Future Nightmare adds more days

Just in time for “Halloween Week,” Future Nightmares in Merle Hay Mall has added extra nights:

I will try to get the information on this website updated (as well as the calendar) as soon as I can. But, as always, check official sources before heading out. This year, at least three of the haunts have added or removed nights in the past week. Do not rely on what you see in a newspaper article or some Halloween nerd’s website. 😉

What is Future Nightmares?

DISCLAIMER: These posts should not be taken as reviews. They should be taken as my interpretation of what the attraction is like. See “what is scary” for more details.

Today (Saturday, October 14, 2023), I finally got to experience Future Nightmares in Merle Hay Mall.

Future Nightmares is the creation of musician Sparky Sinn. Some of you may remember him from when he performed in 2013 at Sleepy Hollow Sports Park (long before Sleepy Hollow was sold to Polk County). His lights/sound/bass musical performance was called “Future Nightmares.”

SINN-X – October 5, 2013 – Sleepy Hollow Sports Park

Apparently that name stuck with him, because here we are a decade later and SINN-X is back with an all new Future Nightmares that has nothing to do with the DJ-centric show he gave us back then. Well, almost nothing. During that 2013 Sleepy Hollow event, I was part of a show that featured a talking skeleton. That skeleton originally appeared in the park as “DJ Bones” before getting his own show. And at that show, Sparky was there.

Sparky Sinn with DJ Bones – October 5, 2013 – Sleepy Hollow Sports Park

Perhaps this inspired Sparky to want his own animatronic talking skeleton. Or two of them, as the case may be. But more on this in a moment.

After learning that SINN-X was back in Des Moines and working on a new “year ’round” attraction, I headed to the mall to see what was going on. That’s when I found this:

Pressing that button causes an animatronic skeleton head to pop up from behind the circuit board, inviting the viewer to go to “future nightmares dot com” for more information.

Pressing the button again did something different. Then another something different. Then another. At that point, I knew this wasn’t going to be a DJ music show. But what would it be?

About the Show

Future Nightmares is located on the lower level of Merle Hay Mall just past the escalators to FLIX Brewhouse. A monitor in the window describes it as a “20 minute sci-fi horror show” and invites folks to visit futurenightmares.com to buy tickets. The cost is currently $15 for adults (a 25% sale), and $5 for kids (a 75% off sale). Beyond this, the website only describes it as:

Mad Scientist Sparky SINN and his glitchy robot servant 53rv0 use music to guide an audience of scientists through an experience of innovative lab experiments at SINN X LABS…

Experience Experiments… that always seem to go SCARY wrong…..


Now that I have seen it, I will attempt to describe just what kind of show this is.

Experiment-al theater

At the top of each hour, a group will be led through an entrance room and in to a second completely dark room. The scientist/usher leads the way with green flashlights (they remind me of short light sabers, or those lights folks wave on airport runways to guide the planes).

Once in the main room, there is very little you can see beyond three rows of four metal folding seats.

When the show starts and some lights come on, you will notice a stage up front. There are walls of black fabric/cloth on both sides, and a tall robot skeleton off to the left. There is also some weird contraption to the right of the stage. All of this becomes very important as the show goes on. This is where our scientist (Sparky) gets things started.

Without giving too many spoilers, the show is a series of “experiments” that audience members get to participate in. Don’t worry – most of this participation is pushing a button or flipping a switch. One or two “lucky” audience members may get to see what the contraption to the right of the stage is for.

As the show progresses, we learn that all of the lab equipment is very power hungry, and runs on a special type of fuel.

Nightmare fuel. (Okay, now I get it.)

The experiments start fun and pleasant, then get more nightmarish. Various effect happen — electric firecrackers, fog, air, animated props, lighting, video and more — during the course of the experiments. The robot skeleton serves as the main narrator and Sparky explains the experiments and wrangles the volunteers.

Music during the show is electronic and thematic, and appears to be performed live by Sparky. He runs various control from the stage, along with a synthesizer keyboard and a clear light up guitar. He is basically a walking light show.

As the show progresses, new things are revealed (it’s difficult to describe without spoiling things), and various jump scares happen. A good description I heard was:

“Pure sensory overload. It’s like he took the entire budget of a wanted house and put it in one room. The family in front of us were jumping at every little thing. Tons of interaction with volunteers. He has a moment where he [SPOILER REMOVED]. I won’t spoil it but it may be the most I’ve laughed in a haunted attraction.”

My Trusted Source, who saw it before I did.

So what is it?

It’s a show where you sit down in a theater and watch a guy and a robot talk to you … while all hell breaks loose around you. There are some massive props in this room, including some I hadn’t seen “in the wild” before. There’s even a neat hologram effect. Things can get loud so be prepared for that, especially if bringing kids. (They offered us nice ear plugs.)

It is still hard to explain what this show is — but I like it, and I want to see it again. Hopefully the second time around I can catch even more things going on. Early on, something happens off to the side, which pulled my attention away from something happening on the other. Maybe next time I can catch both.

Is it worth it?

I thought it was a value at $15. I’ve certainly paid $25 to go through a haunted house that had less effects and took less time and gave me less jumps. But it is really hard to compare the two experiences. Some folks prefer being chased by clowns with chainsaws.

About the only thing I will critique is that some of the dialog sections seemed too long. There may be a technical reason for this, but some times you have to listen to that robot drone on while you think “okay, we get it, make stuff blow up!” 😉 Since this show is only performed on Friday and Saturdays, and only started this month, I expect the presentation to evolve as he gets more audience reactions.

For now, though, it’s an inexpensive and unique Des Moines offering that I would recommend. Much like buying a ticket to a movie, you never know if you are going to see a bomb or the next Oscar winner. Tastes are different. And with something like this, it’s hard to know what anyone will think.

But my trusted source was correct. It was “pure sensory overload.”

And he plans to stick around with evolving shows. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Oh, and say hello to the cyborg if she is there. She seems nice. And much like The Terminator, you’ll probably want to come with her if you want to live.

Future Nightmares & White Rabbit VR added to the calendar

Future Nightmares asked to be added to the calendar. I originally didn’t plan to have them, or White Rabbit VR, anywhere but the index since they are not traditional haunted houses and that’s what this site is about. What do you consider them? Please leave a comment.

For now, they have both been added. Future Nightmares pointed out:

…the amount of pro haunted house props from Distortions Unlimited and Fright Props inside Future Nightmares are well above most average haunts in Des Moines…. that is why we are definitely a HAUNT… the only difference …. you don’t go through a dark maze… so we are 100% Handicap accessible… unlike most places in des moines everyone gets the same exact intense show !

We have a story and the audience participates in scenerios with tons of high end Haunted house FX and animatronics around them THE WHOLE TIME… 

But I guess if walking a maze is what qualifies as a “Haunt” for this… 

then yea I guess not ….

Future Nightmares

Works for me 🙂 What say you?