2015-10-15 / Front Page

Recurring Nightmare Returns to the Fort

By Olga Enger

A monster is poised to meet visitors at the Fortress of Nightmares, a six-day fundraising production at Fort Adams. A monster is poised to meet visitors at the Fortress of Nightmares, a six-day fundraising production at Fort Adams. Some believe the tortured souls of those who died during the construction of Newport’s Fort Adams continue to roam the gloaming grounds. This spooky allegation received further validation recently when the Syfy Channel featured the fort, built in 1799 and named for then-President John Adams, in an episode entitled “Fortress of Phantoms.”

Fast-forward 215 years and the fort’s popular Halloween feature, the "Fortress of Nightmares,” now in its eighth season, is ready to howl. The event features something for everyone — from a kid’s fun house for the youngest visitors to food trucks for hungry ghost hunters. The six-day production, which has grown into the Fort’s “go-to fundraising event,” raised $20,000 last year.

“All money we raise goes back into the fort,” said Fortress of Nightmares project manager David Prata, who is a staff member of Fort Adams Trust.

This year, the production has added several new attractions, including a zombie laser game.

“It’s a tactical laser tag game,” said Prata. “You have to go through officers’ quarters, gather supplies and bring them back, while you eradicate the zombies. If you don’t make it to the supply point, you aren’t going to survive the apocalypse.”

Another new addition this year is a kid’s area, designed for children under 12 years old.

“We want kids to have Halloween fun, but we don’t want to scare the heck out of them,” explained Rob McCormack, director of visitor services of the Fort Adams Trust. Parents may drop their children off at the Fun House for supervised cookie decorating, crafts and trick-or-treating while they enter the Fortress of Nightmares.

“It’s a complete family experience for all ages,” said Fort Adams Trust President Greg Hall. “With the new Kid’s Fun House, families can now bring everyone and know that the little ones will be entertained while parents experience the frights inside the fort.”

Other highlights include a tour of the haunted officers’ quarters, a haunted house, ghost hunting and food trucks. Visitors may also use paranormal research equipment to see what they can find throughout the area.

“We are so excited to see how the event has grown,” said McCormack. “When we began, we just had a nighttime tour and some scary stories during the day. The event has really developed.”

“We start planning it in January,” said Prata. “In the spring, we start with small props, cleaning out the tunnel. All through the summer, we continue planning and start construction. It’s a large-scale production.”

“It’s put on by a royal army of volunteers. We are a small nonprofit and without them, there is no way we could do it,” said McCormack. The group of 150 volunteers are divided into scare teams, operations, security and make-up assistance.

For the first time this year, the team decided to hire make-up artists for special effects, which are the only paid staff outside of the Fort Adams Trust employees.

“In previous years, we went to Walmart and got bottles of fake blood. We decided to step up our game and get high quality makeup this year,” said Prata.

The Fortress walk-through begins in the Haunted Officer’s Quarters for the Ghost Hunt. From there, guests may enjoy the Killer Film Fest, featuring clips of horror films or they can participate in the new laser tag experience.

The popular Tunnels of Terror is the last part of the haunted experience, where visitors are treated to an up-close and personal interaction with the fort’s lost souls.

Fortress of Nightmares dates are Oct. 16-18 and Oct. 23-25 from 6 until 10 p.m. each night. Tickets are $15 per person or with the Kids’ Fun House, $10 per child. For more information on Fortress of Nightmares, visit halloween.fortadams.org.

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