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Nowhere Haunted House Brings a Second Year of Scares to Inver Grove Heights

Left: a woman with running eyeliner peeks around a wall. Right: an actor in a monster mask holding a bloody axe.

Courtesy of Nowhere Haunted House

I do this all the time, all right? Haunted houses—that’s my thing. I visit them, I’ve worked for a bunch, I follow them on social media, novelty T-shirts fill my closet. You get the idea: I’m a spooky Halloween fan, and obviously, I consider myself something of an expert on the subject.

So when I was lucky enough to be invited to Nowhere Haunted House’s preview night at its location in Inver Grove Heights for the kickoff of this, its sophomore year, absolutely I went. I was jazzed to find that the team had delivered on their plans to open a full arcade and minigolf, which is a nice appetizer before you enter the show. As for the maze, I had seen it before—I went not only to the 2022 haunt but to Nowhere’s limited run of other holiday shows, Yule Scream and Cupid’s Revenge, so I was really familiar with this space. I thought I already knew what they had up their sleeve. Clearly. Because I’m something of an expert.

So did I expect my walkthough would end in absolute terror with one animatronic behind me, one to the side, almost knocking over the group ahead of me, all while an actor with a chainsaw was coming for us, all within seconds of each other?

No. No I did not.

A woman tees up to putt at the first mini golf hole, the number 1 displayed by a statue of Frankenstein's Monster holding a number 1 on a serving platter.

Ready to putt!

Most haunted attraction walkthroughs have a distinct pacing. A tried and true haunt formula, it’s the best way to deliver the shock and calm that audiences show up for. If there are long hallways with no actors to engage in, audiences start to become desensitized—or, worse, they get bored and mess with the sets. It’s a delicate balance to keep guests entertained but to also subvert their expectations on where scares will come from. It was clear last year that Nowhere’s set design work is outstanding for a local haunt, taking pages from the grimoire of industry king Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Orlando. It has exceeded my expectations with custom made animatronics that deliver scares from above and from the sides, and one that scares the crap out of me every single dang time because it disengages from the track on the floor, surpassing where my brain thinks it will stop and it getting into my personal bubble. And on top of all that, it’s a dang clown.

Yule Scream, which debuted less than two months after the 2022 Halloween haunt closed, was a really fun show with immersive scenes instead of just a walkthrough. Many set pieces were brand new, but some bits were thrown together or draped over the top of haunt set pieces to bring in the Yuletide aesthetic, so one could see through the Christmas skin to the Halloween bones underneath. For me, this ruined some of the animatronic jump scares (though sadly not the dang clown—that thing is cursed), but it didn’t detract from the story, which is why we were there anyway.

In a lobby, life-size mannequins of a decaying Barbie and Ken doll stand as a photo op for guests to pose with.

Photos aren’t allowed in the maze, but scary Barbie and not-enough-of Ken make a great photo op in the lobby.

While it’s clear that a lot of the past year was spent working on the beautiful and engaging set pieces for the minigolf, the maze wasn’t forgotten about. Notably, there is a giant snake that I remember being there in the past—but not like this. Also reinvented for the better was the big-top circus scene.

I didn’t stand still for the dang clown this time. I learn. I ran right past it, but, like a sadist, I stayed and watched through the curtain while it overtook the group behind us. That was a nice moment. Maybe we’ll be friends after all, Dang Clown.

But that leads me to the end. As I remember it in my probably overstimulated little brain, the end of last year’s maze was like a fireworks show where they pop off everything they’ve got and call it a finale. This part took all my expectations about pacing and smacked me in the face with them. While I’m familiar with the final hallway and know that it’s claustrophobia inducing, an animatronic that must be new pops out. Maybe I jump a little—I’m only human. Then, either an animatronic or a person (I’m honestly not sure which) does their thing, and I definitely jump. Then I come around the corner and there’s a ghoulish animatronic woman and I’m screaming at it as I hustle around the next bend, running smack into a mother-daughter pair in front of me. They scream too—my bad. Then a man with a chainsaw pops out and all three of us lose it, laugh-crying while chainsaw dude heckles us. As with all immersive events, the experience isn’t the same for everyone every time and you probably won’t get a quadruple hit, but I hope you do. It’s fun.

a circus-themed minigolf hole shines with UV blacklights

What’s more Halloween than a creepy circus minigolf hole that’s almost impossible to par?

And with that, I hope everyone who is out there looking for a spooky time this Halloween season pays a visit to Nowhere, experts and novices alike. While shows like this are often overlooked because they don’t offer an all-evening experience akin to Dead End Hayride or the dead-but-not-forgotten Valleyscare, my hope is that guests will find value in the concession stand, arcade, and minigolf offerings while taking the joy of being indoors into account.

Nowhere Haunted House runs Wednesdays to Sundays through the end of October at 5300 South Robert Trail, Suite 300, in Inver Grove Heights. In addition to the standard experience, there is an 18-plus night on October 26 as well as low-scare and lights-on tours available.