NIGHTMARE NEW ENGLAND
NIGHTMARE NEW ENGLAND – Varieties of Villainy
By MICHAEL KOOPMANS
Mike Krausert is the director and Michael Accomando a co-owner of Nightmare New England (presented by SpookyWorld), one of the largest privately owned Halloween parks in the country and the largest in New England. Each year, customers travel from all over the world to visit the massive fright fair, which is divided into six unique, hair-raising sections. Patrons tend to arrive before sundown and stay past midnight to take full advantage of the attractions, the VIP area, bonfires, on-site restaurants, go-karts, mini-golf and more—and Nightmare New England offers hotel packages for that very reason!
FANGORIA: What got you into the haunt business?
MIKE KRAUSERT: I was always a huge fan of Halloween and horror movies. When I was 17, a friend asked me to volunteer at a local haunted house, and the rest is history! I’m 41 now, and have been designing and building haunted attractions ever since.
MICHEAL ACCOMANDO: I have always enjoyed Halloween, and would decorate my past businesses and have the staff dress in costumes. When I purchased the family entertainment park where we presently do Nightmare New England, it only made sense to open the largest scream park in the area. People love to get scared, and when you’re great at scaring people, why not get paid for it?
FANG: When did the park originally open, and what expansion has been done over the years?
KRAUSERT: Nightmare New England opened its doors in October 2008, featuring four separately themed attractions and the Monster Midway, covering 20 acres. During 2009, we acquired ownership of the legendary SpookyWorld and have nearly doubled in size to include several individual haunts, an expanded midway and more rides, games and activities.
FANG: When does your prep work start?
KRAUSERT: Planning for the upcoming season actually begins during October, when we review our exit polling for the current season. Because of the scale of our park, we spend countless hours evaluating that, researching new themes and discussing new special events.
FANG: Sounds like a year-round adventure!
KRAUSERT: We have many meetings throughout the year with our creative, marketing and PR teams to make sure our ideas are always current. We also spend time reading code books, designing floor plans, researching new vendors, contacting potential sponsors, building backstories, creating costumes and character development. As the season approaches, time is spent on scheduling, ordering supplies, building, painting, detailing, sound and lighting installation. It never ends.
FANG: How many employees did you start with, and how many are currently employed?
KRAUSERT: When we began in 2008, we had a staff of approximately 180 people; we now employ 300 people seasonally.
FANG: Does the staff make the props and do all the makeup work, or is some of that done elsewhere?
KRAUSERT: It’s a mixture of both. We are very fortunate to have a talented and dedicated staff of designers; we also have great relationships with artists across the globe whom we work with for specialty items.
FANG: Take us through the experience an average guest will go through, without spoiling too many of the scares…
KRAUSERT: Our midway helps create an atmosphere where Halloween is celebrated, and is home to our “walk around” characters—some of our more specialized actors. It has become an ideal place to scare our guests. We are known for our incredible indoor/outdoor atmosphere, and our customers love our intense and entertaining cast. We feel that by taking a varied approach, we are giving all our guests the opportunity to come face to face with at least several of their fears during the evening.
We tend to pull from a mix of classical and current themes to entertain our entire demographic. We deliver an all-night experience that features indoor as well as outdoor haunts that take full advantage of our unique property, situated along the woods and the Merrimack River. The outdoor setting of our midway, rides, go-karts and some of our haunts really allows people to interact with the season, nature and the weather in a way they might not if everything was housed indoors. That keeps our customers feeling “on edge” when they’re outside for much of the evening—as if anything could happen.
FANG: Which section do most guests find the scariest, and why do you think that is?
KRAUSERT: We’ve learned that our older guests have much different expectations than the younger ones. The one thing they do seem to agree on is fear of the dark. We offer an attraction where the only light source is a glow stick, and the popularity of this attraction has led to a new special event called Lights Out, during which the lights in the park and inside the attractions are turned off, the sound is turned up and each group is given a single glow stick. It has quickly become one of our most talked-about events!
FANG: How large is the park, and on average, how long does it take to go through all of the attractions?
KRAUSERT: The park itself is approximately 40 acres now, and our customers tend to spend the entire evening with us. If someone were to strictly go through the haunted attractions without taking in the rest of the park or activities, it would take about one and a half to two hours. On busier nights, it could take three to four hours to complete all of our attractions.
FANG: What are some of the ways you entertain guests while they wait in line?
KRAUSERT: In addition to video screens throughout the park, we have actors whose job is to entertain and scare the people in line. These “walk around” characters include 12-foot-tall beings and sliders, which run and slide toward patrons on their hands and knees, giving them a terrifying experience. We’re in the process of creating a large-scale show which will feature live performances throughout the evening.
FANG: What’s the longest distance that you know of that someone has traveled to attend Nightmare New England?
KRAUSERT: For the past three years, we have sold tickets in all 50 states in the U.S., and we get visitors from Europe and Asia on a regular basis.
FANG: What is one of your favorite compliments from a guest?
KRAUSERT: Brad Marchand, left wing for the Boston Bruins, said, “I just came over to check out SpookyWorld, and I have never been so afraid in my life. This place is ridiculous, and I had a great time!”
ACCOMANDO: Like any good haunted attraction owner, anytime a customer comes to me and says they couldn’t make it through our show because it was too scary, that’s one of the best compliments I could get.
FANG: Would you recommend the park to all ages?
KRAUSERT: We leave that decision to the parents, as they know their children better than we do and are able to decide what they can or cannot handle. The themes we use in the attractions are more mature, with corpses, blood, crime scenes and sinister characters playing prominent roles.
FANG: What influenced the different sections—specific movies, stories, personal fears?
KRAUSERT: It’s safe to say that we’re influenced by a number of things, whether they be movies, personal fears or real-life experiences. I’m in constant communication with our team during the off season, and we share ideas and stories that help develop the attractions each year. I’m also influenced by things I encounter in daily life, whether that be architecture of different buildings or tombstones in old graveyards.
FANG: Are there plans to add more sections in the future?
KRAUSERT: We’re constantly changing the park in order to give our customers something fresh. We have large-scale expansion plans for the near future, which will really help cement ourselves as the must-see event in New England.
Check out www.nightmarenewengland.com for more information.