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Some haunted houses return after sitting out last Halloween because of the pandemic


It is almost Halloween, and haunted houses are back. They look and feel a little bit different, though. The Gates of Hell in Las Vegas is run by the Freakling Bros. Horror Shows. They've been scaring the pants off guests for almost 30 years. But last year, they had to close because of the pandemic.

JT MOLLNER: We didn't want to contribute to the problem. We wanted to stay safe, and we also knew that what we do is a very in-your-face, kind of immersive event. So from an artistic standpoint, it wasn't going to be fun.


That's JT Mollner, the co-owner of Freakling Bros. His father started the business, which is known as the only rated-R haunted house in Nevada. This year, Mollner and 60 actors are back with the promise to be more vicious, but also safer than ever. You're going to see the ghosts and the goblins, but they're vaccinated, and they wear surgical masks under their spooky masks. Also, they will be keeping their distance.

MOLLNER: You know, if there was an actor that used to get 2 inches away from somebody's face before and put their hands up on the wall and corner the person, now we might have 5-foot-long prosthetics on - you know, on that actor. And we'll make sure the actor's never 1 inch from their face.

MARTIN: Jeez. OK. But what keeps customers coming back when real life seems scary enough, honestly? Mollner says that's sort of the point.

MOLLNER: I think it's very cathartic because there is real-life horror in the world right now. And it's - the reality is scary. But to go through something that allows you to experience the catharsis without the actual risk, it's a good thing for some people, not everybody.

KING: In other words, one person's nightmare is another person's self-care.

(SOUNDBITE OF HIDDEN ORCHESTRA'S "FOOTSTEPS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.