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

See The Tiny House with Room to Grow

See The Tiny House with Room to Grow

The housing company Module, a Pittsburgh start-up, creates an alternative housing model that grows in size as you grow in income.
Watch: Pittsburgh Penguins Video Tribute to Marc-André Fleury

Watch: Pittsburgh Penguins Video Tribute to Marc-André Fleury

With a tear in our eye, we bid the “Flower” Au Revoir.
Finally, a Faster Way From Pittsburgh to Oakland and Beyond

Finally, a Faster Way From Pittsburgh to Oakland and Beyond

A proposed route for new electric buses will connect 30,000 people throughout 24 neighborhoods.
Extras Wanted: Cate Blanchett Shooting Movie in Pittsburgh

Extras Wanted: Cate Blanchett Shooting Movie in Pittsburgh

“Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” a movie based on the best-selling comedic novel, will begin filming in the ‘Burgh next month.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Host an event in Pittsburgh’s urban sustainable homestead. Join a club for mushroom hunters. Tour a coal mine. Listen to some banjo music. We list our new favorite experiences, food, drink, personalities, stores, items and activities in the ’Burgh.
Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Fourteen years ago this month, the mighty Kinzua Viaduct met its match.
Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

The restaurant, run by Dinette’s Sonja J. Finn, boosts the dining experience at the Carnegie museums in Oakland.
Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

FASTER Pittsburghʼs Hip Hop Cardio promises to get your workout into a groove.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


See The Tiny House with Room to Grow

See The Tiny House with Room to Grow

The housing company Module, a Pittsburgh start-up, creates an alternative housing model that grows in size as you grow in income.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Pusadee's Garden Will Close at End of Year (But Not Forever)

Pusadee's Garden Will Close at End of Year (But Not Forever)

Look for some big changes at the Upper Lawrenceville restaurant, which is expected to shutter for at least a year.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Read on for some under-the-radar ideas on how you and the kids can survive a rainy day this summer.

Comments


High-Wire Acts at Carnegie Science Center

High-Wire Acts at Carnegie Science Center

The North Shore landmark's new ropes course is a draw for adults and youths alike.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
History Can Wait Until Penguins Are Done Making It

History Can Wait Until Penguins Are Done Making It

The desire for more a year ago helped fuel the Penguins’ quest to repeat this season. Should their thirst for yet another Cup prove as unquenchable next season, there’s no limit to what they might yet achieve. Even a Three-peat.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Make the Cut with Jonathan Moran Woodworks

Make the Cut with Jonathan Moran Woodworks

The Strip District-based woodworker's cutting boards can be custom made with the wood of your choice.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Buckle Up ... Again, as Cars 3 Hits Theaters

Buckle Up ... Again, as Cars 3 Hits Theaters

Reviews of "Cars 3" and "47 Meters Down," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Enchanting Summery Trends to Illuminate Your Wedding Palette

Enchanting Summery Trends to Illuminate Your Wedding Palette

You’ll definitely want to pin these new summer wedding trends to your Pinterest board.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Blooming: Pittsburgh Botanic Garden Hosts Town & Country Tour

Blooming: Pittsburgh Botanic Garden Hosts Town & Country Tour

From a forest of Japanese maples to a rocky urban sanctuary, the annual tour covers 14 very different gardens across the East End.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Visit Thiel College for a Summer BBQ

Visit Thiel College for a Summer BBQ

On three days this summer, the college will host visit days for prospective students.

Comments

Edit Module