NEW YORK Just in time for Halloween, Instagram playground Dream Machine put on its own disguise by converting the space into the Nightmare Machine.
Located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the monthlong immersive experience, which runs until October 31, is an urban take on haunted houses, with shareable moments and vignettes that draw inspiration from pop culture, as well as New York life. The nine rooms are designed around creepy, spooky, and downright gross themes, including aliens and U.F.O.s, cockroaches, disturbing clowns, a grizzly autopsy, plus a “millennial graveyard” with tombstones dedicated to of-the-moment references such as the L train (which will soon be shut down).
“Nightmare Machine originally started off as a little bit of an inside joke,” said Paige Solomon, founder of Nightmare Machine and Dream Machine. “Being a first-time business owner, on particularly stressful days the joke was to call it Nightmare Machine instead of Dream Machine. One day, I was jokingly saying that and a light bulb went off. Being a lover of all things creepy and all things Halloween, I felt like there was a great opportunity in the market to make the most of October.”
On September 9, Solomon and her team closed the doors to Dream Machine, which ran from April to September, and transformed the space into the macabre museum over the course of two weeks.
And while much sweeter “Instagram museums” like Museum of Ice Cream and Candytopia might attract crowds like flies to honey, Solomon explained that the Nightmare Machine offers “a darker twist on all the pop-ups that are in New York and all over the country right now,” adding that on a sold-out day about 800 people visit the space.
Tickets to the Nightmare Machine cost $38, which is typical (and necessary) for such an experience, Solomon explained. “Before I owned the business, I would go to other events and think the ticket prices were high. But when you factor in New York rents, paying staff above minimum wage, et cetera, you realize your ticket price as a consumer is keeping the business afloat and allowing staff to afford their personal lives. Put simply, your $38 ticket goes towards much more than a good time,” she said. “Additionally, we will always adjust prices accordingly if we were to get a less expensive space and have less overhead.”
Rent at the North 9th Street location is about $30,000 a month, which might seem like it’s only kind of a nightmare, but it’s actually a bargain when compared to the cost of renovated, updated retail spaces in the same neighborhood.
The Nightmare Machine is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 5 to 10:30 p.m. There isn’t an age restriction, but the organizers recommend that guests be 13 years of age and older due to the nature of the experience. Plus, no masks or weapons are allowed. The space is also available to rent for private parties.
Solomon said that she’ll most likely take the experience on the road, heading to Los Angeles at the beginning of next year. “If I’ve learned anything from Dream Machine, it’s that life is truly what happens when you’re busy making plans. It might seem a bit cliche, but it really does take one person or one phone call to totally change your path.”