Haunted House On The Ohio River in Newport, KY – USS Nightmare
October 20, 2015
For nearly 20 years, the USS Nightmare has been an annual Halloween destination in the greater Cincinnati region. Each fall, the historic steamboat appears on the Newport, KY waterfront just in time for the Halloween haunting season. Framed by the spectacular downtown Cincinnati skyline, the smashed wreckage of the massive old steamboat seems eerily out of place on the developing waterfront. And that is just how parent company BB Riverboats likes it; it is an attraction that catches your eye and peaks your interest. But, it was not always a decrepit steamboat in such disarray. It was once actually an innovative and powerful steamboat known as the William S. Mitchell. Built in 1934 by the Marietta Manufacturing Company of Point Pleasant, WV, the William S. Mitchell is an enormous 280 foot long steam powered dredge designed and commissioned by the Army Corps of Engineers to tame the wild Missouri River by creating and maintaining a navigation channel suitable for commercial traffic. As the need for dredging subsided, the Mitchell was retired from service and permanently docked in Kansas City destined to become a steamboat museum.
But it seemed the spirits of the powerful steamboat had other plans. Under flooding conditions, the Mitchell broke loose from its moorings. Powered by the raging flood waters, the mighty steamboat headed aimlessly down the Missouri River on a harrowing last voyage that was captured on video by the local media and dubbed the Mitchell massacre. Although a small tugboat tried to stop the enormous vessel, its attempts were futile, and the Mitchell scraped its way under the Broadway Bridge. Upon impact with the Railroad Bridge, the stern crew quarters were crushed. But the journey did not end there. The current pushed and turned the massive dredge sending it onward to another disastrous collision with the old ASB Bridge, and the 30’ smoke stacks were leveled. After hitting a fourth bridge, the dredge was finally stopped. The final voyage was over, but by then, the William S. Mitchell was virtually demolished. The damage was so severe that the museum project was cancelled and the steamboat was headed for the scrap yard. That was until it was discovered by present day owners, BB Riverboats. Saved from the scrap yard, the majestic steamboat now serves as the perfect backdrop for the eerie tale told by BB Riverboats and their crew led by USS Nightmare General Manager, Captain Allen Rizzo.
The USS Nightmare tour combines the mystery surrounding the frantic final voyage with the history of the steamboat and the stories of hardships and mishaps as told by surviving crewmembers that worked and lived aboard the dredge. During the initial planning for the tour through the USS Nightmare, the investigation revealed many strange and horrifying stories relayed by the crew. Based on these findings, it appears the mysteries and mishaps that have haunted the boat and its crew began during the boat’s construction with three unfortunate and mysterious deaths. Another bizarre accident reportedly occurred during the launching ceremonies resulting in one death and dozens of injuries. As a result, the steamboat began its 50 years of service with a crew that held many superstitions, and from all accounts, the bizarre and mysterious happenings continued throughout the vessel’s history.
Some events could be explained as unfortunate coincidences; others seemingly have no rational explanation. Separating myth from reality is difficult after so many years. But one thing is certain; a cursed and wrecked steamboat with a mysterious crew makes a fantastic storyline for Cincinnati’s favorite haunted attraction, the USS Nightmare.
Many of the surviving crewmembers believe the real trouble started when dredging during the maiden voyage uncovered an apparent ancient Indian burial ground. Later that same year, dredging operations were halted when the pump became clogged with what was later identified as a mast from an ancient sailing vessel. According to the legend passed among crewmembers, the operations of the large dredge in clearing the long uncovered riverbed were disturbing the eternal rest of past mariners and an ancient sacred burial ground. Some believed it was the souls of those disturbed mariners that haunted the William S. Mitchell and cursed all of the crewmembers to an eternity of unrest and horror...