Thursday, Oct. 1, 2009 | 2 a.m.
IF YOU GO
What: Fright Dome
When: 7 p.m.-midnight Friday-Sunday, and Oct. 9-11, 15-18, 22-25 and 28-31
Where: Adventuredome at Circus Circus
Admission: $34.95; Fast Pass $49.95; frightdome.com
Audience advisory: Not suitable for children under 12
- Fright Dome: Dark, scary meets hot, heavy (10-8-2008)
Beyond the Sun
This town has seen the likes of Mafia heavies, UFC brutes and Carrot Top.
But the scariest man in Las Vegas is 31-year-old Jason Egan.
Personally responsible for terrifying up to 60,000 people each year, Egan is the founder of Fright Dome, the annual mega-haunted house that takes over the Adventuredome at Circus Circus for a month of weekends starting Friday night. And working within this horror show of an economy, he has found a way to capitalize on our collective fears — this year’s seventh Fright Dome will gross an estimated $2 million — and contribute by hiring more than 300 local actors to populate 30,000 square feet of twilight zone. Egan took a break from putting the finishing touches on some sort of decapitation contraption to answer a few questions.
So what’s your official job title? I’m imagining something like Chief Terrorist. Dread Head? Evil Mastermind?
Um, I’m thinking more along the lines of entrepreneur. Owner and operator will do.
What are the terror trends for 2009? What are we scared of this year?
Hillbillies. We took last year’s “Hillbilly Hell” theme and made it 2,000 square feet bigger, with the exploding outhouse and everything. People are scared of the hillbillies, because they think it could really happen. It’s not like a Freddy Krueger, who comes back in our dreams and nightmares. You could make a wrong turn off (Interstate) 15 and run into these scary, cannibal creatures. We’ve also got a scare zone called “Clown Evil Alley,” which is dedicated to scary clowns.
What could be scarier than the economy right now?
We were very scared going into last year that the economy was going to affect us, and I know it’s worse this year. But Halloween only comes once a year, so it’s not something (our visitors) can cut back on. We sure didn’t cut back — we spent more than ever.
So your scare tactics are paying off?
We had more than 1,000 people apply for jobs this year. I remember, three or four years ago, just seven people showing up for job orientation. So we were able to handpick such good actors this year. They went through a very intense audition process, with several callbacks for specific spots, a guide or strolling entertainer, a victim in the haunted house, a scare actor, a stage-show performer. It was almost like “American Idol” for monsters. I’m just happy that we can fill 300 positions — even though it’s only for a month and a half, it’s helping people out.
I hear you have some big news.
We have a partnership with the movie series “Saw,” working with Lions Gate and Twisted Pictures. I never in a million years thought they’d give us the rights to “Saw,” which is the highest-grossing horror movie franchise of all time. So the haunted houses are more about traps this year, and there’s a lot more stuff that you get to feel as you’re walking through. We have two different claustrophobia props that are squishing you as you walk through. In one of the traps, everybody has to stick their hand in the jigsaw cylinder in order to make it to the next room. And we’re excited that we got a horror icon character — Billy the puppet — to work with. It’s not like we got stuck with “My Bloody Valentine 3D.”
What scares you?
Making a boring haunted house. When I started back in 1998, when I was in college in Nebraska, I’d have nightmares about whether the kids liked it or didn’t like it. I think they like it so much because they can spend the whole evening with us and there’s so much to do. And we keep changing it every year. I hate telling people this, but what I’m really afraid of is snakes. I absolutely hate snakes to death. My performers know this, and they always try to “get” me with their giant pythons and so on and so forth.