Duluth’s Haunted Ship.

Photo by Jess Waldbillig

As I walked up the steep stairs to the William A. Irvin gift shop on Oct. 7, I was met by quivering, yet excited voices, echoing from inside: “Is it over? I feel like someone is going to jump out at me still!” and “That was great, it’s nice to be back!” I smiled in agreement—it was nice to be back. As a Duluth area native, touring the Haunted Ship every October has always been at the top of my fall festivities bucket list. I even had the opportunity to volunteer as an actor a few times in high school, even though I couldn’t speak the next day from screaming and growling all night, it was an amazing experience. While I waited in the gift shop for actor coordinator Dave Stafsholt, the unusual sounds (distant screaming), sights (dismembered hands), and smells (I’m not sure I want to know), brought back fond memories.

A friendly greeter with axe in hand awaits tourgoers on the sidewalk in front of the ship.

A friendly greeter with axe in hand awaits tourgoers on the sidewalk in front of the ship. Photo by Jess Waldbillig.

Stafsholt has been the William A. Irvin Actor Coordinator for twenty years and to say he has been looking forward to this year’s haunt would be an understatement, “It’s a relief to be back. Every October I get amped up for this, so not having it has been hard.” Stafsholt is referring to the ship’s four-year hiatus caused by repairs performed on the ship and later Covid. Stafsholt did admit he was initially a little worried about actor numbers, but from the very first actor meeting last August that hasn’t been the case. Stafsholt added that he’s made black masks and sanitizer available for every actor that wants one, “We want everyone to be comfortable.”

The announcement for the Haunted Ship was made last June, usually prepping for the haunt starts in April. The crew has been working full speed ahead since then, building and coordinating a self-guided tour that takes approximately 30-35 minutes (unless fear causes you to sprint through.)

While Stafsholt’s title on the ship is “Actor Coordinator,” he gives all the credit to the actors: “They’re the reason I’m here. The actors are why I keep coming back—without them this isn’t at all possible. I’ve had some actors for fifteen years and they just keep coming back, and that’s not easy to do. I work for them!”

You can find the schedule and purchase tickets for the Haunted Ship onsite or on the website. General admission tickets are $15, fast pass tickets are $25, and college students can present their student ID to purchase $10 tickets (available in person only).