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2023 Dark Nights: Haunted House Origin Stories

Origin Stories Behind All 5 Dark Nights Houses at Hersheypark

Darkness is sweeping over Hersheypark with new, blood-curdling frights lurking about. Hersheypark Halloween with Dark Nights is open more days and hours than ever for guests to experience new frightening scares this Halloween season. 

Read on as we dive deeper into the origin stories behind each of our five Haunted Houses. 

Auntie Mortem’s Abattoir (All-New)

In the town of Hershey, near the turn of the 20th century, the first Abattoir opened its doors to process fresh, cut meat for the community. A dedicated worker, Ethel Mortem, learned the trade and quickly became known as Auntie Mortem. After many years of serving the community, Auntie Mortem started her own Abattoir with meat from her favorite local farm, Mass Acres. However, business began to dwindle with the addition of supermarkets and in the 1970s she lost a key part of her business as the official supplier of hot dogs to Hersheypark

With her business slowing down and livestock prices rising, she enlisted the help of her niece Sue, and her nephews Snuffles, Truffles, and Chuck to keep the family-owned abattoir running by whatever means necessary while keeping the next generation employed. 

Be cautious when entering this family’s business, you just might be the exact cut of meat they’re looking for.

Haunted Coal Mine: Curse Of The Tommyknockers 

Coal Mining resides deep in the roots of Pennsylvania’s history. It cuts across the entire state including the hills of south central PA. In fact, right here in Hershey, a small mine existed for many years called The Coal Cracker Mine. In the early 1920s-30s it thrived in black gold production even though it had a history of miners going mysteriously missing, never to be found or heard from again. 

The mine steadily declined in production through the 1950s-60s and in the 1970s, a massive flood caused by a hurricane closed the mine for good, even though it was rumored that real gold was actually uncovered in its deepest caves and caverns. The last miners to work in those long shafts and deep wells complained of constantly hearing strange noises and suddenly becoming disoriented and lost in the endless array of tunnels dug over the past century. They barely made it out alive just before the mine was shut down. 

Long after the corridors were boarded up - just in the last five years - flecks of gold started appearing in the nearby Swatara Creek, generating renewed excitement amongst the locals. They campaigned to reopen the mine and extract its supposed treasure. Folks from all corners began eagerly seeking hidden paths into the old coal pit. Then, in 2020, everything changed. By happenstance, a few Hersheypark employees came across an undisclosed mine shaft inside the amusement park that was never identified on the map for Coal Cracker Mine. 

In 2022, after some extensive renovation work, the shaft was officially opened and the abandoned coal mine was once again reborn. This time for tours as gold was not easily found. Unbeknownst to those who actually unsealed this tomb, the miners who once mysteriously disappeared still remained alive inside, forever wandering around the tunnels, cursed and crazed by some evil creatures. Turns out, those miners had come in contact with these gnome-like men known only as Tommyknockers in folklore who consider gold a prized possession, and anyone attempting to steal it from them would be doomed to a life of madness. 

The tourists last year were lucky enough to escape, but the haunting mine has now become a popular attraction amongst those who either seek treasure or want to know if the folklore of the Tommyknockers is true. So tours continue to persist, yet now, it’s becoming more clear that misfortune is on the horizon as the Tommyknockers have become more brazen in their warnings that this IS their mine, NOT YOURS, and they are ready to defend it against anyone who tries to steal their gold. If you are not careful, you’ll see what drove these miners crazy in the first place, and there’s no telling if the same misfortune will happen to you.

Creatures Uncaged 

With over 16 million acres of Pennsylvania land covered in Forests, much of the terrain is often secluded and uninhabited, or so we thought. Deep in these woods, tales of mythical beasts roaming through the underbrush have become modern folklore for generations of families who often hold these creatures in high regard as protectors of their lands and crops. 

No one has been able to provide reliable proof that these monsters really exist, until now. One man who goes by the name Professor Darkstone has been determined to capture this mythical collection in hopes of putting it on display, and earning a small fortune. To find these creatures, Professor Darkstone often searched at night across the vast Pennsylvania landscape, including many of the surrounding counties near Hershey. After months of risking both life and limb, his exquisite collection was finally completed. 

Now curated, his top hat dusted off, and tailcoat imperfectly pressed, the impresario was ready to embark on a traveling road show to show off all these creatures to the surprise and delight of paying Guests. While pitching tents and making camp throughout many of the small boroughs of rural PA, he befriended one of his rare jewels - Jezebeth. Part human / part goat, she was often able to help corral and herd the collection. She soon became Professor Darkstone’s most trusted advisor and confidant. Little did he know or understand the conflict that resonated in her mind as to where her true loyalties lie. 

Last year, one of his routine stops included the Historic Hersheypark Amphitheatre. As Ringmaster, he and his handlers would put together a scenic tour of the caged creatures. Always frightening, but never harming, the Professor thought all was normal that unfaithful night. Little did he know that his trusted sidekick, Jezebeth, was actually leader of the beasts. Chaos quickly ensued as she helped her fellow creatures break free from their cages. By the end of the night, the creatures were loose and Professor Darkstone was rolled up to become their next meal. 

In the year that followed, Hersheypark became home to many of these creatures. Under Jezebeth’s rule, the monsters have made the showroom and stage their own, calling out new creatures you didn’t see last year from the shadows. Venture inside to see who you may catch a glimpse of - but be careful you never know where Jezebeth’s is lurking and whether she really wants humans touring her show. Will your fate become the same as Darkstone’s? Where you are the main event captured for all to see.

The Descent: Catacombs Of Decay 

Just like Mr. Hershey, who traveled to the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893 in search of new marvels in chocolate-making machinery, an antiquities dealer from the same town also traveled to the World’s Fair, but his search was for a much different purpose.. 

This dealer had come to learn about a very rare verascope rumored to have the ability to show its wearer the past, present, and future. Once found, he brought it back to his parlor shop in Hershey where he planned to sell it for a small fortune. 

Vera, the shopkeeper’s assistant, had other plans. Desperate for information on her missing husband, Vera placed half of the verascope over her head in hopes of learning the outcome of her lover. Little did she know that this would change the course of her life…and after life, forever. 

Immediately a portal opened up into the shop that led to a dark pathway of tunnels that have long existed underneath Hershey. Vera ran into the tunnels to evade the shopkeeper. As she journeyed through the caverns learning more about her lover’s fate, she was filled with rage that awoke spirits from the underworld. 

The shopkeeper and his loyal patrons chased after her to retrieve the stolen artifact. Combing through watery graves, the patrons witnessed what Vera saw which was the murder of her husband. Now one with the dark spirits, a cursed Vera took rage on those who chased her promising them to feel her pain and suffering. 

Now, a year later, the shop has long been abandoned, the shopkeeper is nowhere to be found. However, the other half of the verascope is missing. Antique seekers are now on the hunt for this rare treasure. The portal remains open and the rumor is Vera is still down in these tunnels, and seeking vengeance for her cursed life.

Twisted Carnevil 

For years, Pennsylvania has been home to some of the country’s most historic and well-known county fairs. A vagabond who goes by the name, Madame Zola, would often travel from fairground to fairground seeking a midway to work her craft as a fortune teller. At each fair, she would sneak in, nuzzle up to the midway and pitch her tent to start charging patrons to read their fortunes. 

When she got word that a Midway at Hersheypark had opened its doors, she thought she found the perfect location to pad her pockets with riches. Once word spread that she had taken residence, a line of fans began to form. 

As she began her tarot card readings in 2022, her visions weren’t just imaginary. They were so life-like that they catapulted her spectators into a state of twisted darkness, summoning their worst nightmares, and leaving them asking if the carnival was all real or just in their imagination? 

Now, her loyal fans are back for another year of visions but Zola is nowhere to be found. What’s happening now is all too sinister… even for her, as darkness has evolved into a true carn-evil of terror. Those who are expecting a fortune are in for a venomous surprise.

Hersheypark Halloween and Dark Nights span seven weekends from September 15 through October 29, 2023. Purchase your Hersheypark Halloween ticket today and visit all day and all night this season.