Now That’s Christmas: Fright Kingdom’s “Fright Before Christmas”

December 3, 2023 —
THIS is how you Christmas, folks. Blood and screams and jump scares just like the old-fashioned Christmases that Granny used to host.

Quick refresher: Fright Kingdom is a Halloween haunt in my town of Nashua, New Hampshire. But it’s not just a Halloween haunt. It’s the best indoor Halloween haunt in all New England and probably most other states thrown in there, as well.

In December, it reopens for a single weekend with a Yuletide glaze over its October trimmings. They call the event the Fright Before Christmas. It's a beautiful chaos of Halloween and Christmas. Red and green lights strung over orange jack-o-lanterns. Fake snow falling on gargoyles. Psycho Kris Kringles with axes. Crazy elves with chainsaws. Killer snowmen. Mike Myers in a Santa hat. Krampus, Krampus, Krampus.

Attending the Fright Before Christmas has become an annual tradition for me. As has the October version, of course. Actually, anytime Fright Kingdom’s doors are open, I find myself there. Hell, even when they’re not open. Owner Tim Dunne has been kind enough over the years to sometimes let me play Charlie Bucket to his Willy Wonka. I’m super-lucky to have a place like it a mere three miles from where I brush my teeth.

This year there were ten of us, most of whom had never experienced even the Halloween version of Fright Kingdom, so it was a blast watching them go through it. While we were at one of the staging areas of the haunts, one of my friends asked me, “Do you ever get tired of walking through here?” My answer was automatic. “No, it’s like walking through my favorite park at this point.” And, on further consideration, it really is. I just stroll through doffing my cap at this gory psycho diving at me from the ceiling and pointing finger guns at that maniacal clown jumping up at me through the stairs. Whistling “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” at the twenty-foot-tall animatronic ogre-thing.

Afterwards we hung outside at the part of the haunt where all the venders are, fake snow falling around us, demons on stilts striding past bearing severed heads wrapped in Christmas lights, the smell of funnel cake and fried Oreos on the air. Like, if there were a bar at this place, I’d cozy up to it, tell the bar tender to throw a candy cane in a grasshopper for me, and just hang out in all that ambiance.

And, I have to admit, in a year that I’m being hyper-critical of Christmas, it’s a relief to be able to have fun with the trappings. Like I don’t have anything against nutcrackers and jack frosts. It’s just the contortion of the holiday into something insincere and ulterior that drives me jingle bells, a situation that is apparently alleviated when you throw gingerbread ghouls and the ghost of Christmas future in the mix. You know, the bleeding honesty of Halloween pulling old Santa off his high reindeer.

By the time you read this piece, it’ll be too late to go this year. But follow its website for other events. Like Halfway to Halloween this summer. You’ll see me there. At the bar. Margarita garnished with a gummy eyeball in my hand.