For Halloween, Real World War II Battleship is Ghost Ship Harbor (5 stars)
by Johnny Monsarrat
Boston has waited a long time for a top quality haunted attraction. Most of the best are an hour's drive away or more. So it's a thrill to have one now close to Boston that you can get there on the subway! Because my first interview was on a rainy opening night, they invited me back with friends for a second review.
Ghost Ship Harbor is the Halloween theme of the USS Salem, a World War II era battleship turned into a museum. It's only a mile's walk or bus ride from the Quincy stop on the MBTA. During the off-season, in the daytime, it is the United States Naval Shipbuilding Museum. But this Halloween as you approach it's a real treat to see the ship decked out with Halloween scenery and lighting. Then get permission to come aboard and your adventure begins.
Although the USS Salem has had celebrations and haunted houses for years, run by energetic volunteers, this is the first year that they've hired professional talent, Jason Egan, who created the Fright Dome in Las Vegas, ranked near the top as one of the scariest haunts in the United States. It is not really the only Halloween attraction in greater Boston, but it's one of only a very few within the Route 128 beltway, and certainly the largest.
The attraction has a completely new concept than previous years. A contagion of zombie has broken out and it's your job to navigate the haunted corridors watching the outbreak unfold and avoiding the monsters it creates. Actors jump out to scare you and you'll find plenty of animatronics as well.
The ship, of course, is all metal all the time, so watch your step and watch your head, especially going through doorways. One of the VIP experiences you can buy is to visit a seance room and see "ghost hunting" equipment, exploring the paranormal. On one hand, it's a delight to see the inside of the ship and learn a bit of history. On the other hand, I was in the mood for a fun ghost story with a real plot told theatrically. Instead, we had someone gullible enough to believe that ghosts are real just list ghost names matter-of-factly without any storytelling. It's always disappointing to me when I meet people who make their living pushing an anti-scientific agenda. On my first visit they pushed it too much, getting preachy. On my second visit they allowed us to make up our own minds, but we learned less history (for example, they skipped telling us about the movies that had been filmed on the ship). Perhaps next year they'll allow a VIP tour of the ship with the history and inside views but without the paranormal as an option.
Although the scenery was basic, mostly cloth strips, plywood, and netting, we enjoyed the costuming and masks, and many of the actors had something creative to say or do, especially at the entrance. The attraction was long enough, and came with two features, a carnival row to entertain you while you arrive and a large VIP room. It's a tented area with hay bales for lounging and even a skull shaped bar.
There could hardly be a better venue for a haunted attraction than a real warship. Only Hammond Castle in Gloucester is a spookier natural venue. Despite my boredom and even annoyance at the paranormal experience, there's no beating the wonderful views outwards of the night sky and harbor, and the inner views of the old time radio equipment and living quarters. What an amazing place to learn a bit about history while being spooked and exploring around. It's a stunning wonderland of military power folded into a zombie story that will make you shriek.
Ghost Ship Harbor deserves 5 stars, and next year they plan to double its size to include the lower deck!
Find Ghost Ship Harbor at 739 Washington St, Quincy, MA, or at www.ghostshipharbor.com.