Last year I went to Nashville Nightmare, a haunted house attraction north of Nashville, and had a blast. This year I went back and, well, there was the good, the bad, and the ugly. First, general admission is $33.01 ($29.99 plus tax), which, for an event like this, is pretty good. The bad thing is there’s a “Slash Pass” that’s $50.40 ($44.99 plus tax). Slash Pass holders get to go in ahead of those with general admission, which is where things get ugly. I was at the box office when it opened at 7pm and left at nearly midnight, and missed two of the houses because I’d spent almost four hours just standing in line. Part of this is because the crowd this year was much bigger than last year, but most of it is just poor planning by the owners.
There are four houses—this year they were Industrial Undead, The Reformatory, Phantasms, and Fairy Tale Hell, all set up in a block of buildings on a strip mall. The houses are linked together in pairs: once you’re through Industrial Undead you’re immediately shuttled through The Reformatory with no way out. It was great fun once I got in, but getting in took more than two hours. For every one general admission ticket holder who went in at least ten Slash Pass holders went in, and because most people were in groups and wanted to stay together this meant a lot of waiting no matter what you’d paid.
There’s a constant stream of heavy metal music and costumed performers wandering among the crowds and I realize now they were there to keep people entertained while we were standing in line, but even I can only listen to Alice Cooper’s Feed My Frankenstein so many times.
The way the houses are paired also means you can’t pick and choose. Industrial Undead and The Reformatory were both pretty gory and terrifying and had warnings that they were not recommended for children. Phantasms and Fairy Tale Hell, if they were anything like last year’s attractions, are lighter and more fun—like a walk-through version of Disney’s Haunted Mansion. It would have been nice if I could have taken a breather after zombies and entrails and enjoyed some twisted fairy tales before going back for the horrors of The Reformatory.
Splitting up the houses could also cut down on wait times for both general admission and Slash Pass holders by putting people in four lines instead of two.
Now for the good: last year there was no clear entrance so I was able to wander among the various carnival-type attractions outside of the haunted houses until someone asked to see my wristband. This year not only was there a fantastic entrance with box offices but right out front were a couple of fire eaters performing for the crowds.
“Now that’s a spicy meatball,” one said.
“Does it give you heartburn?” I asked him. That got a solid laugh and he replied, “Not as much as you’d think.”
When I went to buy my wristband the young woman looked at my Rocky Horror shirt, a gift from my parents, and said, “You can get in for free if I can have that shirt.”
Just outside the entrance to The Industrial Undead I asked a guy with deep red eyes, “Are you having fun?” He grinned and nodded.
The highlight of the evening, though, was when I was going through The Reformatory, where possessed students beat desks and demon-faced nuns chased after us. I said to the guy in front of me, “My sister was a nun until she found out what ‘none’ meant.”
If you don’t get it say it out loud, and if you still don’t get it you’re like the guy in front of me who said, “What does it mean?”
Some other highlights of the evening:
So the good, the bad, and the ugly is that it was a lot of fun, but too much waiting to be worth the price.