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.)


Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

The Mosaic Stairway: You've Never Seen Steps Like These

The Mosaic Stairway: You've Never Seen Steps Like These

When viewed from the foot of the South Side Slopes of Pittsburgh, the stairs ascending Josephine Street form a massive image that consists of more than 7,500 individual mosaic tiles.
Joe Manganiello Plays the Good Guy for Children’s Hospital

Joe Manganiello Plays the Good Guy for Children’s Hospital

The actor, director and Mt. Lebanon native is joining the board of trustees of the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation.
Pittsburgh Man Sets World Record By Lifting 1 Million Pounds

Pittsburgh Man Sets World Record By Lifting 1 Million Pounds

Matt Scoletti accomplishes the feat in just under nine hours.
Why Thanksgiving Comes Every Day for 3 Pittsburgh-Area Men

Why Thanksgiving Comes Every Day for 3 Pittsburgh-Area Men

They owe their lives to one man who lives on in each of them.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in December

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in December

This month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
50+ Things That Will Make You Enjoy Winter in Pittsburgh

50+ Things That Will Make You Enjoy Winter in Pittsburgh

Love it or hate it, winter is upon us. Because some of us may think there's a lot not to like, we bring you 50+ things to eat, drink and do –– and some helpful tips –– that'll keep the blues at bay.
Excellence in Nursing: Meet Our 2016 Honorees

Excellence in Nursing: Meet Our 2016 Honorees

Pittsburgh Magazine presents the honorees from its inaugural Excellence in Nursing awards. Meet our judges' choices and learn what makes them remarkable in their field.
Choreographed Style: Winter Fashion with The Pittsburgh Ballet

Choreographed Style: Winter Fashion with The Pittsburgh Ballet

A regal ruggedness characterizes the season's menswear looks.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


The Mosaic Stairway: You've Never Seen Steps Like These

The Mosaic Stairway: You've Never Seen Steps Like These

When viewed from the foot of the South Side Slopes of Pittsburgh, the stairs ascending Josephine Street form a massive image that consists of more than 7,500 individual mosaic tiles.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
The Café Carnegie Now Open in Oakland

The Café Carnegie Now Open in Oakland

Chefs Sonja Finn and Becca Hegarty helm the refurbished restaurant at the Carnegie Museums.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best of the Burgh: Pumpkin Patches in the Pittsburgh Area

Best of the Burgh: Pumpkin Patches in the Pittsburgh Area

We’ve compiled the best pumpkin patches for fall family fun.

Comments


Why Wait For Summer? Head to Kennywood's Holiday Lights

Why Wait For Summer? Head to Kennywood's Holiday Lights

The park's winter celebration is great for families and a fine choice for anyone who loves Christmas (and/or funnel cake).

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Big Ten-Champion Nittany Lions More Worthy Than Buckeyes

Big Ten-Champion Nittany Lions More Worthy Than Buckeyes

For some reason Ohio State is ranked No. 2 in the latest playoff rankings and Penn State is No. 7. That has to change if Penn State beats Wisconsin on Saturday night.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Locket Full of Joy

Locket Full of Joy

The handcrafted piece opens to hidden treasures.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Ten Upcoming Flicks Every Oscar-Watcher Should See

Ten Upcoming Flicks Every Oscar-Watcher Should See

PM film critic Sean Collier picks ten forthcoming flicks likely to rake in nominations for the 89th Academy Awards.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Thinking Small: Pittsburgh Weddings That Are Intimate Affairs

Thinking Small: Pittsburgh Weddings That Are Intimate Affairs

Bigger isn’t always better, at least when it comes to these couples’ wedding ceremonies.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Seasonal Shopping: CMOA Store Holiday House, J.Crew Mercantile Opens Doors

Seasonal Shopping: CMOA Store Holiday House, J.Crew Mercantile Opens Doors

The Carnegie Museum of Art is full of Christmas cheer — and great deals. Plus, get the scoop on The Block Northway’s latest retail offering.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Classic Christmas Tale Gets a Twist at Slippery Rock University

Classic Christmas Tale Gets a Twist at Slippery Rock University

An adapted version of “A Christmas Carol” will be presented during a seven-show run.

Comments