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USS Nightmare opens for scary season on Sept. 15 — know the story and be prepared for a fright

The cooler weather has returned, and the smashed wreckage of the historic dredge has appeared once again on the Newport waterfront. The USS Nightmare has been haunting the Ohio River since 1993 and will open for its 25th haunting season on Friday, September 15.

As legend tells it, the story of the USS Nightmare begins many years ago when the former dredging vessel, the William S. Mitchell, mysteriously broke free of its moorings wreaking havoc for miles down the river. Although no one was known to be aboard at the time, the boat’s eventual demise would reveal a much different story.

Suffering tremendous damage during what became known as the Mitchell Massacre, the massive steamboat dredge was destined for destruction. But as the debris was sifted, the boat revealed a history plagued by inexplicable deaths, monstrous destruction and mysterious incidents dating as far back as its 1934 construction. These unexplained “accidents” combined with the hard, grueling work of the steamboat dredge took their toll on the boat’s crew leading those lucky enough to survive service aboard to refer to the cursed steamboat as the Death Dredge.

Records found on board expose the life of the demented, maniacal Captain Mitchell, his bizarre family and his evil crewmembers. But, they also expose deeper, darker secrets which only raise more questions. Was the river dredging just part of the historic steamboat’s cover story for something much more dangerous? Was the boat really part of top secret governmental radiation testing? What was really in those off-limits barrels and crates that the captain had loaded on board? Was it really designed for death?

Many question if the USS Nightmare is actually haunted. Call it haunted; call it a curse. One thing is certain. There is an intense, malevolent force within the walls of the massive steamboat dredge, and no one is safe from its effects.

Those brave enough to board the historic vessel will experience an assault on the senses.

Whether guests are escaping the clutches of the 13’ Impaler or are finding their way through the steamy, waist deep swampy “waters” of the boiler, they will experience a dark, intense tour that brings the dredge’s history and deadly crew to life.

The 30-minute excursion through the 277.5’ vessel shows glimpses of the rough river life as it meanders through more than 40 terrifying areas encompassing both private living areas such as Anna’s playroom and the crew’s quarters as well as the inner workings of the massive steamboat required to continue the work and care for the crew.

Along the way, the hostile, evil spirits that lurk within the vessel are encountered as terrifying crewmembers await visitors throughout the steamboat. The tour exposes areas such as the carpenter’s workshop, the captain’s vast cargo hold, the Captain’s quarters, the seemingly endless clown trap, the infirmary and more.

Filled with some of the fright seeker’s favorite crewmembers such as the captain and his daughter Anna with her strange playmates; the night watchman; the vampire overlord; and the rat lady, these areas come alive to tell the tale of the Death Dredge.

The horrific secrets of the USS Nightmare and its crew are revealed in the area’s most detailed haunted attraction complemented with movie quality makeup, special effects, lighting, and sound.

The USS Nightmare is docked on the Newport waterfront near the intersection of Riverboat Row and Columbia Street in front of Newport on the Levee. Free parking is available in front of the boat; pay parking is nearby.

There is also a less frightening option for children.

For schedule and ticket information, check out the website.

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