I n a year of sometimes scary uncertainty, COVID-19 fears have chased zombies from downtown Rochester, demented clowns from Canobie Lake Park’s Screeemfest in Salem and ghosts from Portsmouth’s Strawbery Banke Museum.
Still, a pair of New Hampshire attractions are unearthing modified haunts, reframing frights around a new set of procedures — and trying to be ghoulishly upbeat in the process.
Spooky World Presents Nightmare New England in Litchfield puts it simply on its website: “This year, everyone wears a mask.” The phrase is rendered in neon green letters that look like they’ve been scratched away in places. They accompany a tattered figure with unkempt hair and one menacing, glowing green eye. Even she wears a mask, it seems to imply.
Fright Kingdom in Nashua has an informational video featuring a steady stream of masked creatures filing through a passageway behind a member of management in a cloth face covering. A tongue-in-cheek segment explains the difference: The first is for “fear and terror” during Halloween season and the second for “safety and security” in 2020.
It’s also a plus for the squeamish, according to Fright Kingdom: “With a mask on, no one sees you scream.”
A different kind of nightmareNightmare New England is in the midst of 18 days of haunting. Changes for the 2020 season include reducing capacity by 50% to allow for social distancing, having guests follow a set route rather than milling between attractions, and reserving dates and time slots in advance.
Visitors can still enter the dark woods at 454 Charles Bancroft Highway, but the journey begins on a hay wagon with dividers — a sort of mobile ice tray that gets disinfected between trips. The 1-mile route includes views of the Colony, Brigham Manor and the carnival-esque 3-D Dreamscape attractions, before discharging passengers at a food and beer tent.
The site runs Fridays through Sundays in October. In addition, Lights Out events are scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 7, and Friday, Nov. 13. For pricing, go to nightmarenewengland.com.
Frightfully entertainingKnown for attractions with names like The Abandoned, Bloodmare Manor, Apocalypse Z and Psycho Circus, Fright Kingdom this year has removed haunt props that in past years came in contact with patrons, such as those seemingly invisible “fear flaps” that graze the top of unsuspecting visitors’ heads as they walk through ghoulish scenes.
Policy changes at Fright Kingdom, 12 Simon St., also include required hand sanitizing for visitors, timed tickets and possible random temperature checks.
Fright Kingdom is open Fridays through Sundays through the end of October. Patrons are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance. For information, go to frightkingdom.com.