Haunted Circus a frightening experience

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With so many haunted houses in Utah, a change in pace is a warm welcome. The Strangling Brothers Haunted Circus offers that change.

Located just off I- 15 in Draper, the Haunted Circus intimidates from the outside in. Actors dressed as ghouls, zombies, scary clowns and even carnies, offer scares before you even enter the circus while members of the Odyssey Dance Company entertain with a rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

Guests line up inside a circus tent while scenes from horror movies play on a giant screen.

Clowns, clowns, and more clowns. The Haunted Circus is filled with clowns ready to scare the life out of visitors this Halloween season. Courtesy of Haunted Circus.

Sandy residents Paul Little and Allie Sephens said the effects at the start were not lost on them.

“The beginning parts are really intense and made me get excited and scared,” Sephens said.

While there is a “cool atmosphere” outside, according to Little, the real frights happen inside.

Actors “popped out of weird places,” Sephen said.

A sequence of trailers, each offering a unique and different experience, are arranged like a labyrinth. As each group passes from trailer to trailer they are met with scenes that can scare even the toughest people.

With around 65 scenes set up, it is not uncommon for the tour to go for almost an hour. “Its really nice in length. Really long,” Sephen said.

Owners Bob Tillotson and James Thornton have invested a lot of time and money into making sure the Haunted Circus is one of the creepiest and enjoyable shows around.

“We are in a state where there is a lot of really good haunts,” Tillotson said. “There’s a lot of really good competition and I firmly believe we have the very best cast out there.”

Thornton agreed.

“It makes a huge difference,” he said. “The quality of people in the cast that’s a big deal.”

Actor Preston Smith from Lehi shed some light on the selection of cast members.

“We look for creativity. The age of cast members varies from 16 to 71,” Smith said, who also helps cast the actors. “Ninety percent of our actors are good enough that we just give them a little bit of direction and they do the rest. If people are really good at some spot, we will keep them there, but usually most people get to try all the places they want.”

The actors aren’t the only part of the show though. Lasers, smoke machines, deceiving mirrors, spinning tunnels and animatronic mannequins add to the dynamic and make the circus a frightening experience.

So why a circus?

“Clowns are scary for starters,” Thornton said. “There are lots of haunted houses that feed off the same sort of themes. We are completely unique.”

Although the Haunted Circus is only in its second year, it reached “Mega Haunt” status its first year. Having “Mega Haunt” status means you have had at least 15,000 visitors to your attraction.

“We will triple and quadruple that number as time goes on,” Tillotson said. They expect tens of thousands of people to go through the circus in the six week period it is up.

Little thinks it is worth the time and money to go.

“I would pay it again,” Little said.

Starting Oct. 6, the Haunted Circus will be open every night until Halloween.

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