Volume 81, Number 21 | October 27 - November 2, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photo by Eva Ulz

Dead, and about to be buried. See “The Merchant’s House.”

Spend the night in three haunted houses
Encounter grim fairy tales, real ghosts and steampunks

BY SCOTT “RIGOR MORTIS SETS IN” STIFFLER

Buckets of blood, knife-wielding psychos and gallons of gore — these are the things traditional haunted houses are made of. But if that’s not your cup of arsenic-laced tea (or if you just find the notion of manufactured scares more than a little silly), consider doing what I did last Saturday night. Okay, get your mind out of the gutter for a minute. I’m talking about the early evening — when I visited three unusual haunted houses in search of unconventional thrills.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 22, 6:40pm

NIGHTMARE: FAIRY TALES and THE EXPERIMENT There’s plenty to admire about this tense, trippy journey through unhappy, often violent tales from The Brothers Grimm, Aesop, Hans Christian Anderson and others…but to call it “New York’s Most Horrifying Haunted House” is a bit of an overreach. Don’t go expecting slasher film-level terror…but do go. “Nightmare” successfully transports you into a realm where the polite versions of well-known fairy tales have been restored to their original dark, cautionary glory. Blindfolded — then forced to follow Rapunzel by grabbing her long locks — small groups are led through a maze of dark forests, isolated cottages, unstable bridges, intimidating confrontations and genuine frights from fairy tale characters who emerge from hidden places. This method of getting a rise is trotted out so often, you should be immune by the second or third time…but the scares keep coming. You’ll get your money’s worth from “Nightmare” — but if you stay for “The Experiment,” you’ll emerge feeling as if you’ve been taken for a ride. It delivers no genuine frights, other than the looming specter of forced audience participation. This rather toothless short play casts you and a group of around 20 others as volunteers in research on the psychology of fear. Select audience members are subjected to a few tepid experiments. Only the one involving an intimate confession comes close to unleashing the level of cruelty implied by its premise.

At Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center (107 Suffolk St. btw. Rivington & Delancey Sts.). Through Nov. 5 (no shows Tues., Wed.) — hours vary daily; consult the website for a schedule (hauntedhousenyc.com). Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 at the door. VIP tickets: $60 (with no goodie bag). Super VIP tickets: $100 (with goodie bag). To purchase tickets, call 212-352-3101 or visit the website.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 22, 8:30pm

CANDLELIGHT GHOST TOUR AT THE MERCHANT’S HOUSE MUSEUM As the tour starts, your guide (flashlight in hand, but not casting shadows on his face in the traditional spooky Halloween manner) announces that nobody will be jumping out and yelling “Boo!” — they don’t have to. Currently celebrating its 75th year of providing a frozen-in-time glimpse of NYC domestic life as lived from 1835-1865, the Merchant’s House long ago staked its claim as “Manhattan’s most haunted house.” I found that out for myself last October, when I tagged along on a paranormal investigation of the place. Over the past year, I’ve returned several times with Dan Sturges, his crew and a skilled psychic in an attempt to interact with the deceased family members, caretakers and servants who might be haunting the place. Nobody involved is saying there’s such a thing as ghosts — but something strange is definitely going on. Dozens of unexplained events and spectral sightings have taken place over the years. On this tour, you’ll hear accounts recorded by those who experienced them, revealed in the very rooms in which they happened. Not able to make it this weekend? During regular museum hours, take the self-guided tour and walk the house alone. Through Oct. 31, raffle tickets are on sale (at MHM or by visiting their website). The winner and a guest will attend the November or December paranormal investigation of the Merchant’s House — conducted by Dan Sturges (sturgesparanormal.com) and his team. Tickets are $5 for one; $10 for three; $20 for seven.
On Sun., Oct. 30, 3-5pm, “From Parlor to Grave: 1865 Funeral Reenactment” finds the parlors draped in black crape, for a recreation of the 1865 funeral of Seabury Tredwell. After the service, mourners follow the coffin to nearby New York City Marble Cemetery for a tour ($30; $10 for graveside service and cemetery tour only). On Mon., Oct. 31 (at 7pm and 8:30pm), “Spine Tingling and True: Ghost Stories of the Merchant’s House Museum” ($25) features storytellers Anthony Bellov and Dayle Vander Sande reading 19th-century horror classics interspersed with true tales of the supernatural, as experienced by Merchant’s House visitors and staff.

The “Candlelight Ghost Tour” takes place Thurs.-Sat., Oct. 27-29. Tours begin every half hour. The 6, 6:30, 7 and 7:30pm tours are $25. The 8, 8:30 and 9pm tours are $30. The 9:30pm tour, for $40, includes a trip to the fourth floor servant’s quarters. At the Merchant’s House Museum (29 E. Fourth St., btw. Lafayette & Bowery). Regular museum Hours: Thurs.-Mon., 12-5pm. Admission: $10 ($5 for students/seniors). For info, call 212-777-1089 or visit merchantshouse.org.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 22: 10pm

STEAMPUNK HAUNTED HOUSE: THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS For its third annual production, Steampunk Haunted House mines the psychodrama of Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice stories. Audience members are admitted in small groups — but not before being prepared for the fact that at various points, they’ll have to walk through Wonderland alone. Along the way, expect to be guided (and poked and prodded and maybe even gently groped) by the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, more than one Alice and some steampunkish factory workers. None of these folks intend to frighten — but every one of them is capable of filling you with a surreal, dreamlike sense of dread that comes from losing your ability to control your direction (and destiny). Those with the time, and the money, will want to have another go at this sensory overload experience filled with beautifully designed sets, Victorian period props, intricate costumes and some of the best actors the crowded haunted house genre has to offer.

Fri., Oct. 28 and Sat., Oct. 29: Tours from 8-11:15pm. Thurs., Oct. 27, Sun., Oct. 30 and Mon., Oct. 31: Tours from 6-9:30pm. General Admission: Wed. and Thurs., $20 ($10 for students). Fri. through Mon., $25 ($10 for students). Information and ticketing: steampunkhauntedhouse.com. At Abrons Arts Center (466 Grand St., at Pitt St.).

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