It’s that time of year again … time to scare the ship out of yourself!

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The USS Nightmare's 30th season starts on Friday, Sept. 16. Photo provided | USS Nightmare

If you know someone with naviphobia – the fear of boats or cruise ships — there is a good chance that you could never get them aboard the USS Nightmare.

The historic steamboat dredge along the Newport waterfront is one of the scariest Halloween attractions in the region, and it opens for its 30 season on Sept. 16.

The USS Nightmare is docked at the Newport River. Photo provided | USS Nightmare

The original USS Nightmare was built in 1926 and was named the Wake Robin. It changed ownership several times over the years before making its debut as the USS Nightmare on Oct. 15, 1993, in Covington. The Wake Robin was replaced after five seasons of service with a historic steam-powered dredge ship (a boat that removes sediment from the bottom of a river) named the William S. Mitchell. It was built in 1934.

Visitors experience a dark, intense 30-minute tour covering the boat’s two decks. The first deck features more than 20 scenes, including the engine room and the boiler room. More than 18 characters, including Captain Mitchell, scare guests. There are four escape points on the first deck.

Captain William S. Mitchell. Photo provided | USS Nightmare

The second deck features more than 20 scenes, including the freezer. There are more than 15 characters, including Captain Mitchell and his daughter, Anna, to frighten visitors. This deck has two escape points.

Anna Mitchell, the captain’s beloved daughter. Photo provided | USS Nightmare

Some of the more salient scenes from the boat are the museum housing some of the captain’s prized possessions, the crew’s quarters, the Mitchell family’s suite, the night watchmen’s quarters, the vampires’ lair, the insane asylum, the infirmary, the brig, and the lab of the crazy lab doctor.

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There are a variety of scary characters aboard, including the dredge master, the galley cook, and the lady in red.

The story of the USS Nightmare

The story of the USS Nightmare is a fictitious story with a few historic facts. The official USS Nightmare press release tells the tale:

“As legend tells it, the story of the USS Nightmare begins many years ago when the former dredging vessel, the William S. Mitchell, mysteriously broke free of its moorings wreaking havoc as it hit bridge after bridge for miles down the river. Although no one was known to be aboard at the time, the boat’s eventual demise would reveal a much different story.

“Suffering tremendous damage during what would become known as the Mitchell Massacre, the massive steamboat dredge was destined for destruction. But as the debris was sifted, the boat revealed a history plagued by inexplicable deaths, monstrous destruction, and mysterious incidents dating as far back as its 1934 construction. These unexplained ‘accidents’ combined with the hard, grueling work of the dredge took their toll on the boat’s crew leading those lucky enough to survive service aboard to refer to the cursed steamboat as the Death Dredge.

“Records found on board expose the life of the demented, maniacal Captain Mitchell, his bizarre family, and his evil crewmembers. But, they also expose deeper, darker secrets which only raise more questions. Was the river dredging just part of the historic steamboat’s cover story for something much more dangerous? Was the boat really part of top-secret governmental radiation testing? After all, the Captain did allow transportation of barrels and crates that were deemed off limits to the crew. Was he really working with the government on classified projects? Was there an unknown demonic presence within the boat itself that tormented its inhabitants? Were the captain and crew unknowingly being impacted by this force and turning on each other and the innocent people they encountered? Or, did Captain Mitchell, always looking for ways to earn extra money, unintentionally allow some questionable people on board who were just pure evil? Perhaps one of the various transients that the captain welcomed aboard (for a small fee) was really the cause of these strange occurrences.

“Regardless of whether the USS Nightmare is haunted by an inherent evil or is cursed by outside factors, one thing is for certain. There is an intense, malevolent force within the walls of the massive steamboat dredge, and NO ONE is safe from its effects.”

If you go:

The USS Nightmare will be open on September 16, 17, 23, 24, 29, and 30; October 1, 2, 6 to 9, 13 to 16, 20 to 23, and 27 to 31; and November 4 and 5. Each night the boat opens at 7 p.m. except for November when it opens at 8 p.m. On certain nights the boat closes at 11 p.m., and on other nights, it closes at 1 a.m.

General admission tickets cost $23 each in September, every Sunday and Thursday in October, and Monday, Oct. 31. They cost $27 each on Oct. 1, 7, and 14. A general admission ticket costs $30 on Oct. 8, 15, 21, 22, 28, and 29, and on Nov. 4 and 5.

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An RIP (a more interactive and extended tour) general admission ticket costs $36. All other ticket prices range depending upon which day you go. Fast pass tickets cost $36 to $50 each. A RIP – Fast ticket costs $46 to $60. Front of the Line tickets cost $60 to $80 each. A RIP Front of the Line ticket costs $50 to $70. Limited parking is available and free.

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USS Nightmare
101 Riverboat Row, Newport
859-740-2293
https://ussnightmare.com