HALLOWEEN SPECIAL: Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery – Salem’s Horror Museum

Special Halloween’s Post courtesy of
LAURA SCHAUBSCHLAGER

It’s almost Halloween’s Eve and today we’ve got a special post from our horror correspondent Laura, who’s recently traveled to Salem to celebrate her birthday! While there, she got to talk with the founder/owner James about the popular attraction, which boast an amazing artistry and production details that would attract horror actors as well as horror fans.

So enjoy her writeup below from her visit to COUNT ORLOK’s NIGHTMARE GALLERY:

As most of you regular FlixChatter readers know, I’m the resident horror writer. I cover other genres, but horror is my wheelhouse. So when I visited Salem, MA over my birthday weekend and found out they had a horror movie museum, you know what was at the top of my list of things to do. Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery has been a Salem staple for the past 11 years and is a must-see for horror fans and movie buffs alike, filled with incredibly detailed wax figures of famous horror characters, from silent films to Universal Monsters to 80’s slashers and everything in between, all including plaques listing interesting production info about the movies. I thought it would be fun to visit it myself and write about it as a Halloween feature for the blog.

Even if this isn’t posted by Halloween, Count Orlok’s is absolutely worth learning a little more about. I had the immense pleasure of speaking with James, Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery’s founder, about the museum and its beginnings, the impressive list of horror celebrities who have visited it, and the horror genre in general.

Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery opened in September of 2007 on Derby Street in Saelm, after having been a traveling museum based out of Newport, RI simply known as “The Nightmare Gallery.” The name was changed to Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery mostly to avoid being confused with “The Nightmare Factory,” a haunted house attraction in the same town. The name Count Orlok was chosen partially because the iconic Nosferatu villain fell under public domain, and partially because of the air of mystery the name provided; “Not many people know the name is from that movie,” James informs me. The museum moved to a new location on Essex Street just this fall, after the landlord of the first location said he might not be able to renew the lease after a couple more seasons due to a park going in next door. Fortunately, the new location has worked out well; there’s an entire basement level that hasn’t been opened yet, but will contain even more exhibits, including a collection of Hammer Horror characters.

On the topic of the exhibits, I cannot begin to describe how lifelike these wax figures are. 1990’s It’s version of Pennywise, for example, is so detailed that it’s hard to believe a 44-year-old Tim Curry didn’t time travel to the museum in his full clown garb. It turns out that this figure is actually the museum’s first one made by 3D printer; they had another excellent Pennywise statue before, but James is always making sure they have the best versions possible for whatever characters he can find. The sculptors who provide the figures are a mix of people who have worked in film, newcomers at the edge of breaking into the industry and are creating in L.A., and some who have nothing to do with the film industry and are simply very talented artists. While plenty of the sculptures are permanent fixtures, James is always looking to add new ones when he can. “In the back of my mind, I keep a vague rolodex of monsters people have wanted to see in the past,” he explains. “If I happen to find them, I will try to bring it to my museum.” In addition to the exhibits, there is a small theater in the back of the museum where they screen public domain horror movies (Vincent Price’s House on Haunted Hill had just started while I was there). James also plans on using this space for special presentations on things like how the monsters are made, how he started collecting, etc.

“Horror movies in particular give you an escape that’s not entirely comfortable, that gives you a touch of anxiety, makes your adrenaline pump.” – Museum founder/owner James

Wax sculptures aren’t the only horror figures that frequent Count Orlok’s. The museum often hosts prominent horror celebrities (my visit landed right between a visit from Friday the 13th’s Kane Hodder and Halloween’s Tony Moran, so I clearly need to plan my trip better next time). Tony Moran, the unmasked face of Michael Myers in the original Halloween, was actually the museum’s first celebrity guest in 2009, and is a frequent visitor. Other notable guests include Dee Wallace, whose horror credits are too many to list here (seriously, look at her IMDB page), and whom James effusively describes as “very sweet, such a love,” telling me about how she met with fans outside the old location on one of the very coldest nights of October, keeping a wide smile on her face the whole time despite the freezing weather. The museum has also hosted Doug Bradley, AKA Pinhead from Hellraiser (the noise I made when James told me he got to walk through the museusm with Pinhead chatting about Pinhead might not have been human). And those few are only a small handful of the actors Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery has hosted.

At the end of our interview, I asked James a question I get a lot: what is it that you like about horror movies? “It’s a very unique escape from reality,” he muses. “Horror movies in particular give you an escape that’s not entirely comfortable, that gives you a touch of anxiety, makes your adrenaline pump.” He was hooked at a young age, when as a kid, he saw a commercial (he thinks maybe for Energizer batteries) with Vincent Price that ended with Vincent’s eyes glowing green. “I was enthralled,” James says. “It was very atmospheric…the atmosphere gets people.” His love for the genre grew as he got older, beginning to collect wax monster heads at 13 or 14, after having seen a neighbor’s impressive collection at a home haunt (a haunted attraction in someone’s actual home) a couple years earlier and learning from them about how to be discerning about collecting, getting numbers of potential resources, browsing catalogues, etc. Needless to say, the guy has been in the game for a long time, and that dedication shows in every square inch of his museum.


Even if you’re not a horror fan, Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery is a must-see attraction in Salem, just for the artistry alone. If you live in the area or plan on visiting the East Coast, definitely add this to your itinerary. You can learn more at www.nightmaregallery.com or follow them on Facebook under Count Orlok’s Horror Gallery.

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