The rule of thumb for the Haunted Ship has been that more is more, but the 2014 edition might be the exception that proves the rule—and makes this one of William A. Irvin’s best October offerings.
Besides, this year I scared one of the zombies, who was stalking the family in front of me. When she turned around, I was right in her face. Payback might be only an “eek,” but I will take it.
Photo courtesy of DuluthHauntedShip.com
They actually had me worried there for a moment, and I found myself thinking, “This is going to be a stupid way to die.”
I know, they are not, technically, zombies this year. They scream and they mumble a lot (always into my deaf ear, so I never know what the hell they are saying), so they are not the walking dead.
A couple of them were singing creepy little ditties, which is actually more effective than the incessant screaming of seasons past. This year has one of their best setups for a scream-in-your-face. Instead of popping out of a doorway to scream-in-my-face, she appeared to be one of a series of manikins, so she scared the crap out of the people in front of me.
Still, there is a Catch-22 with the actors. On the one hand (the one dangling at face level), I would like to see more than just ambling figures. On the other (the one cooking in that stew pot), everybody is moving through the tour so quickly there is little opportunity for anybody to enjoy any detailed characterization or shtick.
The ominous music playing outside is not as loud this year, but that is offset by how cold it has gotten all of the sudden. The Irvin itself is always halfway to being an icebox, and grabbing the rails with your bare hands has always been guaranteed to give you a shiver. But with the wind blowing in off the lake, there was plenty of shivering to do while standing in line, which certainly helps get you in the mood for things going bump in the ship.
Dismembered limbs and skeletal remains in the kitchen are an annual given, but with each version of the Haunted Ship I am most interested in seeing what new set pieces they have put together.
There was a sign for the Bates Hotel, but nothing especially Psycho-tic (you would expect mother in her rocking chair or at least a stuffed bird or two, right?).
The child’s bedroom has a nice emphasis on the creepy. The little girl on the bed clutching her doll (no, it was not Annabelle) and giving you a baleful stare as you went by was a nice touch, again proving the less-is-more adage.
Then there is an extended section that will threaten to give a heart attack to anybody suffering from coulrophobia. There was a lot of effort put into those two areas and I thought for sure this was going to be the high point of the experience. Boy, was I wrong.
The part of the tour that I usually enjoy least is when you end up in pitch blackness and it takes a while to find a wall and figure out which direction to go. I am always wandering around for twice as long as anybody else, muttering to myself how much I hate this part of the tour.
But this time around, it is the best part of the whole experience. The blackout section is now a maze, and a fairly narrow one at that, so staying in contact with the walls is not a problem until you get to the turns. The first part has the added fun of walls being pounded on the other side.
Then things get worse and the beauty of the whole experience is that the two elements they add to creep you out are so elegantly simple. You start bumping into things that you do not want to bump into in the dark, and suddenly the floor is not doing what you think it should be doing.
They actually had me worried there for a moment and I found myself thinking, “This is going to be a stupid way to die,” but I managed to make it out alive. Still, mondo bonus points for making me disoriented.
At the end of the tour, there is a chapel with pews, which gives weary travelers a chance to make sure they did not lose any of their friends or family while escaping the bowels of the ship.
The 2014 William A. Irvin Haunted Ship Tour runs Thursdays to Saturdays through Halloween Night, from 6:30 to 10 p.m. on Thursdays, 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. on Fridays, and 4 to 10:30 p.m. on Saturdays. Admission is $10, cash or check only.