One of the Best Haunted Houses in the Country

By Pat Parkinson for Nightmare on 13th

This year’s Nightmare on 13th haunted attraction is different than ever before. Phantasms are the focus when Utah’s most popular haunted house opens Sept. 16 in Salt Lake City.

“We have ghosts, apparitions, specters and the whole gamut of different types of phantasms,” Nightmare on 13th spokesman Travis Hahn said. “These are ghosts and ghostly things that can’t be described in any other way.”

Now in its 26th year, Nightmare on 13th is recognized among the best haunted attractions in the United States.

“Last year, we rated No. 2 in BuzzFeed’s top haunted houses in the nation,” Hahn said.

That’s because the crew at Nightmare on 13th are experts at scaring people. Creators work year-round making sure the haunted house is as frightening and entertaining as possible.

“We’re a haunted house, so we want to be scary, but we want to entertain as well,” Hahn said. “It’s kind of a science. Maybe not so much a science, as an art.”

New this year at Nightmare on 13th is the “Nightmare Courtyard” on the west side of the building.

“It’s the exterior part of the show. A little pre-show I guess you could call it,” Hahn explained, adding that Nightmare on 13th has not had an outdoor attraction in the past. “We normally just have music playing and our hot rod outside. This year we are stepping it up quite a bit.”

You can visit the Nightmare Courtyard even if you don’t buy a ticket for the haunted house.

“If people don’t feel comfortable going through, or maybe some people in the family want to go through and others don’t, then this is going to provide an opportunity for people to be out there and still have fun, but not have to go in and get scared,” Hahn said.

There are two large animatronics that courtyard visitors will love.

“One of them we call Slayer,” he said, adding that Slayer looks like the balrog from “The Lord of the Rings.”

The other outdoor animatronic is called Soul Seeker. The courtyard also has spooky walls and a mausoleum-like structure that provide terrific photo opportunities for guests.

“We have an awesome environment out there,” Hahn said. “Even if you don’t want to go through the haunted house, you can still come to Nightmare on 13th with your kids or whatever and see the place and enjoy Halloween.”

Sometimes visitors are too scared to enter the main haunted house.

“People will even show up and buy a ticket, get in line and start going through and then they decide not to do it and want to get out of there,” Hahn said. “It’s a real thing.”

Enter… If You Dare
About 140 actors work at Nightmare on 13th, and entertainers are there every night to frighten guests as they wait in line.

“Most of the time when you think of acting you think of somebody on stage or even a movie actor, they do a scene and they’re not interacting with anyone. Our actors have to be different,” Hahn explained. “These actors get in character and improv. They’re interacting with customers.”

Eventually visitors to the haunted house enter a part of the attraction known as the “Garage.” Here you can watch video of people getting scared as they tour other parts of Nightmare on 13th.

“You get to see people being scared and then you get to go in and be the one getting scared,” Hahn said.

Once your ticket is scanned, you can have your photo taken with one of the actors before you enter the theater show. The theater show is one of the things that sets Nightmare on 13th apart from other haunted attractions.

“It’s the Hollywood or Disneyland-type presentation of what you’re going to see once you get into the haunted house. It’s pretty heavy in animatronics and everything to do with cool technology in the haunted industry,” Hahn said.

Haunted house-goers are introduced to the phantasms theme during the theater show.

“Everyone watches that for a few minutes, then you pass through that room and enter the haunted house,” he said.

According to Hahn, “that’s when you start getting scared by actors and animatronics, and smelling nasty smells and hearing loud music.”

There are different scents and music in every room, he added.

“It’s very all-encompassing. We use all of the senses to scare,” Hahn said.

What is Scary
You must know how to scare people to run a successful haunted house.

“The biggest thing that scares people is the same thing we have all been doing since we were kids, standing around the corner and jumping out or being there right when they turn the corner,” Hahn said. “The whole purpose is to get somebody to jump, get somebody to be all shaky. That’s why we do all of these things.”

According to Hahn, loud music and unpleasant smells make many people uneasy.

“People are always talking about smells and how they almost threw up because it was so gross,” he said.

 Avoid the Crowds
Expect a crowd if you visit Nightmare on 13th any weekend in October. There are times during the season, however, when you may not have to wait in line.

Any weekday and weekends in September are great times to visit if you want to avoid long lines, Hahn said.
You can also buy a VIP ticket for $15 extra that gets you right to the front of the line.

Most important is keeping an open mind and positive attitude when you visit Nightmare on 13th, Hahn said.

“There is something for everyone,” he said, adding that the haunted house attracts customers from Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada and Colorado. “Have a great attitude and just come to have fun.”

Haun encourages everyone to visit Nightmare on 13th more than once this year.

“There is so much to see and you’re always so nervous that you’re going to get scared around the next corner that you’re missing things,” he said.

“We want people to come many, many times throughout our season of operation. Every single time they see something new and they have an awesome experience.”

To learn more about Nightmare on 13th call 801-467-8100 or visit