I'm stuck in a cement hallway. The only light is from a collection of blinking TVs, scattered on the ground. I take a step forward, and so does a figure on the TV screens. It's me. I'm watching myself... I try creeping forward until my bare foot lands on something cold and wet and feels exactly like a condom. Yep, it's a condom.
In order to participate in the NYC Blackout Haunted House experience, you must be over 18, you must go through the entire experience alone, you must sign a waiver, you must be willing to be touched, and you must be out of your mind. I was so totally into this. But later down in discarded prophylactic land, I was strongly questioning my decision making skills. (Note: We chose to report on an older Blackout experience to keep future participants spoiler free. The group changes the house drastically every single year).
The entrance to Blackout is innocuous enough. Just another building in Chelsea. Insides it's just a room covered in black curtains. No skeletons, fake spiderwebs or any other "haunted house" hallmarks. While doing extensive research at a bar earlier a friend informed me that Blackout used to give out free shots before the experience. There was no alcohol here.
Instead of booze, I received these rules. Christ.
YOU MUST WALK THROUGH ALONE.
You must be over 18.
Stay on the marked path at all times.
You will be prompted to do certain actions. Please do exactly as you're told. This is for your safety.
There is absolutely no speaking allowed inside. You can, however, scream as loud as you'd like.
Do not ever touch the actors.
Do not ever touch the walls.
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.)
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.
Please be aware, you will encounter:
FOG – STROBE LIGHTS – COMPLETE DARKNESS
CRAWLING – STAIRS – LOUD NOISES – WATER
PHYSICAL CONTACT – SEXUAL and VIOLENT SITUATIONS
Blackout works in 30 minute shifts. You sign up for one time (presumably with your lunatic acquaintances) and together you wait out your inevitable demise. I missed out on tickets with my particular group of friends, so I had to wait alone in a bar until it was my turn. I wasn't happy.
Abandoned by my so called friends who got an earlier ticket after I demanded they all sign up immediately for the same time, but didn't myself. I waited solo. Silently I lined up outside of a black curtain with strangers. Suddenly a man pops up and starts gobbling up people in line. "THREE AT A TIME," he screams. EDITORS NOTE: I actually don't know if he screamed, in my memory he was shrieking and wailing and clawing at his face, but that could have been me.
I picked out the line sitters who would be apart of my threesome, I wondered if I could convince both of them to hold my hand. I thought about asking them, but it was too late. It was our turn now.
The gatekeeper whips a curtain open, and shuffles in my trio. Once inside, he starts handing out out surgical masks. The giver of the surgical masks then forcefully instructs us all to put it on and, "NEVER TAKE IT OFF." It smelled like Bud Light and bad decisions.
Right then I knew I was going to suffocate. "Girl Dies From Fear-Induced Suffocation At New York Horror Sex Party," The Post would read. My mother would cry. Not because I was dead, but because this would be how they found my remains, crumpled under trash in a haunted house. My sister would desperately try and convince her was some sort of art show. She wouldn't believe her.
I turned and gave my best "holy shit" face to my co-death-pact friends. No one would look at me.
My funeral fantasies are then interrupted by another faceless yelling person. "DO YOU HAVE EPILEPSY?....... I NEED A VERBAL RESPONSE DO YOU HAVE EPILEPSY?" Bewildered I looked back at him and thought, "Oh my god this guy is going to give me epilepsy?!"
I bawked out a meepish "No." And the game was on.
Instantly the room filled with smoke. A strobe light was switched on. This was why they asked about epilepsy. Gloryosky.
It was awful. Not scary, just awful. You could only see a few inches in front of your face. This was where headaches were made. A new person appeared out of the smoke, pointed at the subject, "You first." They was gone. A few minutes passed and they came back for another. It was just me. Alone. Alone in a room of smoke and strobe.
There wasn't any noise, but internally I was screaming already, "WE MUST GET OUT OF HERE, GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT." I thought about putting my arms on my hips. I really, intently thought about putting my arms on my hips. It was the hardest I've ever tried to think about anything ever. Hips, hips, hips, hips, hips. Arms on hips. This is where I live now. Just as I was beginning to get accustomed to my new life as a sassy hip popping lunatic, yet another stranger appeared. Man or woman? I'll never know, but they grabbed my elbow and flung me out of the light and into total blackness.
Elbow Bender thrust me up against a wall. There was nothing to see but black, and flashes of nonexistent white from the exposure to the strobe light. The mystery elbow wrangler was moving down my arm. They placed my hand up against a concrete wall. "Grab the string!" the voice stated.
I pawed around and discovered the string, taped against the wall. "Follow the string," the voice said, and gave me a little nudge back into the wall. So I shuffled down the wall string in one hand, wall in the other. Doing a two step into the blackness. But I made a mistake. "WRONG WAY!" a new voice hissed. There was no way of knowing where I was going, so I shuffled another direction. In reality I was probably moving back and forth along 5 -foot stretch of wall with string taped to it.
This was when the weird stuff started to happen. First I felt a hand on the back of my neck. Then I felt a hand on my head. Then another hand, and another. Fingers brushed my hair. Since it was pitch black, there was really no reason to turn around, so I froze with my arms out, like a cat when you put a sweater on it.
Finally, I reached the end of the string, another hand appeared on my back. Another on my wrist. SO MANY HANDS. These were not the whispy hands from the wall, instead I was pushed police search-style up against new string-free wall. "Stay here," someone whispered. The darkness was starting to take hold of my imagination, I pictured the voices less as people and more as a collection of painted digits like in the hand-filled funnel in Labyrinth. "She chooooose down!"
After a brief frisking, I was escorted (still in total darkness) to a chair. There I sat, and the handling continued. But this time with props. My pant leg was rolled up and ice cube or a cold tongue (I prefer to think of it as an ice cube) was dragged across my shin. My hair was playfully tugged. People blew on my neck. A pair of hands grabbed my calves, giving me a very creepy, mental image of an adult wiggling under my chair. A friend who went through before me said his "chair" experience included someone popping a balloon nearby. Thank goodness that didn't happen to me, or else they would have one wet chair on their hands.
After my time was up in the chair, a figure lifted what looked like a tarp from the floor, under the tarp, light! It was a plastic tunnel presumably made out of black trash bags, but with sweet, sweet light on the end. "Get on your hands and knees," a new voice said. I slumped down and headed over to the light. "Go through it."
Once inside the entrance to the plastic tunnel was dropped, and sealed off to forever trap me in some kind of plastic hell forever. I was forced to push through the endless plastic tent held up only by my shoulders. Inside the tunnel inch wormed across endless folds of plastic. I almost didn't realize I was at the end until the sweet fresh air hit my surgical mask. I lifted my head and THWAP, was immediately pushed down. Body still engulfed by plastic, a human being was now straddling my ass, pinning me down.
"HEeeyeeeeeey," the person on top of me croaked in a Southern accent. My legs and torso were still in the tunnel, I had no choice but to listen to this Clampett character. "We gawt all kindsa fun ready ahead. Oooohee you're so purty I could eat yah urp." This was not scary.
He (she?) then ran their hands up and down my arms and legs (avoiding any no-no places) and asked, "You wanna stay and play? Or run away?" The answer was run away.
The character conceded, and I scurried off through the only possible exit, marked by parted curtains and additional light. Behind curtain number three? A pair of stairs. At the bottom of the stairs stood a young woman in a hospital gown. She was blocking the last step, and looking directly at me. "Go!" She hissed.
I looked around for any other possible route, but there was no way to go but down. Which meant walking right into the arms of the hospital gown girl, whom I had now observed was not wearing a bra. Carefully I side stepped down the stairs, clutching the railing with both hands. She didn't budge. I took a few more steps down, still wasn't moving. Eventually I was three steps away, the second my toe touched the next landing she flipped. The woman whipped her arms up and started greedily grasping the air. Smiling and laughing and swatting at my approach she was ready for me. One more step and she started shrieking. So there I stood holding the bannister, wincing inches away from her desperately pawing fingers. I looked up, and there was another girl at the top of the stairs. Shit.
Within seconds they grabbed my arms, flung me down the stairs and plopped me into a old reclining dentist chair. They were both definitely not wearing a bra.
The ghostly white girls began cooing and petting me. One reached under her gown, revealing newly red fingers. Then she took those fingers and painted something over my surgical mask. She was humming, giggling and stroking my hair. The second girl went straight for my legs, grabbed my right foot and stripped it of my shoe and sock. Once off, the two ladies began began aggressively fighting over my shoe. I was exceptionally uncomfortable.
At some point during the commotion noise-canceling headphones were placed on my head. And then the two girls disappeared, with my shoe.
Still reclining in the creepy old chair, I sat in perfectly muted silence. I didn't know what the rules were so there I saw, leaning back. Just as I started to do the Jurassic Park "He left us" panic, a figure appeared appeared. A giant mammoth of a man appeared over me. He was wearing a ski mask. With one arm he lifted me out of the chair and ripped off the headphones. I'm not certain my feet touched the ground.
The bear man dragged me into a white room filled with 3 other people kneeling against the wall, bags over their heads. Yikes.
There was one open corner, that was my corner. The wall came at me and I was once again pressed up against concrete and told to kneel. Someone tied my hands behind my back (which was not tight, and would have been easily escaped from but was still keeping my hands behind my back) and bagged my head.
I was left shoeless and kneeling against the wall. The bag over my already existing surgical mask made it hard to breathe. Thinking about the difficulty of breathing made it even harder. I furiously started poking my mask with my tongue, pushing it away from my nose and lips, looking for more air. It was hopeless.
Panic set in — I got ready to yell the safe word, which was actually the word "Safety." I was on the ground for decades, I knew I would die here if I didn't act fast. In all fairness I do believe I was kneeling for about 7 minutes, which is a very long ass time to be experiencing such a thing. But just as I was unraveling the ropes, someone grabbed my arms and lifted me off the floor.
Both arms were being held behind my back. "Scream," a voice ordered! I screamed. "Scream better than that." I screamed better than that.
When the screams were sufficient, and I was practically lifted to another room by someone holding onto my back. I was held in place and untied, but the person behind me still held my arms. I could feel the presence of another person in front of me. Slowly the bag was taken off. Sweet sweet air — and holy shit, it's Rob Zombie.
I swear to you, Rob Zombie was standing before me five inches from my face. Rob Zombie waited not for pleasantries and smashed a cold metal object against my face. He leaned back pulling the metal contraption back away, revealing it to be a staple gun. He held it up so I could see it. "Oh my god Rob Zombie is going to staple my face." AND THEN HE FUCKING DID. ROB ZOMBIE STAPLED MY FACE. THREE TIMES.
There weren't any staples in it, but it still hurt in my soul. Rob Zombie was not amused and started screaming (absolutely no idea what he said), and the guy behind me (who I totally forgot was there in the presence of the face stapling) threw me into a hallway of TVs.
Each TV was on, and showing video footage of me walking down the hallway. On the floor of said hallway: condoms, just crap loads of condoms. They were wet. I followed the TVs and into the biggest mind fuck room of all. I pulled back a curtain and someone screamed "STAND ON THE X!"
Looking down I saw an X, and stood on it. At this point I was getting really good at doing what I was told. There's a dirty mattress on the floor, a bright florescent light (doing the obligatory flickering int he corner) and the floor is just covered in shoes and condoms. Shoes and condoms as far as the eye can see. There are so many condoms and shoes it takes me a while to realize there's a dead naked girl on her back on top of the ratty mattress. And the dead naked girl takes my attention away from the NAKED MAN STANDING IN THE CORNER.
Hunched over like someone just kicked him in the nuts stood the skinniest creature I have ever seen. He was the one who told me to stand on the X, he was naked, and he was turning around to reveal his Full Dong. FULL DONG. OUT. Just totally right out there. Then he started walking towards me.
My brain failed. I could actually hear my own insides rattling around inside my skull at the sheer confusion of the condom parade naked basement man. Slowly he stumbled forward cradling something. That's when I realized: He has my shoe.
The Naked Man got closer and pointed to the bed. "Nope!" I said, turning around. OUT DONE. SO OUT.
Naked Man wailed, "GET ON THE BED." And I sat on it. Just like that. Next to the dead naked lady. I still don't know why. Naked Man grabbed my feet and whipped them up and to the end of the bed, so I'm now laying on the bed. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" inner me was screaming. Naked Man hunched at the foot of the bed, holding my shoe while staring down at me. It was dead silent. We looked at each other. This was the moment I would throw up on a stranger.
Then I heard a *WOMP!* Dead Naked Girl was up! Dead Naked Girl was moving, and Dead Naked Girl was on top of me! Dead Naked Girl was not dead, she was on top of me wiggling and screaming"HELP ME HELP ME HELP ME HELP ME HELP ME!" I screamed back, "IM SORRY, IM SORRY, IM SORRY, IM SORRY, IM SORRY!" Meanwhile Naked Man was rubbing his face on my exposed foot. Finally, after an eternity of nakedness and screaming, Naked Man thrust my shoe onto my chest and yelled "GET OUT." And I got the fuck out.
Amidst the calamity a door appeared and I grabbed the last bits of my soul and ran through it, up a flight of stairs, and headed towards someone in a staff shirt. I was told to go into the bathroom and put my shoe back on, wash my hands and head out. I went in the bathroom and put my shoe on. Not five seconds had passed when someone came barreling out of the bathroom stall and chases me out of the bathroom and back through the entrance. Fuck this shit.
To this day, it is absolutely the most horrifying thing I've ever willingly participated in. I didn't attend last year, because I heard there as a brief plastic bagging experience, and that's a deal breaker. To say the least of the woman who made you eat her tampon, which was rigged to look like it was coming from inside of her.
Was it disturbing? Yes. Did I have fun? Yes. Does that probably say something about me internally, possibly. Mainly I just really wanted to see if I could make it through the world's scariest haunted house. And I did, so WINNER *points to self.* Should you do it? Perhaps. I can't imagine this would be fun for anyone who has experienced a similar trauma in their lives.
You must be exceptionally comfortable with the nudity of strangers. And with the hours you'll waste trying to comprehend the reasoning behind Naked Shoe Man. What was he doing with all those shoes? Why did Rob Zombie have a man that was obsessed with shoes in his basement? Was part of this experience some sort of shoe hospital? You will also probably throw away your shoes. Is it worth $50? For the theatrics and insane posse of crazies Blackout crams into one room — heck yeah.
Top image via Blackout Haunted House.