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Fright Nights

It was a pleasant, sunny afternoon. Actors and costume people were busy, the doors were open, the lights were on. I’d had a great tour of the Fright Nights location where the Fright Nights Team, Grazzi Zazzara, Tony Liberatore and John Thomas, were busy tending to all those last-minute details that make for a great “opening night.” And then, without letting on, they queued up a surprise: I heard a dinosaur roar – no, I felt a dinosaur roar – and it literally scared the living daylights out of me. My heart was going at full-fright mode, and I actually jumped and screamed.

Yes, that’s what Fright Nights is all about. You think you can’t be scared or surprised anymore – and that’s when the Fright Nights Team will trick you. They’ll have something up their sleeve you just won’t expect. And you can count yourself lucky if jumping and screaming is all you do. “We have people running away,” I was told. “They come back for more, though.”

Fright Nights has been around for about 20 years, though it started as a tent in a parking lot, moved to a building at the Fairgrounds where it enjoyed a seasonal home, but had to be broken down and stored, and set up again each year.

Its current 82K square feet and expanding location now has plenty of permanent room for developing new and better scares around every corner.

What is it, I wonder, that makes us want to be scared? Stories of horror, the supernatural, the odd, the menacing, the “gore galore,” have always occupied a part of our tales and myth. Giants, reptiles, old cob-webbed buildings, strange sounds and peculiar characters attract our attention and give us a delightful shiver – especially as the days grow shorter, the nights grow longer, and the moon gets full. The Fright Nights Team explains that that is what they’re aiming for – that wonderful spot between terror and delight – that thing that keeps us looking around the next corner, down the dark hallway, or wondering what’s creeping up behind us.

Liberatore’s theory, in particular, is that some of it is handed down from our parents, and the stories and movies we grew up with. The Freddy films, Daugherty’s Costumes, or go back further to Hitchcock or Vincent Price and Boris Karloff, or further still to Max Schreck and Peter Lorre.

And The Fright Nights has it all.

From the moment you drive in and see the huge old warehouse looming ahead,
you know you’re in for something unique. Enter through the gaping mouth of an
evilly grinning clown (why is it that clowns are so creepy?), and from that moment on they have you hooked. You want to run but you also know you want to explore every inexplicable inch.

On the front of the building you’ll see a sign: Lamson Resurrected. That, along with Lady Lamson’s Cursed Voyage, a horribly haunted ship, are a dedication to the original occupant of the building – the Lamson Corporation, which built, among other things, pneumatic tubing in the early to mid-1900s. In fact, many of the scraps from the manufacturing facility have been re-incarnated as fences, bars for windows, and other creepy features of the attractions.

If you’ve been to the event before, you’ll see some of your old favorites. But as the team explains, they never simply sit and rest on a “finished” product. The Team is constantly looking for ways to add to the maze of rooms, corridors, characters, and themes they’ve been working on for years. And each year, you’ll find something new to remember in your nightmares.

You can’t miss the Jurassic Dark, which, rather than zombies, this year will bring out the Apocalyptic creatures roaming the gloom. There will be new clowns in Penny’s Playhouse, and you can slide into the Devil’s Dungeon or walk if you prefer – either way, you’ll end up at the gates of Hell. Being a fan of haunted houses, I think I’d want to spend some time in Burgen Manor. But I know this much, even following along as I was being led into a maze to see a hidden door, I lost my bearings in the tangle of rooms, corridors, traps, and sudden openings – and the lights were on!

Zazzara, Liberatore and Thomas take pride in the non-stop development of the place. “We’re never finished,” the Team tells me, “We have all professional actors. This year we have 25 new characters, a total of 85 actors. We have the tallest to the smallest professional actors out there. Their job is to be the character, not just pop out at you for a ‘jump-scare.’ We’re always looking for new actors, new characters.”

Liberatore shared photos of his son with me, who from the age of 4 has been in on the fun and thrills, portraying his own range of creepy characters. And he’s clearly fully committed to making sure you leave with your heart racing.

The location has been used as a movie set, and plans are to offer its huge space and sheer artistry as an event space as well – concerts (I know how good the sound system is – remember that dinosaur?), Comicon type events, and other seasonal specials that could benefit from a place like no other. In fact, The Fright Nights is listed regularly in the top 5-10 Haunted House/Halloween attractions nationwide – and they aim to improve every year.

Fright Nights
1 LePage Place
Syracuse, NY
(Just off James Street)


October 1-31, 2021
Friday and Saturday 7pm – 12am Sunday 7pm – 11pm


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