The scariest place on earth is sometimes within the confines of your own mind. There, the freakish and fantastic abound and there is no escape. Welcome to the Netherworld.
The Netherworld Haunted House is a huge attraction in Norcross, Ga., that can draw in thousands of people on its busiest night. It's sectioned into two parts, Raw Meat, a gory, grungy walk through cannibal-filled sewers, and this year's main attraction, The Nightmares. Run by Billy Messina and Ben Armstrong, the indoor attraction aims to make you scream.
"Anything can happen in a nightmare," Armstrong said. "You have no control. Clowns, insects, zombies, statues that come to life?"
When he says anything, he really means anything. Capitalizing on commonly held fears, visitors to the site near Atlanta never know what they might stumble upon. The plot revolves around undead creatures called -- you guessed it -- the Nightmares. They roam the earth, by land and by air, terrorizing any who dare enter their domain. But fear not, visitor to the realm. There are illuminati warriors there to protect you from the ghastly ghouls.
The employees at the Netherworlds go to great lengths to make sure the park is as dynamic as possible. There are spinning tunnels, subway cars, palpitating heart rooms, laser swamps, and even a gator tank.
That's not it. You might run into huge animatronics puppets with gaping mouths that might, as Armstrong noted, "try and eat you ? and might if you let it."
If you're really luck, you might even run into Armstrong himself, who moonlights as "The Nightmare King" on occasion. He plays the iconic character each year at the attraction, which changes theme every year.
"Every year is like a sequel to a movie. There has to be some base elements, but there's always something new to make it exciting. We're always evolving," he said.
The haunted house's evolution is enough to warrant it's routinely making the yearly lists of the best haunted houses in America. Armstrong credits the ability to become something that people have to go to, year after year.
"People go to a haunted house to create a memory. They have a great time, scream, and laugh. Akin to a sequel but like a tradition, "he said.
For most haunted house owners, a scream lets them know that they're doing their job. For Armstrong, however, there is another sound that rings the sweetest.
"My favorite reaction is to have them scream in terror and then laugh," Armstrong said. "Means they got that surge of adrenaline, and then realized how fun it is."
The season will last until the first Saturday of November.