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Haunted houses provide ‘Boos Cruise’ thrills in October

Brent “Zoo Man” Mielke stands with his converted 1972 Chevy Bus, awaiting guest brave enough to attend the Sleepy Eye Ghost Tours.

For many, October means a spooky season and there is no shortage of Halloween-themed activities in Brown County this year.

Events range from haunted houses, ghost tours and dancing the Time Warp, again.

Zoo Man’s Wacky World of Fun

In Sleepy Eye, Brent “Zoo Man” Mielke is once again opening his Wacky World of Fun that includes Nightmare on Main and Ghost Tours to the public. His funhouse and ghost tours opened to the public every weekend in October.

Mielke’s Nightmares of Main Street is located at 145 E. Main Street in Sleepy Eye. The main floor of the building is filled to near capacity with Halloween-themed props. Mielke estimates he has over 3,000 Halloween props. The props range in size from small haunted dolls to 12-foot skeletons.

A 12-foot tall pumpkin skeleton, official name “Inferno Pumpkin”, stands at the corner of Broadway and Center Street promoting the upcoming New Ulm Nightmares haunts at Brown County Fairground.

There are sections dedicated to the circus, mad scientists, werewolves, creepy dolls and clowns. If there is a Halloween prop he doesn’t have, Mielke is already working to acquire it.

Mielke has been in the spooky business for over 40 years and he admits to being a fan of the holiday. His excitement for the horror theme attractions is rivaled only by the people who visit.

Over the years his Nightmare on Main has gain notoriety statewide. Mielke said every year, visitors travel from across the state to see the exhibit.

Tour groups are free to walk through the funhouse at their own pace. Mielke said there was one group that spent three hours in the exhibit, taking photos with each display.

The Wacky World of Fun is open Fridays in October starting at 7 p.m. Mielke said there is no official closing time. The haunted house attraction will remain open as long as there are people in line.

The Nightmare on Main attraction in Sleepy Eye features over 3,000 Halloween props. Many of the larger props are clown-themed. In fact, an entire section of the haunt is dedicated to scary clowns.

Nightmare on Main is open to families from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. Mielke said they dial back the scares on Saturdays for the young audiences. In general, Mielke said his house of props is designed for fun, not to terrify people.

“We’re not going to send the headless horseman at them,” he said. “It is all about having fun on Halloween.”

Admission to Nightmares on Main is $5. VIP tickets to skip ahead of the line are $10.

Mielke also hosts the Sleepy Eye Ghost Tours on Saturdays. As part of the tour, guests climb in his converted 1972 Chevy bus and Mielke takes them to unique spots in the community. He tells them the true history of the sites and the folklore behind them.

New to the ghost tour is the old Sleepy Eye Opera House. The opera house is located directly above Mielke’s Nightmare on Main Attraction. He recently acquired the entire building, which included the historic second-floor opera house. The opera house was abandoned decades ago, but evidence of its past glory is still there.

Several fabric backdrops remain on stage. The ceiling artwork has not deteriorated. The walls backstage still contain the autographs of performers who played at the Opera House.

Mielke said Babe Ruth was rumored to have signed his name somewhere in the opera house when he visited Sleepy Eye in 1922.

Opera House Ghost Tours have ended but group tours of the Opera House can still be scheduled for Saturday Afternoons.

Ghost tours are scheduled by appointment only. Tours can be scheduled by calling 507-766-2523. Tours are available every Saturday in October at 7 p.m., 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. More tour times will be added if needed. Each tour cost $10.

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

State Street does the Time Warp Again

On Saturday, October 23 State Street Theater (SST) will do the Time Warp again with a special screening of a 1974 musical that shall not be named in print.

Contract law prevents SST from saying the name of the movie in ads, but fans of this cult classic starring Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick should be able to read between the lines. It is after all only a “jump to the left” to figure out the identity of the film.

This will be the second time SST has a screen for this particular film. The theater was previously screened in 2019 with a full shadow cast pantomiming the film’s action for a live auction. The shadow cast will be returning this year, directed by Lucas Youngerberg.

Youngerberg directed the shadow cast in 2019 and was set to direct again in 2020 before the event was canceled due to the pandemic. Even though there was no screening of shadow cast last year, the experience allowed the production to get back into the swing of things quickly.

“We’re getting more creative,” Youngerberg. “On the technical side, things are more involved with the audience.”

A shadow cast performance is unique in that the cast does not need to remember lines, but they need to be prepared for audience ad-libs. Part of the appeal of this show is the audience is allowed and even encouraged to yell things at the screen.

There are some classic lines fans usually yell during this movie, but no two audiences are the same. It is impossible to predict what they will say at this show.

Youngerberg said the cast does improve exercises during rehearsal to prepare themselves for whatever the audience throws at them.

“We can work on it and plan certain things, but there will always be something that could cause us to break,” Youngerberg said. That is not necessarily the worst thing. For this performance, an actor breaking character is no big deal. It actually makes things more exciting.

The movie screening and shadow cast performance begin at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, October 23. General admission is $10 for pre-sale tickets and $15 at the door. Doors open at 7:45 p.m. and pre-movie games with the Mistress of Ceremonies will begin at 8 p.m.

A special “Slab” event will be held at 7 p.m. that includes appetizers and early entry to the show. The Slab tickets are $25.

New Ulm Film Society

The New Ulm Film Society will host a special Halloween-themed screening at the New Ulm Public Library, Tuesday, Oct.r 26.

The Film Society will show the 1944 Universal Horror classic “House of Frankenstein”. The film was one of the first big-budget crossover movies. It featured all of the classic horror movie characters including, Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula and the Wolf Man.

Universal Studios was one of the first film companies to create a cinematic universe by allowing its title characters to meet each other. Universal first learned there were big profits from combining monsters with the movie “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man.” The film was a huge success and Universal decided that if the audience liked seeing Frankenstein and Wolf Man together, they would love it if Dracula joined the party.

It should prove to be a graveyard smash.

The screening begins at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 26 and is free to attend.

New Ulm Nightmares

The 7th annual New Ulm Nightmares will open for the final weekend in October, starting Friday, October 29 and closing Sunday, Oct. 31.

This year’s haunt will have more space than ever. The haunt has moved to the Brown County Fairgrounds and will feature two different haunts.

The first haunt is a sideshow theme haunt called “Cirkus Freakshow” and is located under the grandstands. This haunt will feature the scariest freaks including the siamese-clowns, the bearded lady, the half man-half chicken and the swamp creature.

The second haunt will be holiday-themed and is called “The Grinch and Krampus Holiday Haunt.” This haunt is located in the fairground former exhibit hall.

New Ulm Nightmares creator and operator, Doug Hughes said the real scares will be in the holiday haunt.

The holiday haunt is based on an idea Hughes had last year. There was a plan in place to host a Christmas theme haunt back in December, but the pandemic delayed the haunt until February. Hughes has several unused ideas for the holiday haunt that can bring back this year.

Hughes is excited to bring New Ulm Nightmares to the fairgrounds this year and said the fair board is happy to accommodate the event. The fairgrounds offers greater opportunity for haunted house attractions, including free parking.

Hughes will be able to use the grandstand speaker system to play scary music to get attendees in the holiday spirit. The extra space at the fairgrounds could also allow food vendors to operate when the attraction is open.

New Ulm Nightmares will be open from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 29; Saturday, Oct. 30 and Sunday, Oct. 31.

A special blackout night will be held from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30 for the Holiday Haunt. One member of the tour group will be given a glowstick to help navigate the haunt in blackout conditions.

A special kids day will be held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 31. Hughes said the Halloween day haunt will be for a younger audience with minimal scares. The lights will be on in the haunts and a non-scary version of the Grinch will meet children. Parents will be able to get a holiday photo of their children with the Grinch just as the Halloween season is ending.

Tickets are $10 for admission, with a $15 fast pass available.

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