CEDAR RAPIDS — The ghosts of Bishop’s Buffet and Four Seasons women’s clothing store have moved on, making way for a fifth season to swoop into the cavernous space inside the front doors at Lindale Mall.
Nevermoor, a haunted Halloween immersion, has emerged, luring visiting victims into three very different lairs.
Looks can be deceiving at “223 Maple Street,” a seemingly shiny, happy midcentury modern home where the hostess lies ready to greet guests with a plastic smile and measured movements. She offers a cup of tea, after testing to make sure the electric burner is indeed hot. She then invites guests to move onward through various indoor rooms and a patio — where everything is just a little bit off — and another houseguest warns you not to drink the tea. It’s best to heed that warning.
Across the hall lies “Awakening,” where guests step into a World War II-era bunker, home to the remnants of a top-secret ocean mission dubbed “Project Nemo.” No cute little clownfish to follow here, but something else may have been awakened — including the crew that went missing all those decades ago. Don’t eat the sushi — it may eat you.
The third attraction, “Fractured Mind,” delves deep beneath the surface into the craniums of guests, patients and staff in a pseudo psychiatric ward. A chirpy nurse says hello, lays out the rules and warnings — do not interact with the patients — then leads guests to an elevator that eventually plummets to Dr. Richman’s laboratory. Therein lies a series of testing rooms where those who enter will never be the same.
Plenty of things go bump in the night. Creepy characters may sniff you and follow a little too closely. Some may even enter before you’re prepared, but Nevermoor isn’t about blood, guts and gore, said mastermind Chris Moore, 40, of Lisbon.
“We like to put you right into the story,” he said.
“You’re not a bystander, you’re not going through watching these things happening — you’re participating in them. We’re going to ask you to find a secret door or bypass a security system, or something like that, and really kind of put you to where you are in the story, and not just walking by a bunch of vignettes. That’s something we strive for and pride ourselves on — the interactivity and being immersed in the environment, and not just people hiding in corner waiting to jump out at you. Although, we might have some of those.”
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An Indiana native who worked for five years in a scenic design shop in Orlando, he moved to Lisbon seven years ago with his wife, Kira, to be closer to her family.
They now own the Mount Vernon movie theater and The Fantastic Escape! rooms in Lisbon, as well as the escape rooms they created in the former Bank of the West building outside Lindale Mall. They launched Nevermoor across the parking lot last year, in an empty building that now houses the AYSO Soccer indoor experience.
Moore has had a hand in creating scenery for Disney World, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Universal’s haunted attractions in Florida, and wanted to bring an Orlando experience to Cedar Rapids. With just five people working behind the scenes, he has 30 actors working within the scenes, expanding on last year’s successful launch.
“We’ve upped our effects game from last year,” he said, noting that Nevermoor has more than 70 pneumatic components, making even more things shake, rattle and roll.
It’s about as family friendly as something like this can be, and while he feels it’s appropriate for tweens on up, younger visitors receive a magic feather to wave if things get too intense for them.
“That’s the actors’ cue to scale back a little bit,” he said, adding that after a recent young visitor waved her feather, her mom thanked Moore for offering that option.
His wheels already are turning to create his 2020 vision.
“I can’t seem to shut it off,” he said. “I already have a bunch of stuff planned for next year. (I’m) always brainstorming. That’s the life of a creative. You’re afraid to turn it off, because you’re afraid it won’t come back on.”
If you go
• What: Nevermoor: The Fifth Realm
• Where: Lindale Mall, 4444 First Ave. NE, Suite 0001, Cedar Rapids
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• When: Through Nov. 2; 7 to 10 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays, 7 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays
• Cost: $25 for all three haunted attractions
• Details: Enterthe5threalm.com
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