They were scared out of Southie, but organizers of a proposed Halloween theme park say they will instead set up shop in Quincy where they have found safe harbor aboard a war ship-turned museum.
With the venue change, promoter Matthew DiRoberto had to chuck his old name, "Fright Island." But in many ways, he said, the USS Salem will be a more appropriate place to convert to a Spooky World-style haunted attraction than Castle Island's historic Fort Independence.
"I'm really excited we were able to find this," DiRoberto said. "In a lot of ways, it's better than Castle Island. You have all this infrastructure already."
DiRoberto is referring to the electric power that already exists on the 720-foot-long ship docked in the former Fore River shipyard, as well as the ship rooms that will double as scary sets.
There's another reason the Salem is preferable to Castle Island: the ship won't draw the ire of the longtime residents in South Boston who viewed "Fright Island" and the traffic it would bring as intrusions on a beloved landmark. It was this opposition that persuaded the state's conservation and recreation commissioner to deny DiRoberto's request to lease Fort Independence for the haunted attraction.
DiRoberto knew the US Naval Shipbuilding Museum, the nonprofit that oversees the Salem, ran its own volunteer-run "haunted house" every October on the ship. But it turned out that the fund-raiser had been put on hold for the past two years because of construction work. DiRoberto reached out to executive director Michael Condon last month about using the ship, and quickly reached a deal.
"We're putting a lot of money into it," DiRoberto said. "They were on a shoestring budget. ... We really want to take this to the next level and make it a nationally known attraction."
Jason Egan, who runs the Fright Dome attraction in Las Vegas and is working with DiRoberto, said the uniqueness of the ship and its many chambers makes it "an iconic location."
DiRoberto plans to charge $29.99 per person to enter what he is calling "Ghost Ship Harbor." The attraction, he said, will be open on evenings, from Thursday through Sunday, starting on Sept. 30 and ending Oct. 30. He said he has not yet decided whether to try to sell alcohol there. (The alcohol issue was one of the sticking points at Castle Island.)
Condon said DiRoberto first reached out to him in July, just as Condon was about to start the planning to bring back his group's haunted event. Condon said he hopes the professionally run attraction will bring in more money for the museum. But more importantly, he said, the event should increase the museum's profile.
"As a nonprofit, our fundraising is vital to us," Condon said. "[But] we knew if we went with these guys, ... we would end up with a more exciting event."