It’s possible that you’ve already heard of the Blackout Haunted House. Word is spreading quickly. I only recently found out about it, and since then I’ve seen fliers in bodegas around Brooklyn and overheard people trying to psych themselves up to go through it. If you haven’t heard about it, it’s basically an elaborate “situational” experience that goes down in a structure in Manhattan where you pay close to $50 to be brain raped. Less of a haunted house than a form of pervy therapy, participants are made to sign a waver before going in and must agree to the rules, which basically tell you that you have to walk through the thing ALONE, be over 18 (because they throw crazy penises at you) and you can’t touch the actors, but they can touch you.
Seeing as though I’m a writer and therefore like to know every last detail about a thing while still staying indoors on the computer, I sent out a few emails to see if I could set someone up with a free ticket to Blackout in exchange for me asking them one million questions about what happened while they were inside. The organizers of the event were happy to help and offered up two time slots on two different days. The only problem was that I couldn’t find a single person who wasn’t a cry-baby pussy face about it. Here’s the email exchange where I tried to get my VICE co-workers and editors to agree to go:
ME: Any of you guys wanna go through the Blackout Haunted House tomorrow and then let me interview you about it later? I wanna write about it, but I don't want to go through that shit. I'll end up in the hospital.
Thomas Morton: Harry
Nicholas Gazin: Yeah, fuck Harry, make him do it. I hope they scare the glasses off him and those glasses get stomped by a ghost who wants him to look better.
Harry Cheadle: Damn dude. Pretty harsh language. I'm pretty sure I go through the "Blackout Haunted House" every fourth weekend or so.
Thomas Morton: Back to the point at hand, you have to interview him and take his picture the second he comes out of it. Unless someone on the inside would be willing to take a picture of him mid-scare. Or mid- that bed where the demon women act like they're going to fuck you.
ME: I'll wait right outside the exit door and the minute we lock eyes I'll be like "HARRY! YOUR WHOLE FAMILY HAS BEEN MURDERED. CATS, DOGS, AUNTIES, EVERYONE! And then I'll take off my pants, do a backflip, take his picture, and run away.
Rocco Castoro: Oh man this is getting good. You guys are going to fight and then 69 in the pitch black so you can't witness the repulsiveness of your genitalia!
Ellis Jones: This is stressing me out.
Harry backed out, so I couldn’t find anyone to go, but luckily I found someone who was planning on going anyway, so I asked her some questions about it the next day. Here’s my interview with Callie Watts (Bust staffer and editor of Candy Rain magazine).
VICE: A lot of people aren’t brave enough to go through this thing. I couldn’t even find someone to do it for this story, for FREE. Why were you able to do it?
CW: I love scary movies—love love love. The more gore the better, so I was super stoked to go to a legit haunted house.
Did you scream “safety”? Was there ever a point where you wanted to?
Nope. But there was one point that was a little intense. I can’t give it away, but let’s just say breathing got a little difficult at one point [SHE GOT WATER BOARDED]. Still, I wasn’t about to say “safety” because I would have been pissed at myself for not seeing what happens all the way through. That would be like walking out before the end of a scary movie—you have to know what happens at the end.
What was the scariest part?
The part I mentioned, just because it was a mind-fuck. But you know you are going to make it out alive so it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be, really. More of a mind-fuck than gore. I go for gore.
Do you think that maybe you got impregnated during your time in the haunted house?
Bahahahhahahaha, well there was a lot of nudity.
Did you find yourself screaming things while you were in there? Like “oh shit,” or “hell no”?
Oh yeah. It’s hands on at some points and I totally yelled “gross.” Also, I forgot it was all an act and at one point I sassed “I’m not fucking doing that.” Then I snapped to—asshole instincts. Also, I should tell you that one of my friends learned a little about herself, she had no idea how much she liked being dominated! That was an eye-opener for her.
It seems like the organizers make people sign something where they promise not to give away too many details, because even after interviewing Callie I still couldn’t quite piece together the full experience. So I interviewed the creators of Blackout to see if they could give some behind the scenes info, and maybe hint at what made them into creepy pervs who would want to put people through this annual torture. Here’s that interview.
VICE: How did you come up with the idea for Blackout?
Creator: Being haunted house and horror fans, Kris and I wanted to create an event that was actually scary. We found that the majority of horror-related events followed the same principles and concepts, and so we set up trying to subvert the traditional haunted house genre and create something completely unique and new. Our goal is to cause an effect on our audience, and if you've seen the audience members coming out of Blackout, we seem to have hit a nerve with a very niche audience that appreciates this unconventional form of entertainment.
In what ways have you attempted to make each year’s event better than the last?
It's about being creative and trying to come up with unique interactive scenarios. If we've done it in the past, or have seen it somewhere else, we generally stay away. Having said that, many of our concepts are very similar (being in the dark, physical contact, etc.), so it's about finding new variations on those themes.
What is the biggest participant flip-out you’ve had?
There have been many. Panic attacks are common, crying, hyperventilating, and many others. Fear is subjective, so everyone reacts differently to different stimuli. Our goal is to find universal fears that can scare the most amount of people.
How do you find the staff for each year’s event? What is the training process like?
We seek out actors through normal means (i.e. auditions, casting calls, etc.). We also try to bring back as many actors as we possibly can, because once you've worked inside, you have a very good idea of what we're looking for and how we need you to act. It's also about having a good time and finding a good group of people who will be respectful of each other, the audience, and ultimately the experience. If we're not having fun, there's really no point in continuing.
For training, we go through a series of rehearsals, but ultimately there isn’t much to rehearse since it all changes once people start going through it. After our opening night we have a very clear idea of what works and what doesn't, and we quickly take steps to remedy the things that could be better.
Do you go through each year’s Blackout yourselves?
Yes—several times. Kris and I are the best judges of what we find scary and what we think will scare other people. Ultimately, if we can scare each other, we know we can scare strangers.
After all that, I still pretty much just think you go in there and then people run up and place their flaccid weens on your thigh.