Stone Mountain’s Netherworld Haunts On While Ensuring Safety During Pandemic

Netherworld haunted house has been a Halloween staple in the Greater Atlanta area for more than 20 years. The popular haunt, located in Stone Mountain, is a self-guided, walk-through attraction, and has been consistently ranked as the top haunt in the nation by publications such as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Buzzfeed, and USA Today. Netherworld stands out among other haunted attractions because of its original themes and unique storylines, which change every year. 

Because of COVID-19, many people wondered whether the popular haunted attraction would open this season. On October 2, Netherworld returned with two new haunts, Halloween Nightmares, and Cyborg Shock. They also opened a new outdoor area called The Festival of Monsters. 

“While this year was incredibly challenging and different, we were determined to deliver the same level of quality of experience that our guests expect from us with all the necessary safety precautions,” said Netherworld co-creators Ben Armstrong and Billy Messina. 

Armstrong and Messina sought guidance on how to reopen in the midst of a pandemic, and implemented several operational changes to ensure the health and safety of guests and staff. 

“We have received a lot of support and guidance from local officials, especially the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce and State and County Health Departments. It would have been difficult to open without them!” 

Armstrong and Messina, both film industry veterans, created Netherworld in 1997. Netherworld began as a single haunted house in Norcross. In 2018, Netherworld relocated to Stone Mountain, and added a Midway area and several themed escape rooms. This season, the haunt has made the list for “10 of the Scariest Haunted Houses in America” by O, The Oprah Magazine, and got its very own street name, 1313 Netherworld Way. 

“Throughout our 24 years in the haunt industry, we have always had a passion for what we do and we know that shows through to our patrons,” they said.

In light of the pandemic, Netherworld reduced the number of costumed characters and altered the way they will engage with guests. They also removed set pieces that caused closer interactions. To offset these changes, Netherworld added a multitude of new effects, sets, and animations to the attractions to entertain guests in a safe manner. 

“Along with delivering an incredible experience for our guests, we are dedicated to maintaining a safe environment for both our staff and guests alike. With a full slate of carefully planned COVID-19 policies and procedures in effect, such as limiting capacity and timing entry to allow for social distancing, this year is sure to be just as safe as it is spooky,” said Messina. 

Netherworld is enacting other safety measures as well, including contactless temperature screening and enhanced cleaning and sanitizing procedures. They have placed a multitude of hand sanitizer and washing stations throughout the attraction. Masks are required for all staff and guests, and Netherworld is also using HEPA filters to provide the cleanest air possible. 

“We have found that patrons are really appreciative that we are taking every precaution necessary (and more) to ensure their safety,” said Armstrong and Messina. 

Netherworld is selling tickets online to reduce capacity and allow for proper social distancing. The tickets are time and date reserved, and visitors enter within a 30-minute window. Only groups that arrive together will be allowed to enter the attractions together. To ensure minimal wait times, Netherworld has staff posted throughout the property, especially at the entrances, to help expedite the tours and guide visitors. They are also selling Speed Passes. 

Armstrong and Messina say creating each year’s theme is an ongoing process. Each theme features an evolving story, and elements of future themes are always hidden in the backstory of previous seasons. 

“Netherworld is known for our movie quality makeup and elaborate special effects and sets. We strive to make each year even better than the last. This year was no exception. We have already begun planning 2021, and since it is going to be our 25th season you can bet it will be over the top!” they said.

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