USS Nightmare 2009 Review

USS Nightmare-“Terror on The Ohio River”
2009 is a strange year for the haunt industry. The economy is in terrible shape, there has already been major down pours and more and more haunts seem to be closing every season. No one is certain how well the industry will do this year, but people who truly love haunts and want to get scared out of their boots will check out their local attractions no matter what the price is. USS Nightmare has accomplished many things this year before opening for the 2009 season. They opened their haunt from 12-8 at Riverfest and even added a family fun center along side the old steamboat. 2009 is destined to be a big year for the William S. Mitchell and we were ready to experience 2009’s USS Nightmare.

Length-9: Your trip through the rustic old steam boat will take anywhere from 20-25 minutes to complete depending on your pace. If you are one who stops to stare at decor or a person that appreciates what goes into a haunt you may be inside the boat even longer. There are very few dead spots and always something dreadful lurking in the shadows. Once you are done with the first part of the tour you will venture outside and may think it’s over, but thankfully it isn’t. This is a lengthy haunt to say the least and always has something frightfully entertaining waiting for you in the next scene.

Design-9: One of the greatest aspects of USS Nightmare is how they incorporate most of the boats interior into various scenes. You’ll travel around old wheels, rusting pipes and only machinery that can be found in a rustic steam boat. This creates a very realistic and haunting experience for all those who come aboard USS Nightmare. There are very few changes that have been made in rooms this year and if you are a returning customer you may be a little disappointed. Scenes you’ve come to love from USS Nightmare include Anna’s play room, the haunted dining room, the museum, the vampire’s crypt and so much more.

There are variety of scenes and rooms, but some rooms just don’t have the effect that they used to. One of the scenes that comes to mind is the clown play room. Years ago it was decided to remove the colorful ball pit that you’d walk across while attacked by twisted clowns. This scene was replaced with an open room for clowns to roam around in. The actors that are in this room are effective, but there needs to be more props and detail for this area to be as effective as it could be. Bringing back the old ball pit may do this scene good since hardly any haunt around incorporates that into their haunt. The only haunt that comes to mind is the Haunted Spook Coop, but they’ve been closed for years.

Another classic scene that was removed from the haunt years ago is the creepy graveyard. While it doesn’t make too much sense to have a graveyard inside an old steam boat, the scene itself was full of props and very detailed. Replacing the jungle with the graveyard would help greatly. The jungle near the exit is just lackluster and doesn’t compare to the rest of the haunt. There are no longer fire flies flying in the air and there’s nothing that really stands out in the scene.

But overall the majority of rooms go perfectly with the haunt, but a few areas that will have you scratching your head. One in particular is a new room that has what looks like an electric chair running, but no one inside it. I’m not sure if that scene was a work in progress of what was going on there, but it should be fixed as soon as possible.

There’s also another area that was added in 2007. It’s a small enclosed room that has slat wood panels for the walls and a jack – o – lantern. In 2007 this room was meant to resemble something out of Halloween because Rob Zombie’s Halloween was the most anticipated horror movie at that time. But as it stands this area is empty and the pumpkin is no longer lit. Even though this is a small enclosed area, more could be done with it.Not only are the scenes at USS Nightmare spooky, the lighting really makes scenes come to life. Without great lighting your scenes will fail and all the detailing you added to that room will be pointless.

As you travel between scenes you will notcie that many of the rooms have a spooky glow to them. This is because USS Nightmare uses old lamps that hang from the ceiling and really make the scenes more authetic. Some haunts will use outdoor lighting for their indoor haunt and it just makes the scenes look cheap because the lighting is. Outdoor lighting also uses much more electricity verses using mini LED spotlights that many haunts are using these days including USS Nightmare. You will notice this in some of the areas you’ll walk through. LED lighting really makes a scene more vibrant.

Props/Animatronics-9: Over the years USS Nightmare has become known as one of the leading haunts in the Greater Cincinnati area when it comes to high tech animatronics and realistic decor. For years this classic haunt has used various props from companies such as Scare Factory, Distortions Unlimited, Oak Island and other companies people have come to know. Props you’ll encounter include a corpse rising up from a casket, a ghoul vomiting in a barrel, a classic electric chair, a rampaging werewolf, a tight claustrophobia tunnel and everything you’ve come to expect from USS Nightmare.

Two animatronics USS Nightmare seems to do better than many other haunts in the area are their spinning vortex tunnel and Scare Factory’s Impaler. To create a better effect the makers use well placed mirrors at the end of the vortex tunnel making it that more intense. Years ago it was planned on having the vortex tunnel’s safety rails spin as you travel across its bridge. But a strange dream the general manager Allen Rizzo had made everyone forget about this idea.

Scare Factory’s Impaler is best showcased at USS Nightmare because of how they light up this mammoth creature. The lighting is just right and the netting around the animatronic creates an effect like The Impaler is being caged like King Kong. Overall the realistic decor and animatronics are impressive, but there were a couple areas where some props weren’t working properly. The addition of new innovative animatronics would help in keeping this haunt fresh and new for returning customers. Because right now many of the old props you’ve seen throughout the years at USS Nightmare are still being used and aren’t as effective as they used to be.

Acting-9: The actors are one of a kind at USS Nightmare. They are dressed in elaborate costumes, wear gruesome makeup and prosthetics and for the most part stay in character no matter what. But depending on where you are in your group you may not get as much attention as you should. Lets say you are behind a group of 3 people and an actor is getting ready to jump out. What seemed to be a pretty common occurrence is that when the actor jumped out they would scare only the group ahead of us and give us little attention. The problem with this is that we were only able to see the actor after He had scared the small group ahead of us and we just didn’t get scared unfortunately.

Even though this aspect of the haunt is a bit disappointing, we were still impressed with the different characters we encountered. These include the Captain’s daughter Anna who talks about how she murdered her mother and father, the insane clowns who want to cut you up and of course the various crewmen who roam the boat in search of their next victim. This year USS Nightmare has hired 2 little people to play different roles on the ship. You’ll know when you see them. Overall USS Nightmare has a diverse cast of characters that are some of the best Greater Cincinnati has to offer.

Scare Effect-9: You will be hard pressed to find a creepier setting for a haunt than an old mysterious steam boat. Just looking at the USS Nightmare may put chills down your spine and once you step inside this award winning haunt you’ll be scared out of your skin. What makes this haunt so bone chilling is the way the dynamic lighting highlights different areas of the boat and how actors emerge from complete darkness. It’s an immersive experience that you would be a fool to miss out on.

Fright Value: $16 is a bit high for a haunt in the Greater Cincinnati area, but there are a variety of discounts available at While you are on their website make sure and pick up the new “I Survived USS Nightmare” T-Shirt or purchase a Dark Combo pass so you can visit both USS Nightmare and St.Rita Haunted House for only $20. Now that’s a killer deal!

Customer Service: This year a boat has been used for a brand new family fun center next to USS Nightmare. This new addition includes arcade games, concessions, a gathering room and of course Laser Rage. Laser Rage has been very successful at other haunts such as Knott’s Scary Farm in California. You can go head to head against others in a competitive game of laser tag and this new addition makes you want to stay at USS Nightmare all night long. The staff at USS Nightmare could not be any friendlier and helpful. It’s obvious that they truly love what they’re doing. Please make sure and buy a USS Nightmare T-Shirt or purchase a picture of yourself posing in front of the green screen. There’s always something frightful and fun to do at USS Nightmare.

Final Stab-9.0: 2009 commemorates the 75th year for the William S. Mitchell while USS Nightmare celebrates its 18th year of fear. USS Nightmare is a classic high quality haunt in every sense of the word. Its lighting is impressive, the actors are unique and you’ll have a hard time finding a spookier location than at a haunted steamboat. While few changes have been made to the haunt, it’s still the classic haunt you’ve come to love. So if you are in the mood to get scared and startled, then make a trip out to USS Nightmare. Hopefully the captain won’t get you.