A 'high-startle' night at Fort Adams

Fortress of Nightmares is a great night out — if you dare


"Oh yeah, I've scared some people," says Tyler Gates of Warwick. "I've got stories…everything from people collapsing on the ground to running out the door and all the way back to the parking lot."

In reality, Gates, a Johnson & Wales freshman majoring in Robotics Engineering, is not a scary guy. At least not at the moment, behind the scenes about an hour before Fort Adams' Fortress of Nightmares Halloween attraction opens for the evening. With a smile on his face and his mask tipped up on his forehead, he explains how his high school alma mater, Rocky Hill, has a 100-hour community service requirement. So when he discovered this volunteer opportunity as a theater-loving freshman, he jumped at the opportunity to scare people for charity. Freed from the requirement, Gates does it for fun these days.

Volunteers — about 50 each night — can bring their own costumes or choose from a huge collection of props, many still available for the taking as the actors stagger their arrival so as to not overwhelm the makeup artists. Like most of the volunteer actors, Gates changes his costume up yearly.

This year he's a killer clown. "Timely, huh?" he laughs.

Fortress of Nightmares is in its 13th year; it was begun the year before Rob McCormack, Director of Visitor Experience for the Fort Adams Trust, came on board. "We've added something new this year, with 3-D Mayhem," he says. It's a labyrinth of twisted scenes, enhanced with 3-D technology, that concludes with a walk through a spiraling tunnel. Tunnels of Terror is an interactive maze with a surprise around every corner, set in the historic tunnels of Fort Adams. Turned! is a zombie survival experience with state-of-the-art laser tag gear. A paranormal exhibit, complete with artifacts from the fort's appearance on "Ghost Hunters" last year, is the only attraction where you can be sure nothing unnerving will pop out of the woodwork. "The others," says McCormack, "are high-startle attractions." Because of that, the Fortress of Nightmares is best for visitors over 12 years of age.

Over the years the event, which runs Friday through Sunday on the two weekends leading up to Halloween, has netted over $100,000 for the Fort Adams Trust.

There are only a handful of guidelines for the actor volunteers. "Obviously, there's no touching," says Gates. "But other that that? We'll scare them any way we can — from the conventional 'boo!', to dragging this knife on stone so it sparks, to anything in between."

Gates pulls his killer clown mask down. "I chased someone out into the yard, last night, between the attractions," he says. "They ran."

WHERE: Fort Adams, 90 Fort Adams Drive, Newport
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, Oct. 28-30; 7 to 10 p.m.
COST: $15; Turned! is an additional $5
MORE INFO: fortressofnightmares.org


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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.