2016-10-06 / Front Page

'Fortress of Nightmares' Darker Than Ever

By James Merolla

Around Halloween, the Adams family has taken on a whole new meaning – the Fort Adams family, a nonprofit trust with 150 volunteers who have been working for months to build things that go bump in the night, designed to scare the sheer soldier out of you.

If the thought of blood curdling screams or ghosts walking through walls or shooting zombies with lasers piques your interest, you might consider getting trapped within the walls of darkness that comprise the trust’s “Fortress of Nightmares,” running Oct. 21-23 and Oct. 28-30.

Crypts open at 7 p.m.

This is the 12th year the Fort Adams Trust has turned the almost supernatural solitude, darkness, wind, and stone cold feel of the 6.5 acres of the fort into a series of twists and turns designed to send your pacemaker into permanent beep mode.

And it gets bigger and better each October. “The first year, this was just a nighttime tour of the fort and telling ghost stories,” said Rob McCormack, historian and tour guide of the trust. He is a Jamestown native who loved the island so much as a teen, he tattooed a map of it on his calf. “We have expanded every year. Last year, 3,500 people came.”

McCormack said Fort Adams was one of the largest and most “complicated” forts in North America. “You could fit all of Fort Sumter, Fort McHenry and Fort Ticonderoga in here. And this year, we have opened up a few more areas inside the fort.”

For the first time, he added, guests can choose to be frightened along the south wall. “Because of some safety issues, we could not use that space before,” said McCormack. “But we have doubled the space we are using this year.”

There are four main attractions:

‰ The self-guided ghost tour, inspired by a paranormal history at Fort Adams, highlighted by a segment on the popular “Ghost Hunters” TV series that ran early in 2015.

‰ The “Tunnels of Terror,” where small groups of two to six rely on their wits, senses, and their ability to find the nearest exit. A nearly pitch black interactive maze (save for special effects like fog and strobes), the tunnels are stocked with ghouls poised to alter your reality.

“That is our main attraction,” said McCormack. “We have an emergency exit, about halfway through. If you can’t handle the fear anymore, you can leave. It’s not recommended for children under 12. We’ve had adults run screaming out of there.”

Since mid-August, a sea of volunteers has been building and painting the black walls and a rotating tunnel, just in case you might need your equilibrium further disturbed.

‰ The second-year offering of zombie laser tag called “Turned!” The guide said, “You have to shoot the zombies and clear the room. If not, you become a zombie.”

‰ A new exhibit called “Mayhem 3-D,” along the south wall, where guests will be outfitted with 3-D glasses to take the horror beyond the two-dimensional realm.

Fort Adams had the capacity to house 2,400 soldiers and their families. But a new army of 150 people in the trenches wake the echoes of those honored dead at the end of the month.

“It does take a small army to pull this off,” said McCormack. “We have students from Salve Regina, URI, Navy personnel, and people from all over the state. We can never have too many. We are looking for more.”

From purchasing to carpentry, painting, decorating, make-up, costumes, electronics, sound effects, ticketing, and guides, the assignment of haunted tasks seems endless.

When Halloween actually comes, and the very dark nights are stilled, all of these spirited people will take down everything they put up, a three-week process, McCormack said.

But Dave Prata, the mastermind who has run the operation since its twisted inception, will already be planning the 2017 haunting.

“When we close down at the end of October, Dave is already guiding us to set up for next year,” said Mc- Cormack. “He is very enthusiastic about Halloween.”

The admission to Fortress of Nightmares at Fort Adams is $15. All proceeds go to the trust. Turned laser tag is an additional $5. Food will be sold outside the fort. Visit fortressofnightmares.org for more information.

TO GO:

WHAT: Fortress of Nightmares
WHEN: Oct. 21-23 and 28-30
7 - 10 p.m.
WHERE: Fort Adams
COST: $15
INFO: fortressofnightmares.org

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