Demons of Old Town: Inside the Nevermore Haunt

Located in an old department store, the Nevermore is a haunted attraction to die for

By David A. Chiodaroli

Staff Writer

My photographer and I arrived at our destination, a parking lot behind a block of beaten and worn rowhomes. On the outside, there didn’t seem to be anything unusual about our location, no indication of what waited for us inside the white, roughly four story tall building that overlooked the mostly vacant tarmac. I gave our guide, Joe Hudson, a call to let him know that we arrived. He asked if we were parked below the sign, which puzzled me because I hadn’t seen any sign in the vicinity. That is when I happened to look over my shoulder to see a large, ominous poster that clung to an old fire escape, showing a picture of what looked like a decomposing corpse, and the name of our destination, the Nevermore Haunt, a haunted attraction that is currently in its second season.

 

The owners of the Nevermore, Joe Hudson, Thomas Wingate and John Ratkoff, greet us and take us inside, to the room where guests will enter. In front of us is a model of a bloody, mutilated corpse, lying atop some barrels. From this sight, it’s apparent that this haunt is no boo barn, but a real, nightmarish journey deep into Baltimore’s dark side. As we stand there, taking in the ambiance of the place, we are given the history of the building that houses the Nevermore.

“Almost a hundred and thirty years ago,” we are told, “Isaac Benesch knocked down four rowhomes and built his grand emporium.” Known at the time as The Great House, Benesch’s four story furniture store became a major commerce hub for east Baltimore. This reputation was further cemented by Benesch’s decision to allow blacks, immigrants and other ethnic and racial minorities to both buy and work at the store. The Great House would continue to serve the area for almost seventy years before being bought by Kaufman’s in the 1960’s. But over the years, the area fell into decline, and in 1997, the store closed. For the next seventeen years, The Great House would remain vacant, until Engineered Fear Productions bought the property in 2015 and transformed it into the Nevermore.

After our introduction, our guides take us through a maze of claustrophobic rooms, pitch black hallways, and nightmarish scenes of blood and decay that delve deep into Baltimore’s past for inspiration.

“One of the things that makes us unique from other events is the entire thing is themed, around the late 1800’s early 1900’s,” one of our guides tells us, around the time Benesch opened his store. “We’ve designed some of the scenes to take into account some of the city’s history.” To give us a better sense of what to expect when guests enter the attraction, the lights are shut off, and we are forced to go through the Nevermore in almost complete darkness.

While many of the sets are still under construction and none of the actors are present, I can’t help but feel unnerved as I traverse a series of scenes that would make Edgar Allen Poe proud. Among the many handmade props that are scattered about, including an intimidating army of plaster skeletons that took almost a year to make and assemble, are a number of antiques to nail the Victorian era feel of the attraction. One such specimen, which greets us early on, is a coffin, which our guide tells us is very real, and very used.

Some of the rooms in which we are lead through test our senses and our nerves. The belly of a ship, an ode to Baltimore’s nautical heritage, leans violently on a seesaw contraption, knocking us off balance. Another makes us go through a pitch-black maze, lit only by the occasional flash of a strobe light. During operation, our guide tells us, loud thunderclaps will accompany the flashes to simulate a thunderstorm, while actors wait in the shadows, ready to attack. One of the most disturbing scenes, a favorite from last year’s event, has guests stand before a judge, who proceeds to accuse them of various crimes. The guilty are sent through the catacombs, while the innocent are made to go down a different hallway.

“We split them up,” we’re told, “so if you have a couple here who are holding hands, and one is a little more scared than the other, the judge might assign different sentences.” At this point, I can’t help but think of how my girlfriend, who frightens easily, would feel if we were in such a situation. It was at that moment that I decided then and there to never take her to the Nevermore, if I ever want her to speak to me again.

There are other scenes to explore, ones that pay homage to Baltimore’s industrial past and the great fire of 1904. However, on the bequest of the owners, who wish to keep some of the more terrifying scenes a surprise, I have decided not to go into too much detail and let readers discover them on their own. But should one visit the Nevermore, it is wise to keep in mind that the actors and props aren’t the only things to look out for in the dark and twisted halls.

“We’ve had a couple of mediums come through,” we’re told, “and they all kind of say the same thing.” If the mediums are to be believed, there are two spirits that occupy the building: a caretaker who watches over the place, and an evil entity that dwells in the basement. Right before we leave, the owners take us down into the basement storage area of the building, a damp, musty cave littered with remnants of the Great House’s past. As we walk through the dark, forgotten rooms, I can’t help but think that if any place would be home to a demonic entity, this would be it. The owners might find out for sure very shortly; on September 30th, a paranormal investigation is set to take place in the building, and will be streamed live on Facebook.

While the basement is currently off limits to the public, this may change as the attraction continues to expand. “The long-term goal is to continue reinvesting into the building, expand the events to the other floors,” we’re told. “We also hope to open this space up to other events the rest of the year.”

While these plans are still years in the making, if the guys’ vision comes true, the Nevermore has the potential to become one of the largest haunted attractions in the state. But even at this early stage in the process, the Nevermore is quite a feat to behold, and undertaking that puts other attractions of its ilk to shame, and gives thrill seeking guests an experience that will leave them quivering, traumatized and begging for more.

The Nevermore Haunt is open Fridays and Saturdays, from October 6th to November 4th, from 7:00pm to 11:00pm, and every night from October 26th to the 31st. Tickets are $25. For more information, and a more detailed history of the historic location, check out their website.

 

photo credit: Hailey May Chaudron

 

The best haunted attractions Maryland has to offer

By David Chiodaroli

Staff Writer

Fall is upon us, and you know what that means. Soon, stores across the country will be selling cutesy, cheesy Halloween costumes for children, silly decorations, and candy with cartoon ghosts and witches on their wrappers. Television channels will start airing their usual line up of kid friendly Halloween movies and specials, and radio stations will play Bobby Pickett’s “Monster Mash” until your ears bleed. With all of this kitsch, it’s possible for us college students to think that Halloween is just a kid’s holiday. But fear not, my fellow darklings, because there are haunted house attractions across Maryland with enough gore, screams, and chainsaws to fulfill all of your bad dreams. Forget It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. These attractions will leave you in need of a change of vocal cords, and maybe a change of pants.

Field of Screams Maryland

4501 Olney-Laytonsville Rd, Olney

One of the largest haunted attractions in the state, Field of Screams Maryland has four attractions in one. The Haunted Trail and Trail of Terror are two nightmare-inducing walks through a combined twenty-three different stops. Hades Hayride is a literal hayride from hell, while Nightmares 3D gives visitors 3D glasses to enhance the scares. Tickets start at $20 per person and changes depending on the time of month. The event runs from September 22nd to November 4th.

Legends of the Fog

500 Carsins Run Road, Aberdeen

Another multi-attraction event, Legends of the Fog, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, has four equally terrifying haunts. These attractions include a zombie-themed hayride, a claustrophobic hotel full of ghouls, a circus staring a cast of killer clowns, and a truly twisted corn maze where you’re stalked by monsters. Tickets are $30 per person and cover all four attractions. The event runs from September 23rd to November 4th, and on their last weekend in operation, the lights are shut off and guests are forced to navigate all four attractions in complete darkness. Good luck.

Laurel’s House of Horror

935 Fairlawn Ave, Laurel

Located inside of a historic movie theater, Laurel’s House of Horror opened in 2014, and soon after, it became apparent that the guests and workers were not alone. According to their website, paranormal investigators concluded that the theater was indeed haunted, meaning that that creepy specter you saw earlier may not have been a prop. In addition to the main event, a twisting haunted house filled with all manners of malevolence, there is a new attraction, the Escape Rooms. Each room has a different theme and forces guests to make their way out by solving a number of different puzzles. Laurel’s House of Horror is open from September 22nd to November 4th and tickets start at $25 a pop. The Escape Rooms cost $30 and are open all year round by reservation only.

The Nevermore Haunt,

450 Mott St. Baltimore.

Based out of Isaac Benesch’s historic department store in the Old Town district, The Nevermore has been in operation since 2015 and bills itself as the city’s “most unique and terrifying haunted house.” Though the at- traction lacks the production values of other entries on this list, The Nevermore makes up for it using sheer talent and barebones fear. Inspired by Baltimore folklore, The Nevermore shares its name with a quote from Edgar Allen Poe’s iconic poem, The Raven, complimenting the gothic mystique and turn-of-the-last-century feel that the attraction strives to achieve. The Nevermore is open from October 6th to November 4th and tickets are $25 each.

Ocean City Screams
14 Worcester St, Ocean City

Located just steps away from the city’s iconic boardwalk, Ocean City Screams offers visitors a bit of nautical fright to complement their Thrashersries and funnel cakes. Built to resemble a wrecked cargo ship, guests are assaulted by the nightmarish specters of the dead crew, and the sea monster that killed them. Unlike other entries on this list, OC Screams bills itself more as a summer attraction than a Halloween haunt. It opens briefly during Memorial Day weekend, before adjusting to its usual schedule, from June 9th to November 4th. While its days of operation scale back during the off season, locals and later year thrill seekers can still enjoy all that Screams has to offer, as they are open the last six days of October, leading to Halloween. Tickets are $16 a person.

Ten foreign films to get you in the fall spirit (of terror)

This Halloween, experience a thread which unifies all human beings, regardless of culture or creed: fear. The United States has no monopoly over the horror genre, and these films from countries all over the world stand to expand your knowledge of all things terrible.

By Liz McMahon

Staff Writer

1. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Iran, 2014):

A feminist skateboarding vampire terrorizes men who abuse women. Perfect for: aspiring vampiresses.

2.Audition (Japan, 1999):

A widower holds a casting call for a new wife, and gets more than he bargained for. Perfect for: people looking for reasons to stay single.

3.Eyes Without a Face (France, 1962):
A father attempts to make his disfigured daughter beautiful again by stealing the faces of innocent female victims. Perfect for: plastic surgery fanatics.

4.Funny Games (Austria, 2007):
A vacationing couple is gruesomely tortured, both physically and psychologically, by two strangers with golf clubs. Perfect for: retired golfers.

5.Goodnight Mommy (Austria, 2014):

Twin boys struggle to figure out why their moth- er, who recently got extensive cosmetic surgery, is acting so grim. Perfect for: plastic surgery haters.

6. Let the Right One In (Sweden, 2008):
A young, lonely boy meets a new next-door friend with a violent, bloody secret. Perfect for: nosy neighbors.

7. Orphanage(Spain, 2007):
The former resident of an orphanage returns as an adult to give it new light, but loses her son inside the spirit-filled mansion. Perfect for: hide-and-seek players.

8.The Eyes of My Mother (Set in Portugal, 2016):

Left behind by her beloved mother, a young woman gets creative with a prisoner she keeps in her barn. Perfect for: revenge enthusiasts.

9.Train to Busan (South Korea, 2016):

Zombies take over a high-speed train, spreading their sickness from car to car while a father tries to protect his daughter. Perfect for: train commuters.

10.Under the Shadow (Iran, 2016):
A mother and daughter in Tehran are haunted by an ominous dark figure amidst the wreckage of the Iraq- Iran War just outside their window. Perfect for: people too dark for a cute joke like the ones above.

Illustrations courtesy of Vecteezy

Halloween for the broke at heart

For most Halloween is a beloved holiday of fun and fright, however those plans can be jaded when your wallet has tumbleweeds. The plight of the college student falls upon all of us but that shouldn’t stop the scare and camaraderie of Halloween.

Of course, the easiest and most obvious is your very own home fright fest, certain remakes excluded. With the innovation of Netflix, Hulu and even videos on Youtube, you could have an entire evening of . On the list is the all-time favorite- Thriller (Michael Jackson). Watching the full length video is like adding another movie to your list of films to watch. If you haven’t ever watched the film in length, it’s a 1980s masterpiece including special effects from the same artist who did Freddy Krueger’s make-up in 1984’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (which is a must watch!). Here is a list of suggested films, let’s start with the classics:

Prom Night

In this film, the most anticipated night of high school takes a turn when childhood friends start dropping like flies after they receive mysterious phone calls. Prom Night falls in the slasher film category; but its twists and turns make it unpredictable (here is where the remakes excluded applies).

Rosemary’s Baby

Adapted from Ira Levin’s novel, the story follows a couple expecting their first child. Rosemary’s husband, a struggling actor, makes a debt that he cannot pay off.

Psycho

One of the films that started the slasher genre, directed by master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. Before Michael, Freddy, or Leather-face, there was Norman Bates (loosely based on real-life serial killer Ed Gein). Norman Bates is the mild-mannered mama’s boy who manages the Bates Motel. and his composure unravel when Marion Crane checks into the motel but doesn’t exactly check out.

House of Wax

After a fire in a museum, the only survivor is a disgruntled employee looking for more than back pay.

Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, Beetle Juice, Sleepy Hollow

 You can never go wrong with Tim Burton films ranging from animated classics to more suspenseful thrillers that take a twist on classic literature.

These films are just suggestions to get your list started;  there are tons of films ranging from campy to “must sleep with the light on scary.” If movies get boring after a while, the simplest thing to do with a group of people is Halloween Trivia ranging from history to pop-culture. You could make your own trivia cards from index cards and colorful pens or highlighters. Use the high lighters for different categories and Google as your trivia guide! To get moving you could either turn your house and/or neighborhood into a

 scavenger hunt. Create a list or map with places and/or things to found by each participant. Take a selfie for proof and keep moving. Baltimore is full of places believed to be haunted, gather a round of people to see how many haunted places you can find in one night.
If party games and movies aren’t your thing then of course, you’re never too old for trick or treating!