I Scream, You Scream

Scout Island Scream Park debuts this month at City Park.
Illustrations by Tony Healey
Kimberley Singletary is the managing editor of Biz New Orleans magazine. A 20-year Southern California veteran, she has been surrounded by the film industry for most of her life.

Scout Island Scream Park debuts Oct. 5 at City Park.

Jeff Borne is all about the scares. Twelve years ago, he took a completely gutted 150-year-old mansion on Canal Street and transformed it into a Halloween tradition. Formerly an operating mortuary for about 80 years and surrounded by cemeteries, The Mortuary Haunted House offers an authenticity that naturally attracts adrenalin junkies.

In order to keep the revenue flowing year-round, however, outside of the Halloween season The Mortuary operates as Mystere Mansion, an elegant, Victorian-style mansion perfect for weddings and events of all sizes and clientele, including serving as the home of the wrap party for “Jack Reacher” starring Tom Cruise. Companies and groups of friends and family also visit the mansion year-round to enjoy a unique teambuilding experience in one of the mansion’s five escape rooms.

This Halloween, however, Borne is reaching beyond the mansion walls to offer up an experience unlike New Orleans — or he says any city — has seen before. In partnership with City Park he has created  Island Scream Park, a pop-up 50-acre outdoor theme park that brings nightmares to life.

A year and a half in the planning, Scout Island Scream Park is an immersive experience that includes a variety of attractions, from a haunted fun house to a military-style laser-tag game where participants can hunt live zombies, to something called “Blood Bayou” that honestly scares me enough with the name.

Surprisingly, the park is also kid-friendly — at least in part. A dedicated “scare-free zone” features a haunted hayride, face painting, a hay bale maze and bounce house.

Located close to Marconi Drive and Harrison Avenue on the west side of City Park, the park will open Oct. 5 and run mainly on weekends through Nov. 3. During that time it will employ more than 250 seasonal workers, along with third-party vendors like security, food, janitors and amusement park vendors.

For Borne, Scout Island offers an opportunity to build off of what he’s created at The Mortuary.

“Because the mansion is surrounded by cemeteries we are landlocked — there’s nowhere to expand,” he says. “So once people go through there’s nothing else really for them to do. I’ve been trying to figure out a way around that for years.”

With Scout Island only six minutes by car from The Mortuary, the hope is that scare seekers will spend a full evening visiting both. To aid in this, Mortuary visitors will receive free general admission to Scout Island, and on the reverse side, Scout Island ticket buyers receive a free VIP upgrade to The Mortuary.

“In the future we’ll offer shuttles between the two,” Borne says. “We’re not there quite yet.”

Tickets to Scout Island are $15 for general admission, which gets you into all the Fright Zones, sideshows, kid zone and The Kraken Beer & Spirits Pirate Music Club. Carnival rides and larger attractions are available either a la carte — the zombie battlefield experience is $25 for one game, carnival rides are $8 each and the kid-friendly hayride is $5 a ride. All-access passes really seem the way to go with this one. They’re $49 for unlimited access to everything.

“Unlike at The Mortuary, you can keep enjoying something over and over if you want,” Borne says. “That’s unusual for an attraction like this.”

Borne says the park began grabbing attention months before opening.

“Corporate sponsors have already been contacting me and the thought is this could be as big as Celebration in the Oaks for City Park.”

For Borne, Scout Island is his effort to continue to build New Orleans as a Halloween destination.

“We get a lot of attention, and tourists, during Halloween,” he says. “We see visitors from all over the world who come for things like the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience and for all of our attractions and tours. This is one more thing to add to the list that you can’t get anywhere else.”