After navigating through a maze of dead animals that might be at home in Norman Bates’ bedroom (or a Miley Cyrus video?), you’ll have reached the entry point of the 9th annual Haunted Basement.
The artistic production in the Soap Factory is known for many things, but most notably: its shock factor, its so-called “Smells of Death” (featured in the New Yorker) and its safe word (“uncle”). Here, watch the trailer. Have your 18-plus I.D. handy, and prepare to sign the waiver that includes warnings for peanut or latex allergies and PTSD triggers. The hauntrepreneurs will be in full operation from Sept. 24 to Nov. 1. Get tickets here (between $25-27, or $10 if you’re a ‘Fraidy cat).
The latest rendition is the fourth and final year with director Noah Bremer at the helm. As is tradition, a team of artists constructed a subterranean nightmare that’ll leave some wailing for an early exit. Here are some pointers for courageous souls up for the challenge:
1. Censoring the trip: I’m not a wimp about scary stuff, but by lingering for a while after our round, my group realized we’d missed some attractions. The tour is divided into “red” (not for the faint of heart) and the lesser-spooky “yellow.” It only took us 15 minutes to get through the whole joint, so circle back or peep into rooms and tunnels if you please. Walk through the depths of the darkness to see what you’ll find. How fortunate to have options in this terrifying affair. Get your money’s worth.
2. The queasy Quasimodo: A hunched man stumbles around with a wooden bucket dangling around his neck. He is not polite and will chuck some mystery substance at you. You can have fun sniff-guessing the ingredients if you make it out alive. Don’t wear your finest attire if you can avoid it.
3. Frenemies: There are a number of actors who will try to gain your trust and assure you that they care for your wellbeing. They will touch you — you cannot touch them back — and promise that they are guiding you to safety. They are also splattered with blood, face-painted like the Joker and often carrying an object that could harm you. Use your judgment.
4. Glitz and glamour: Some of the rooms are “American Horror Story”-quality. They’re so eerily cool that you’re rapidly wondering what could possibly be the punchline. The getup isn’t overtly gruesome, but subtly disturbing — a room in a lavish mansion where bodies are probably bundled up in the cellar. There’s always that part in the movie when suddenly the insidiousness rears its ugly head. Stay tuned.
5. Absurdity at its finest: This isn’t a “Nightmare on Elm Street” type of haunt. It's classier than that, with carefully crafted gruesomeness that feels bizarrely familiar. Take time, while also fearing for your life, to appreciate the creative nuances in each room that you might otherwise miss.
(Above photo courtesy: The Soap Factory)