This year, Fright Dome at Circus Circus is turning its scare factor up a notch with two new “SAW” themed haunted houses. In case you’re not familiar with it, Fright Dome is Adventure Dome re-themed as a horrifying wonderland with 23 rides and attractions, freak shows, scare zones and five haunted houses. It opened in 2002 and has been voted by AOL as one of the nation’s top five scariest attractions.
While the haunted theme park was still under construction for the upcoming season I had the opportunity to walk through one of the “SAW” houses with Fright Dome creator Jason Egan.
It started like most haunted houses. It was dark with narrow passageways and little visibilty of what might lie ahead. Then we came to a black wall with multiple holes in it. Egan stopped for an explanation.
“Everybody in the group has to put their hands in those holes. Then the lights will go out and something scary will happen and scare the heck out of the group,” said Egan.
Luckily, I got to pass without finding out exactly what that scary thing would be. We turned a corner and entered what looked like a decrepit bathroom with dirty, blood-stained walls, a broken toilet and the character Jigsaw sitting on a red tricycle. It felt like we had just stepped into a scene from the first “SAW” movie.
“Not only do you get to watch “SAW” on television and in the movies now you get to experience walking through some of it,” said Egan.
He approached Lions Gate, the entertainment company associated with the “SAW” franchise, earlier in the year about doing a partnership with them. They agreed and provided Egan with highly detailed photos of scenes from the “SAW” movies. From there, Egan and his team of designers, artists and animatronic engineers developed everything from scratch, and they did an incredible job.
“It doesn’t make you feel like you’re in Circus Circus’ laser tag or anything like that,” said Egan.
The “SAW” house that we walked through is about 7,000 square feet and incorporates horrifying replicas of the “games” from the first two SAW movies. Some of the “games” have very life-like animated figures in them while others will have live actors. The second house has elements from “SAW III, IV and V.”
We didn’t walk through this one, but Egan explained that this house has a prop that actually squishes you when you walk through it.
“Safely squishes you of course,” said Egan.
After walking by more creepy contraptions from the movie we pushed our way through big hanging plastic bags. I didn’t think too much of it at first. Then Egan explained that we were walking through “straight from the mortuary” body bags. Don’t worry I checked, and he assured me that they haven’t been used.
If “SAW” doesn’t raise the hairs on your neck, Fright Dome has three other haunted houses: Hillbilly Hell, Chainsaw Massacre and Dead on Arrival. They are all original creations developed by Egan and his team.
“We didn’t want to go with all of our houses “SAW” themed, we wanted to mix it up because “SAW” might not scare everybody. We’re gonna get you a couple times, but we still have to stick with our original themes too that people enjoy,” said Egan.
When you’re not in the haunted houses, you’re still likely to be getting scared by the strolling actors dressed as ghoulish creatures that roam the five-acre theme park. Each night Fright Dome operates with about 130 to 150 actors and guides.
“We touch on everyone’s fears whether it be claustrophobia, snakes, spiders whatever it maybe,” said Egan.
Another new feature this year is the Rim Runner boat ride, which is being re-themed with scary special effects including evil creatures hidden in the lift that shoot simulated darts at you.
This year they are also implementing the use of projection images. One of the places where you will see this is in Hillbilly Hell where they are projecting scenes from the movie “Psycho.”
“We’re trying technology that we never used before, and we actually did it from scratch - it’s nothing we purchased,” said Egan.
Being unique is something Egan strives for every year at Fright Dome. Each year he and his team redo almost every aspect of park. It’s a year-round job for Egan, and he loves doing it.
“Ever since I can remember I was doing haunted houses, setting up and charging the neighbor kids so I could buy more props for the next season. I’ve always absolutely loved it, never in a million years did I think I’d be making a living doing it,” said Egan.
Fright Dome is open Oct. 2 – 31 everyday from 7 p.m. to midnight. Visit here to see other haunted happenings in Vegas.