Party like it’s Halloween and the 1920s at the Haunted Speakeasy
There’s a scene in Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film “The Shining” with ghosts from a party in the Roaring Twenties that has always haunted Worcester singer, comedian and event producer Niki Luparelli.
So much so that she created her own famous party, The haunted Speakeasy, which will be at the Bull Mansion, which now houses the Nuestra restaurant, for the first time since 2018.
The Haunted Speakeasy will take place from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. on October 14 and 15 (VIP tickets get you in at 8 p.m.). It’s the return of one of Worcester’s best-known and “coolest” Halloween parties.
In “The Shining” (the film was adapted from the Stephen King novel), Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson), whose stay as a winter watchman at the Overlook Hotel in Colorado doesn’t happen so well, wanders the halls of the zombie-like hotel but then stumbles upon a party taking place in the golden room.
Torrance had hoped his time as a caretaker would revive his handwriting and keep him from drinking.
Instead, he enters the Golden Room and travels back decades to join some partying ghosts in what Kubrick wanted to portray as the Roaring 20s, though the time in “The Shining” is often deformed.
“It’s the inspiration for the party,” Luparelli said of her event. “I always thought, ‘What would it be like to walk into a 1920s ghost room?’ That’s what I want to create there (at The Haunted Speakeasy).”
Luparelli, a graduate summa cum laude from the University of Rhode Island with a double major in music and communications, brought her own take and created The Haunted Speakeasy with “thugs and molls, flappers and bootleggers, ghosts and ghouls!”
She had what she thought was the perfect combination of concept and location with the Bull Mansion, 55 Pearl St. The first time she went to the Bull Mansion, “Speakeasy was the first thing I thought of “, she said.
However, the Bull Mansion was temporarily closed in 2019 after a previous owner’s liquor license was seized for back taxes. Then came the pandemic.
Natalie Rodriguez rented the Bull Mansion to its new owners late last year and opened the Nuestra restaurant with the idea of running the restaurant and hosting special events on three floors of the building.
“Nuestra” means “our” in Spanish. Rodriguez has years of experience in the food and beverage industry and brings plenty of Latin flavors to the historic property, including “authentic Puerto Rican cuisine” and American dishes with “our own twist.”
'”I’ve been there several times for dinner. The food is great,” Luparelli said.
Luparelli contacted Rodriguez to bring back The Haunted Speakeasy.
“I was looking for a new place and saw that Nuestra was renting it out,” Luparelli said. “There aren’t many places that work in the Worcester area. I’ve been looking since Bull Mansion first closed.”
Haunted Speakeasy previously accommodated 200-300 people at the Bull Mansion per night. For October 14 and 15, Luparelli is planning 200 for each night. “A really comfortable number.” She has the use of three floors.
The event is described as “A 1920s haunted mansion party of your vintage dreams!”
Party-goers discover spirits, both macabre and boozy (the latter with spooky cocktails specially created for the era), and can dance to 1920s music in the ballroom by “resident Speakeasy Show” Niki Luparelli and the Grave Diggers (planned to be a seven-piece ensemble). There will also be floor performances from some of New England’s top burlesque and drag variety acts, including Harley Foxx, Heather Rose, Dinah Deville, Clara Divine, MT Hart and Pearl Buttons.
“It’s a really, really fun time. All the acts are really good,” Luparelli said.
General admission at 9 p.m. is $40. VIP tickets for $80 include one hour early admission from 8-9pm, meet and greet artists, glass of champagne upon arrival, Nuestra hors d’oeuvres, “vintage dance lesson so you can dance the night away with confidence” and all-night access to the VIP lounge.
The event is 21+. You must be fully vaccinated to attend. People will need to present a vaccination card (physical card or on their phone) next to their ID to enter. Masking is currently optional.
There’s also a strict dress code, with the urging, “Ghastly Gatsby, 1920s and 30s, cocktail attire, vintage, opulent, retro, horrific. HAVE FUN and DRESS UP!”
“NO sneakers, jeans, baseball caps, t-shirts, sweatshirts, shorts. You will not be admitted. No costumes of superheroes or other modern characters. This is a cosplay event immersive 1920s. Please dress the kingdom. Tell your guests about the dress code so there are no sad faces at the door. IF IN DOUBT, WEAR DRESS BLACK.
“It’s an immersive event,” Luparelli said. “So when you walk in, it’s that fantasy. I want that feeling. If everyone does it, it’s more comfortable.”
But not so comfortable that you might not be afraid.
“I also have actors spread throughout the house who portray some of the ghosts, and they might scare you. I don’t like to be very scared. I like to be a little bit scared, like scary.”
The Bull Mansion, a distinctive Gothic-style building on downtown Main Street, also known as Grand Army of the Republic Hall, was built in 1876 for $125,000 as a residence for Dr. George Bull and his wife , Sarah. It was a wedding present from Sarah’s father, Daniel B. Wesson.
The marriage didn’t work out.
“The place is kind of scary on its own,” Luparelli said. “It’s a creepy old place.”
When she first went there to host the first Haunted Speakeasy parties, “I wouldn’t go there alone,” she said.
“Bull Mansion has its own share of ghost stories. People can hear a lot of people if they’re upstairs alone.”
The first Haunted Speakeasy at Bull Mansion was in 2016. There were Halloween parties in October and then haunted parties in December. As popularity skyrocketed, April Fool’s Day and Mardi Gras events were also added in addition to Halloween parties in 2017 and 2018.
For 2019 The Haunted Speakeasy moved to Michael’s Cigar Bar, 1 Exchange Place. In 2020, The Haunted Speakeasy went live.
“It’s definitely something that I never gave up,” Luparelli said.
Last year, she took The Haunted Speakeasy to Old Salem City Hall. The 1993 movie “Hocus Pocus” filmed its Halloween party here.
Luparelli wasn’t sure she’d get the deal for Old City Hall, but “I walked in. The next thing you know I’m living my dream, a Halloween party in Salem. “, she said.
“The Haunted Speakeasy” will return to Salem’s Old Town Hall on October 22-29 and on Halloween on October 31.
Boston Common magazine recently named it one of the “10 Best Halloween Events in Boston.”
“The first year was good. Now we know what we’re doing. I’m so excited,” Luparelli said.
Meanwhile, “Nuestra has been really great about letting me have the kind of vision I want,” she said. His staff get into the mood and “I have a few bartenders myself who are used to making these drinks and are familiar faces.”
The Haunted Speakeasy can become a ghostly event that wanders into the distance.
“My ultimate goal, I would love to take her somewhere else,” Luparelli said, maybe even Las Vegas. She is looking for “an older building with a liquor license”.
However, it still has that original shine for the Bull Mansion/Nuestra.
“I hope to keep him in the mansion for years to come,” she said.
The Haunted Speakeasy
When: 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Oct. 14 and 15 (8 p.m. with VIP ticket)
Where: Bull Mansion/Nuestra, 55 Pearl St., Worcester
How much: $40; VIP at $80. https://hauntedspeakeasy.eventbrite.com