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Spooky activities

NU Nightmares: The 6th Annual New Ulm Nightmares Haunted House is located at 21 S. Minnesota Street and will be open Friday, October 30 and Saturday, Oct. 31.

BROWN COUNTY — Halloween will be significantly different this year with extra precautions around COVID-19, but spooky activities are still plentiful in the Brown County Area.

NEW ULM NIGHTMARES

FUNERAL HOME

New Ulm Nightmares is continuing the haunted house tradition with its sixth annual haunted house. This year’s haunted house is built around a funeral home theme. The Haunted House attraction will operate two nights only from 7 to 11 p.m. Friday, October 30 and Saturday, October 31.

“A lot of people are excited for some seasonal scares,” New Ulm Nightmares creator and operator, Doug Hughes said. Volunteers for the haunted house range in age from 6 to 72. Hughes said a lot of friends and family assisted in bringing the Funeral Home to life.

Spooky graveyard: Doug Hughes and his collaborators have spend months designing spooky scenes to include in this year’s haunted house.

Since the summer Hughes has been creating props for the Olson Family Funeral Home he is constructing at 21 S. Minnesota Street. The haunted house is over 90% complete. The fine details are all that is left, but the devil is the details. These details included the placement of props and even a special scent to enhance the fear.

Hughes said several people go through his haunted houses twice. The first time they go through they don’t really look up out of fear. The second time they walkthrough is to catch the details.

The goals of the haunted house are to be scary, but this year there is an emphasis on safety. New Ulm Nightmares is taking all COVID safety guidelines seriously. In a way, Halloween houses are perfect for the COVID era since on Halloween, most people are already wearing a mask. New Ulm Nightmares will enforce a strict face mask policy.

Hughes said no one gets into the haunted house without a mask this year. There will be no exceptions. The haunted will not be supplying face masks, individuals are expected to bring their own.

COVID has changed the way haunted houses are designed. Hughes has worked months developing socially distanced scares. A common theme of haunted house attraction is a person in a scary costume jumping out near you, but that won’t happen this year.

Witch Props: New Ulm Nightmares is known for its attention to details. These small props got a long way to enhanse the scares in the Witche’s room.

“There are no in you face scares this year,” Hughes said. The individuals working in the haunted house will be physically separated from the visitors. Some jump scares will be staged using props, but the actor will be keeping their distance. On the rare occasion where a haunted house actor is close to the guests, they will be separated by a plexiglass barrier.

The performers in the haunted house will also be separated from each other. Hughes said the performers typically would gather together in between scares, but that will not happen this year to maintain public health.

One improvement from last year’s haunted house is access to greater space. Hughes and his army of volunteers were able to clear out extra rooms at 21 S. Minnesota Street.

Hughes estimates the average group could walk through this year’s haunted house in five to eight minutes. His sister Rose Hughes said the time varies based on how scared you get.

The haunted funeral home features several creative props and scenes, but the biggest shocker is for last. Hughes did not want to spoil the surprise, but he said something big and scary was waiting in the woods outside the Olson Funeral Home.

Time Warp: (L to R) Pam Krzmarzick, Kayla Bartlett, Kinzie Eckstein and Gwen Ruff prepare to do the Time Warp again during State Street Theaters special Halloween film screening last year. This year guests will need to wear masks, but costumes are still encouraged.

The Haunted House will be open for two nights from 7-11 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 31. A special no scares, lights on the tour will be held for kids from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. The no lights blackout tour is from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m.

GHOST TOURS AND

NIGHTMARES ON MAIN STREET

In Sleepy Eye, Halloween fun goes by the name “Zoo Man” a.k.a. Brent Mielke. He hosts the annual Ghost Tours and Nightmares on Main Street. The two events are held on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights every week in October.

Mielke said he has been hosting spooky attractions for 40 years, 16 years in Sleepy Eye. “I like Halloween and I like telling the history of Sleepy Eye,” Mielke said.

The Nightmares on Main Street exhibit is located at 145 E. Main Street in Sleepy Eye and is $5 for admission. Mielke describes his Halloween attractions as no-scare events that are safe for the whole family. Nightmares on Main Street is a simple walkthrough of Halloween props. Families can view the props and take pictures.

Mielke said he has about 3,100 props in the Nightmares on Main Street exhibit. He has several 48 inch high figures. Kids love to stand in front of them for photo opportunities.

“I consider us the best area Halloween attraction in terms of props,” he said.

This year his most popular props are his 12-foot tall skeleton and giant T-Rex skeleton. Mielke said the kids want their photos taken with these props, but then their parents also want to photograph with the T-Rex too. There is an old fashion hearse pulled by skeleton horses that also goes over well.

Mielke tries to keep the focus on family fun. No one under 12 is allowed in the exhibit without a parent, though he does not believe the exhibit would scare young kids. “I am not into scaring,” he said, “we like to have fun.”

The Ghost Tours are also running Thursdays through Saturday nights all through October and cost $10. Mielke said the tours have been full recently. People want to hear the haunted history of Sleepy Eye. He has amassed 44 different ghost stories from Sleepy Eye’s history. He found the stories from old articles and documents. A lot of strange people came into Sleepy Eye on the train in the 1800s and gave the city a colorful history. Recently he has been getting into stories about the 1919 influenza pandemic. It is a timely scary story.

Both attractions are extremely popular and bring people from all over the state to Sleepy Eye. This month he already had visitors from 40 different cities. It is not usual to find visitors from other countries. Mielke said this year he was able to count a visitor from Paris, France.

Nightmares on Main Street and the Ghost Tours are following the COVID-19 regulations. Masks are required for both attractions. The Nightmares on Main Street attraction will only be allowed groups of three to five in at a time. The space is large enough to allow multiple groups to walk through at once, but the groups will be staggered for physical distancing. The Ghost Tours bus is regularly cleaned between tours to ensure safety. So far Mielke has not reported any problems staying within the COVID guidelines. The Ghost Tours do require reservations in advance for COVID guidelines. They cannot take walk-in guests on the tour. To schedule a tour call 507-766-2523.

For more information on special day events, visit the Facebook page for “The Zoo Man’s Wacky World of Fun”.

TIME WARP

On Halloween night, State Street Theater (SST) will once again be hosting a screening of a cult classic film that is so controversial it cannot be named in print. This is no joke. The screening contract for this 45-year-old film stipulates the title cannot be named in print. The reason for keeping the name a secret is to give the film a level of allure.

Senior Administrator for SST, Carolyn Borgen said the theater can say the film features actor Tim Curry and the film will have viewers doing the “Time Warp” again. SST is hosting a single screening of the movie at 8:30 p.m. October 31.

Traditionally, screenings of the film include a shadow cast who mime the entire film as it played and also encourages audience participation. Viewers are encouraged to provide humorous commentary on the absurd film and even throw objects at the screen. SST will continue this tradition, but some changes have been made to accommodate COVID guidelines. All attendees will be required to wear masks and the number of tickets sales has been restricted. The state is allowing 25% capacity for theaters meaning SST can seat 200 people for this show. The good news is some audience participation is allowed.

“We are allowed to throw toilet paper and toast,” Borgen assured. Early on in the COVID pandemic with toilet paper shortages, there were concerns this sample of the film going experience would be lost, but fortunately, TP supplies were replenished. SST is selling go packs with essential supplies, but rice and water guns will be prohibited.

For SST it was especially important to maintain audience participation. Borgen said this film was a dud when originally released in 1975. It was only after audience participation was allowed that it became popular.

“The community came together to celebrate this weird movie,” she said. “You don’t get the film until you see it as a group.”

There will be pre-movie games, “Mistress of Ceremonies,” and a shadow cast starting at 7:30 p.m. Patrons are encouraged to dress as their favorite character from the show and participate along with the movie.

Tickets are $10 for the movie. There will be a limited number of tickets available at the door so patrons are encouraged to purchase early at our outlets for this show. Doors will open at 7:15 p.m.

A special “Slab,” will begin at 7 p.m. and include appetizers, one drink, early entry to the event all for the price of $27. Purchase two Slab tickets for $50 total.

Tickets for the event can be purchased online at Eventbrite.com or purchased in person at Hyvee or New Ulm Area Chamber of Commerce. In the event the screening is canceled, tickets purchased on Eventbrite will be fully refunded. Tickets purchased from Hyvee or the Chamber can be used for other play performances at State Street.

SST is still looking for volunteers for this event to help with contract tracing, serve as ushers and help with clean up. Anyone volunteering will get to see the film for free.

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