrifying.
“It’s about perfection,” said John Ratkoff, 28, the Haunt’s lead technician, while a thunder soundtrack played overhead. Beginning Oct. 6 through the first weekend in Nov., 50 costumed actors will overtake the first floor, hiding in its secret crevices, popping out at just the right time to terrify guests. Hudson said some of the actors refuse to actually walk through the rest of the set – it’s too scary for them. They just want to scare people.
Outside, the entire block will be closed off, allowing visitors to purchase concessions and be entertained by sideshow acts like a man sticking nails in his own body. Last year, the Haunt drew thousands of visitors to the Old Town Mall, said staffer Tom Wingate, 31. They’re hoping for even more this year.
In addition to the Nevermore Haunt, a few other new businesses have opened in once-abandoned storefronts, said Steve Tsamouras, who owns 14 buildings in the area.
“It takes a lot of work,” said Tsamouras. “I have probably spent $125,000 at the dump.” The area recently got streetlights for the first time. And just last year, developers unveiled new plans for the surrounding areas.
In short, the Old Town Mall may be coming back to life.