22 Boardwalk Lane

In 1989, Shadowgard suffered the first and only earthquake in its recorded history.

This factoid may seem to be a non-sequitur, but in fact, it is essential to Locus' backstory. This particular establishment is a "story" attraction, in the same vein as the Disney theme parks, Boston's TOMB and New York City's Jeckyll and Hyde Club. Thus, its "official" backstory -- printed on its website and included in its various promotional materials -- starts with the 1989 earthquake, which (it is claimed) inexplicably unearthed an ancient Greco-Roman settlement right smack dab in the middle of Shadowgard. More than that, the unspeakably old structures and surviving records told a strange new myth, casting the gods and goddesses of the ancient world in the context of a vast war, a literal battle of the sexes that raged long before recorded history began. The site was studied extensively by archaeologists and engineers who eventually cleared it for preservation and new construction, at which point the walls and roof were thrown up around the ruins, the site was repurposed and the whole village was opened to the public.

As backstories go, it's a pretty bit of fluff -- patently ludicrous, of course, but most of Locus' guests are only too happy to suspend their disbelief long enough to enjoy this "theme park in a box". Naturally, the inevitable rumors surround this structure; some local crackpots go so far as to claim that there really was a revolutionary archaeological find revealed by the Quake of '89, but the site represented such a radical transformation of our present understanding of history that Locus' financial backers (who, to be fair, are fairly shadowy and hard to pin down), actually a secret cabal bent on maintaining the status quo, promptly had the whole village reburied and built the establishment right on top. Of course, very few people inside Shadowgard or without would ever take such wild tales and theories seriously.

Locus begins with the Grand Agora, the inevitable souvenir shop, where visitors can purchase admission or make reservations for the other areas of the experience or simply browse and shop. Everything from Locus t-shirts and caps to books on Greek & Roman history and mythology to statuettes of the ancient gods and goddesses can be found here, as well as an impressive selection of high-end clothing and jewelry inspired by the fashions of the ancient world. Naturally, this particular area of the experience is free and open to all ages -- the owners of Locus want people to come on in and spend their hard-earned cash at the Agora.

From the Agora, visitors can enter a number of other areas. The first of these is Venus Rising, in the first floor's north wing, an elaborate bar and nightclub designed to loosely resemble a temple of the goddess Aphrodite. A huge faux-bronze statue of the goddess herself stands on a stage at the far end of the club, occasionally coming to life through the miracle of audio-animatronics. A live band or a DJ can be found at the statue's base every night of the week, keeping the crowd entertained and the music playing. The dance floor proper is a vast tiled affair with a series of reflecting pools running down the middle; within these pools are a number of platforms that are raised and lowered arbitrarily throughout the night, appearing a few inches above the water for a time before submerging once more, creating an ever-changing surface area. A grand bar sits at the edge of the floor, near the main entrance and exit. Just beyond the half-ruined pillars that line the floor, curtained alcoves contain comfortable couches and niches for anyone who'd prefer a more intimate experience. Due to the goings-on in this part of the building, Venus Rising is strictly 18+, and the legal drinking age is carefully observed. The standard cover charge is $10 on weekdays and $15 on weekends, sometimes rising to $20 or $25 when there's a particularly hot band in the house.

The next most popular area of the club is the Nereid's Rest, located in the east wing on the first floor, a seafood restaurant themed as a set of temples to Poseidon and Amphetrite, with great glass windows opening onto a vast tank filled with artificial coral, fish and small sharks, as well as costumed women posing as mermaids, swimming about and silently interacting with the guests seated at windowside tables. Though the idea of an attraction featuring comely costumed mermaids is hardly new, the Nereid's Rest mermaids wear unusually realistic costume pieces -- the seam between their fish and human halves is all but invisible -- and seem to have the ability to hold their breath for inhumanly long periods. Though these waterborne figures are naturally sexualized to some degree, the Nereid's Rest is something of a family restaurant and generally well-suited for patrons of all ages. The food is moderately priced and of good quality and the service is excellent, so this particular part of Locus is often quite crowded.

In the west wing of the first floor, the so-called Temple of Athena is visited by the goddess herself, who takes her guests on a tour of ancient Athens, aided by cutting-edge rear projection, surround sound, audio-animatronics and even primitive holographic technology. The presentation lasts approximately forty-five minutes, and a fifteen minute preshow gives visitors the opportunity to explore the temple on their own before the goddess arrives. A trip through the experience costs $16 for adults and $10 for children.

On the second floor, visitors find the Palace of the Muses, a spacious museum surrounded by an artificially recreated, forced-perspective moutain range and countryside. Here, costumed representatives of the nine muses personally guide visitors through exhibits showcasing Greek history and mythology which include genuine ancient artifacts as well as recreations and interactive presentations. Admission to the museum costs $12 for adults and $7.50 for children, and once admitted, visitors are free to wander the exhibits on their own or jump in and out of the tour as they will.

The other second floor attraction of note is the Red Sky Experience, a motion-simulator ride in which visitors board an ancient orinthopter, soaring into the skies above Parnassus, Olympus and Helicon, where they find themselves in the midst of a battle between gods and winged creatures straight out of ancient Greek legends. As the night wears on, the experience grows steadily more intense, shifting between ever more violent films and experiences, until at last Apollo himself enters the fray, battling directly against his sister, Artemis while riders look helplessly on, buffeted by the force of each and every one of their earthshaking blows. Simulator tickets cost $14 per guest, and those below four feet in height are not permitted to ride.

The basement level of the building holds the Underworld, a series of tunnels and open caverns dotted with ruins, in which visitors do battle with one another while navigating such universal obstacles as Cerberus, the River Styx and shades of the dead. Those who dare to enter the Underworld choose a god to serve -- either Hades or his estranged wife Persephone -- and are equipped with electronic armor and weapons such as crossbows and swords. The Underworld experience is little more than glorified laser tag combined with boffer weapon combat, but nevertheless, it provides hours of entertainment for the relatively low admission fee of $12 a head. The attraction is generally restricted to visitors 15 and up, due to the size and weight of the armor and potential liability issues where smaller children are concerned.

Locus as a whole is open generally from 11 am to 1 am am every day, though the Nereid's Rest is open only until 12:30 am, and Venus Rising is open from 7 pm to 3 am instead. As midnight approaches, nearly all areas of the building turn into riotous battlefields. The Temple of Athena is assaulted by lighting as Zeus lashes out against his own daughter. The muses are forced to do battle with their jealous patron, Apollo, as the temperature rises, hot winds whip through the Palace and the very firmament appears to shake (though all of these effects are carefully regulated so as not to damage the displays). The mermaids of the Nereid's Rest take up arms as their normally placid home is invaded by tentacled, scaled monstrosities who force them to do battle with spear and trident. The armies of the dead flood the catacombs of the Underworld, adding new challenges to the already fierce battle raging therein. Inside Venus Rising, the statue of Aphrodite comes alive as a projection of the war god Ares makes itself manifest, disturbing the revels inside the temple. It's somewhat hokey, and there's a great deal of creative license involved in each of these battles, but the experience is certainly memorable and serves as a clear warning of the attraction's pending closure.