It all started in October of 1991. David Bertolino turned 100 River Road in Berlin, MA into, as said by Jerry Springer, “Disney World for the Halloween crowd.” The documentary, Spooktacular!, directed by Quinn Monahan, captures the magic of this haunted attraction while still really showing just what made it magic. It wasn’t big amounts of money, or meet and greets with Elvira. Those helped, sure. But it was the heart itself. Spooky World did as much local hiring as they could, they built local too. Both of these further play into the heart that turned this spooky house into a spooky home. Starting with the Spooky Hayride in 1991, continuing with the rebranding into Spooky World in 1992. Spooktacular! covers the entire history of Bertolino’s time with Spooky World and captures each year in their own bottles.

Spooky World’s original horror scream park featured haunted houses, sideshow attractions, celebrities and a notorious haunted hayride. The park was soon deemed Massachusetts’ largest and most terrifying horror scream park, becoming a household name. Seven years later, Spooky World moved its location to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts to partner with the Kraft family. With the growth and development of One Patriot Place back in 2005, Spooky World found itself looking for a new home. Betolino was ahead of his time, combining amusement park-style haunts with a horror convention roster of celebrity guests. Betolino had everyone from Linda Blair to Tom Savini and Kane Hodder in attendance. Savini also designed the first haunted house attraction for Spooky World in 1992 and executive produced this documentary.

The thirty odd minute hayride would creep through the woods and stop at a series of mini “horror shows.” These could range from watching a violently gruesome surgery being performed which, of course, would end with a guy’s face popping out of the patient’s stomach, to Leatherface chasing innocent victims in a mass of fog and lighting effects. The set designs were well done for the budget they must have been restricted to. One minute you’d come across some impressive, real-time gore effects, especially with Savini on the payroll. Then right around the corner would be a bunch of 99-cent store foam graves. At the end of the hayride, workers would pass around trays with free apple cider, donuts and cookies for all surviving victims. Then your group would walk over to the haunted barns to do some wandering. Outside was more like a carnival than a spook-house which, as I said earlier, was there to help with the long waits to experience everything else. One barn would be full of animatronic beasts and ghouls, while the other held a massive assortment of classic horror movie nostalgia, props and merchandise for purchasing. To get a good vision for yourself, this VHS rip, narrated by Hodder and produced by Savini no less, can help paint the picture.

Inspired by his collaboration with Bertolino on the podcast, Spooky 101, Quinn took the roles of Director, Editor, and Co-Producer on the documentary, helping craft the narrative that shows how massive of a phenomenon Spooky World was, and the industry launched by it. Gail Jorden worked with Quinn before, producing content for the Academy Awards and the SAG Awards. She spent four years doing research and writing what became Spooktacular!. Bertolino started out as a whoopee cushion salesman in Boston, working alongside his father and brother. From there he moved into his own costume shop, working with products and props. He even did industry witness work with New Line Cinema. All of this helped shape him into the perfect mad scientist behind Spooky World.

Now my dear reader, to step away from Spooky World as a big thing and look at it smaller, I grew up in a small town in Ohio. We had farmland surrounding our town and I have a strong nightmarish memory of when I found out I was afraid of heights at the county fair. I was talking with a friend about Eminem, and we were on that big Pharaoh’s boat, swinging back and forth. I was completely unfazed, just enjoying the wind and the talk, until that feeling in my gut, you know the one, hit me. My child size body had never felt fear like this, I hadn’t been on rollercoasters or experienced anything that made me feel like I was falling. It immediately terrified me and I went from talking about my 8 year old outlook on the Real Slim Shady to crying and gripping my mom as tight as possible. Later that night we tried the ferris wheel and it solidified how awful heights are for me. I did not mess with rides, coasters, anything of the sort, again until I was 14. The girl I was dating wanted to go to Cedar Point for her birthday and her parents bought me a ticket as well. I had many pep talks with my dad and tried to mentally prepare myself for conquering this fear. It didn’t work, I was still scared out of my mind, but I rode everything except the Demon Drop(clocking in at 29, still will not ride that fucker), and the massive version of the ferris wheel(re-tried that one last summer with my fiance, still scary but a good trick is to just only look at the person you’re with).

Finding out that I had options now that I was in high school and knew people with cars, I attended my share of Cedar Point HalloWeekends, haunted houses, and the works. But none of them ever hit me quite the same as the Hudson Haunted House. It is the longest running house in our great state, and one of my neighbors actually helped start it. It has this feeling of sweetness to it, no matter how family friendly it is or isn’t. I think that special feeling cannot be replicated and really stands out for something like a haunt, a restaurant, you name it. I’m good friends with the guy that runs the Haunted Schoolhouse and Laboratory, and even though his work shows and pays off, it isn’t quite the same. Spooky World might not have been a thing for everyone to experience, but it has its own touch on us as viewers because it pushes us to think about our own Spooky Worlds.

Where else will you hear about Tom Savini’s dip into the haunt world? Or what about focused marketing to capture the rebrand, and how there was roving entertainment since there were 2+ hour waits just to get off the highway into this small town? Spooktacular! is where you’ll find out why Tiny Tim renewed his vows at Spooky World in 1994. It’s where you’ll hear about the transformer explosion of 1996 too. Watching Spooktacular! will help you learn about Ruthie the Mouse Girl, the Hellhouse of Hollywood signing with Anton LeVay’s daughter, and Berlin’s pushback against the nude Manson girl. All of this and more can be found in Spooktacular!, the Spooky World documentary. More information on the documentary can be found here.

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