Halloween haunts at Soap Factory, Mississippi River


Descend to the depths of the “scariest public basement in Southeast Minneapolis” — or the banks of the Mississippi

If you love a good scare and the foibles of MNDOT and the Minnesota Vikings aren’t enough for you, get yourself down to the Soap Factory gallery in the next three days, Oct. 29, 30 and 31, to check out “The Haunted Basement,” a notoriously creepy experience created by local artists Chris Pennington and Aaron Wojak. Hours for “The Haunted Basement” are 7:30 pm to 10:30 pm, and visitors must sign a waiver to tour the basement. Visitors also must be 18 or older to enter, unless they are with a parent.

The Soap Factory building, located at 518 SE 2nd St., is a pretty scary building to begin with, and Pennington and Wojak have transformed the 120-year-old basement into a den of horror that Pennington says even scares him to death. According to the gallery’s website, Mary Abbe, former Star Tribune reporter, called the space “the scariest public basement in Southeast Minneapolis,” and Maya Nishikawa of WCCO-TV news described it this way: “I’ve got one word for you, Esme: Blair Witch.”

In just its first year, the basement has been a huge hit for the Soap Factory. Only 240 people can tour it each evening and Soap Factory director Ben Heywood said they’ve been turning people away because the crowds have been so large. Tickets are $10 each, and only four people are allowed in at a time, so visitors should be prepared to wait (there is a movie to keep you entertained).

There are no presales for tickets, which go on sale each night beginning at 7 pm; organizers strongly recommend showing up to buy tickets by 8:30 pm at the latest, and they say you can buy your tickets early and then return later to tour the basement, which takes 10 to 15 minutes to walk through. Last admission is at 10 pm. Visitors are also cautioned that the Soap Factory does not have heat, so warm clothes are advised.

While the Soap Factory confines your fears in a dark and isolated basement, Bedlam Theatre’s annual Halloween show airs them out in the open.

A spooky trip through Mississippi history, Bedlam Theatre’s 14th Annual Outdoor Puppet Mississippi Samhain Extravaganza continues through Oct. 31. For the annual outdoor Halloweeen show’s latest incarnation, participants begin at a carnival on the Mississippi River at the base of the North Entrance to Hidden Falls Park and are ushered along a haunted trail to an old river town, where they are met by Huck and Jim of Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” From there, the pageant continues down the Mississippi River bank. Following each show is a reception with live music and hot food and drink provided by Sister’s Camelot.

The North Entrance to Hidden Falls Park, where the BareBones show begins, is off of Mississippi River Boulevard just south of the Ford Parkway Bridge. On site parking is available, and… Bedlam Theatre advises participants to dress according to the weather, and encourages costumes and masks. There is a limited amount of seating available for those who are unable to walk the distance.
Many local groups helped to make Bedlam’s Halloween production possible this year, including grants from the COMPAS Community Art Program and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council.

The show runs from Sat., Oct. 27 through Wed., Oct. 31, with Mon., Oct. 29 as a rain date for the first two shows. Each performance begins at 7:00 p.m. The cost of the event is donation-based.

For more information, and for a great picture of one of the characters you may encounter in the basement, go to the Soap Factory website.