Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a thing about how I was offered a couple of passes to the infamous Blackout Haunted House, and could literally not find a single VICE staffer to drag their pussy ass through it. This year, I resolved to not only force myself to confront my biggest fear (having a foreskin presented to me), but to force my co-workers to go along with me on what ended up being a true fact-finding mission; that fact being that Blackout really is just a bunch of flaccid penises, with also at least three sets of boobs thrown in for fun.
When I sent out my email to the creators of the Blackout event, asking if we could be granted upwards of ten passes for free, I was honestly hoping that they'd say no, or at least say that yes, we could come, but in like a month or something. When I got an almost immediate reply saying that we were all set and could pick a date to come as soon as a week away, I wanted to cry, crap, and then die in my own crap. The weeks leading up to us going were spent exchanging fearful stares and head shakes. Only an idiot would want to go through this thing. Good thing we're all idiots.
The day that it was all set to go down included three immediate flake outs (I won't name names, but you can email me if you want to know who the yellow-bellied VICE staffers are) and about 57 beers a piece. The sun set way too soon, and we all piled into a car and headed over to get tortured for fun.
I would hate to ruin the event for others by going over the details of what happened during the 30 minutes you spend ALONE inside of Blackout, but I will share the post-event interviews I conducted with the poor chumps I made go with me. Maybe this will help you determine if you're brave (or sick) enough to make it through.
What made you want to do this?
Harry: Everyone was talkin' 'bout this haunted house like OH MY GOD THE TERROR THEY WILL EAT YOUR DICK or something. Seemed fun?
Jonathan: I hadn't been to a haunted house since like 5th grade and I remember being really freaked out by some parts of it. Since this is supposedly the scariest haunted house in the city, I guess I was hoping I'd get spooked like I did when I was a kid. Also, I hear tickets are like 60 bucks or something and I'm a cheap bastard so I'll do pretty much anything that normally costs money if I don't have to pay.
Sasha: I wanted to do this because I was almost positive that I couldn't. I wanted to feel fear in ways I never have before. Also, I knew everyone would be a dick to me if I didn't.
Kathleen: At first I didn't even consider going, but I read too many accounts online and got really curious. Then I had a few drinks and was convinced by the bravery of everyone else.
Josh: A few things. one, I like taking advantage of living in New York. New Yorkers pass up on more arts and culture, and general experiences, than almost anyone, only because we have so much offered to us.
Ryan: I'm always up for something weird and free.
Was there ever a point where you had a boob or penis on you?
Harry: Yeah I think so. Not a hard dick though.
Jonathan: Definitely had a dick on me. Pressed up against my thigh. Felt like he might have even had a semi, or maybe he just had a big penis. Shit, just realized I'm still wearing those same pants from last night. Gross.
Sasha: Definitely at least one and a half penises. I think I only had two boobs on me, and they belonged to me. But people are obviously more afraid of dangly bits than boobs, so I guess that makes sense.
Kathleen: Yeah I had a penis rubbed on me twice, but I think it was over plastic and it wasn't hard. That would have been weird.
Josh: There was and I thought it was cool! I really respected the actors' courage and exhibitionism, and was kinda jealous that I couldn't be naked too.
Ryan: A bloody boob came very close to touching me. As for a dick, it was tucked behind the guy's legs and I don't think it made contact. He did lick my neck, though, which is about as intimate as his dick touching my leg.
What was the first thought that entered your head when you entered the first room?
Harry: "Whoa! Hey, OK, I'll face the wall. This is a lot like being arrested."
Jonathan: As soon as the guy pulled me in he told me to put my hands on the wall and started smelling me. I was pretty drunk, and I remember wondering if he could smell the booze on me. Thinking back on it now though, I'm pretty sure that guy had a gas mask or something on.
Sasha: "Oh, well this is happening now. Fuck." Also, "Is this person going to try to put a digit inside of me? Because I AM NOT DOWN WITH THAT."
Kathleen: Was it the smelly, naked guy who wanted to dance? That wasn't so bad...
Josh: Just play along. I felt like the whole thing was a really silly but tried to put those thoughts aside and check my natural cynicism, I wanted to have fun and have the full experience so I tried not to smirk and reminded myself it was all a game.
Ryan: "My knees hurt." Because we were crawling. And: "This guy smells."
Was there ever a point where you wanted to call safety?
Jonathan: No. Honestly I kept thinking that surely it was going to get worse, like something really fucked up was going to happen, but the whole thing ended up being pretty anticlimactic.
Sasha: There was really only one point when I thought about calling safety, and that was because I didn't think my body could physically take what they were doing to me anymore. Luckily, I just reminded myself of what I had been telling myself for the weeks leading up to Blackout: "They are not allowed to kill me."
Kathleen: No, but the last room made me really sad. I lost it.
Josh: I think I thought about it for a moment during one of the sensory overload parts when i had goggles over my eyes, and headphones on my ears, and my arms were held down. The cumulative effect bordered on overwhelming, but then i started to enjoy the noise they were playing as a song. The sound design in general was pretty cool.
Ryan: Not really. I would have been ridiculed by my coworkers for weeks.
How do you feel about it now? Any bruises?
Harry: I feel very bad. Head bad. But that's cause of the drinking. Didn't feel like Blackout left a mark, physically or psychologically.
Jonathan: No bruises, just a pretty decent hangover.
: I FEEL HAPPY OF MYSELF.
I feel like I learned a lot about how my body handles extreme stress. No real bruises to speak of, other than a few on my knees that very well could have been there before. To be honest, I can't help but wish that they had knocked me around a bit more.
Kathleen: I like testing my limits... I want to go back!
Josh: No bruises. I felt like the whole experience was pretty erotic. I think it would make a great date, but i dont' know if it's really worth $55.I don't know how much a half hour costs in a dungeon though and I appreciate that the Blackout crew put a lot of work into the experience. I think it's worth it to go at least once, and I would definitely go back next year, but I think i'd feel better paying something like $30.
My favorite part was when they made me run in circles, it was exhilarating and fun to be a little dizzy. As we all know, it can be pretty sexy to be out of control.
Ryan: No bruises. After they put a plastic bag over my head, someone slapped my kind of hard in the face, and I kept thinking about how that was dickish of them.
So it looks like we all had fun being thrown around, and being shown nude parts while being yelled at, but considering the demographic of attendees here, Blackout wasn't really that far off from a normal date for us. I can't wait to go back next year. I hope they make it hurt just a littttttle bit more.
Photos by Sasha Hecht.