Nightmare Factory: On the haunt for a terrific time
It's the night of Friday the 13th and the cold grip of fear sits in the back of your mind. Thunderous noise — a foul mix of distant screams, roaring metal and the taunting melody of an out-of-tune piano engulfs the entirety of your being. Your eyes struggle to adapt to the oppressive darkness, seeming to vibrate within your skull as you blink away the pressures of the surrounding sound.
There, in the corner of your eye, a dark figure looms, watching you. Your head snaps to the side, eyes darting over the now-empty space. It feels like your back is turned in every direction, tunnel vision making it hard to discern what lurks around you, and you can feel thousands of eyes following your every movement.
Sounds like a nightmare, right?
Well, you’re not wrong! Sort of. The Nightmare Factory is not your average haunted house — it’s not a house at all! It’s a cohesive collection of multiple environments that tell a terrifying story: winding halls that are littered with creepy artifacts and paintings, open rooms with disturbing themes and hidden lore, and a daunting maze where you don’t know what or who you’re going to run into. Founded 36 years ago, the Nightmare Factory is the oldest running haunted attraction in Oregon, decked head to toe in decor that even the dead shiver at. After gaining the attention of Extreme Makeover and earning their own episode in 2010, their work became nationally recognized!
The Nightmare Factory strays away from your classic haunted house in multiple ways, but its biggest defining attribute is the community that surrounds the project. Since the attraction takes place on the campus of the Oregon School for the Deaf (OSD), students engage in various skills and processes to build and maintain it every year. The Nightmare Factory acts as a learning opportunity for OSD students for skills that they’ll use in the future.
Ed Roberts, founder and co-director, gushed over his students’ work and the way it’s showcased. “It’s a bridge between communities. It’s a bridge between the deaf community and the hearing community,” he said. People who are unfamiliar with what the Nightmare Factory is often underestimate its quality and outright freakiness. “People come here thinking, ‘Well, it’s the school for the deaf, how good could it be?’” Roberts explained. Yet the moment they set foot in line, they’re met with a humbling beginning.
Creeping through the crowded lines are monsters — killers in disguises — standing behind you, next to you, above you, all waiting for the perfect moment to scare. Once you enter the catacombs of terror, thin white strings that mimic spider webs hang above the doorways, on the walls and even on some characters. The light wisps of material find your skin, sticking to the fear-induced sweat that coats your cheeks. As you struggle against their weightless grasp, they give you one last caress before searching for their next victim. The shadows that engulf your every step, the blaring sounds of spooky tunes and shrieks of fright, the pungent odor of sweaty socks in the locker room — every sense (except taste, THANK GOD) is targeted to make your experience as immersive as possible.
The scariest thing about the Nightmare Factory, however, is how little it’s talked about on campus. Despite being a popular spot with Salem locals, the topic ghosts the Willamette community. As terrifying as it is, the attraction is genuinely one of the most exhilarating horror experiences in Salem. If you’re looking for even more reasons to stop by, the proceeds go to OSD and are used to fund school resources and activities. It’s their biggest fundraiser: “It’s a hell of a bake sale because it makes a lot ... of money for the school,” Roberts claimed. The Nightmare Factory is a product of hard work, dedication and passion — something that should be celebrated by everyone who lives in Salem!
Walking out of the Nightmare Factory was an experience akin to rebirth. My knees were quaking and I was shaking in my hypothetical boots! My heart pounded, my skin tingled and I felt alive. Kate Snyder (‘26) — the poor soul I dragged along — and I had to sit for a few moments of silence to mentally recollect ourselves. Snyder experienced the Nightmare Factory for the first time and was asked about her experience and how she would describe it. Through dazed eyes and a ghostly grin, she said, “Hell … it’s like this adrenaline rush you’ve never felt before.” The bottom line is if you love being scared, then the Nightmare Factory is something you’ll want to check out.
Their times of operation are from 7 to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and other times are listed on their website. There’s no need to spoil everything that happens. You just need to experience it yourself!