This Night Has Opened My Eyes

It sounded like a good idea at the time:

Freakling Brothers Horror Shows, the Show Bus of the Stars and Pampas Brazilian Grille invite you and one guest to enjoy a TERRIFYING NIGHT of HORROR and FUN on October 14th!

We’ll be taking a real English open-top double-decker bus around town to experience all three of the Freakling Brothers Haunted Attractions! This event is free and for our invited guests only, so please do not forward this exclusive invitation.

Sounds like fun, right? An evening drive around the Las Vegas Valley, visiting haunted houses, riding atop an open-air bus in the early autumn air–what could go wrong?

To be honest, I was a bit apprehensive about the idea. The tour started with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at Pampas Brazilian Grill inside the Miracle Mile shops at 6 p.m. and was projected to return there at 10:30 p.m., after visiting the aforementioned attractions, scattered at three corners of the valley. No kidding. So, basically, for four hours or so, I’d be trapped with a bunch of strangers (mostly) on a bus, or in a haunted set of trailers. Or maybe in line at a fast food restaurant bathroom.

But I went. I made the short trek to Planet Hollywood’s still-under-remodeling Miracle Mile shops and joined the already-sodden party at Pampas’ bar. I recognized a few other folks I knew from the media and hospitality industries; otherwise, it was a combo of costumed characters, tour organizers and … um … whoever. A little after 7 p.m., we all lined up outside to board the Show Bus of the Stars, the as-promised double decker vehicle … upon which Little Richard (OK, a reasonably facsimile thereof) acted as host, in-drive entertainment and party ringleader. At that time, the air was already getting chilly. I hadn’t worn a jacket or a hat, a decision I would later regret.

Showbus of the Stars! Riding in such a supremely touristy attraction on the Strip makes sense, and feels right. When we turned off to head toward the Northwest, things got … weird. Especially when our driver decided to turn onto I-15 North, defying any safety or logic, considering 90 percent of the passengers were on the top of a top-heavy, high-profile vehicle, not strapped in, and mostly drunk. That freeway jaunt lasted from Sahara Avenue to Charleston Boulevard.

A few illegal U-turns and run red lights later (apparently, driving a double-decker tour bus enables you to defy traffic law. COOL!), we were motoring past UMC blasting party music, waving at passersby and dancing dangerously close to the edge of the bus. OK, I wasn’t dancing, but you get the idea.

The organizers must have severely underestimated the distances between stopovers. The first attraction, Castle Vampyre, was at Rainbow Boulevard and Smoke Ranch Road. Yes, almost North Las Vegas. The second? The Mortuary, at Charleston and Lamb Boulevards. Yes, almost Sunrise Mountain. The third? Circus of Horrors at Sunset Road and Stephanie Drive. Yes, Henderson. Are you following?

Suffice it to say, we did not make it to Henderson. We left the second stop, the Mortuary, about 10 p.m., and headed back to Miracle Mile. People were cold. People were drunk. (Is it illegal to drink alcohol while riding on the top of an open-top double decker bus? Shh, don’t tell anyone!) I picked up some hot chocolate and a cheese danish at a (very smart) 7-Eleven stop, which helped offset my crankiness as the night wore on. Heck, by the time we got back on the Strip, I was singing the chorus to “My Girl” and waving at tourists.

So was it terrible? Nah … it ended up being kinda (gasp) fun, despite the inherent cheesiness. Actually, it was kinda degenerate by the end of the night (click here for photos)–the couple of kids on board (children of one of the organizers) headed to the lower level, leaving the costumed and non-costumed adults to smoke, drink, dance and fondle each other. I think I was molested a few times myself. Well, it is Vegas. There’s no escaping that.

And the Freakling Brothers’ haunted attractions? While still not quite scary, they are a thousand times better than the crap inside the Frightdome. So there.

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