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What Lurks in the ScareHouse Basement?

Venturing into the popular haunt's extreme, underground attraction.




Photo courtesy The ScareHouse
 

Upstairs, The Scarehouse is a delightful spectacle. A cavalcade of tricks and terrors to rival any spookhouse in the world provoke jumps, screams and fearful delight. It’s a world-class haunted attraction, suitable for aficionados of fear and the curious-yet-timid thrillseeker alike.

Downstairs, The ScareHouse is very different. It’s intense, challenging and visceral.

It’s art.

Not to say that the main attraction isn’t artful; it undoubtedly is. But the ScareHouse’s notorious Basement attraction, now in its sixth year, is a work of interactive theater. It does not merely represent a departure for haunted attractions; it’s a genre unto itself.

And don’t think that calling it theater means it’s tame or distant. There are very few theatrical works that will leave audience members tied to a bench in the name of dark forces.

This year’s show begins outside of the Basement itself, where a group of young neo-hippies will offer hugs, hand-holding and the ground rules. These lads are eager to welcome you into a new-age family; just pass through the journey ahead and, if you impress the right ... entities, you’re in.

For the first half of the experience — which mainly consists of one-on-one scenes of challenge, interrogation and torment by the Basement’s excellent cast — you’ll be wondering just what this family is all about. Why are these people here? What do they want with you? And to whom or what, precisely, will we be pledging our loyalty?

Then, of course, it becomes clear what’s going on down here. Non-spoiler: It’s more than a bit evil.

This year represents perhaps the most cohesive and cogent story told in the Basement, one that had me considering the nature of faith and forced devotion in the modern world. Yes — amid the screams and unpleasant sensations, there is relevant cultural commentary.

It’s not all heady, though; far from it. Some of the most raw, visceral moments of terror since the Basement’s anything-goes first campaign can be found in the 2018 version — scenes that left me profoundly uncomfortable, even as a seasoned participant.

So: In literal terms, what are you in for? I don’t want to tread on anything that might spoil the individual scenes, so I’ll borrow the relevant passage from the waiver you’ll sign before entry:

“I have been advised and acknowledge that I will experience electricity, graphic scenes of simulated extreme horror, tight spaces, darkness, fog, strobe light effects, adult sexual content, exposure to water, and crawling which are all an integral part of the experience of “The Basement.”

That covers it. And yet, doesn’t. Apply this litmus test: Have you ever considered leaving a traditional haunted attraction because it got too intense? If so, the Basement is going to be too much for you. If not, you’ll probably make it through all right. (And, as usual, there is a safe word you can employ should you feel the need for an immediate escape.) At the risk of giving some thematic content away, I’ll offer one additional caveat, specific to this year’s Basement: Those who consider themselves deeply religious may have trouble making it through this year’s show.

If you can handle it, it is an experience like no other — an opportunity to (safely) be the star of an original horror movie, from uneasy opening frights through a visceral obstacle course of madness and, victoriously (hopefully), out into the night. There’s nothing else like it.

Of course, I would say that. At the end of my journey, I was approved and accepted by ... you know what, you’ll have to go and find out.

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