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Fright Nights – We’ve Moved!

Fright Nights: September 27 – October 27

Friday, Saturday 7-Midnight, Sunday 7-11

1 LePage Place off James St.

$10 (1 House), $25 (5 Houses) • Group Rates and Discount Coupons Available


“We’ve moved!”

That’s one exciting piece of news about Syracuse’s famous “Fright Nights” event.

But in fact, the excitement of a new, permanent location is a “big scary deal!” It’s 83,000 square feet of delicious terror – if not the largest fright event in the country, then certainly a leading contender. With 5 houses, 90 actors, giant animatronics and scares around every corner, it’s a must visit for the Season of the Spook.

Owner/operator Grazzi Zazzara has been running the event for 16 years. His history in “entertainment” goes all the way back to owning and operating a fleet of ice cream trucks. When he opened his first Halloween haunt, it was a tent in a parking lot, and eventually ended up in the Beef Barn at the fairgrounds, where the event remained for many years – growing and expanding each year.

Eventually, with so many set pieces, costumes, moving parts, electrical and audio needs, a permanent home became a necessity. When 1 Lepage Place in Syracuse became available, the decision to relocate was a definite “yes.”

The space alone will get you in the mood —a long, high, older brick building, set back from the road— it lends itself to the long, winding, nervous-making entry corridors to each attraction; to soaring creatures that drop from above on unsuspecting visitors; to the inflatable giant you literally enter, and wander from head to – well, to the exit; to the dark corners and echoing sounds that will make you shiver, or scream, or laugh, or all of those, as warranted.

There are similar attractions throughout the country, but what sets Syracuse’s attractions apart is, without a doubt, the details.

“I reached out to the drama departments at local high schools and colleges to get actors,” explains Tony Libbratore, who, among other things, trains and manages the live characters. “With a home base, we have more time to get each one into his or her character. They aren’t just people with masks on – we’ve got full costumes, real personalities, and that makes a better experience.”

Beyond the characters, each themed house is loaded with the devilish details that make the experience immersive. Hidden doors open suddenly, black light, 3 dimensional art floats around you, and small, spooky bits and pieces (like a pile of creepy dolls, or a room full of pirate treasure chests) are lovingly crafted to set the tone and make it all feel real.

Critiquing each night, and the overall season, has been a part of the event model from the beginning. “We want to continue to make it better,” Zazarro says. “What can we add, where can we improve, what new ideas can we come up with. With a location, we can actually add something and not have to break it down and move it. And we can take our time after we close for the season and put our ideas into place.”

There are five “houses” to choose from (you can visit just one, or all five). Confronting you when you first walk in is Jurassic Dark, a dinosaur-meets-zombie extravaganza – with 27 huge dinosaurs, many of them active (and some surprises we won’t reveal). The Fallen Giant —only 150 feet long— is more than happy to welcome you in but you’ll have to beware of the cannibal pygmies trying to gnaw their way out, too. Penny’s Playhouse is a happy place full of smiling, grinning, playful, clowns. What could be worse? Maybe it’s Lady Lamson’s Cursed Voyage – a shipful of glowing, floating, 3-D terror. But you can’t escape without a visit to Burgen Manor. Named for its creator, fright master Jimmy Burgen, you’ll find room after room in the decaying, blood-soaked, cobwebbed mansion filled with the macabre and the menacing, from the nursery, to the dungeon.

My guess is that you’re going to want to visit all 5 houses. And if you make it out, you’ll probably want to go back again at least once and try your luck again.

A quick “hit” list of frights:

-Over 80,000 square feet of scares

-Largest haunted dinosaur attraction in the country with 27 full size dinosaurs

-Rated top 15 haunted attractions by USA Today

-Social media: Instagram is Fright.Nights.Syracuse Twitter is FrightNightsSyracuse and Facebook is The Fright Nights

-Group discounts to parties of 12 or more payable in advance

-Watch social media for give-a-ways

-Merchandise available on location this year (t-shirts, decals, and silicone wristbands)

Nancy Roberts
Writer, voice over artist, information achitect, very curious person.