On Friday, October 10, under the cloud covered light of the harvest moon, thousands of creeps, ghouls, and freaks, as well as a few average people, crowded onto the midway and agriplex of the South Florida Fairgrounds in search of a healthy dose of fear. All of them were drawn to the event known as Fright Nights, which turns the oftentimes quiet space of land on Southern Boulevard and Sansbury Way into a land of screams and wails for eleven nights during the Halloween season.
For 2014, the creature fest is made up of three haunted mazes, two scarezones, and a midway of mayhem that, although smaller than past years, seems better integrated into the scheme of the event.
Food vendors abound, and the selection is of a slightly higher quality than before. For my money, I’d recommend the Bison Burger, which can be found at the food truck located on the midway near the main entrance. For less than $15, you can enjoy a half pound burger and choice of toppings and side dish, as well as a drink.
There are also a few booths selling souvenirs, as well as a Bozo dunk tank that always draws quite the crowd.
Below, each haunt is rated based on its level of theming, and general scare factor. The ranking is based on a scale of 1-10.
Haunts (descriptions courtesy of MyFrightNights.com)
- FLAMINGO HOTEL: Two young girls escape from the abuse and darkness of a local orphanage. They take shelter in a local hotel, hiding from the staff and wreaking havoc on guests and employees alike. Eventually their sick and idle little minds lead them to murder a guest and stuff her body into the wall. The girls are excited by the danger and rush. Emerging from their secret doors and hiding places in the walls, they continue their bloodthirsty rampage on all who dare to check in to the Flamingo Hotel.
Scare Factor: 9.5
This house, which emerged from the mind of a young woman known simply as Squid, takes the idea of an old Florida hotel and combines it with the idea that sometimes a building can drive you mad. The casting is amazing, and the decor and general appearance add to the experience. If you’ve ever checked in to the Hollywood Tower Hotel, you might notice a bit of an homage to the Central Florida attraction as well.
- NEW WORLD ORDER: The near future. Individual thought is dead. Freedom, gone. A clan of ruthless human clones scours the streets to find the few remaining citizens that have not been entered into the system. Everyone is subject to a full reprogramming through brainwash and torture to suit the needs of the New World Order and the Mighty General. There is only one directive for you to follow…OBEY. You are soon to be part of the new race of mindless drones.
Scare Factor: 8.5
This haunt draws from the Orwell book 1984, as well as the recent film V for Vendetta, as well as a little from the current politics of the cult of personality that dominate most of the globe. The actors within are amazing, and some seem very interested in their roles. The scare factor is a bit lower in this house simply because it scares on a different level, and isn’t quite as in your face as some of the other mazes.
- VILE: Gaze upon the ancient times. Cast the bones. Summon Demons that time forgot. Place burnt offerings on the alter of the Deviants. The realm of the dead season beckons you!
Scare Factor: 9
I really couldn’t get my mind wrapped around the overarching theme of this haunt. The other two were focused on a simple storyline, and took it as far, if not further, than it would go. This haunt seemed to take a little bit of everything and wrap it as neatly as they could.
That being said, it did have a few good scares, and the scenery was amazing!
Tickets are $25 for the Total Terror Ticket, which includes one admission to 3 Haunted attractions, as well as unlimited midway rides. Discount tickets for Thursday nights are still available via groupon for a limited time, which offer $15 admission for access to three haunted attractions and unlimited rides. Coupons may also be available at various Halloween themed shops throughout the Palm Beaches, though they too are going fast. If you want additional entries into any of the haunted attractions, or VIP access, tickets can be purchased on the midway for an additional $5. The VIP ticket can b a great investment, especially since the lines for opening night were in excess of 1 hour for the houses.
If you are a fan of haunted attractions, you can’t afford to miss this year’s Fright Nights at the South Florida Fairgrounds. It is more than worth the price of admission, and you never know who you’ll run into in the haunted mazes (literally). Visitors to the attraction should note that, due to the expanded midway and new layout, access to Fright Nights is off of Fairgrounds Road, through gate 8.
Remember that Halloween is a time for fun and frivolity. It is a time to come out of your shell, and to acknowledge the mischievous spirit that resides within all of us. Be sure to keep following this column for news on other spooky events and more. If you know of another local event that needs additional undead light shone upon it, please tell me about it!
Tonight’s sojourn into the world of the undead is the first of many this Halloween season. On the eighteenth of October, I will travel to the G-Star School of the Arts to experience X-Scream Halloween. If I survive, I’ll let you know all the gory details!