Once upon a time, fairy tales were delightfully demented. Prior to their Disney transformations, Cinderella’s stepsisters cut off their toes to fit into the glass slipper; The Little Mermaid turned into stone at the end of the story; and Snow White’s stepmother’s punishment was to dance to death in white-hot metal slippers.

All of these gruesome scenes and more are depicted at Nightmare: Fairy Tales Haunted House, one of New York City’s more theatrical haunted venues.

During Halloween season, New Yorkers are graced with a plethora of haunted house options to satisfy their need to be scared. Few houses, however, attempt anything beyond traditional scare tactics involving blood and gore or flickering lights.

Nightmare, made up of a creative team of actors and artists, takes “scary” a step further.

“We use more psychology than other places,” said Richard Mark Jordan, one of Nightmare’s actors. “We really try to get in people’s heads.”

Having acted for the past five years at Nightmare, Jordan views this year as the most theatrically based.

“It’s always theatrical, but this year is definitely a lot more theatrical,” Jordan said. “It’s less blood and guts than other years.”

Last year’s theme at Nightmare was Superstitions, played out in a mental hospital. Visitors who walked under a ladder were given “bad luck,” in turn receiving more unwanted attention from the house actors.

“We really mess with people and make them think it’s for real,” Jordan said.

This year, Nightmare returns to the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center (a fittingly abandoned school house) with a new twisted theme: fairy tales.

“[Fairy tales] are not about comforting children,” said John Harlacher, Nightmare’s co-director, “they’re about scaring the shit out of them, so that they go to sleep and don’t bother you.”

Fairy tales’ cutesy association with Disney might have made haunted house frequenters wary of this year’s Nightmare, since the house has gotten flak from some of its customers.

“The most challenging thing about this year is that we’ve really discovered a line within our audience between the theatrical folks and the regular folks,” said Smithyman, Nightmare’s scenic designer. “We’ve discovered this line and have gone to one side of it intentionally.”

Having worked as Nightmare’s scenic designer for six years, Smithyman knows better than to deem fairy tales unworthy of haunted houses. This year’s scenes were designed around original stories of the Grimm Brothers and Hans Christian Andersen, playing off of visitors’ childhood memories and giving them a dark twist.

“We’ve figured out how to work out a scare,” Smithyman said. “It took us a while to plan the anatomy of a scare regardless of what the theme was for the year. That was the very important thing that we had to learn.”

Visitors wander through a haunted forest, stopping along the way to witness gruesome scenes. A few of Smithyman’s favorites include Bluebeard and the Billy Goats Gruff. Other scenes involve a Big Bad Wolf puppet and a Little Red Riding Hood mannequin. The house ends with a puppet show in which audience members are the subjects.

“There are these crazy, weird people running around at you, doing stuff,” Smithyman said. “At the same time, you’re having a little [childhood] flashback.”

Next year’s theme remains a secret, but visitors can expect something completely different.

“If we were doing this purely as a financial thing,” Harlacher said, “we would make one haunted house and just do that every year.”

“The fun of it is creating something new,” Harlacher added.

Nightmare: Fairy Tales is open until 1:00 a.m. over Halloween weekend. The house will close on November 5. Find out more at www.hauntedhousenyc.com.

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