Exclusive Interview with Netherworld Haunted House Co-Founder

Netherworld’s Co-Founder tells us about this year’s haunted house and more…

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Netherworld’s new Stone Mountain location.

Last week, I visited Netherworld Atlanta, one of the most popular and top rated  haunted houses in the nation. During the visit, I went through both attractions “The Awakened” and “Subject:Unknown.” Each were entertaining in their own way; the attention to detail of each haunt was impressive, and the monsters are realistic and lifelike, whether in the haunted house or roaming the grounds.

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Citizens residing in “The Awakened”

Once you descend into the pitch black hallways, you’ll find creepy, old authentic furniture, “jail cells” where monsters hide in the shadows and jump at you, and visual illusions like the vortex tunnel. Netherworld is pulling out all the stops this year and it shows.

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I got a chance to sit down with the co-founder of Netherworld, Ben Armstrong, to find out what it has to offer at their new Stone Mountain location.

ABD: How are you enjoying the new location? Is there anything you can accomplish here that you couldn’t at the old one?

BA: First off, we own the building now and 9.5 acres of land. So, we’re able to do what we need to with the structure to fit our needs. It’s been good so far; we have offices now, we have room to do escape games, for our monster museum and we have a ton more backstage space allowing the haunts to expand. All very important things!

ABD: How long have you been in the haunting business? How’d you get started?

BA: I’ve been haunting since I was a little kid. My background actually is in television, I worked in TV in Tallahassee, Florida for 18 years. I hosted a late night horror show, and produced segments of the Jerry Lewis telethon. When I moved to Atlanta, I realized there were professional haunted houses, like it was a business. That’s also when I met my business partner Billy Messina. One year, the guy who did the haunts we both worked on said “he was done with them.” And that’s where the first Netherworld started.

ABD: What does Halloween mean to you?

BA: It’s a unique holiday and one of fun. With haunted houses, it becomes a tradition and groups of people get together, go, scream, have a good time. I love when I see people on social media like “We’re going to Netherworld!” and see them getting scared as they’re on the way.

ABD: How many people does it take to keep Netherworld going?

BA: This year it took a big staff because we moved and had to recreate something we’ve been doing for over 20 years. Now that we’re open, we have an even larger staff, about 400 people. Around 100 to 150 people will work on any given evening.

ABD: What have you learned from all the years of doing this? Have you stuck to the same plan or do you often change it up?

BA: If you ever stop learning, you stagnate. If you think you know it all about any subject, that’s a sign that you don’t. I learn new things every year, really every day.  Some little shadow in the corner you didn’t think twice about scares people a lot, or fascinates them. It’s like a movie where some little character that doesn’t seem important ends up becoming the most popular character to fans.

ABD: Tell us more about your haunts.

BA: We have two new haunts this year, “The Awakened” and “Subject: Unknown.” Conceptually “The Awakened” encompasses all the things Netherworld is about. You’ve got supernatural, monsters, mythology, ancient cities; the traditional things you’d expect to see in a haunted house. “Subject: Unknown” is more the science fiction end of the scale. There’s aliens, robots, dinosaurs.

ABD: What can returning fans look forward to in 2018?

BA: We have 3 escape games we’ll be doing year-round. We have a large “midway” area where you gather after exiting the haunts. There’s a gift shop, food, games, TONS of photo ops. People love to take pictures and our live monsters running around will pose or maybe just “show up” in your pics!

We’re going to be doing additional shows that we will announce soon like a glow-stick very dark version of the haunted house, the weekend after we close, November 4th. We’ll also be doing a Christmas and Valentine’s show.

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Be sure to check out the Netherworld Haunted House in Stone Mountain! It’s $23 on weekdays and $25 weekends and Halloween for “The Awakened.” For an extra $5 on weekdays, and $8 on weekends you can experience “Subject: Unknown” as well. For $55 on any night you will get a VIP Fast Pass which puts you to the front of line once you arrive.

For escape games book on the Netherworld site.

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During escape games you’ll have to work together.

 

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The Atlanta Drunks & Dragons at Joystick Gamebar

Looking for a good game of Dungeons & Dragons?

Well, the Queen of the Gnomes of course knows where to go.

Down in the Old Fourth Ward at Joystick Gamebar, the Atlanta Drunks & Dragons have been hosting the popular role-playing game since September of 2017. With a diverse and welcoming group of Dungeon Masters (DM), the Atlanta Drunks & Dragons are always ready to connect players both new and old.

Started by Dr. Bradley Goodnight and his wife Dr. Jessica Goodnight, the Atlanta Drunks & Dragons have helped to create a world of gaming, fun and overall player-inclusivity.

“Our goals are to enjoy D&D without excluding anyone who wants to learn or get better,” said Dr. Bradley.

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The Atlanta Drunks & Dragons provide multiple “on-shot” and on-going campaigns with a variety of levels and characters.

"On Tap" Campaigns
“On Tap” Campaigns

“When I’m a DM, I like to play the “Death House” campaign. Characters start at level 1, so the perils and dangers of the dungeon have more weight, and the choices have graver consequences,” said Dr. Bradley.

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The meet-ups take place Monday and Tuesday of each week, and all are welcome to the DM Happy Hour at 6:00 P.M. Around 7:15, each DM “pitches” their game idea, and players choose from there.

A noticeable (and amazing) aspect of the weekly meet-ups was the diversity between players. Dr. Jessica, who runs a women’s-only campaign table, believes in encouraging female players to partake in D&D regardless of their play-levels.

“We’re not here to judge others; we want everyone to feel welcome no matter how long they’ve been playing or if they’re a man or a woman.”

The women’s table currently has six-players and hopes to grow in the near future.

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Long-playing DM Chris also believes in making new-players feel at home within the D&D community.

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Chris, who has been with the Atlanta Drunks & Dragons since its conception, explained that his favorite part of the meet-ups was the overall camaraderie.

“Making new friends as an adult can be hard, but D&D is an excellent way to meet new people without feeling forced to.”

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The diversity of players includes all ages (over 21 of course it is at a bar), ethnicities and backgrounds ranging from psychologists and scientists, to thespians and stay-at-home parents.

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Even Joystick’s bartenders’ partake in the fun; manager and DM Jacob Tadych runs his own on-going campaign and is specialized in levels 8-15.

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“I love how in-person the game is; it gets people out and you never know who you could run into,” said Tadych.

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While I myself have only spectated D&D campaigns, the atmosphere and unique one-shot options provided by the Atlanta Drunks & Dragons has definitely piped my interest in playing.

I wonder what character the Gnome Queen will choose?

When asked about any upcoming events, DM Chris detailed the first-ever: “Atlanta Dungeons and Dragons Bar-Crawl”.

The Crawl is to take place at 12 P.M. June 23rd with twelve games occurring at Joystick, the Beer Garden and Noni’s. While tickets are unfortunately sold-out for game-play, spectators (over 21 duh) are more than welcome to move from each location for a strong drink and some serious fun. The Crawl will also include tarot card readings, D&D bingo, and an after-party at 7 P.M.

You know I’ll be there in all my Gnomey glory.

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So whether it’s for the adventure, friendships or simply the alcohol, make sure you come roll the dice with the Atlanta Drunks & Dragons.