Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2014

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City/County Q&A:

‘Screamont Experiment’ hopes to cash in on Las Vegas’ haunted house craze

Venue would be in Fremont Street Experience’s Las Vegas Club

Click to enlarge photo

This publicity shot hints at the macabre sensibility of Amazing Johnathan.

Like the rest of the country, Las Vegas is taking full advantage of the nation’s thirst for the undead, monsters and hacked body parts drenched in fake blood, the bounty that comes with lavish indulgence in the Halloween season.

In 2011, estimates put the national take from the Halloween business around $6 billion. Customers buy costumes, makeup and hanging skeletons and monsters like a starving man devours food.

Then there are the haunted houses.

Some 10 years ago, Linda Blair, of “The Exorcist” fame, gave autographs in front of a haunted house fashioned out of semi-trailers off Industrial Road.

That was only the beginning, and it was nothing compared to what we have these days.

The Goretorium is a permanent house of horrors recently opened on The Strip. And Wednesday, the Las Vegas City Council will likely approve a permit to allow what was once a homegrown haunted house to be installed in a Fremont Street Experience casino.

Which casino and what attraction are you talking about?

I’m getting to that. For many years, comedian/magician The Amazing Johnathan has indulged in his frightful fancies by having a Halloween party in a warehouse near McCarran International Airport. To get to the main party, revelers needed first to pass through a first-rate, homemade haunted house. (His home in Green Valley is also rigged with frightful and literally shocking gags unleashed on the unsuspecting.)

Now the operators of the Las Vegas Club, at the corner of Fremont and Main streets, have partnered with Johnathan and will ask the City Council for permission to open The Screamont Experiment within the casino from Oct. 5 through Oct. 31, with hours of operation from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.

So it’s temporary?

For now. But The Amazing Johnathan’s website hints otherwise. Calling the Screamont a “state-of-the-art hotel haunt that’s like no other,” the site says the installation “may be a permanent fixture on Fremont Street.”

We couldn’t immediately reach Johnathan, but the way he describes the 35,0000-square-foot attraction on his website makes it sound unique.

"It's a huge project that entails constructing … the scariest haunt in the city. There are no monsters or vampires in this haunt. There are no actors jumping out yelling 'What are you doing here!?!' Or chainsaws chasing you out the door. There will only be things that play with your mind and eyes. Impossible things and things that are all too possible."

•••

When the Downtown Project’s shipping container retail park begins operations next year, Big Ern’s BBQ will be one of several new businesses to open there.

But Big Ern is not waiting until then. Thursday, Big Ern’s opened just south of East Fremont on Seventh Street.

If the shipping containers aren’t ready yet, how'd it open?

Ernie Loya, who was a Zappos employee before embarking on the eatery, operates in the open air under a white canopy at 102 S. Seventh St. Hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

Did you try the food?

Tried the chicken barbeque sandwich, which was excellent. With a soft drink and beans, the tab came to $9.

•••

When we all have grown used to free parking provided by casinos, it’s the ultimate insult to get ticketed by Las Vegas meter maids – especially downtown, whose entrepreneurs are trying to eke out a living with the megasuccessful Strip only a few miles south.

One reason people get tickets is because so many city parking meters still only take coins. Who carries coins anymore? Few slot machines even take quarters these days. Most business these days is conducted with debit or credit cards.

The few card-taking parking meters downtown are a welcome site to anyone who has been ticketed by the city’s meter maids simply because they lacked change to plug the meter. The city has some of these card-takers near the Regional Justice Center.

The city has a few of these installed near the Regional Justice Center; the El Cortez casino also has installed some on its private lots near East Fremont Street.

More than a year ago, the city hired a “parking czar” to solve this solvable problem. Government wheels turn slowly, but some relief is on the way.

Relief in the form of what?

A city spokesman said last week the city has just put out a formal “request for proposals” to companies that provide credit card-taking parking meters. The city expects new card-friendly meters to be installed early next year.

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