Tuesday, November 15, 2016

#VegasHalloween (night 1): They scared the hell out of us

Halloween 2011 was on a Monday night. It was my first Halloween in Sin City. I won't rehash that trip today, but I promise to do that next fall.

Five years later Halloween is again on a Monday night. In 2011 I made a solo journey to Vegas. This year I traveled to Vegas with four friends. The five of us would never have met each other had it not been for the haunted attraction we work at each fall here in Minnesota. Joe, Jon, Mike, Trista and I spent four nights together in Sin City, and it worked out pretty well.

Having been to Vegas for Halloween from 2011-13, I talked it up quite a bit around my co-workers. Mike suggested to me at some point prior to May 2015 that we should plan a group trip to Vegas. The wheels began to turn. Because Halloween 2015 was a Saturday night, and we'd all be working that night at our haunted attraction, it made sense to plan a group trip for 2016, as our haunted attraction isn't open when Halloween falls on a Monday night. So in May 2015 I began promoting a 2016 Halloween trip to Vegas. Yes, 18 months in advance!

I knew it was unlikely we'd have a huge group, and I was pleased to have a group of five. We didn't all take the same flights in and out of the desert, but we all worked on Saturday night, Oct. 29, and boarded planes on Sunday, Oct. 30, for Vegas. Mike and I were the last two arrivals. We were on separate flights, but arrived at approximately the same time. We met at the McCarran rental car center, picked up our SUV and headed downtown to meet the others, who had all arrived together earlier in the day.

Our first meal together was dinner at Market Street Cafe at the California. It's always a wait to be seated for dinner at the Cal, but I wanted to start my week off right, with a cheap prime rib dinner.

Priority one for our first evening in Vegas was a visit to one of the local haunted attractions. I've been to two outstanding haunted attractions not associated with Circus Circus during my previous Halloween trips. (I've never been to the Circus Circus Fright Dome, and everything I've read about it discourages me from ever visiting.) Assuming we would only have time to visit one haunted attraction that night, I had to choose the most unique, creative attraction I've ever been to, the Freakling Bros. Trilogy of Terror.

I visited Freakling Bros. on Oct. 30, 2011, during my first Halloween in Vegas. The location had changed in 2016, but there I was, back for my third visit, five years to the day. (I also visited in 2012, during a Halloween trip with my girlfriend. It was the last haunted attraction she has ever visited. She retired from the haunt scene after enduring Freakling Bros.)

I won't go into detail about the Trilogy of Terror, but I will note that their creativity is spectacular, and they put on a great show. Unlike haunted attractions that push hundreds of people through every hour, the Freakling Bros. mazes have design elements that limit entry to small, staggered groups. You won't run into a long line of people ahead of you because their mazes don't work that way.

This also means that admission to their mazes commands a premium price, but the experience you get from their three mazes is well worth it. You can buy a ticket for just one maze, or for $35 you can get a ticket for all three mazes. Each maze takes about 10 minutes to complete, so you're getting about 30 minutes of live entertainment for your money, and you're getting something unique. The price is only a few dollars more than you would pay for a comparable experience in Minneapolis, and probably no more expensive than you'd pay for a similar attraction in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. Freakling Bros. is definitely worth the price of admission if you're the type of person who enjoys a standard haunted attraction in your hometown. 

So what did my co-workers think? We work for a haunted attraction, so it takes a bit to impress us. Here's what they had to say to our online world: 

Joe: "Holy sh*t was this place amazing. I have not legitimately been scared in a haunted house for years but did get scared in each of their 3 attractions. So worth everything!!"

Jon: "
Omg this is f*cking amazing!"

Mike: "
las vegas haunted house's!!! It was a blast. Full V.I.P. treatment. Back stage. Best time i have ever had in a haunted house!!!"

Trista: "Having a haunt meltdown freakout! Got VIP wristbands, AND getting backstage tours after each attraction! They wanted to show some Halloween love to our out-of-state group of haunters"

Yes, we were treated like royalty. I had contacted the folks that run Freakling Bros. prior to our arrival, and they responded by rolling out the blood-soaked red carpet upon our arrival. (Figuratively, of course.)

Duke and his son JT are the proprietors of Freakling Bros., and they went above and beyond in welcoming us. I had met them back in 2012, but only briefly. They didn't know me, or have a reason to go out of their way for my group, but they did. We were simply a group of five out-of-state haunters who came to see their show, and they acted like we were doing them a favor. It was incredible. 

I won't go into detail, but Duke gave us a behind-the-scenes tour of one of the mazes, and explained many of the intricacies that go into their annual production. As a three-time visitor to their attraction, I knew a few tidbits about their operation, but I learned quite a bit late that Sunday night. Duke shared details about how and why they do some of the things they do, and spent about 30 minutes doing so. Sure, there's a method to the madness, but it was Duke's explanations that made me realize just how thoroughly and purposefully everything is done in each of their mazes. 

It's an incredible show they've put together at Freakling Bros., and I was happy to share it with my co-workers that Sunday night. The VIP treatment we received made it extra special. I can't thank them enough for that. 

Without giving away details, here are a few tidbits to keep in mind if you should want to visit in the years to come: 

The mazes are not handicapped accessible. And there is at least one instance where you'll need to crawl. I note this because Mike wasn't expecting it, and while he was able to do so, he has a bad knee, and he needed help getting up. 

The Gates of Hell, their R-rated maze, involves minor contact. They won't strangle you, but there is contact. A few people I know don't like haunted attractions where there's contact. If you're that type of person, you'll want to skip Gates of Hell. 

The Trilogy of Terror is mobile. The mazes were in a different location in 2011, and in both instances I had to drive at least 15 minutes to get there. If you didn't drive to Vegas or rent a car when you arrive then you'll have to decide if the cost of cab or Uber fare is worth it to you. 

So how did we conclude our first night in Vegas? After a cameo at a nearby Walmart we returned downtown. Jon and Trista retired for the evening while Joe, Mike and I headed over to Main Street Station for microbrews. I was sad to learn that the days of the $1.75 pints had come to an end at the Boar's Head Bar. Pints now cost $2.50. While we were sitting at the bar the power went out for about two seconds. That was a weird experience. Everything lost power, but generators kicked in and within a couple of minutes it was business as usual at the slot machines. Vegas is amazing like that. 

Click here for day 2. 

On Saturday night, Oct. 29, we were working at Valleyscare, a haunted attraction in the Minneapolis suburbs. On Sunday night, Oct. 30, we visited the Freakling Bros. Trilogy of Terror in Las Vegas. We had a blast.

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