Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2008 | 2 a.m.
- Sounds upon entering Fright Dome's "Hex-Mas Nightmare" at Circus Circus.
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If You Go
- What: The Fright Dome
- When: 7 p.m. to midnight weekends through Oct. 31; see Web site for schedule.
- Where: The Adventuredome at Circus Circus, 2880 Las Vegas Blvd. South
- Tickets: $33.95, Fast Pass $48.95; 734-0410, www.frightdome.com
- Not recommended: For children under 12; strobe effects are used
Beyond the Sun
There are monster houses in Las Vegas, and then there’s the Fright Dome, the annual megahaunted house at the Adventuredome at Circus Circus.
Sprawling over five acres, the Fright Dome offers five haunted houses with the traditional configuration of pipe-and-drape mazes with black tarp walls and spooky scenarios and gory critters that pop out at you. It’s pretty gross, and truly scary in a BOO! kind of way — a disclaimer says the attraction is not for kids under 12. Believe it.
But the people who should really be scared are the parents.
The Fright Dome is a vast playground of teen anarchy, a post-apocalyptic mall, a massive make-out palace in the fog-filled near dark. The kids who aren’t making out are running through the fog in packs, screaming just for the joy of screaming.
The next-scariest thing about the Fright Dome — after the $34.95 ticket price — is the lines. Long, loooooooong lines. On the first night, it was a good half-hour wait to get into most of the haunted houses (lines for the snack bars are even longer). Buying a Fast Pass ($15 extra) shortens the wait considerably, but you’re still going to stand around.
But the teenagers don’t seem to mind the lines at all. The Fright Dome is all about hanging out, and kids excel at that. While many were excitedly chattering and texting, quite a few passed the time necking (do they still call it that?). One couple conserved energy — the girl stood on the guy’s feet and he just shuffled backward as the line moved ahead. They hardly even looked up, and you had to wonder when they breathed.
The hallways of this twilight zone — think an abandoned carnival in a Ray Bradbury story — are populated by fantastically hideous creatures straight from H.P. Lovecraft and enlivened by roaming characters who know how to play the boo!s. (The Fright Dome employs more than 340 actors in its attractions, and creator Jason Egan says safety training is as important as the fear factor).
Of the five haunted houses, my colleague Kristen Peterson and I sampled Hillbilly Hell, Chainsaw Massacre and the Hex-Mas Nightmare (that one is like the worst holiday home visit ever). I still have bruises from when a screaming Kristen clutched me — for best results, go with a friend who is easily spooked.
We didn’t make it to Vampire Blood Feast or Killer Klowns in 3-D, but the common theme seems to be backwoods cannibal mutants out of “The Hills Have Eyes” and the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” oeuvre.
There are also “freak shows” featuring real carnies, including Lady Diabla, who cheerfully pokes a metal skewer through both cheeks, which just adds to the ambient screaming.
Most of the Adventuredome rides, including the Inverter and the Slingshot, are operating concurrently with the Fright Dome, and it’s an uncanny vision when a upside-down carload of people lurches toward you and just as suddenly recedes back into the fog. The roller coaster’s spiraling frame looks like a gigantic serpentine skeleton silhouetted in the mist.
The Fright Dome is just one of many scary options in the Vegas area, including the long-running (and considerably less expensive) Freakling Brothers’ dual attraction Circus of Horrors and The Mortuary at the United Artists Theater at Rainbow and Smoke Ranch Road, and their Castle Vampyre at Sunset Station.
But it’s certainly the most elaborate, and is good for a laugh — and maybe more — in the dark.