New script for Duluth's Haunted Ship
There's been a mutiny aboard the S.S. William A. Irvin. The captain was overthrown by a cast of angry ruffians. But he will seek his revenge! When you step aboard the 610-foot laker during the Halloween season, an animatronic skull will spin the ...
There's been a mutiny aboard the S.S. William A. Irvin. The captain was overthrown by a cast of angry ruffians. But he will seek his revenge! When you step aboard the 610-foot laker during the Halloween season, an animatronic skull will spin the prologue of this yarn.
This is what happened when a handful of theater sorts took over direction of the Haunted Ship, a Halloween mainstay in Canal Park aboard the historic ore boat: Instead of a scary-themed tour, there is a narrative to propel visitors through the doors, along the deck and into the belly of the vessel. The Haunted Ship opens for the season at
6:30 p.m. today.
Chani Ninneman -- the playwright behind "Humpty Dumpty: The Musical" and "Snow White Ate the Apple, or Peter Piper Picked a Who?" and most recently seen in "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" -- took over the creative vision with a cast of friends that includes other stage regulars like Corey Regnier, who was charged with design, and Todd Higgins, who has traveled as a sound technician with Broadway touring productions.
"We want to be scary," Ninneman said. "But our main priority is to entertain."
It was important to Ninneman and company that, as much as possible, they maintain the integrity of the ship. For instance: Instead of covering the engine, this blocky space remains visible and part of the story. It's the site of a light show and some spooky revs and bumps, lights and steam.
You will see where the sailors bunked and their kitchen space, and about midway through you cross the ship's deck before heading into the bowels of the
Here is where things get extra-clever:
Visitors will wind their way along an abandoned boardwalk during a lightning storm. This leads to an area filled with the relics from an abandoned carnival. Think creaky old carousels, deviant clowns and a life-like Whack-a-Mole among the games along the midway.
Also: Skin flap-curtains, severed limbs and holographic portraits.
This leads to a forgotten warehouse area, filled with empty -- and not-so-empty -- crates, and eventually a junk yard.
Ninneman got this gig in the spring, a little late for the intense planning required to create a spectacle for the 20,000 visitors the venue will get between now and Halloween night. She hadn't toured the Haunted Ship in recent years and started plotting with a fresh slate.
She and Regnier did a lot of walking through the ship and getting a feel for what should go where.
She sought inspiration from the likes of the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre."
A few of the brainstormers went to the Midwest Haunters Convention.
"A lot of it was online research," Regnier said. "What are other people doing? Searching (the Internet) for 'optical illusions' and 'magic tricks.' "
Ninneman is still looking for actors to improv some spooky characters along the tour. "That's the last thing I'm trying to not throw up about," Ninneman said earlier this week as the finishing touches were added to the ship.
The gig came with some of the tech crew from previous years, including Jake Roeber, a 16-year-old DJ and magician who has been creating special effects on the Haunted Ship for three years.
The effects in the engine room bear his signature and are his favorite contribution. Roeber and friend Alex Dunning spent class time last year at Superior Senior High designing floor plans and ideas for the next Halloween season. He takes into consideration things that would scare him -- spiders, attics and basements, for instance -- and incorporates them.
"It's going to be epic," he said of this year's tour.
When: 6:30-10 p.m. today-
Saturday and Oct. 14. Hours extended as it gets closer to Halloween. Go to duluthhauntedship.com for a full schedule.
Where: Aboard the S.S. William A. Irvin in Canal Park
Tickets: $10 adults; $6 for children 12 and younger. $1 off with a canned good.
Join: Interested in being a ghoulish actor? Contact Chani Ninneman at email@example.com .