The Freakling Brothers Trilogy of Terror haunted houses in Las Vegas are known as some of the most unique and extreme haunted houses in the country. Three very unique haunted houses immerse guests in a very tactile environment where they are forced to interact in an immersive world that can often times be unsettling, to say the least.
For Duke Mollner, becoming the “Halloween King of Las Vegas” wasn’t what he set out to do with his life. Back in 1976, Duke and his wife were performing in shows on the Vegas strip. Cast member’s schedules of these shows are often a slave to when the performances are dark. This particular year, Mr. and Mrs. Mollner had the night off so they wanted to do something special.
With a very small budget, they decided to build a coffin out of plywood. Duke dressed up as Dracula and laid in the coffin with assorted candy on his chest awaiting trick-or-treaters. His wife, dressed as Elvira, would greet the children at the door and tell them that in order to get the candy, they would have to take it from the coffin. As kids went in for a pack of smarties, Duke would come alive and grab their hands. A classic, simple, yet effective scare.
This simple gag lasted for 15 years at his home in Las Vegas. Newspapers ran a story on the front page about him and kids from all over the city were lined up around the block. They would see well over 1,000 trick-or-treaters in the later years and as the event grew, his house turned into a small haunt in itself where he was always the star attraction.
After he moved from that house, his neighbors left him a goodbye note on his door saying thanks for the scares and encouraged him to do a professional haunted house on a more commercial level. A friend of his convinced him to visit this haunt located in a mall parking lot in Arizona that same year. He flew out and saw several trailers strung together with a Victorian mansion facade. Guests paid $5 to go through the house and after experiencing it himself, Duke thought, “I can do better than this.”
In 1992, Duke opened up his first haunted house in a parking lot in Las Vegas and as it turns out, it was a major success. Fast forward to 1995, and he managed to get three haunted houses in a parking lot that he can now focus on making completely unique with movie style sets. These modular style houses can be set up in only two days and can be torn down in six hours!
Today, guests can experience three haunted houses at Freakling Brothers in Las Vegas. Every year, one of the three houses gets a little TLC with new sets, effects and scares to keep people coming back.
Castle Vampyre takes visitors through the corridors, dungeons and catacombs of the castle. This house uses a lot of mirrors to create the illusion of depth and distortion as well as some very up close and personal scares. Freakling Brothers houses take in very small groups at a time (usually less than 10) and create an environment that you are encouraged, if not required, to interact with. At one point, the ceiling closes in and you end up down on your knees.
The Circus of Horrors throws visitors into a very tactile environment, such as a room filled to the ceiling with inflatable balls that you must navigate around while avoiding a demented clown. Guests encounter some very unique freak show acts, as well as a mirror maze. In the end, you have a close encounter with the Beast of Borneo, a werewolf like creature who is chained to the wall and in order to get out alive, you need to feed him his dinner!
Without question, the house that put Freakling Brothers on the map is the Gates of Hell. In 2011, Duke’s son, JT, who is also a major part of this family run operation, decided make a gutsy move and open up an R-rated haunted house in Sin City. After a little hesitation, Duke agreed and they created a house that isn’t as much about scares as it is messing with your head. Everyone who goes through must sign a waiver stating that they are ok with being grabbed, yelled and cursed at and just harassed in general.
The initial reaction for Gates of Hell was fairly solid and they were doing a decent business, then the folks at Freakling Brothers got a piece of publicity that other haunt owners salivate over. In 2011, two teenage girls had their parents sign the waiver for Gates of Hell. Even though the girls were 17, the waiver stated that as long as their parents signed, they were good to go. Everything seemed fine, until they got home and told their Dad what went on inside the house.
The next day, Duke gets a call from the girl’s dad who says that what his actors did and said to their girls in the Gates of Hell was deplorable. Everything the father was describing was exactly what was on the waiver, except a few choice words that were not in the script. Duke apologized and offered him free tickets to come back on the house so he could experience for himself what the house was all about. The dad said that wasn’t good enough and so Duke asked, “OK, so what do you want?”
It’s at this point in the story I should mention that Duke had already spoken to a lawyer who helped him draft the waiver guests must sign before entering Gates of Hell. After the house was up and running, the lawyer told Duke that if they had any issues, to handle it on a case by case basis. However, if the person asks for compensation in the form of cold hard cash? Hang up the phone.
“$25,000 in an envelope and this all goes away and I won’t go to the media”. Duke told the father that he was very sorry he was upset, but that was not an option. Several hours later, his son JT answers the phone and sure enough, it’s a local news station asking to film their response to a segment they had just filmed where a very upset father tells reporters all the awful things that happened to the girls in Gates of Hell. If you’ve never seen it before, click on the video below. You just can’t buy this kind of publicity.
The video not only got a lot of traction locally, it went viral and news stations around the world picked up the story about this haunted house that was so insanely brutal, you needed to sign a waiver to get in. Duke and JT were nervous about the response, but the next weekend they reopened? They had the longest lines ever for Freakling Brothers and it’s been going strong ever since. All thanks to the Dad who demanded money, never contacted a lawyer or the police and most importantly? Never saw a dime.
So what happens in the Gates of Hell exactly? You will be touched, handled, thrown in very tight and confined spaces and will definitely be shocked by what happens inside. Each scene represents a different way a person can die, some of them you could call controversial, and they put you in those uncomfortable positions over and over again. You will be separated from your group and put in confined spaces. These are not scenes you watch. This is an environment where everything happens to you. If it’s too much for you, you can scream the safe word, which for 2013 is “purgatory,” and you will be escorted out.
Sound too mamby pamby for you? Well here is a tip you won’t see advertised on their website, www.FreaklingBros.com. Last year, it became somewhat of a legend that if you were the last group of the night through the Gates of Hell, the actors would take a little extra time with you. The experience was more intense, the language just that much more harsh and the physical contact was… let’s say… more abusive, than what you would normally expect. This “legend” caused people to start camping out at the end of the night to see if they could survive this more intense version.
I am here to tell you that the legend is not only true, but available for anyone to do. This 100% unadvertised, but if you email or call the folks at Freakling Brothers and ask for the “Victim Experience,” you will be guaranteed one of the five spots in the last group to go through the Gates of Hell. Victims are encouraged to wear clothing that will get completely ruined as well as sign a waiver that has been designed just for this experience.
Seen above is a picture of a former cast member of the Freakling Brothers who recently went through the Victim Experience and they did a “mild” version for him. Not only did he come out with his ankles tied together and his hands bound behind his back, but the dude was crying. Did I mention he used to work there?
So if you do try the Victim Experience, I would love to hear about it for a possible future article here on the site. When you call to reserve your site, tell them Theme Park University sent ya! Duke and JT are great guys and you’re pretty much guaranteed to see them wandering around the event on any given night they are open.
Editor’s Note: Many thanks to our Las Vegas contributor, Stephen Krstulich of Chaopolis Entertainment, for getting these great shots and going through the haunt! Visit his YouTube Channel by clicking here!
For more great stories on haunt attractions, click here! To keep up with the latest in themed entertainment follow us @TPUJosh on Twitter by clicking here and like our Facebook Theme Park University Page by clicking here!