OCTOBER’S LOCAL HOT SPOT OF THE MONTH: (REVISITING) SPOOKY WORLD!
Longtime readers of this sacred land should know how near and dear the original SPOOKY WORLD aka “America’s Horror Theme Park” is to my heart. For years I’ve reminisced about how special Spooky World’s original Berlin, Massachusetts establishment was, while building a collection of nostalgic artifacts from eBay, Etsy and unearthed gold at yard sales (usually supplied by East coast TNUC fans…thanks disciples!)
Spooky World was one of the first major haunted attractions in America back in 1991. For roughly 7 years the popular spookhouse frightened and delighted patrons with their impressive hayrides, haunted barn, animatronics and mini horror shows. Special guests visited regularly for signings including Elvira, Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees), Tom Savini, Linda Blair, Tiny Tim, Robert Englund, Alice Cooper and many others.
It was by no means a perfectly organized and flawless haunt, but what Spooky World lacked in perfection they made up for with charm and a natural, eerie atmosphere, something so many haunts these days tend to be lacking. There was also a sense of danger and uneasiness that lurked in the air, especially during the hayride. With lighting kept to a minimum and gore/costumes/effects obviously restricted to a tight budget, somehow all of this generated a more seedy vibe for the whole experience. Were the blades on that chainsaw actually removed or not? Probably, yes…but these were the beginning days of haunted attractions and much of what people were seeing in front of them was new and therefore a bit shocking at times.
The property itself was set on an old farm in Western Massachusetts, an area that during daylight hours is a beautiful, picturesque version of Autumn. However when night falls, cold winds and the woodsy ruralness of the location made for an evening already dark and full of terrors.
If you haven’t been to Massachusetts in October and call yourself a big Halloween fan, I can’t stress how badly you NEED to visit there during this time of year. Amidst the crisp air and smell of dead leaves there’s a sense of genuineness that cannot be described in words. The old graveyards, ‘real’ hauntings, SALEM, Native American burial grounds and the state’s ancient history just flat out honor the state as the spirit of Halloween.
So I felt a little bummed continuing our “Local Hot Spot of the Month” feature for 2016 and entering October without inducting Spooky World. But then an idea hit me…
LET’S DRIVE OUT TO THE OLD SPOOKY WORLD BARN.
I knew the address and how to get there, but what would actually be standing 20 years after they were shut down? During the late nineties the place relocated and as years progressed, the original creators left the business. These days the venue operates under the Spooky World title somewhere up in New Hampshire but it’s charm is long gone…don’t be fooled.
So on a recent trip back East, we decided to take the drive…
UPDATE! IT’S STILL FUCKING THERE.
I was absolutely stunned to see the building still standing. Shockingly enough even the red paint on the old barn remained. As I made my way around the property, the perimeter of the barn was mostly covered in overgrown weeds while a dilapidated stairwell and broken windows could be seen on the entrance side.
As I stood and waited for a corpse to crawl out from underneath that staircase, a family member shouted for me to come check out something. So I crept over to the backside of the largest building and saw something that made this entire trip even more worthwhile…
This was the last thing I would’ve guessed would still exist. Perfectly airbrushed horror artwork just sitting there untouched by humans or unchanged from the elements. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. For over 20 years this demon, reaper and gargoyle have sat on a rotting building and no one’s done or said squat about it until now (Trust me I’ve done my homework). A pure holy grail for TNUC.
Apparently in 1993 an artist named Ed Beard Jr. painted these pieces. Mr. Beard is a seasoned professional who’s been painting dragons, motorcycles and other radical airbrush murals for the industry over the past 33 years.
Just when I thought there couldn’t be anything else that survived two decades, I noticed in the distance a small shed which I figured was nothing but a home for rats and the possible town drunk/hermit.
Inside the shed through a thick glob of cobwebs I found even more wall artwork. The airbrushed style totally almost made me tear up as it brought back memories of county fair spookhouses and dark rides at the carnival! I pretended for a moment that sweet aromas of fried dough and cider donuts filled the air even though all I was sniffing was rotted wood and must.
What’s this now…20+ year old props? Laying on a barrel of toxic waste? What good deeds have I done in this life to deserve a day like this?
Possibly the most fitting part of the day was finding an old Papa Gino’s pizza banner in this nasty old shed. Papa Gino’s is of course the most popular pizza chain in Massachusetts and is quite a force to be reckoned with. Lil’ TNUC grew up scarfing this very pizza every Friday night and had a growing collection of those plastic pizza toppers (who knows why).
More haunted pizza.
I circled around the building a few more times, looking for a window to peek inside. In my wildest dreams I wanted to see a giant wood-paneled wall of vintage rubber masks, Elvira standees, buckets of fake blood, buckets of green ooze, animatronic bats, chainsaw accessories, Good Guy dolls, an untouched Spooky World merchandise table and Fastway’s “Trick or Treat” soundtrack blasting on repeat while Linnea Quigley performed dance aerobics.
It was fascinating to visit a structure that has virtually gone untouched for so many years. I’m planning on contacting the current owner of the property to see if we can open up those creaky doors and take a look inside. Then maybe Uncle T can move back, buy the property and re-open the old haunt under new management, the same old charm and a new name: “TRICK R’ TNUC”.
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[Local-Hot-Spot-Of-The-Month is a adrenaline-thrusting history lesson and celebration of signature hangout spots one might recognize from television, film or real life. Our objective is to not just rediscover and dissect these places, but more importantly create a feeling like you’re really there. Take your time with these entries. Hang out. Turn some music on.
To visit the rest of ’em, go here.]