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USS Nightmare

101 Riverboat row, Newport, KY 41071
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Haunt Type(s):



Facebook LinkWebsite LinkUSS NightmareUSS NightmareUSS NightmareUSS Nightmare


USS NightmareUSS NightmareUSS Nightmare


Free Parking, Restrooms On-Site, Food/Concessions, Gift Shop/Souvenirs, Optional Games/Midway, Special Events, “Hi-Tech” Attraction, Original Characters, Covered Outdoor Waiting Line, All-Indoor Attraction

Team Zombillies reviewed this attraction on October 31, 2012.

Final Score: 9.51


The U.S.S. Nightmare has been terrorizing the Newport, Kentucky waterfront for 21 years and no exceptions have been made for the 2012 haunt season. Some new special effects have been added and scenes updated to keep the dredge’s customers coming back for what they have come to expect from ‘America’s premier haunted steamboat!’ Walk aboard the vessel formerly known as the William S. Mitchell (before the fateful day when its duties improving the river came to a horrific end) and see for yourself the demented and twisted things that dwell beyond the depths of the Ohio River!

Cast: 9.34

An average night aboard the Nightmare yields about 40 paid crew members that are tasked with scaring the ‘ship’ out of the steamer’s customers. The haunt hosts a job fair each year where new actors have a chance to become part of the crew and get matched to the scenes that they fit the best. General roles are given to the actors, but they are encouraged to ‘run’ with them so that they are more familiar and personally connected to the characters they portray. Their efforts are not in vain. Each character we came across was very believable and left us wondering if this was just another haunted house or something far more sinister than we’d bargained for! Many of the crew members interacted verbally with our group which also increased their realism and believability. However, a few of the characters along our tour, such as the clowns and vampires, didn’t fit the haunt’s nautical theme like the rest of them did. Regardless, they were all very entertaining and made each scene very realistic.

Costuming: 9.49

Costuming is put together by the Nightmare’s talented costuming department. Each of the costumes makes the characters very believable and authentic-looking. Airbrushed makeup and prosthetics are used primarily throughout the attraction as opposed to masks and the detail applied to the characters’ faces further increase their believability. Most of the masks used in the attraction, while rare, were used effectively and necessary to complete the characters that were using them. While the majority of these outfits stuck with the haunt’s nautical theme and made the actors easily identifiable as crew members of ‘the Mitchell,’ there were a few characters (as mentioned in our ‘Cast’ category) that seemed a bit out-of-place, such as the clowns and vampires.

Customer Service: 9.54

Be sure to follow U.S.S. Nightmare’s online instructions which explain the easiest way to access their parking lot. If you drive all the way down to Riverboat Row, a convenient parking lot with portable restrooms is located right next to the ticket booth. However, if this lot is full on a busy night, other lots are located nearby; one of which requires paying parking meters. The ticket line area is partially covered friendly staff members will answer any questions you may have and direct you to the queue line. This area is located aboard U.S.S. Nightmare and is also where you can have pictures taken of your group that you can pick up after you exit the steamer. While waiting, customers can be entertained by roaming actors on busy nights and watch a video explaining the horrific history of the William S. Mitchell and witness the catastrophic crash that crippled the dredge many years ago. Once inside the haunt, several darker areas with ramps and stairs are present, but no scares are provided on them and they are marked with fluorescent paint for visibility. Plenty of lit exit signs can be noticed throughout the attraction and make for an easy escape for those that aren’t as sea-worthy as they thought they were. However, some of these signs made it difficult to know if we had chosen the correct path while touring the attraction because of their locations. After exiting, customers will arrive at the haunt’s gift shop building where the Laser Tag arena is and pictures of the group can be purchased, as well as clothing, other souvenirs, food, snacks and drinks.

Atmosphere: 10

The U.S.S. Nightmare’s perfect score in this category is the result of many factors that increase suspense and anticipation of customers attending the attraction. The first and foremost is the fact that the haunt is located aboard a real, authentic, and wrecked steamboat! First glance at the vessel gives evidence of the crash due to its front end being partially demolished, which gets customers’ minds going wondering what happened to it. Next is the powerful soundtrack emitting from the steamer that echoes across the waterfront creating an eerie and suspenseful vibe that increases anticipation of what lurks within the bowels of the Nightmare. The attention to detail and authentic d

Special Effects: 9.5

The most noticeable special effects are the real (or at least real-looking) props and mechanical parts of the steamer that get implemented into many of the scenes throughout the tour. However, many original effects have been added to provide scares throughout the attraction. Some of these include animatronics from the ‘crazy-eyes’ drop panel and gigantic monster to the wheel of death and un-dead dog that guards one of the mechanical rooms. Some other effects are a little less intense, but no less effective, such as the incredible vortex tunnel, ‘falling’ balcony and see-through walkways that overhang the Ohio River. A major factor that increases the score for this category is how the actors work so closely with many of these effects. Even when the effects didn’t directly scare our review group, they aided in providing distractions for the actors and made the scenes more realistic and theatrical. As mentioned earlier, a couple of scenes weren’t as in context with the theme as the rest of the haunt was and, because the effects matched the scenes they were used in, they also seemed a bit out-of-place. Some of these include the vortex tunnel and claustrophobic passageway, but they still provided scares and entertainment.

Theme: 9.49

The U.S.S. Nightmare’s theme is based on the history under the steamboats maiden name: the William S. Mitchell. Details are available on the haunt’s website, but this once top-notch dredging vessel has been plagued with death, despair, and destruction since it was contracted in 1933 by the Army Corps of Engineers. Real footage can be viewed by those in the queue line of the horrific events that took place on the day of the Mitchell’s fateful crash. The theme of the U.S.S. Nightmare builds off of that story and claims that the crew and the steamer herself are being kept alive and afloat by the goings-on beneath the deck in the machine and boiler rooms. As mentioned in previous categories, most of the scenes, actors and special effects flow seamlessly into the theme and make it seem all too real. There are a few rooms, however, that seem a bit out-of-place, but their purposes are to provide scares to customers that are afraid of different things. Unfortunately, it’s still our obligation to point this out and dock points accordingly.

Fright Effect: 9.01

This score is the result of all of the preceding elements combining to create an attraction that delivers respectable scares. Multiple excellent hiding spots are implemented as well as distractions, surprises, and verbal threats regarding our physical well-being. Different levels of scares are also used, ranging from literally dancing with the props and giggling with insanity to hissing with hunger and a disorienting chainsaw attack! Most of the attempts are timed properly and well-executed, but their effectiveness at actually scaring our review group was not as successful. However, after the actors realized this, they always had excellent dialogue to come back with and make the experience entertaining!

Value: 9.68

General admission tickets to U.S.S. Nightmare are $16 with R.I.P. speed pass tickets costing $20 that will allow you to skip the line. This is particularly beneficial on busy nights when customers have been known to wait for over an hour. Be sure to check out their website under the ‘Tickets’ tab for military discounts, group rates, combo prices, and special shows and their respective pricing. Our review group spent an estimated 30 minutes touring the steamer which figures out to about 2 minutes of entertainment for every dollar spent for general admission tickets. This is an outstanding deal for what you will experience at ‘America’s premier haunted steamboat!’ If you’re looking for a haunted attraction with a dark past, authentic setting and spectacular effects, then look no further than U.S.S. Nightmare, located just outside of Cincinnati, Ohio; also known to the ‘William S. Mitchell’s crew (and those lucky enough to survive) as… the ‘Death Dredge.”


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2016 Awards

Most Authentic Setting (Given by: Team Zombillies)

Most Effective Vortex Tunnel (Given by: Team Zombillies)

Highest Rated Atmosphere (Given by: Team Zombillies)

Highest Rated Theme (Given by: Team Zombillies)

Actor Shout Out Award - Anna (Given by: Team Zombillies)

Actor Shout Out Award - Dredge Master (Given by: Team Zombillies)

Actor Shout Out Award - Mrs. Bradley Director of Lost Souls (Given by: Team Zombillies)

Actor Shout Out Award - Ox (Given by: Team Zombillies)

2015 Awards

Most Effective Vortex Tunnel (Given by: Team Zombillies)

Highest Dead Body Count (Given by: Team Zombillies)

Highest Rated Atmosphere (Given by: Team Zombillies)

Highest Rated Special Effects (Given by: Team Zombillies)

Actor Shout Out Award - "Anna" (Given by: Team Zombillies)

Actor Shout Out Award - "The Doctor" (Given by: Team Zombillies)

Actor Shout Out Award - "The Museum Caretaker" (Given by: Team Zombillies)

2014 Awards

Highest Rated Atmosphere (Given by: Team Zombillies)

Actor Shout Out Award - Captain Mitchell (Given by: Team Zombillies)

Actor Shout Out Award - Curator (Given by: Team Zombillies)

Actor Shout Out Award - Schizo Sailor (Given by: Team Zombillies)