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Fright Nights

People in our part of the world will often agree: we like our change of seasons. With the changing temperatures come longer (or shorter) nights and days, colorful displays of flowers followed by falling leaves, and finally blankets of snow, and holidays that mark those changing seasons. And many will admit – if not happily insist – that the fall is a favorite because of Halloween.

No longer just one night in one month, Halloween has become a “season” all its own, celebrated through most of October, and Fright Nights is one spooktacular way you can get a head start on October 31st.

Opened last year at its new, BIG location at 1 LePage Place, just off James Street, this warehouse turned scare house is 82,000 square feet of delicious terror that offers live creepy characters, giant animatronics, and scares around every dark corner.

Owner/operator Grazzi Zazzara has been running Fright Nights event for going on 20 years, with a history in entertainment going all the way back to owning and operating a fleet of ice cream trucks. His first foray into a haunted Halloween was a tent in a parking lot, which eventually ended up in the Beef Barn at the fairgrounds, where he remained for many years – growing and expanding each year. Last year, the opportunity to move to a permanent location opened up at 1 LePage Place in Syracuse, and Zazzara eagerly opted in. The sheer size of the event, with set pieces, costumes, animatronics, electrical and audio requirements alone made the decision a fairly easy one to make.

And once you’ve seen the space, you’ll agree. With high ceilings, an old brick facade, lots of room to create maze-filled houses, a haunted ship, creatures that soar overhead and plenty of dark, creepy corners, the place seemed designed to be what Zazzara had in mind: the scare of the century. Or certainly, according to USA Today, one of the top 20 in the northeast.

According to Zazzara, a good haunted attraction is all in the details.

Among those details are actors who portray real, deep characters, not just people wandering around in frightening masks – which can be fun all by itself. Beyond fully- realized 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.

As Zazzara explained, part of the detail is having a space to call home. “We don’t have to break it down and move,” he told us. “Beginning last season, we could not only critique each night, and the overall season. 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 take our time after we close for the season and put our new ideas into place.”

There are five “houses” that are part of your one-price experience. 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). Penny’s Play- house 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. And new this year, the massive Fallen Giant has made way for the even more immense Devil’s Dungeon – Slide to Hell. Walk up, and up, and up the stairs, slide into… well, you’ll just have to try it, won’t you? We dare you. (If you really don’t want to do the slide, or if you don’t want to climb – there is a floor level entrance.)

As usual, there are group rates and discount coupons, with a standard fee of $30 per person for all 5 houses (this year there will be no single house tickets) and Zazzara and his team have done all they can to emphasize social distancing and cleanliness for patrons protection. There will be hand sanitizing throughout the building, and everyone must wear a mask and socially distance. The event is open Fridays and Saturdays from 7 to midnight, and Sunday from 7-11 from October 2 to Halloween. This year, while at-the- door tickets can be purchased, you’re urged to purchase tickets online to ensure your spot, as attendance at any one time is limited due to COVID restrictions.

So what are you waiting for? But just remember, we warned you – it will be delightfully frightful.

Fright Nights • 1 LePage Place off James St. • 315-350-8628



Nancy Roberts