USS Nightmare – Full Review

USS Nightmare is a Haunted Attraction located in Newport, KY.

101 Riverboat row, Newport, KY 41071
View All Details

Haunt Type(s):

Haunted Boat


USS Nightmare Facebook PageUSS Nightmare WebsiteUSS Nightmare Twitter PageUSS Nightmare on InstagramUSS Nightmare on YouTube


Call USS NightmareEmail USS NightmareMessage USS Nightmare on Facebook Messenger


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

Team Zombillies Logo

This attraction was reviewed on October 19, 2018 by Team Zombillies.

How Do We Get These Scores?

Show Top Legend

Final Score: 9.3

How Did We Get This Score?

Show Overall Scores


USS Nightmare is a haunted steamboat that actually floats on the Ohio River! This is also an optional ‘touch’ haunt, meaning the actors can touch you here should you choose this option (more on this later). After breaking free from its moorings during a flood and crashing into multiple bridges, the former dredging vessel was retired and its mysterious past was brought to light’ which is now available for you to experience first hand! It’s creepy enough walking through the haunt, but then it gets REALLY creepy when you can feel the boat swaying with the waves of the river and you’re walking out over the water between the first and second floors!

One of the ticket options offered by USS is the ‘RIP’ tour, which is the option that we chose for this review. This option immerses you into the Mitchell Massacre and allows you to see different areas of the boat that are not accessible from a regular tour. If you choose this option, you’ll be outfitted with a blinking light that will subject you to interacting with the scenes and actors on a whole new level! You’ll come to find out why we recommend this option, in addition to it being a much longer trip that’s a whole lot more fun! This tour lasted 45 ������ minutes! You might even get to win a prize if you succeed in some of the challenges…

‘It’s the year ‘he’ came aboard. Think you know who ‘he’ is?’

Cast: 9.49

How Did We Get This Score?

Show Cast Scores

The Cast of USS Nightmare are some of the most interactive creatures we’ve ever encountered. In addition to this being a highly-actor-driven haunt, the cast applies a major focus to their dialogue. In addition, each character works with their scenes and props very well to help further the plot and create an even more-realistic experience!

Along the way, you’ll encounter every member of the crew you can think of and then some! From maintenance workers and janitors to cooks, crazed scientists, clowns, and even Captain Mitchell and his daughter Anna. Performances range from highly energetic attacks (as with the Captain) to slow and intimidating stare-downs (as with the crash simulator attendant that waited for us outside and the butcher). Only 1 or 2 of the dozens of actors here remained silent during our tour, so be prepared to chat with some of these witty and well-versed wackos!

The museum worker, the crash simulator attendant, the doctor and his nurse, several of the crew (especially the Night Watchman), Anna, the Captain and others were very believable and gave stand-out performances to our group. Should you opt-in for the RIP tour, you may also get closer interactions with the bartender, Lilith, a couple of interesting vampires and other members of the crew that pull you out of the normal path and challenge you with tasks before you can continue.

Anna continues to be a returning favorite for us by offering some sinister ways you can help her keep her dolls alive forever! The Night Watchman (playing the part of a classic drunken sailor) ad-libbed with us very well and made sure we knew that HE was the one that wrecked the boat! He also referred to the lady in red (Lilith) and told us, ‘Tell her I love her.’ He didn’t seem so appreciative, though, after we confirmed that we’d tell her WE loved her. The chef in the galley told the male in our group that his head was safe because he knew there wouldn’t be any brains in there (‘No soup for you!), but the female did, so that’s what we’d be having for dinner. He also had an accent, as did a few others on the ship.

Costuming: 9.45

How Did We Get This Score?

Show Costuming Scores

The costuming at USS Nightmare is equally as incredible as its actors. Most of the outfits are period-correct, often utilizing old-school life vests, nautical uniforms or various types of old and tattered attire that works well with the scenes they’re in.

Very few masks were used here, save for the pig mask worn by the butcher and those worn by a couple of mechanics near the finale. Most of the monsters relied on high-quality makeup and customized prosthetics to add rotten and realistic details to their faces, while others only needed subtle details to make them look more aged and dead. Nearly all of the applications we saw gave the characters a well-rounded and ‘finished’ appearance, and details extended all the way down to colored contacts and veiny skin.

This is another area that’s difficult to pick who the stand-outs were. But, we can definitely say that the museum worker in the first room, the Captain, the nurse, Anna, the rat lady, and the Night Watchman seemed to have some of the most complete and elaborate attire on the ship.

Customer Service: 9.75

How Did We Get This Score?

Show CS Scores

Since our last trip to USS, there has been quite a bit of road construction in the area that leads to Riverboat Row and 2 roundabouts have been installed. If you come from Cincinnati by way of the Taylor Southgate Bridge (like we did), you’ll take the first turn-off from the roundabout (3rd Street) and keep to the far right to gain access to Columbia Street. This will lead you straight to Riverboat Row and a USS Nightmare sign will direct you to the closest parking lot. If you don’t hang to the far right when you leave the roundabout, you’ll have to go all the way to the second roundabout and turn around and try again, as there are concrete medians that keep you from turning around before then. There is a small ‘BB Riverboats’ sign at the correct turn-off from the first roundabout to help get you headed in the right direction, but another sign where the roadway splits and at the junction of Columbia Street would’ve been very helpful to us.

If you make it to the ‘USS Nightmare Parking’ sign, you’ll hang a right to get to the primary parking lot. On very busy nights this lot is typically full. We didn’t see any parking attendants, but the lot is paved, fairly well-lit and free to use, but has very limited capacity. Additional space can be found down the length of Riverboat Row by making a left at the parking sign, which is also paved and free to use.

Once you make your way to the ramp, there are lots of informational signs to let you know what the ticket prices are and which line to get into, depending on if you already have your tickets or not. All of the staff here is very professional, friendly and hospitable, and even the ticket takers are in character and costumes.

Making your way around the inside and outside of the ship is a breeze, but there are a select few areas that can be a little slippery if there’s been a recent rain. The queue area onboard the ship is covered by the upper deck and the haunt itself is ADA accessible; the walkways are wide and there are ramps that lead to the upper level. The concessions and merchandise stand is located at the exit of the ramp that takes you back onto shore. This is where you can pick up your group photo that was taken as soon as you board the ship.

Atmosphere: 9.45

How Did We Get This Score?

Show Atm Scores

From inside our car, we we could hear a menacing voice playing over the loudspeakers and giving the rules and warnings of the haunt. The screams of customers and a suspenseful track echoed down the riverbank and the large ‘USS Nightmare’ logo on the wheel well definitely let us know this was no ordinary boat (along with additional signage).

The ship itself is quite a sight to behold, and seeing the wrecked portions of the ship quickly makes its grizzly past a surreal reality. The giant illuminated skull on the roof of the boat has become an iconic feature of the vessel, and the grungy and run-down-looking exterior makes it look the equivalent of an old and dilapidated mansion (if this were a haunted ‘house’).

The queue area winds through previously-working components of the ship, such as the winches, gears, steel cables and tackle used during the vessel’s former dredging operations. This definitely helps to get you ready for what’s to come because you’ll find even more mechanical components and the real structure of the ship as you make your way through the haunt! A video displayed on a TV in the queue area, in addition to the first actor’s performance, which help fill you in on the backstory of the haunt.

Special Effects: 9.39

How Did We Get This Score?

Show Sfx Scores

As mentioned, USS Nightmare is a real dredging vessel that showcases and utilizes many of the real features of the boat. Because many of the large walls and items can’t be picked up, moved or removed, we were quite impressed with some of the items that can be found inside this boat, including their crash simulator and one of the most effective vortex tunnels we’ve ever seen. Not only does it spin and change colors with the lighting, but it also shifts from side to side (especially if you have to hang onto the rails)!

The boat is filled with many different smells and sounds, including old-fashioned music, the growl of a chainsaw, a sadistic circus song, skin-crawling sounds of children and, at one point, we heard something so unexplainable that it made us exclaim, ‘What the Hell was that!?’

It’s quite obvious that there has been a lot of death and destruction on the boat, as showcased by realistic dead bodies, many bones and skeletons, and caged remains of humans or experiments, including a mermaid that obviously wasn’t fed well! There are other confined creatures, a CGI surprise, real rats, a convulsing torso, the crew’s giant pet ‘puppy’ (definitely NOT a puppy dog), a falling surprise, hanging fish, grated walkways and sparks among many other things for you to enjoy, or run from.

Scenes are detailed well and the creators have taken extra steps to provide small details throughout. Sheets are stained, walls are distressed, there are many small items all over the place, there was ‘poop’ and who-knows-what all over the bathroom, a broken pipe spewing steam, illustrations of the boat’s design, evidence of experiments and so much more. This is one of those haunts where you need to journey through more than once to take in all of the surroundings!

Theme: 9.8

How Did We Get This Score?

Show Theme Scores

USS has one of the most unique theme introductions we’ve encountered by having guests enter their ‘fun box’ (aka: crash simulator); a moving room where the Captain has something to tell you. He explains what the ship was originally designed for and it’s horrendous fate, and it goes a little something like this:

The USS Mitchell was designed and constructed by the USS Army and its original purpose was to dredge the river. A lot of bones started coming up in its drede, and it’s said that barrels of unknown substances were also transported by the ship. The ship was discovered to be a place where the military was performing secret experiments’ secrets that were revealed when the ship broke free one day, resulting in a fatal crash. Some of the crew members were never found.

Want to see the truth behind the captain’s ship? All you have to do is climb aboard! This event is now known as the ‘Mitchell Massacre,’ and the theme is so apparent and realistic that you can still see the damage that was caused to the boat when it wrecked!

Just seconds after we stepped foot in the first room of the ship, the scenery and music took us to a different time period. Some of the most well-known characters that you will meet on the ship are on display in this room and, for those who have never been here before, they will explain a few of them to you. Beyond that, some of the characters that you run across have a story of their own to tell, and they are very familiar with other characters on the ship as well. Everything that we saw was connected in some way, shape or form, all the way down to the clowns (which are Anna’s ‘toys’) and the overgrowth that has started to occupy the lower sections of the ship.

Scare Factor: 8.43

How Did We Get This Score?

Show Scare Scores

The natural features of the boat are creepy and, for some, just being aboard may give you a feeling of uneasiness. There are two areas where you must walk across grating to get to the next level, forcing you to realize that you are walking above the Ohio River. Afraid of heights? They’ve got you covered…

As noted above, we chose to participate in the RIP package. We can tell you that, with this package, you will be touched and possibly shackled to a wall, placed in a cage, you may need to drink things that may or may not taste good, and your group will probably be separated. They want to make you feel uncomfortable and put you through a completely immersive experience. At times, the touching heightened the scares or provided additional startles in some areas. On multiple occasions, we were just walking along and something would unexpectedly (and lightly) grab our leg or tap us on the shoulder. We found ourselves in a decontamination chamber of extremely thick fog where, apparently, the ship workers could see us but we couldn’t see them!

When it comes to the scares that we believe everyone is likely to receive, there is a large variety aboard. Hiding spots were aplenty, there were several intimidating characters, some ‘double tap’ scares from cast members, floors that suddenly vibrated, unexpected moving props, disorientation in the Maze of Misery, and some common fears were netted up, including clowns, tight places, dark places, and dying. Yes, we said dying; several of the crew members are dead set on killing you off, either to add you to dinner or use your scalp for their medical experiments.

Several distractions were utilized and a unique drop panel is placed to release some screams. One area had some clever decoys and, for those that are returning visitors, a few things were moved around that resulted in catching this review team off-guard! The finale wasn’t among the strongest of scares during our visit and we would love to see more of the giant, last room utilized for a stronger and scarier finale to end the experience.

Entertainment & Value: 9.14

How Did We Get This Score?

Show EV Scores

Our group braved the RIP general admission tour, which was priced at $30.00, and we had one Hell of a time! For those who don’t want to be touched you can do their regular tour for $20.00 a person or $30.00 with the Fast Pass.

For us, the RIP tour lasted 45-1/2 minutes, making this one of the longest indoor attractions we’ve attended all year! That brings this ticket option to a MPD (minutes of entertainment received per dollar spent) rating of 1.52 which is well above average for the region!

USS Nightmare has always been one of the longest attractions we visit’ even on their regular tours and, at $20.00 for those, this is one VERY competitive value! If we had to guess, we would say the regular tour would be about 15 minutes shorter than the RIP, but it all depends on your group’s speed and interactions with the cast. One of us ended up trailing a group that was petrified and moving through the scenes so fast that there’s no way they even knew what they’d just walked through. If you’re ‘one of those guys,’ your tour time will likely be shorter.

Front-of-the-Line admission (for little to no wait), Fast Pass RIP, Captain’s Extreme Tours, season passes, group rates, and Lights on Matinee pricing and information can all be found on their website.

If you don’t mind being gently touched, like to solve puzzles, and enjoy more of an interactive experience where you will get more facetime with the ship’s crew, we highly recommend giving the RIP a try. Just don’t be like one of us and get ‘rejected’ by the crew – you’ll be given a fancy little stamp on your hand if you do and you won’t become a part of this crew. We’re sure you can guess what happens to those who don’t…

How Did We Get These Scores

More Info Button

View Full Score Sheet >

Promo Images:

Click to Enlarge

Have you visited this attraction?

Submit their First Guest Review!

Past Awards

2022 Awards

Most Unique Scene - Theme Intro (Given by: Team Zombillies)

Anna - Alisha McDuffee (Given by: Team Zombillies)

Vampire - Riley Krull (Given by: Team Zombillies)

2019 Awards

Most Interactive Haunt (Given by: Team Zombillies)

Best Scene Detail (Given by: Team Zombillies)

Highest Rated Haunt in Kentucky (Given by: Team Zombillies)

Highest Rated Cast (Given by: Team Zombillies)

Highest Rated Theme (Given by: Team Zombillies)

2018 Awards

Memorable Moment - The RIP Experience (Given by: Team Zombillies)

Highest Rated Special Effects (Given by: Team Zombillies)

Highest Rated Theme (Given by: Team Zombillies)

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

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

Privacy Notice

We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. Learn More Here.

Join our

on youTube!

We visit Halloween haunted attractions year-round! Follow us for haunted house walkthrough videos, behind the scenes footage, and more!