To enter the Gates of Hell, an R-rated haunted house part of the Freakling Bros. Trilogy of Terror, patrons must accept their fate.
They will be touched, groped, verbally assaulted, emotionally disturbed and electrically shocked.
Holding the waiver all people entering must sign is the character Cardinal Sin, who dons a Roman Catholic robe with an upside-down necklace he occasionally licks suggestively.
“Are you ready for this?” the actor asks glancing over the waivers.
If they acknowledge all these warnings and concede that the next 15 or so minutes will be pure hell, they can abandon hope and enter the Gates of Hell.
Freakling Bros. co-owner J.T. Mollner has always wanted to do a house like this.
“Growing up, I would always hear the urban legend about the haunted house that no person could make it through,” he says. “I wanted to create something like that.”
His dad used to put on haunted houses in their backyard for years. In 1992, the family created the Freakling Bros., bringing the haunts to a commercial setting.
Always wanting to grow and try something new, Mollner decided to go out on a limb and create an R-rated attraction.
How does one create a house like this?
Mollner reached into his arsenal of twisted thoughts to come up with a house that could scare anyone.
His version of this house would have to be R-rated.
“All the horror movies I went to that were worth watching were R-rated,” he says.
He knew the house would have to break the physical barrier allowing actors to touch, grab, push and at times grope some of the victims.
Entering into the Gate of Hell, people are instantly bombarded with a man pushing them into a wall and forcing them into an isolated box.
On Oct. 10, opening night for Trilogy of Terror’s season, Peter Grant couldn’t even make it past that portion of the house.
“I didn’t know much about it going into it,” he says. “I told myself, ‘It’s just a haunted house. How bad could it be?’ “
But immediately when the cell door shut behind him and he was by himself, Grant knew he didn’t want to go further, shouting the safe word that allows for an immediate exit — purgatory.
“I hope I can try it again next year,” he says.
Going through room by room, actors violate personal space pushing people to places they never wanted to end up.
Another aspect Mollner wanted to have that would make the house different from others was the use of profane language. People are yelled at and called perverse things as they journey through the scenarios of the house.
One of the most shocking aspects — pun intended — was one portion of the house in which people are electrically shocked. Jolts of pain travel through the body as people scream trying to exit the room.
Gates of Hell attacks all the senses. One can’t help but notice the rotted and putrid stench that permeates certain rooms.
All of these factors are why every person must sign a waiver.
Gates of Hell has brought success to the family.
“We are the first ones in Nevada to attempt anything like this,” Mollner says. “We are always on every top 10 list for Halloween. People travel from all over to go through it.”
He adds the reason is because Freakling Bros. has created an attraction that isn’t just about scaring teenagers.
“Most haunted houses are geared toward them,” he says. “We are able to scare a 45-year-old man. We are pushing the envelope.”
It’s not just the concept alone that makes the house a success. Mollner’s creation is in the hands of his actors.
About half of them have worked with Freakling Bros. for several years.
“We have chosen you because you’re the best of the best,” Mollner says during a dress rehearsal. “The balance of Freakling Bros. lies in your hands. You’re not there to make them laugh. You’re here to make them terrified.”
Mollner adds the balance is if they aren’t scary enough, the attraction gets a bad name, but if they cross any lines, the company gets a lawsuit.
“It’s all in your hands,” he repeats.
Backstage, people strip off their everyday clothes to put on an assortment of costumes — prisons jumpsuits and demonic priest robes among the items.
“You all look so pretty,” Mollner jokes before giving the characters a pep talk.
In the mix of characters is Crystalena Nightengale, who has worked with Freakling Bros. a few years.
“I love Halloween,” she says. “I think (doing this) is hilarious because you get to watch people’s reactions.”
She wears a cut-up bathrobe with blood smears all over her face and outfit.
“I’m a grimy, bloody cutter,” she says. “I usually listen to a lot of dark music to get in the right mindset.”
Once she is, she is ready to scare the next person who enters her room.
Opening night, only a few have had to say the magical word to leave the house.
Though he has successfully completed the house, Patrick Thiele runs out of the exit with a broken flip-flop in hand.
It broke about a third of the way through forcing him to go the rest of the way without one shoe.
“I had lower expectations going into it,” he says. “I heard about it last year but didn’t get a chance to go. This is really intense.”
Though some make it all the way through, not all are emotionally OK after leaving. One patron spends the next few minutes crying after descending the ramp out of the house.
This is all part of the Gates of Hell mission.
“We need to make our customers terrified, but happy,” Mollner says.
Contact reporter Michael Lyle at email@example.com or 702-387-5201. Follow @mjlyle on Twitter.