Hollywood set designer Joshua Ballze replicates Native American artifacts for the Nightmare at the Museum exhibit, on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022

The Museum of Indigenous People is coming to life with chilling tales and artifacts from Native American folklore.

“Nightmare at the Museum,” a special Halloween exhibit in the museum’s Pueblo Building, 147 N. Arizona Ave., Prescott, is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. now through Saturday, Oct. 22, and Monday through Saturday, Oct. 24-29, with a special presentation on Halloween night from 4 to 9 p.m., Monday, Oct. 31.

The exhibit offers more than a typical haunted house with informative displays in addition to spooky surprises. It will be both Halloween season-themed and educational, with respect to the Native cultures that are featured.

“First and foremost, we’re a museum and you’re going to get an education, whether you realize it or not or whether you like it or not,” said Manuel Lucero, executive director for the Museum of Indigenous People. “We want to be informative. We want to dispel a lot of myths and stereotypes and share some real American monsters.”

To bring the experience to life, the museum enlisted Joshua Ballze, a Hollywood special effects craftsman, to create a frightening and historically accurate set design and special lighting effects for the exhibit.

“We always bounce the idea around, but we’ve never had the skills to pull it off,” Lucero said. “Josh is key to this whole thing. Josh has really brought this together and brought it to fruition and he has the vision and the skills and all those things to make it happen.”

Ballze, a member of the Hia-Ced O’odham nation, worked tirelessly to recreate accurate depictions of historical artifacts for the exhibit.

“Everything you see is either an actual artifact replica, an actual artifact, or contemporary art done by indigenous people,” Ballze said. “So, it’s 90% indigenous artists or indigenous workforce doing these artifacts because it gives it that additional layer of authenticity, which we want.

“We want people to come here and see things that are real from Mesoamerica or Central America or even North America.”

The exhibit features a slideshow at the entrance and multiple themed displays that tell stories and depict scary images from Native American cultures.

“It’s based on stories, both the ghost stories and misunderstood stories of the indigenous,” Ballze said. “When you walk through this little wooden gateway, the first section that you’re going to come into going through this direction is the Serpent Gallery.”

The Nightmare at the Museum exhibit is not the only scary aspect of this Halloween experience. Ballze explained that the Pueblo building was chosen as the space to house the exhibit in part because of its haunted history.

“There is a real-life haunting, there are ghosts,” Ballze said. “We even had paranormal investigators visit this area, not for this event, but just randomly throughout the year and they’ve reported everything from apparitions to things rattling at night.

“The witching hour is usually around three in the morning. We’ve had people spend the night here for security. Three o’clock rolls around, things happen and they will not come into the building.”

Admission to this very special, spooky production will be $5, and some treats will be offered to settle the hairs on the back of the spectator’s necks.

For more information about the exhibit and to purchase tickets, call 928-445-1230, or visit www.museumofindigenouspeople.org.

Jesse Bertel is a reporter/videographer for the Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter @ JesseBertel, email him at jbertel@prescottaz.com, or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2043.


Hollywood set designer Joshua Ballze replicates Native American artifacts for the Nightmare at the Museum exhibit, on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022. (Jesse Bertel/Courier)


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