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Apr 5, 2011
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The Haunted Ship at Nauticus in Downtown Norfolk has out performed anything that Busch Gardens has offered in recent years, this is because it scares smarter, not harder. The scares at BGW rely on jump scares assisted by the theme and decoration of the mazes themselves. Actors jump out, growl, bang something, scream, or move the occasional prop. With the Haunted Ship, the theme is the scary part and the actors (I could only count two not counting the tour guides, there might be more) have to do minimal work to be scary.

The tour starts off with a brief story of one of the sailors who served on the ship as well as the video above to set the mood. As you progress, the scares ratchet up gradually and are actually paced pretty well. Whoever set this up must be a true horror movie fan, because it takes the best devices used in movies, most of the stress on the guests isn’t built up by monsters popping out from a false wall, it’s built by things you don’t see and in changes in the environment. Doors will suddenly slam, the lights will be off and objects will appear out of nowhere when they come on, ect. While this is going on, the guide (Alex in my case) does a great job in conveying his fear and anxiety to the guests which helps a lot in convincing them that there is something going on.

The scares don’t rely on gimmicks like things in your face and other haunted house tropes that BGW uses as a crutch, this is genuine tension and I love it. I would love to see an upcharge haunted tour at BGW, but that’s another conversation.

The decoration is minimal, which actually helps out quite a bit with the atmosphere since they’re not trying to do monsters and what not. Most of lights are red which adds a lot to the mood. There are some oddly placed mannequins, but they are creepy and might just be part of the normal setup. In one part where you are in somewhat of a rush to move (no spoilers, I promise), you do walk by a series of rooms. While it’s nothing major, if you keep an eye out, you’ll notice some creepy stuff scattered about, once again, just enough to be creepy.

The main suggestion I would make is the audio clearly sounded like it was recordings. While I know that doing that kind of stuff with real actors would be difficult, I think that getting an audio guy in there with better equipment could make it more convincing. One other thing that was kind of bothering me is the way they presented their pictures. While going up on the ship, you are stopped to get your picture taken in front of the ship. When you come out, they’re already printed, but cost $20 to take home. This just seems odd because why waste the money to print out the entire package, only to have them thrown away if they’re not bought?

All in all, I thought this was amazing. I’ll be doing this again next week and can’t wait for it. I cannot stress how much people should do this. I want this thing to be a success so it can keep on expanding the great thing it’s got already. It’s a block away from a Tide stop, so parking isn’t a big deal. Please, do yourself a favor and spend the $15 to do this.
 
Apr 5, 2011
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The tour itself is only about 15-20 minutes or so, but I'd budget an hour just to be safe. I hear it can get busy and group sizes are limited.
 
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