NORTH CHARLESTON — At Ashley Acres, the staff is simply dying to welcome new patients to the asylum. 

Literally. They’re all cursed nurses, possessed nuns, ghastly beasts and mad scientists reaching from beyond the grave to clutch whatever life forces they can and drag them into the afterlife. 

Well, at least their characters are, according to the macabre tale Nate Shoemaker has woven to create the Charleston area’s newest haunted house this October, Southern Screams. 

Shoemaker has been crafting demented dreamlands since he was a teenager, always drawn to horror movies and Halloween haunts. He grew up going to haunted houses and started designing them in South Florida about 20 years ago. 

If you go

WHAT: Southern Screams

WHEN: 7-10 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday nights; 7-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights, Halloween night 

WHERE: Holy City Brewing, 1021 Aragon Ave.

PRICE: $20 general admission, $35 VIP (faster line + beer), $145 get buzzed (faster line + beer and burger + Stardust Tattoo flash tat) +$5 scare with care glow necklace

MORE INFO: southernscreams.com

He spent many October evenings in his high school years visiting Halloween Horror Nights, Universal Studios theme parks’ haunted house pop-up. 

When he moved to Charleston in 2019 with his partner, he noticed there was only one local haunted house attraction: Boone Hall Fright Nights. He wanted to amp up the scare factor in town. 

“Why doesn’t one of the most haunted cities in the world have another haunted house?” he asked. 

So he took it upon himself to build one. Last year, he constructed a 4,000-square-foot haunted house in his own backyard in West Ashley. Without any advertisement, it drew about 1,000 people. 

Then Holy City Brewing reached out about a possible collaboration. So this year, he built the over-5,000-square-foot Southern Screams haunted house behind the North Charleston brewery, right on the swamp. 



RJ Jenkins goes over his jump scare with Jackson Wiggins for Southern Screams’ haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff




Ashley Acres features 20 rooms and a graveyard, and more than 40 scare actors. 

When you “enter if you dare,” you’re immediately hit with an overpowering stench. 

“It smells like burnt corpse,” said Shoemaker of the “Slaughterhouse” perfume. 

There are more smells throughout: cotton candy in the circus tent, a sterile hospital scent in the shower, decay in the dissection chamber. 

Throughout the maze are gory scenes lit up by strobe lights and masked by smoke.

There’s the butchery, with a masked meat-slicer sawing away at his latest meal, while a decapitated head bakes in the microwave. 

There’s the lab, with a scientist cutting away at a gut-splayed corpse, a disemboweled surfer boy strung up in the corner. 



Kelsea Nunnally puts a scar on her forehead before getting dressed and stationed for the Southern Screams haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff




There’s the classroom with a creepy girl who follows you around, a message repeated on the chalkboard: “I will not commit murder again.” 

There’s the stuffed animal room, with giant teddy bears dangling from the ceiling, a few severed arms and legs swinging from the door frame on your way out. 

There’s the shock therapy room, with a strapped-down woman thrashing as she’s being zapped by bolts of blinding electricity. (Shock Therapy is actually also the name of the marshmallow cream ale Southern Screams brewed in collaboration with Holy City.) 

And there’s the black-lit clown room, which may just be your worst nightmare. 

Integral to the scares is a team of actors who put on the theatrics in order for Shoemaker’s terrifying vision to be brought to life. 

Joe Spiotta is the director of talent and an actor at Footlight Players. 

“I love theatrics, I know theatrics, all kinds of theatrics,” said Spiotta, who manages the team behind the scream. 



Sterling Misanin puts on his clown mask for Southern Screams’ haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff




Half an before sunset and show time, he grouped the actors into an interior courtyard for a pep talk. 

“One, two, three, Scare!” he yelled as the team posed for their daily group picture by a tombstone. 

The clowns, butchers and monsters were all smiles before the night of horror ahead. 



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Leyah Gaffney (left) and Mary Jane Britt warily walk through the Southern Screams haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Jeremy Bradley puts on his costume in the room where he’ll be stationed during the Southern Screams haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Kelsea Nunnally puts a scar on her forehead before getting dressed and stationed for the Southern Screams haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Sterling Misanin puts on his clown mask for Southern Screams’ haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Andrea Raupach puts on her mask before going to her spot in the Southern Screams haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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RJ Jenkins goes over his jump scare with Jackson Wiggins for Southern Screams’ haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Performers begin to scare people as they go through Southern Screams’ haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Joe Spiotta (left), director of talent, high-fives Kelsea Nunnally at Southern Screams’ haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Beth Jewel checks her phone before starting work at Southern Screams’ haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Southern Screams worked with Holy City Brewing to craft a beer for their haunted attraction, pictured Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Mark Keene adjusts his mask for Southern Screams’ haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Jordan Kyles (left) and Jade Boykins rush through the Southern Screams haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Performers are stationed around the Southern Screams haunted attraction to scare people on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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A performer dressed as a clown waits for people to come by to scare at the Southern Screams haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Joe Spiotta (left), director of talent, and Nate Shoemaker, co-owner of Southern Screams, monitor a computer with other crew members showing the various rooms in their haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Horror decorations fill the rooms throughout the Southern Screams haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Leyah Gaffney (left) and Mary Jane Britt take a selfie with Michael Shenk’s puppet, Ashley, before going through the Southern Screams haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Performers get into position for the Southern Screams haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Leyah Gaffney (left) and Mary Jane Britt warily walk through the Southern Screams haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



ashleyacres_1.jpg

Jeremy Bradley puts on his costume in the room where he’ll be stationed during the Southern Screams haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Kelsea Nunnally puts a scar on her forehead before getting dressed and stationed for the Southern Screams haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Sterling Misanin puts on his clown mask for Southern Screams’ haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Andrea Raupach puts on her mask before going to her spot in the Southern Screams haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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RJ Jenkins goes over his jump scare with Jackson Wiggins for Southern Screams’ haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Performers begin to scare people as they go through Southern Screams’ haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Joe Spiotta (left), director of talent, high-fives Kelsea Nunnally at Southern Screams’ haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Beth Jewel checks her phone before starting work at Southern Screams’ haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Southern Screams worked with Holy City Brewing to craft a beer for their haunted attraction, pictured Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Mark Keene adjusts his mask for Southern Screams’ haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Jordan Kyles (left) and Jade Boykins rush through the Southern Screams haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Performers are stationed around the Southern Screams haunted attraction to scare people on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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A performer dressed as a clown waits for people to come by to scare at the Southern Screams haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Joe Spiotta (left), director of talent, and Nate Shoemaker, co-owner of Southern Screams, monitor a computer with other crew members showing the various rooms in their haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Horror decorations fill the rooms throughout the Southern Screams haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



ashleyacres_17.jpg

Leyah Gaffney (left) and Mary Jane Britt take a selfie with Michael Shenk’s puppet, Ashley, before going through the Southern Screams haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff



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Performers get into position for the Southern Screams haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

One of them is Frank Ruopoli, who got his start scaring people in 1997. Ruopoli used to write for the Charleston City Paper and was very in touch with the theater and music scenes at the time; his wife was a theater major, and they were in bands together. 

Somewhere along the line, he ran into a man who owned a mansion on Rutledge Avenue. For Halloween, he’d transform it into a haunted house. Ruopoli got involved as a spookster, and then the House of Doom moved into the old Charleston County Library building. He said both were big hits with the locals. 

It’s been since the early 2000s that Ruopoli was a haunted house actor. Southern Screams encouraged him to give it another go, especially since some of the proceeds go to the Charleston Animal Society. Ruopoli got his terrier-chihuahua mix, Trudy, from there. 

While he loves the holidays because they bring people together, interestingly enough, Ruopoli isn’t big on scaring others.

That doesn’t mean he hasn’t; a few times he’s frightened people to the point that they wet their pants. 

“I guess I gave them their money’s worth,” he said with a laugh. 



Andrea Raupach puts on her mask before going to her spot in the Southern Screams haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff




Andrea Raupach saw a posting for the Southern Scream auditions and, at 47 years old, decided to give it a shot. It was a bucket-list item of hers and her very first foray into acting. But she loves horror movies, trick-or-treating and all things Halloween. 

“It’s fun to get in the land of make-believe for a while,” she said. 

She’s a creepy nun, and she has a jump scare she’s proud of. 

“I’m normally not a prankster, but I like it in this setting,” she said. 

Laura Letton, a Flowertown Players stage manager, is a transplant from Boone Hall Fright Nights, where she worked for three years. She said a few people made the transition, especially those who live more in the North Charleston or Summerville area. This is much closer to home. 

She personally was a fan of Southern Scream’s management, since it’s gay-owned and operated. 

That also appealed to 17-year-old Sydni Baldoni, who met partner Julie Crist while working together at Fright Nights. 

The duo transferred to Southern Screams this year and are twin clowns; they heard about the new haunted house at a Charleston Pride event. 



Joe Spiotta (left), director of talent, high-fives Kelsea Nunnally at Southern Screams’ haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff




Interestingly enough, Baldoni has heart problems, so being the scarer instead of the scare-ee is a necessity. 

“It’s so cathartic, actually,” Baldoni said. 

Letton has high anxiety and a startle reflex. 

“I could never attend one of these, so being the scarer makes it so much better,” she said. “Backstage, I walk up to a clown covered in blood and they’re giving me watercooler talk.” 

High-anxiety guests also have the option to wear glow necklaces, which cost a little extra. That’s a cue to the actors to not follow them around in a room or target them while scaring. 

That doesn’t mean those guests won’t leave with a racing heart and a nightmare or two stored up for the next few nights. But that’s the point, right? 



Leyah Gaffney (left) and Mary Jane Britt take a selfie with Michael Shenk’s puppet, Ashley, before going through the Southern Screams haunted attraction beside Holy City Brewing on Oct. 5, 2022, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff




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Reach Kalyn Oyer at 843-371-4469. Follow her on Twitter @sound_wavves.

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