Two of the area’s popular haunted houses won’t let the pandemic scare them away from New Orleans fright fans this Halloween season.
Many of Halloween’s biggest events have taken a hit this year due to coronavirus concerns, including Scout Island Scream Park, Voodoo Fest and the downtown Krewe of BOO! parade.
Meanwhile, some haunted attractions have found creative ways to modify operations while following COVID-19 guidelines.
In Jefferson Parish, New Orleans Nightmare already opened its doors on Sept. 19.
The haunt returns for its third year since taking over the former House of Shock location near the Huey P. Long Bridge in Elmwood. From check-ins to the actual haunted house experience, New Orleans Nightmare says it’s aiming to emphasize private group experiences with a priority on physical distancing.
“The show may seem a little different this year, in a good way. More time and more space (both from other groups and actors) will allow us to try some interesting storyline tactics that we normally wouldn’t be able to try,” Thirteenth Floor Entertainment Group said in a statement on the website.
The show at New Orleans Nightmare will feature two new attractions to freak out horror fans in 2020.
One attraction, Creature Feature, rips classic monsters from horror movies — like vampires, mummies and werewolves — and brings them to life inside an abandoned theater. The second attraction, called Deadly Reflections, is a riff on the Bloody Mary urban legend.
To abide by COVID-10 regulations, only small groups are allowed to enter at a time. All admission tickets are timed, reservation-based to reduce wait times in line and limit attendance. Also, guests will only enter the haunt with only their immediate group.
The timed-ticketed system is also a tactic Jeff Borne, owner of The Mortuary, says he will also implement for the first time when the haunt opens on Oct. 2, if all goes as planned.
This year, the block-long lines of thrill-seekers clamoring to get spooked at The Mortuary Haunted House in Mid-City will get replaced with a virtual line.
“Now, we’re going to make it a more personal experience and have people go in intimate groups,” Borne said. “We want to keep it as controlled as we can.”
Utilizing time-based ticketing, guests can purchase online tickets for a specific day and time to help with minimal guest interaction and quick entry. The Mortuary says the change should help reduce on-site wait times and reduce the number of people waiting to enter the haunted house.
To safely open during the pandemic, The Mortuary masterminds put on their creative caps to implement a COVID-friendly plan without sacrificing their notorious reputation for thrilling locals for more than a decade.
In this case, art will imitate life through a new “Rift War” haunted house experience that puts a scary spin on laser tag for those “tired of being quarantined at home.”
Guests will hunt down virus-infected zombies in an “undead battleground” inside the attraction with a video-game-like, infrared military laser tag riffle. The interactive, live-combat premise seems fairly similar to the Zombie Outbreak Battlefield created last year at Scout Island Scream Park.
“We thought that if we incorporated the laser tag elements to it, we could play off of the whole virus thing that’s going on,” Borne said.
Borne said the creative strategy was an intentional decision to help with social distancing inside the haunted house.
“It’s a way that the guests can force the actors back without touching them or coming close to them,” Borne said. “It’s a really cool concept for that purpose, and we think that people are going to just love it.”
The new COVID-19 safety plan also adds extended daytime hours to make sure there are enough time slots to accommodate the demand. Doors will open at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
“We’ve blocked out the windows and sources of light for the building so we can create a dark, scary environment,” Borne said. “That’s part of the COVID plan so that we can still offer the opportunity of experiencing it.”
Both haunted attractions will require everyone on-site to wear masks during the experience.
New Orleans Nightmare opens for tours starting Oct. 2 through Oct. 31. Ticket prices and hours vary based on date. See the full list of COVID-19 safety guidelines here.
The Mortuary Haunted House opens for tours starting Oct. 2 through Nov. 1, with possible additional dates in November. Ticket prices and hours vary. Read the full COVID-19 protection and safety plan here.
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