The scary season returned to Denver this past weekend, when Asylum and the 13th Floor opened their doors. Celebrated by media ranging from MTV to USA Today to Fangoria, these two hair-raising fright-fests fuel our city's nightmares. From its Denver base, the 13th Floor Entertainment Group has expanded over the years and now produces haunted-house attractions in Phoenix, Austin, San Antonio and Chicago every Halloween season — but Denver's remain the largest and certainly the spookiest. Westword went to opening weekend to learn more, somehow making it through the night without dropping our camera in fear.
A host of archetypal horrors awaits visitors at the 13th Floor, as costumed characters jump out from the shadows, scaring the bejesus out of unsuspecting patrons before skulking back into place, ready to relieve the next group of their remaining bejesus as they round the haunt's labyrinthine corners. Werewolves, yeti, circus freaks, creepy clowns and a staggering variety of toothy beasts lurk in the ever-present dark and fog. The terror intensifies as patrons delve deeper; after a wobbly and physics-defying elevator ride to the titular thirteenth floor, the journey becomes increasingly disorienting as guests shuffle through mirrored mazes and laser swamps before emerging into the cool autumn night. Any illusion of safety is immediately shattered by a giggling little clown girl with a roaring chainsaw, charging at visitors for one last scare.
The frights and delights on display at the nearby Asylum are of a more cerebral variety, and more thematically consistent than those at the sister haunt to the west. Set in a Victorian-era psych ward straight out of a neo-gothic nightmare, Asylum has a more narrative quality, immersing guests in a pulse-punding scenario wherein they're pursued by a deadly virus and mutant super-soldiers and must find their escape through an abandoned institution packed with fearsome inmates.
Scarehounds are advised to make haste, as both the lines and ticket prices for these two fine haunts will increase as Halloween approaches. And mark your calendar for National Haunted House Day on Friday, October 9, when 13th Floor Entertainment Group is donating a percentage of its proceeds to the Don't Be a Monster anti-bullying campaign.
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The 13th Floor will be open every day in October and into November; go to the 13th Floor website for more details. Asylum will reopen on Friday, October 2; see the complete schedule here. And keep reading for some of the scary sights at these two haunts.