USS Nightmare 2012 Review

USS Nightmare (Newport, KY)

“The Spirits Welcome You!”

By Noah Wullkotte:

USS Nightmare has been scaring the ship out of Greater Cincinnati for over 20 years. The 2012 season brings lots of changes that many long time customers will definitely notice. We drove down to Newport Landing on a cold Thursday night. The moon was full and the fog was heavy.

The crowds weren’t large, but the actors were in full force. After getting our group photo taken and waiting a few minutes in line, it was our turn to enter the haunted steamboat known as USS Nightmare. Would the ghosts welcome us with open arms and would we be able to escape the Death Dredge?

This is the 2012 review of USS Nightmare in Newport, KY. The spirits are waiting!

Your tour through the William S. Mitchell begins inside the Mitchell Museum. Your tour guide for the evening is a ship mate that knows the boat like the back of his hand. The Mitchell Museum is more enclosed this year and features some new antiques. New this year is a portrait that features the captain’s ghost. This unique pepper’s ghost effect is startling.  Pay close attention to your surroundings or you might miss this special effect. The Mitchell Museum has been a great intro for USS Nightmare over the years and has many surprises including a pesky grim reaper that flies straight at you.

There are many scenes at USS Nightmare that have been around for years that people look forward to seeing every Halloween season. This includes the infamous rat lady room. There’s not a single haunt in Greater Cincinnati that the rat lady calls her home except for USS Nightmare. This room is pretty simple, but it’s quite effective. Where else can you see a woman behind glass handling live rats and placing a couple in her mouth? It will either disgust you or put a smile on your face. Moving rat tails have been added to the next room to enhance the rat lady scene. It’s as if the rats have escaped and are ready to feast on your feet.

There are many iconic characters at USS Nightmare like the Captain’s daughter Anna. She can be seen in her playroom where she magically appears behind a mirror and emerges a few seconds later. Another iconic character is of course the Captain. His ugly mug can be seen in the William S. Mitchell dinning room. This year he’s angry and has decided to take his frustrations out on a poor woman who struggles to fight back.

Something very strange happened to City Blood after we exited Anna’s playroom. Our camera started malfunctioning as if a spirit was taking control. I tried taking some photos, but everything was black and the camera kept shutting off. My voice recorder’s batteries also went dead and I made sure they were completely charged before we came. After we were done with USS Nightmare, our equipment started to work again. I have no explanation to why this happened, but all I know is that I was a little freaked out to say the least.

USS Nightmare has plenty of well trained actors that bring their scenes to life. I particularly enjoyed the little person in the dark chain link fence maze. He kept asking if he could cut my legs off so he could be average height. He then escaped his scene and proceeded to follow us. Another great actor is the mad scientist in the laboratory. Her goofy German accent had me laughing the entire time.

USS Nightmare is a long haunt that can last close to 30 minutes. The haunt is themed after a haunted boat and there’s a variety of rooms that will put a chill down your spine. This includes a vampire’s crypt, a body bag freezer, a catwalk with dripping water, a laboratory, a bloody infirmary, and much more. The forest returns this year and is better than ever. Water and wind have been added to make it feel like a wet rain forest. You won’t see a forest like this at any other haunt in greater Cincinnati.

The Travel Channel’s Making Monsters paid a visit to USS Nightmare this year during the annual Riverfest Fireworks and filmed inside the boat for an upcoming episode. They installed many new effects for the last scene. You’ll see the head of a victim drowning in a shipping crate full of water, an octopus tentacle sticking out of another and a big surprise I won’t dare give away.

USS Nightmare has some great scenes that are full of incredible lighting. Many rooms are illuminated by old fashioned lamps that give off the right amount of light to compliment the scene. Other rooms are dark and scary and use subtle flashes of light to make you feel like you’re in a dark nightmare. A few rooms play audio from the early to mid 1900’s and make the experience feel even more authentic. When we walked through the laundry room, Mr. Sandman by The Chordettes was playing. It’s one of those songs that gives you goose bumps. Hours and hours of audio plays on the radio in the laundry room and few people will hear the same music twice. A couple of scenes use sinister scents to make the scene more realistic. Some people will notice it and others won’t.

USS Nightmare is known for having a variety of animatronics. This includes a corpse rising from his casket, a psycho spinning on a wheel (aka Psychovision), an electric chair, a vomiting ghoul, a flying grim reaper, a vortex tunnel and of course The Impaler. The Impaler is a 13 foot monster that is locked up behind large netting. He’s ready to gobble you up at any moment. Do you have enough courage to wake him from his sweet slumber? He’s ready to attack and will eat your flesh and bones.

USS Nightmare is classic haunt that has stood the test of time and one of the few haunts that takes place on a haunted boat. The actors stay in character and the scenes are beautiful. For $16 you can experience the Death Dredge and meet all of its restless spirits. For $20 you can purchase a RIP Express Ticket and skip the line. Tickets are $18 in advance online. Matinee tickets are $6 and it’s more suitable for a younger audience. 

On October 27th, you can experience the Unrated Extreme Captain’s Tour for $20. It runs from 11pm to 2am and is not recommended for anyone under 17. You can purchase a Dark Combo ticket online for $20 and this includes USS Nightmare and St. Rita’s Haunted House. Rip Express passes are $26 a piece. Dark Combo tickets include a $1.25 service fee. Click here for a $3 off military coupon good for Thursday nights or a $17 combo ticket for USS Nightmare and Laser Rage. Please visit for extended details on pricing.

After you’re finished with USS Nightmare you’ll exit into the Nightmare Landing Fun Center where you can play Laser Rage, buy some food and drinks, play some games and have a good time with family and friends. You can also purchase a copy of the picture that was taken of you before you got in line.

Length-10  Design-9  Props/Animatronics-9  Acting-9  Scare Effect-9
Final Stab: 9.2