A couple of years into the start of its third decade, Netherworld continues to prove why it was once named the best haunted house in America, and why by many visitors’ standards it still is.
Netherworld moved to its Stone Mountain headquarters from its longtime Norcross location between the 2016 and 2017 seasons, and the relocation has proven to be a positive. It has allowed for an expanded experience that now includes escape rooms, laser tag, a midway with food, games and souvenirs, better parking and of course, the always top-notch haunts. Anyone even remotely interested in haunted houses or horror should consider a trip.
Here are some important things to know to plan your visit:
1) Let’s get this out of the way right up front: Be prepared to wait. That wait will be much longer on the weekends. Netherworld is not something you do as an afterthought. On Fridays and Saturdays it opens at 7. You should be there at 6. Get there at opening time and you’ll wait in line around two hours. You will wait in line to buy tickets. You’ll wait in a much longer line to get in the first haunt. If you choose to do the second haunt (which you should), you will wait in another line to get into that. All that plus a bathroom break and souvenir shopping, and you’ll need a good four hours blocked off. Add in laser tag or other attractions, and well, you get the idea. It’s not something you rush through.
You won’t get bored while you wait though. Fully costumed monsters are on the prowl, both scaring people and gladly posing for pictures. Plus, on the midway you can get your picture made in a coffin, sitting in an electric chair, in the eyes of a skull or sitting on the throne of bones.
2) Bring some money (or a credit card.) A ticket for both haunts mid-October runs $35 plus tax on the weekends, and the price increases the closer it gets to Halloween. Timed-entry tickets are available online, and for a premium you can purchase a speed pass, which is supposed to allow you to skip the lines, but on really busy nights even speed pass holders can end up waiting. You can also buy food, photos and souvenirs, which are fairly reasonably priced. The bright spot is parking. The old location was surrounded by gypsy lots that set their own prices. The Stone Mountain location is across the street from a huge, free parking lot, but be forewarned: it will fill up fast.
3) The wait is totally worth it. As has been its practice for years, Netherworld features two haunts. The larger, all-encompassing haunt this year is called Night of the Gorgon, a nod to the mythical creature and a pretty good Hammer film. It’s filled with every kind of monster, ghost, spectre, weirdness, abomination and jump scare imaginable, and yes, it even has creepy clowns. Loud noises, bursts of air, mist, fog, disorienting effects (more on this in a minute) and of course, the constant screaming all make for a super immersive experience.
The second haunt is shorter but gorier. Called Cold Blooded this year, Netherworld’s second haunt is like entering a first-person video game such as Doom or Resident Evil. Here you’ll find demon robots, zombies, bugs and aliens and other things that can sometimes defy description.
The effects, costumes and design in both are all movie quality, or at least close. There are dozens of actors in costume in the haunt, and it’s not always easy to tell who they are or where they are. (Hint: Look up occasionally.) They won’t touch you (not on purpose) but they will scare the crap out of you. Despite the darkness, it’s fairly easy to follow the path through, but should you get turned around they will quickly steer you in the right direction. Get too scared and want to give up, and they’ll point you toward one of the numerous exits.
4) Speaking of the helpful staff, Netherworld really is run extremely well. It’s efficient despite the wait times. It’s as clean as a place like this can be, with plenty of portable toilets and hand sanitizing stations. Plenty of police and EMS are on duty as well, so the place feels safe. One minor thing to watch for: The dividing gates used for the lines have metal feet that sometimes are bent upward. Don’t trip.
5) Be prepared for uncomfortable situations. Wear comfortable shoes, shorts and a T-shirt (maybe a long sleeve and light pants if it’s cool outside, but once you get to the inside waiting area you’ll wish you had on cooler clothes. Once in the haunt, it’s well air conditioned. Wear something you don’t mind getting wet and/or sweaty. Some sections spray mists of water meant to simulate goo or blood. Navigating swaying bridges, shaking floors and moving walls (including one section that’s basically a Fat Man’s Squeeze) will be a lot easier in comfortable clothes.
6) Which brings us to the last thing: Some people definitely should not go. If you have any kind of heart condition or other health concern where getting startled or scared could cause problems, you should stay out of Netherworld. People with limited mobility, breathing problems, balance issues or claustrophobia also should not enter the haunts. There are uneven floors, squishy floors, a couple of steep inclines, tight spaces, places where the walls close in, etc. Strobes are used in places in combination with mirrors, swirling tunnels and fog machines making some stretches extremely disorienting and downright dangerous for people sensitive to strobes. If you have a bad back, do not go into Cold Blooded, which includes a simulated elevator ride with a sudden drop.
If you’re going to take a kid younger than 14, the main haunt is probably the one for them. Cold Blooded is probably a little too gory. Netherworld allows younger children with supervision, but this place really is meant for teenagers and adults.
Netherworld requires a commitment of time, energy and money, but it’s really worth it. You’re not going to get live-action horror entertainment of this quality anywhere else in the Atlanta area. And you can only watch so many horror movies and episodes of The Walking Dead before you get the itch to ride the horror roller coaster yourself. So get up off your butt and go fight the monsters at Netherworld.
Netherworld is located at 2076 West Park Place Blvd, Stone Mountain, GA 30087. It’s open nightly until Nov. 3 and also the weekend of Nov. 8 and 9. For more information visit fearworld.com or call (404) 608-2484.
About the editor: Nathan McCullough is a journalist who lives in Stone Mountain. Find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bulldawgnate.