Fright Nights at the South Florida Fairgrounds is a labor of love. Each November, the haunt designers and event organizers begin planning and crafting the next year’s event. They plot and plan and scheme, all in the hopes of creating the most terrifying experiences in South Florida.
The haunt creators then work tirelessly for two months, from August thru September, for hundreds of hours, to bring their labors of love and terror to life.
“I put in eight to 12 hours a day for the last two months,” said Kelly Goodman, co-creator and designer of this year’s New Orleans themed haunt, Memento Mori. She created this year’s haunt with designer and actor Brad Cain.
To give you an idea of the level of planning that goes into these houses, whose existence are as brief and brilliant as the colors of autumnal trees in the north, the idea for Memento Mori goes back three years to when Goodman attended the Legendary Haunt Tour. The Legendary Haunt Tour is an annual event which tours a different city each year, taken its attendees to two or three local haunted attractions that have achieved legendary status either within the city, state or have garnered national attention. The tour three years ago was in New Orleans. Goodman said she fell in love with the city and the haunts therein, with ideas and inspiration almost immediately swirling cyclonically around her mind. Three years later, the ideas that the event inspired within Goodman have finally gestated into what promises to be a creeptastic and terrifying haunt, complete with a ghost and monster filled bayou and an incredible replica of the streets of the French Quarter.
Memento Mori continues the story that Goodman started two years ago. “Each year I like to continue the story I started two years ago with Sunnyville Orphanage, where I had these twins who escaped. The next year they took up residence in the Flamingo Hotel and wreaked havoc there. This year they have moved on to New Orleans and become witches,” said Goodman.
In addition to Memento Mori, there are three more haunts this year for guests to explore: Meadow Lakes, Beyond the Gates and Animal Farm.
Meadow Lakes was designed by first year creator Travis Martin. It tells the tale of a sickness spreading through suburbia and the government’s attempts to contain the spread of infection. Filled with fine details and splashes of gore in all the right places, Martin proves that he has what it takes to hang with the other haunt designers.
Beyond the Gates was the brainchild of Jeremy Schroader and offers guests a stroll through the afterlife. This offers some very unique and ambitious scares, including one that those of you with claustrophobia will want to avoid. Couple that with increasingly surreal details and scenes and you have yourself one awesome haunt.
Animal Farm is a twisted journey through a farm in which the animals have decided that Man’s dominion is no longer applicable. The haunt is outdoors and filled with places for creatures to hide. Be warned, creators Glennis McClellan and Craig McInnis and their vast cast (over 30 actors and volunteers are involved) are out to get you.
“Our main focus is the scare. We spend endless hours pouring over the details of the houses; from the flow, to the extravagant sets, to the character design and wardrobe,” said McInnis “Nothing is left to chance when it comes to ensuring our guests get an overdose of adrenaline and fear.”
So what makes Fright Nights stand out? It’s not just their exceptional attention to detail or the hard work of Technicians Kevin Moore and Bill Goodman (who handle all the lighting and sound among other responsibilities) or their level of commitment, it’s the way event is run. Unlike other big attractions, the crew at Fright Nights will only send in groups of eight at a time. They want your terror to be maximized, and the only way to do so is to limit the size of the group being terrified.
“We care about that,” said McClellan. “We want our actors to surround you and terrify you.”
Fright Nights at the South Florida Fairgrounds runs through Halloween weekend and costs $5 per haunt, $20 for all four and $25 for special RIP access. There is also a haunted midway with rides for children who are of an age not appropriate for such intense experiences as those this year’s haunts are offering.