"I'm being toyed with by a bunch of depraved children"
- Nicholas Van Orton (The Game, 1997)
I've always had a fascination with participating in something only a few people get to do. Be it a flash mob, an ARG or an assassination game played with water guns. But unfortunately I haven't had the chance to do any of those as of yet. What I have done is be part of the legend that is Blackout Haunted House and experience their haunts like no other. I've been to 2 of their Halloween haunts and 1 of their Spring events. I'd like to say I'm a Blackout veteran but this haunted house has been around since 2009 and there are more hardcore fans than me.
I've received comments, tweets and e-mails from countless jaded viewers who will view the most sickest, disturbing and vile horror movies I recommend but won't ever ever...and I mean ever go to Blackout's haunt. They think it may be too intense for them to make it through. So they wait for me to give them the safe and easy way to experience it through this little corner of the interwebs and as you know I'm happy to oblige.
I've now met my fellow survivors (at a Blackout after event complete with free drinks) who, like me have survived this Spring 2012 edition and it's funny hearing that they read my past reviews and walkthroughs and it helped or convinced them to partake in Blackout's October and May haunts. I couldn't thank them enough because as a writer, the only feedback you get is through comments and this being the Internet, the majority are always negative. Hearing them say how much they liked the detailed dreamlike recount of what I experienced makes it all worthwhile when I do these. So I thank you guys for making me sound awesome.
But I digress. You didn't come here to read my rants and raves on my motivations and such. You came here to read about what only 20 or so people experienced last month. You're here to read about this underground haunted house that the other haunted houses talk about. You're here to read about the first rule of "Horror Club" is not to talk about "Horror Club". This legendary theater experience where you sign a waiver, have to read cryptic rules and has a fuckin SAFETY word. You've read all the other reviews, went to their official site and the Facebook page and are fascinated by the cryptic comments of the individuals, nay the survivors who participated on a sunny, ordinary weekend in one of the most creepiest and fucked up haunted experiences ever conceived.
So I'm here to tell you about the secret that is Blackout Haunted House's Spring 2012 haunt. The one you read about before and believed I totally made up. Hell, nobody I tell ever believes me. Why would they? Will you?
[This review and walkthrough contains HEAVY MOTHERFUCKIN SPOILERS of this event. One day, when you do get the courage to attend a Blackout Haunted House event, you will want the same feeling I had not knowing what was going to happen. To feel the exhilaration of something horrificly awesome....a torment of fun. To experience Blackout to its fullest is to go there virgin fresh, free of spoilers and past knowledge of what occurred in previous incarnations. If you wish to experience this as many others have in a new and exciting way, STOP READING NOW. YES NOW!!! Go surf some porn, create a meme or watch a a kid get kicked in the groin on YouTube.]
Now if you still wish to proceed. Scroll down like the pussy you are.
It all starts with an e-mail. At midnight. The subject line reads: "It's time...you've been chosen". Dates are given on a weekend in May. One week later, more e-mails with more information. Then one week later you get the dreaded but exciting 3 dot e-mails. The 3rd e-mail has more information regarding where you'll meet, payment, confirmation of time and those rules. The rules, similar to the Halloween rules are slightly altered and slightly ominous. Lateness will not be tolerated and they stress that you MUST GO THROUGH THIS ALONE.
So on a warm, sunny Saturday night I headed to Manhattan to [LOCATION DELETED] at [TIME DELETED]. I'm unfamiliar with this section of the city and get a bit lost. It's [TIME DELETED] and I only have 3 minutes to get to [LOCATION DELETED]. If I'm late, I might have cost myself a chance to partake in the haunt. I make a wrong turn, see a familiar face and am told I'm not suppose to be here. Then down some steps I see the black t-shirt with those 3 dots and it's fuckin GO time. I had ran to the [LOCATION DELETED] and am now out of breath as I hear the man with the 3 dotted t-shirt ask if I'm The Jaded Viewer. I nod and say yes. I'm led to an empty phone booth. I stare at my fellow New Yorkers as they go enjoy this wonderful spring day. For the 45 or so minutes, I'm not going to be able to.
I soon catch my breath to hear what my guide has to say. I'm getting a bit anxious and nervous levels are increasing at toxic levels. I'm given a waiver to sign and am told to read through it thoroughly. Being the complete jaded viewer I am, I skim through it. I scan there will be VIOLENT AND SEXUAL SITUATIONS and something about being photographed. I've already signed one of these before so I sign my name immediately. Now I'm told to read the last part which has the word INDEMNITY in it. I fuckin ace it because I've been practicing the word in front of a mirror for the past 3 days (Fun Fact: I totally messed up this word in the last Spring Haunt). I also am told to turn off my phone.
Now that all the formalities are out of the way, it looks like we're ready to begin. I'm given an envelope with my name on it and am told to head down the street . So I start walking. One can't prepare for the level of intensity when this shit starts. True blinding paranoia creeps in like a mothefucker. I walk down one block and start looking around. In the corner of my eye, I spot a large bearded man with a baseball cap in front of me. We both stop at the cross walk. I have no idea if he's "in on it". But I keep my eye on him. He looks waaaaay fuckin shady but then again everybody in NYC looks waaay fuckin shady (even myself). I walk down another block and I start to look behind me (because I know from my past experience and countless horror movies, that you need to do this every 5 goddamn minutes). I see a group of Asian girls who look like tourists. Would Blackout have recruited giggling Asian girls to distract me? How cunning they are. You smart motherfuckers. No, no. Red fuckin herring right there.
More walking I start sweating not from the heat but my mind is doing that Matrix thing and telling my body you're fuckin nervous, let's perspire profusely. Suddenly, I hear loud running footsteps and see the MAN. He is in on it and he hands me a flip cell phone and tells me to answer it and to follow the instructions I am given. I quickly head to an open public phone booth and await the call. I see the giggling Asian tourist girls looking at me all weird. In America, it's perfectly normal for strangers to hand over cell phones and look menacing. The cell phone rings and I answer it. I try to filter out the city noise and listen intently. I'm told to open my envelope which I rip open like a kid looking for birthday money. In the envelope is a hotel key card and on some printed paper are INSTRUCTIONS in big bold letters. I am asked by the man over the phone to read the instructions.
There are 6 directions listed. Number 1 is to go to a [LOCATION DELETED] and go to Room #309. Directions from the lobby are given. Number 2 is to enter the room and go to the desk by the window. Number 3 tells me there is a gift waiting for me and I'm to take my shoes and socks off, leave them by the bed and to place the phone by the nightstand. Number 4 is to turn off ALL the lights. Number 5 is to crawl into bed and get under the covers. Finally, Number 6 is to Go to Sleep.
The voice over the phone tells me to look to my left and if I see the [LOCATION DELETED]. I see a hotel in the distance and am told to walk to it. The phone conversation ends and I make my way to the hotel entrance. What the hell have I gotten myself into? In an odd way, this time around I was able to take in what was happening. This haunt compared to the past ones had moments of lull, some nothingness which seemed to build up the anticipation while simultaneously angering me to the fact I had paid for nothing to happen. But we'll get back to that in a second.
As I make my way to the lobby, it's a crowded scene. Hotel staff are checking in tourists, guests are scattered about and kids are running around. I look at my directions and follow them precisely. I see a hotel bar and quickly scan it but I know I'm on a schedule. I see the elevator I am suppose to use and see a family also waiting for it as well. I get into the elevator with the father and his kids and give them a skeptical look. Hmmm, would Blackout use a family as a smokescreen for something else? You sick bastards! The family gets out with me and I start searching for Room #309. The family quickly scoots ahead of me and enters the room across from 309. Well now I'm seeing these decoys in a whole new light. If they have to come into play, Blackout has really out done themselves.
I enter the room and follow my written instructions. It's an ordinary hotel room with 2 double beds. The beds and been stripped of bed sheets thought a lone pillow and cover lie perfectly made. 3 lamps are illuminating this room and the AC is humming inconsistently. I see the desk by the window and go to it. I see my gift which is a shot of whiskey. Never to turn down a shot, I take a deep breathe and down it, as some of my liquid courage trickles down my mouth. My nerves now at threat level WTF are still in the red and the shot does nothing to calm them down. Also, leave it to me to prepare by only having coffee and leftover pizza in my stomach. I leave the phone by the nightstand and take off my sneakers and socks and leave them at the foot of the bed. I then start turning off all 3 lights in the room. I crawl into bed, my glasses still on (because I'm completely dumb) and put the blanket over me.
It's now completely pitch black in the room with only the red glow of what I perceive are cameras to my left and in front of me. The hum of the AC seems louder. At this point and I close my eyes.
As I await my fate, minutes feel like decades. Childhood fears are brought back to life as I for one was one of those kids that slept with a night light. When I was young, my night light broke and I started whimpering for my mommy. (OK full disclosure, this happened last week) Pitch blackness is a level of terror Blackout has has done before and so oddly enough I will admit, I was jaded (yeah I made that pun, sue me). It's an effect that amplifies every creak, every sound, every gasp. You're now limited by to only a few senses and because of this the chills are echoed throughout. As I closed my eyes, knowing full well shit would hit the fan at any moment, I got a sense of serenity. Waiting builds up tension for noobs, but for a veteran like myself I was slightly angered shit wasn't happening at a quicker pace. Now having looked back upon this, the effect Blackout was going for is to be admired and designed for the newbie experience. Such is the way of things.
Now my sixth sense had told me people were in the room with me. I could hear the tap of footsteps and I was hearing a hollow breath of fucked up people who wanted to do fucked up things to me. I feel a touch on my foot, then my face. Two living breathing human beings are now getting into bed with me and I can't see a thing. They start to squeeze my body from both sides of the bed and they are breathing into both my left and right ear simultaneously with a level of maximus. It's a level of pseudo paranormal weirdness that is way beyond I could have ever come up with. As the breathing into my face went from slow, to medium to insane it abruptly ends.
In a film-like quick edit of a home invasion gone awry, the lights turned on, I see the fleeting faces of my bed mates and a pillow case is thrown over my head. I'm told to get up, then bear hugged, and I am guided to the bathroom. I hear the bathroom door close behind me. As I stand in the bathroom, bare foot with a pillow case over my head my mind races and prepares for the WATERBOARDING. I believe this is going to happen because it has happened before. Would the levels of this go up a notch? Would they decide to outdo the CIA? Would I call SAFETY in the midst of a waterboarding that would reach extreme levels? When faced with a situation one has done before, it feels familiar. But instead of the familiar, I instead hear a voice in the bathroom with me.
WHAT THE FUCKITY FUCK???
I instead hear a voice telling me to "REMOVE YOUR HOOD". I proceed to do so and look around. It's your typical hotel bathroom, sink with no mirror. Toilet and in the corner was a pile of dirty towels. A bathtub lay in front of me with an ominous curtain and the drips of water emanating from it.
I say hello or something to that affect. The voice, in a scratchy Dark Knight sorta way, implores me to "OPEN THE CURTAIN". Well I've watched countless horror movies. In every horror movie, there's a door or a box or something somebody opens and they do it waaaaaaaaaaaay fuckin slowly. I'm not going to do that. You know you've seen it before. And oddly enough, I also became a human horror cliche. I too, hesitated a moment, fearful of what was behind that damn curtain. But being the veteran I am, ripped open the curtain and too my surprise what was behind it was not a sight I thought I would have imagined.
In the bathtub lay a completely naked woman. She lay there motionless with a white hood over her head.I scanned her body (which every red blooded American male instinctively does when they see a member of the opposite sex in their birthday suit). She coughs, a choking cough that jolts me a bit. The voice says to "REMOVE THE HOOD" and clearly this is the penultimate scene of my personalized horror movie. You would have thought years of watching horror movies would have prepared me to remove a hood covering the head of a naked girl in a bathtub, but until faced with it, you start to realize IRL shit is way fuckin different and terrifying from horror movie cliche shit. Preparing myself for the worst, I remove the hood.......
.....and see the sight of an attractive girl, piercing eyes with curly brunette hair.
She asks for "PILLS" and before she even completes the word, I'm frantically looking around the bathroom for them. I toss some towels to the side, look around the toilet and then realize she is pointing to a pill bottle on the soap holder. I quickly open the pills and as she opens her mouth I drop one in. Her voice then echoes for "WATER". I look around and see a spray bottle and rapidly unscrew it and pour a few drops into her mouth. She gulps it down, her throat clearing and she starts to sit up.
I start to kneel down. She starts to whisper in my ear. She asks for my name. I oblige hesitantly as the rule of NO TALKING, reminds me I should have not said that. She gets up from the bathtub and I start to slowly back away to the far edge of the bathroom. She is now a sight to behold. I'll admit, a pretty awesome sight. There are only a few instances where a naked girl means only one thing (yup, I know strip clubs come to mind as well) but the other one....well you know.
She is now standing in front of a fully clothed me and whispers into my left ear "I KNOW WHAT YOU WANT". Oh shit. Bow chicka wow wow. I start to try to focus. Is this a good time to ask if she wants to get a cup of coffee? Talk about any good movies she's seen? I start to raise my hands, wary that one of the rules was to NEVER TOUCH THE ACTORS. I know fully well I'm here to experience a feargasm but instead I'm getting a fear-rection. She starts to touch me provocatively (is this shit going to turn into 50 Shades of Grey, not that I read it) and a few hints of groping seem to be in action. And at that moment of fearful bliss, shit hits the fan.
The freed captive girl starts to remove my buttoned down shirt and the t-shirt I have underneath. Throwing it on the floor, she starts to unbuckle my belt and pulls down both my jeans and boxers. HOLY FUCKIN SHIT. I'm now completely fuckin naked with a half stock. She moves in closer. Her naked body, my naked body and I feel helpless. Would she start to go all Basic Instinct on me? Her hands move around my exposed flesh, she touches the back of my neck and now she's breathing into my ear. Wow. Then.... [NEXT 2 SENTENCES DELETED]
I had not been expecting any nudity this time around, especially from me. I figured from last year, they'd forgo that gimmick and pick fears they hadn't utilized yet. She opens the bathroom door with my clothes and leaves and now I'm standing naked in a red tinted bathroom. The red tint is coming from a camera strategically placed in the bathroom. I start to use my hands to cover up but I realize this is fuckin useless. Under my breath, I curse Blackout. "YOU FUCKIN ASSHOLES" I mutter. It's a slight uncomfortable feeling being naked, in a bathroom in a strange hotel room. But if this is what I had to do, this is what I had to do.
Nudity is a sinking vulnerable feeling. But having done this last year, one realizes what one is capable of. Sure there was no hospital gown this time but I was willing to strangely take whatever the experience presented me. And then the girl came back in.
She presents me with night vision goggles and a flashlight and tells me to head to the desk. I have no way of covering up so I hold the goggles with one hand and the flashlight with the other. Peering through the grainy blue tinted goggles I look around the room. It's an exciting feeling, one part voyeur another part POV horror come to life. Creatively, it's ingenious to use the night vision to create an atmosphere of unknown dread. I admit, I liked this part. I felt like my POV has changed mid movie and from this 1st person perspective, they've limited my field of vision. I make my way to the desk. My recollection gets fuzzy though I'm handed a phone (or was it there?) and it rings. I answer it and am ordered to write my name and home address. I place the goggles down and am now naked, sitting at a desk, fiddling with a flashlight in my left hand while writing in bad penmanship my name/address. A man is over my right shoulder. The phone call ends and the man tells me to place the phone on the desk.
Lights come back up.
Between the two beds lies Saran plastic wrap with a big X marked at the front. I am told to place "MY FOREHEAD on the X". I proceed to do so and have my hands in a dead man's position like I'm surrendering to cops. This is the climax, the pinnacle of the Blackout experience and I start to think really bad things. I start to think everything else was a cake walk compared to what may happen. I actually start to think about what I look like, buck naked lying on a hotel floor. It must be surely a sight. To the people that may use Room 309 after me, I apologize. I start to actually have the wiggins. I feel a hand put my arms to my side. And then BOOM!
I'm being wrapped in plastic, a big naked burrito with 2 large men on top of me. It's a helpless feeling but an exhilarating one as well. One man in all black yells at me. "IT'S NEVER OVER!!!!". He probably has more dialogue but I have forgotten it. I'm released by my burrito prison and see my clothes lined up on the bed.
The man proceeds to inform me I have 90 seconds to put my clothes on and exit the hotel. I'm like a speed freak and start putting on my boxers, my jeans. 60 seconds. Then my t-shirt. 45 seconds he says calmly. I see my socks and realize I won't have time. I stuff them into my pocket. 30 seconds. I put on my other shirt, a button down and get a few buttons in. 15 seconds. I slide into my sneakers as fast as possible. 10 seconds. I search for my glasses and realize they are on my FUCKIN FACE already. 5 seconds. I dash out of the room and close the door behind me.
I head to the elevator and evaluate my attire. I'm a bit of a wreck but I look passable. I wait for the elevator and get in. I start to check for my phone but realize before I start tweeting or Facebooking, I should get out of Dodge as quickly as fuckin possible. I exit the elevator, the light from the bright lobby is a sight. Normal people, doing normal things. I scan the people's faces, looking for a clue on what may happen next. It's a normal world. I make my way out into the street and head east. I look behind me a few times because remember, that's one of my fuckin rules. There is some remnant sun, but as I'm a block away from the hotel, I realize that's it. It's over.
I am a survivor.
2 blocks down I see a stoop and put my socks on. It must be quite a sight from the looks of passerbys like I had just come from a close encounter in a Lifetime movie of the week. I find a nice park and do what I always do, take notes. And I start to Facebook and Tweet. Here is that first tweet.
I write on the jaded viewer Facebook page:
A review is coming for Blackout Haunted House's Spring Haunt. Yes it was as fucked up as advertised and lives up to it's reputation of being a fully interactive horror scene incarnate . It was innovative but had its flaws as well. Clearly, I will never tell my grandchildren about what happened last Saturday.
Later on, I meet up with The Raven and the Black Cat and another fellow survivor for some much needed alcohol. We compare notes. We start discussing what we liked and what we disliked. It's much needed therapy from an exhausting yet oddly stimulating Saturday night.
Blackout Haunted House 2012 Spring edition is best described as a sequel with more extreme torture, more extreme nudity and more WTF. They definitely do put the FUCK in WTF. It's an experience that tests your boundaries. Are you willing to pass a line of no return? Can you give yourself up for less than an hour to Josh and Kris (creators of Blackout) and his crew and have them mindfuck you? That's the question I've always asked myself and the answer is yes. Because when will you ever have the opportunity to participate in a bit of theater, a bit of a horror movie designed around you and where normalcy gets thrown out the window.
Sure it's fake, sure it's make believe but your mind will play tricks on you and start to blend fantasy with reality. It's your 15 minutes and for a few depraved like myself, it's an outlet to role play. Answering mysterious phone calls, following instructions, going to spooky hotels. It's horror fantasy camp for adults.
What it lacked is what I've always complained about in the last Blackout haunts. The lack of story. I thought I paid to follow a narrative and I like piecing a story together. No such luck here.The haunt can be best categorized into 4 different sections.
1.) The Streets
2.) Hotel Room Blackout Games
3.) Bathroom Speed Dating
4.) The Human Burrito
All of these are separate entities in itself and all together form no coherent story. The cat and mouse of the streets was fun and exciting. The darkness of the hotel room games was a rush into Paranormal Activity chills and supernatural craziness. The bathroom's get to know each other had elements of a frantic horror scene gone porno. And well for the Human Burrito, it's home invasion madness meets a Euro-trash/HK Category III slasher flick. Each section had some level of excitement but put together they didn't form Voltron. And at the end of the day, don't you wanna see Voltron instead of those damn fuckin Lions?
I proposed scenarios of a kidnapping/ransom plot which could have sorta tied everything together. Another idea rumbling around my head would be seeing the person who was ahead of you in the haunt be violated. Seeing what happened to them might make me slightly disturbed. If I'm interacting, making choices and pushing the scene along, like a video game character...I want to know WHY I'm doing all this. But Josh has always said, the narrative gets thrown out in these things. It isn't Shakespeare but taking the mold of a situation and playing on the fear of it all is how it works. I understand that point. I experienced that point as well.
But a story doesn't hurt.
I can't help but compare with what I experienced last year. Be it partly because it was my first Spring haunt and the scenarios played out like nothing I was expecting, it felt more awesomer. All my senses were amplified in a way that brought about a real tangible fear.What last year lacked was a sense of claustrophobia-ness. However, this year the hotel room added that. The actors gave a level of intensity that mimicked a unseen mastermind, directing the action from the comfort of a surveillance room. A sorta rich man's game with a degree in psychological torture. The bathroom woman had a seemingly exhaustive endeavor to create a sense of false security. Clearly it worked on me, her performance was on point (pun intended).
I enjoyed the world I inhabited a couple of Saturdays ago. I get an adrenaline rush NOT KNOWING what may happen. Blackout has always developed situations that get the maximum emotional effect. Their brilliance is in their simplicity. They push the boundaries of what a haunted house is suppose to be. They have a working Horror Fantasy Club, talked about in the shadows of Internet message boards and cryptic Facebook comments. Grown in NYC, the legend of Blackout now has no borders. It's a product of a society looking for an escape. It is why it works on so many levels. It is why I keep going back. It's an addiction like no other.
In this 9 to 5 world of America, we sit in a world complacent and safe. Like in David Fincher's The Game, we need to feel alive, to experience the rawest emotions, the situations that test your resolve. We need a Consumer Recreational Service (CRS) for the millennium age.
Blackout has answered the call.
Check out my past reviews and for more info on Blackout Haunted House check out the links below.