Fright Dome celebrates 10 years of scare tactics
By Matt Kelemen
The hearses drive up as the sun sets, pulling in front of the mob gathered to storm the gates and meet Fright Dome’s creatures of the night. The hearses stop, their doors burst open and a ghoulish gang of zombies and chainsaw-wielding maniacs—including head “hauntrepreneur” Jason Egan—are unleashed on the crowd. Screams, smoke and buzzing chainsaw motors cause confusion as the entrance to Fright Dome opens, providing the only escape for survivors of the first brush with terror of the evening. There will be many more.
After 10 years of creating horror shows in Las Vegas and beyond, Egan knows scare tactics. He’s formed partnerships with film companies that allowed him to design Halloween- and My Bloody Valentine-themed haunts, and he’s been invited to Times Square to apply his scare tactics. “Never in a million years did I think it would last 10 years,” says Egan. “But I knew that it was going somewhere when celebrities like Michael Jackson were coming through. Missy Elliott, David Copperfield, Stevie Wonder and all these people wanted to come through and they loved it so much. I’m like ‘Maybe we have something here.’”
This year, Egan received legendary zombie-genre director George Romero’s blessing—or curse—to walk unsuspecting guests through the “Ward of the Dead.” Undead patients have taken over the asylum, walking the halls and pounding on cell doors, with a few doctors and nurses on hand in various states of dismemberment. Zombies also reign in “The Infected,” a quarantine area that’s highly effective in containing cannibal corpses. Unfortunately, it also confounds humans, who possess the finger food and tasty lengths of intestine essential to a zombie diet.
There’s also “Camp Massacre,” where chainsaw killers mete out discipline to anyone mistaken for a careless camp counselor. “Fright Dome’s Urban Legends” presents a collection of familiar frights, from Bloody Mary to the pickax-swinging miner from My Bloody Valentine. Perhaps the most frightening of all is “The Anniversary,” highlights from 10 years of Fright Dome that can make even the most courageous (liquid courage can be obtained at several bars) move along quickly to avoid the phantasmagorical figures and creeps in shadowy corners.
The hauntrepreneur is decidedly pleased with how Fright Dome’s opening weekend went. Linda Blair and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, were on hand for the opening “black carpet” to graciously meet and greet fans, and the DJ duo of Letz Massacre customized mixes for the macabre atmosphere. This year, Egan estimates that his total cast and crew numbers more than 500. He continued the VIP private tour service he began offering last year, which offered the option of having a ghost or ghoul walk a guest right to the entrance of any of the attractions, making a feature-film length horror experience with no waiting in line possible.
“The ‘Anniversary House’ is very popular, and they loved ‘Ward of the Dead,’” says Egan of the crowds on hand for the first night of Fright Dome 2012. “It was probably the best opening night we’ve ever had.”