Field Trip: The ScareHouse Basement

After Dark’s 2013 Halloween Spectacular rolls on with a journey into Pittsburgh’s most intimidating haunted hot spot.




Jason Cohn, courtesy ScareHouse
 

 

As the Halloween haunted-attraction industry grows and matures, it seems there are two distinct reactions among those who brave these souped-up spookhouses. Some people get truly and viscerally scared at your average haunt, rattled and screaming at the terrors within; others mostly chuckle at the scares, appreciating the details and settings the haunt’s creators have offered.

If you’re in that first category, The Basement is not for you.

Those who’ve considered making a break for the emergency exits at the sight of a particularly aggressive zombie or an escaped mental patient with a chainsaw should not even consider a trip to The ScareHouse's new attraction. Stay upstairs, where the main event has been revamped and expanded; much of The ScareHouse’s first half is brand-new, redesigned sound effects add terrifying atmosphere and Creepo's Christmas in 3-D is better than ever.

Maybe you’re in that second group, though. When an animatronic prisoner is executed, are you admiring the detail on the model? When ghouls are popping out from around corners to shriek with rage, are you noting the excellent set dressing and lighting effects? Have you (like me) driven upwards of three hours for new and inventive Halloween activities?

Then we’ve got something for you. But don’t get cocky; even the most hardened fans might find themselves screaming the safe word in The Basement. (Yes, there’s a safe word.)

Partially inspired by — and, in some ways, modeled after — Bricolage Production Co.'s uncanny interactive theater experience STRATA, The Basement can only be experienced solo or with one partner. (I’d go solo, for reasons I won’t spoil here.) A series of rooms will continually up the ante, as you’re harassed, restrained, intimidated, threatened and manhandled through scenarios designed to invoke the actual experiences associated with our greatest fears.

The waiver you must sign to be admitted specifies that all of these things will be done to, at and around you. (It’s posted in full here if you’d like to review it beforehand, but trust me — if you’re not sure you can handle it, you can’t handle it.)

 


Rachellynn Schoen, courtesy ScareHouse

 

The experiences in The Basement were in no way what I was expecting, and I was surprised and lightly-to-heavily disturbed in almost every room. Because it was such an unpredictable experience, I won’t reveal any of the very intense and creative scenes here; I will, however, quote this warning from ScareHouse’s website:

“ScareHouse's ‘The Basement’ haunted attraction contains high voltage effects, very low lighting, tight spaces, strong scents, profanity, moments of complete darkness, water, physical contact, sexual and violent situations, and high-impact scares. Not recommended for pregnant women or people with heart conditions or respiratory problems.”

Once again: If that doesn’t sound palatable to you, don’t go.

If you can handle it, though, you will be richly rewarded by an experience I can truthfully say is like no other. In The Basement, you’ll not only be brought face-to-face with events and people that terrify you, you’ll also be made to feel the real-world sensations and — yes — traumas associated with them. When you finally emerge into the night, you’ll feel as though you triumphed over an incredible challenge.

There is no ironic distance possible here. No matter how tough you are, there are things in The Basement that will truly disturb you.

It’s very, very troubling. But it’s also one of the only places, worldwide, where a Halloween attraction has been elevated to the level of high art. Those who are able to endure until the end get to witness an unparalleled — if unsettling — Pittsburgh treasure.

 

Info:

Now through Nov. 2. Thursdays & Saturdays, 7 p.m.-10 p.m.; Fridays & Saturdays, 7 p.m.-midnight. One person, $19.99; two people, $17.49 each. Tickets available here.

Parking for the ScareHouse is now at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, 7340 Butler St., Pittsburgh, Pa. 15206; parking and shuttle to the ScareHouse are free.

Limited tickets available; reservations strongly recommended. All entrants must be 18 years of age with photo ID and must sign a waiver before admittance. Additional rules apply, and can be reviewed here.)


The 412

Gear Up for Month of Mud's Final Bike Race of 2014

Gear Up for Month of Mud's Final Bike Race of 2014

The homegrown race series wraps up on Sunday at Ohiopyle State Park.
Local Developer Creates Pittsburghese Plugin for Google Chrome

Local Developer Creates Pittsburghese Plugin for Google Chrome

Have a little fun as you search the Web.
Pittsburgher Ali Spagnola Releases an App Version of Her 'Power Hour' Album

Pittsburgher Ali Spagnola Releases an App Version of Her 'Power Hour' Album

The creator of the app — which takes any playlist on your smartphone or tablet and plays it in one-minute pieces — reminds users to please drink responsibly.
NPR Blog Team Tries, Critiques Primanti Bros. Sandwich

NPR Blog Team Tries, Critiques Primanti Bros. Sandwich

The group behind the station's Sandwich Monday blog series orders the iconic sandwich and writes a review.

Hot Reads

Review: One Thirty One East

Review: One Thirty One East

Located in the southwest suburban community of Carnegie, One Thirty One East embodies the area’s renaissance.
Grow. Cook. Drink.: Maggie Meskey of Butcher and the Rye

Grow. Cook. Drink.: Maggie Meskey of Butcher and the Rye

The charismatic Maggie Meskey had tended bar for years before landing her gig at downtown bourbon haven Butcher and the Rye.
13 Bartenders You Should Know

13 Bartenders You Should Know

Get acquainted with this group of charming bar professionals working in various establishments around the city.
12 Hot New Restaurants

12 Hot New Restaurants

A diverse crop of eateries caught our attention this year, so we’re highlighting some of our favorites.

On the Blogs


Everything That's Awesome About Pittsburgh Today
Gear Up for Month of Mud's Final Bike Race of 2014

Gear Up for Month of Mud's Final Bike Race of 2014

The homegrown race series wraps up on Sunday at Ohiopyle State Park.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
7 Best Rising Star Bartenders

7 Best Rising Star Bartenders

Get to know the city’s next generation of savvy, ambitious ’tenders.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
The Pirates Lost, and Twitter Went to Hell in a French-Fry Basket

The Pirates Lost, and Twitter Went to Hell in a French-Fry Basket

PittGirl recaps what transpired in the local Twittersphere after last night's Wild Card game.

Comments


Award-winning sports commentary by Sean Conboy
R.I.P. Corporate Penguins, 2009-2014

R.I.P. Corporate Penguins, 2009-2014

Fire Bylsma? Fire Shero? The Penguins' problems run deeper.

Comments


Notion Launches a Series of Wine and Cooking Classes

Notion Launches a Series of Wine and Cooking Classes

Brush up on your skills before enjoying a six-course fine-dining experience.

Comments


Bar Exam: Cappy's Cafe

Bar Exam: Cappy's Cafe

The Walnut Street stalwart is a Shady haven built for people-watching.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Cozy in Cashmere

Cozy in Cashmere

A luxury cashmere kiosk has arrived at the Ross Park Mall just in time to outfit you for colder weather.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Pittsburgh Pierogi Fest Will Take Over Stage AE Tomorrow

Pittsburgh Pierogi Fest Will Take Over Stage AE Tomorrow

The event will offer ample activities and a variety of pierogi-inspired dishes.

Comments


This week's buzz from the PM editors
Time to See Ballet Under the Stars

Time to See Ballet Under the Stars

This weekend, the PBT presents its annual production at Hartwood Acres under the night sky.

Comments