I'm kind of proud of myself this year. I set a goal for myself to go to all 3 major NYC Haunted Houses. First was Nightmare: Superstitions which was cleverly fun, next up was Blood Manor which always thrilled me with their highly detailed sets and finally I had to go to the one haunted house that I didn't go to last year. Josh Randall and Kris Thor's Vortex Theater's Halloween Haunted House was the most intimidating of the 3 and I was actually kind of nervous about going to this one. It's reputation has been growing as the ultimate experience in psychological horror.
The fact that this haunted house has a safety word says volumes.
But I have to say, I saved the best for last. There are no gimmicks or fancy sets here. This is you alone having to go through a series of rather intense actions and reactions. To call Vortex Theater's Haunted House a haunted house is kind of misleading. It's more of a psychological horror experiment. Do Josh Randall and Kris Thor have PHd's in fear? Because it's like your worst ever nightmare scenario come to life.
NYC Halloween Haunted House is an experiment that tests your emotional and mental limits with audio and visual stimuli that you swear you've just checked yourself into a crazy psychologist's fun house. I've been creeped and slightly scared by other haunted houses but in this experience I've never been mentally exhausted and felt so dirty after going to one. But I gotta admit, it's the good kind of dirty.
The fact you have to sign a waiver had me little WTF-ed. With the waiver is an acknowledgement of the rules which are below.
1. STAY ON THE MARKED PATH AT ALL TIMES.
2. YOU WILL BE PROMPTED TO DO CERTAIN ACTIONS, (i.e. "sit down", "stop", "move forward") PLEASE DO EXACTLY AS YOU'RE TOLD. THIS IS FOR YOUR SAFETY.
IF YOU DO NOT FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS - YOU WILL BE ASKED TO LEAVE.
3. DO NOT EVER TOUCH THE ACTORS.
4. DO NOT EVER TOUCH THE WALLS.
5. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO SPEAKING ALLOWED INSIDE. YOU CAN, HOWEVER, SCREAM AS LOUD AS YOU'D LIKE.
6. 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.)
They've totally removed the flashlight from your inventory this year. To me this was a good thing.
7. YOU WILL BE REQUIRED TO REMOVE YOUR SHOES AND SOCKS. PLEASE BE PREPARED TO DO SO.
8. YOU MUST WALK THROUGH ALONE.
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.
While waiting with another fellow noob, we tried to break this nervousness with humor, but more participants exited looking rather flustered. Never has a buildup been so grueling. Insane thoughts entered my head. Would I yell out the safety word? Would I start to hyperventilate? Scream? Umm cry?
That's when I was called in to enter behind the black partition.
Obviously, I'm not going to tell you a detail by detail account of what happened to me as it would ruin the experience for anyone wanting to partake. But here's a glimpse of what my reactions were.
If I told you what happened, you wouldn't go. Where is the fun in in that? But what I will say that complete darkness is 50% of the experience and though terrifying, I have to admit the scenes where you meet the performers are as chilling as the blackness.
There is no doubt that you will be touched and you will be pushed and held and a couple of things I can't really name. It's an odd sensation to be physically touched by total strangers, some you see and some you can't see. At times, I felt as if I was in a movie where I didn't know my lines. Hell I tried to improvise and it came out as "ARGHHHHHH...Jesus H. Christ!". You are made to follow actions in pitch darkness, kneeling and walking and crawling. It really messes with your mind to see a few glimpses of light get snuffed out and all you hear is machinery and approaching footsteps.
Mind you are equipped with only a safety mask (which only amplifies the trapped in feeling you get). I can see why they do this as it only adds to the out of breath stimuli that tricks you into thinking you're in some quarantine zone.
Add all these things together and I was a little weirded out by it all. I was scared a little and at times jumped out my socks but somehow the most anxiety came from what the hell would happen next. Which leads us to our actors.......
Other haunted houses will have you interact with the actors for a few minutes before they usher you to another room. But in this one, you become the center of attention for more than that. I met a variety of insane hot vixen "mental patients" as well as some thuggity thugs. If ever there was a mix of Rated X sex and violence in a live action haunted house, this be it.
I have so much admiration for these actors as they have to perform the same scene in a span of a few frantic minutes. You encounter them and they in turn encounter you. Whose to say who gets scared more? But the dimly lit sets and their sickly dialogue was more mesmerizing to me than the darkness itself. If ever there was a haunted house that took advantage of their setting it's this one. A Hollywood set designer couldn't make it creepier.
Sure, creepy makeup and monster masks are scary for tweens but for the jaded viewer, the subtle touches of psychological torture and all out weirdness are a little more frightening. Who knows what the hell these characters have up their sleeves? You really play the victim in this living horror movie and for me it was one of the most thrilling experiences I've ever had. My snarky misfit character I was creating in my head was enduring an ecletic group of characters which all climaxed in the ultimate final room which made my jaw drop as I entered. So what was in this room?
Oh golly gee Beav, just some serious uber depravity.
This wasn't just images on a screen. This was touchy feely depravity in high def 4D.
The Jaded Viewer's Final Thoughts.....
So what's the best haunted house in NYC? Well that's a tough one to answer. All of them have their perks and little things that make them standout. But I have to say Vortex Theater's NYC Halloween Haunted House left me with the creepiest feeling I've ever had. The visual mental scars are now embedded in my mind.
I oddly now know what it feels like to be Abu Gharaib-ed. I was molested (in a scary way) but not so much I'll be running to my local priest (errrr well that maybe even a worst idea). It's an interactive experience that makes you the main character in a live action horror movie.
Think of this as your 15 minutes. You're the star and all eyes are on you. You're going to have to improvise your lines and you also haven't read the script. You're the victim and also the the final girl (or guy).
That's how I felt as I went through it. Like the tagline says:
"You don't just walk through it -you live it."
I couldn't agree more.
Vortex Theater's NYC Halloween Haunted House is located at 115 West 27th Street in Chelsea. Tickets range between $15-$30. For more information head to any of the links below.
- The official site
- Facebook Page
- Twitter Page
- For more EXCLUSIVE PICTURES of what the house looks like head over to the jaded viewer Facebook page!
Have you been to Vortex Theater's NYC Haunted House? Share your experience and leave a comment!
Want to read a spoiler and walkthrough review of Vortex Theater's NYC Halloween Haunted House??
Click here to read a review of Blackout Haunted House 2011!