I consider myself a thrill-seeker, always open to new and exciting escapades, and with Halloween just around the corner, this season lends itself well to adventurists like myself. As fellow Renegade Chick, Lola, mentioned, visiting a haunted house is the perfect late-night fall date activity and is also a great outing for a group of friends. East coasters have a plethora of options to satiate their thirst for all things scary. Two of my favorites are Terror Behind the Walls in Philadelphia, PA, which is housed inside Eastern State Penitentiary, a historic prison that was once home to famous inmates such as Al Capone, and the Headless Horseman Haunted House, located in Ulster Park, NY, which has been referred to as the best haunted house in the country. Additionally, Salem, Massachusetts, is perfect for a fall weekend getaway, full of Halloween-related events.
This year, I was looking for something a little closer, and as luck would have it, I came across a haunted house located right in Manhattan. Perfect, or is it? The first thing that caught my attention after visiting the website for Blackout Haunted House is the line right below the title: No one under 18 admitted, and you must walk through alone. Ok, well, I fit the criteria, and although I am a bit skeptical about the alone part, Blackout Haunted House still has my attention.
My surfing through the website next took me to the rules page, which are outlined as follows:
1. YOU MUST WALK THROUGH ALONE.
2. You must be over 18.
3. Stay on the marked path at all times.
4. You will be prompted to do certain actions. Please do exactly as you’re told. This is for your safety.
5. There is absolutely no speaking allowed inside. You can, however, scream as loud as you’d like.
6. Do not ever touch the actors.
7. Do not ever touch the walls.
8. You must wear a protective mask and carry a flashlight at all times. (We will provide both of these items for you. Please do not bring your own.)
Additionally, the following information is provided: If you have an emergency while walking through the house and need to be escorted out, please yell the word “SAFETY” as loud as you can. Stay where you are, remain calm, and someone will come to get you and bring you out. Once you call “SAFETY”, there are no refunds and there are no options but to leave.
Please be aware, you will encounter: FOG – STROBE LIGHTS – COMPLETE DARKNESS CRAWLING – STAIRS – LOUD NOISES – WATER PHYSICAL CONTACT – SEXUAL and VIOLENT SITUATIONS
Hmm, there is a safety word? And as far as encounters go, water and physical contact, are not necessarily on my list of favorites. Also, what is up with the sexual AND violent situations? While skeptical, this haunted house has clearly piqued my interest, so how could I stop there?
Upon more research, I found out that Blackout Haunted House, created by Kris Thorgeirsoon and Josh Randall, an “extreme theater” veteran, has two locations, New York and Los Angeles, and has been up and running for the past six years. According to a 2011 review in the New York Observer by Drew Grant, “To call Blackout a haunted house even, is a misnomer. There is nothing supernatural about it: nothing that couldn’t happen to you in real life. (Or an episode of Law & Order: SVU.)… This was a place that has been designed specifically to ‘test your limits.’ Just maybe not in the way you were expecting.” Likewise, Downtown Traveler author Leslie Koch had this to say about the 2012 Blackout experience: “Blackout accomplishes its goal of making you feel like a protagonist in your own horror movie. Walking through the house alone with only a thin SARS mask to protect you, you’ll find out quickly if you have the mental strength to be an ass-kicking heroine (a la Scream) or a compliant victim.”
So what exactly can you expect out of this year’s Blackout Haunted House? While Koch did not reveal any specific details, she gave us a general sense of what to anticipate (SPOILER ALERT BELOW!):
You will get a full 20 to 30 minutes of one-on-one attention in the house, which validates the hefty $50 price tag. The earpiece-wearing crew seems to deal with any backlogs by holding you in a creepy confined area inside of the haunted house for an indefinite time period. (Claustrophobes, beware). You may catch a glimpse of other visitors while in the house, but for the most part it will just be you and a performer in a series of closed rooms.
There is no waterboarding at the 2012 Blackout haunted house (did you really think they’d do the same thing twice?), but there are plenty of moments where you’ll wonder, “why am I subjecting myself to this?” and “why am I casually going along with this?”
There is plenty of nudity– male and female– and you will be poked, prodded and rubbed against by sweaty members of both genders. If you are extremely homophobic or have some unresolved sexual issues, you probably want to sit this one out.
There are (simulated) bodily fluids, and you will be touching them.
You will be subjected to harsh lighting, confined spaces, smoke-filled rooms and forceful shoving, although the promise of crawling was unfulfilled at the press preview.
Despite my previous self-proclamation of being a thrill seeker, after doing my due-diligence and researching thoroughly, I think Blackout Haunted House is too much even for me. My previous haunted house experiences were capable of shocking even the most cynical patrons and provided the sought-after adrenaline rush. However, as Grant said, I do not think that calling Blackout a “haunted house” is accurate. I’m not at all comfortable with the idea of being waterboarded, “mouth raped,” or asked to put my hand in vomit, as fake as it may be, as The Jaded Viewer outlined in last year’s walkthrough of Blackout. In fact, I don’t find the “fun” in any of it and would likely be donating my $50 entrance fee because I could see myself calling the safety word quite readily. However, I do note that Blackout sparks my curiosity and could see why some people decide to participate.
What are your thoughts on Blackout Haunted House? Check out the Blackout 2012 trailer below and decide for yourself: would you consider attending? If you do, share your experiences with us!