Six years ago, I endured what is now kind of a rite of passage in some circles: Online dating. I had exchanged a few messages with a guy over Match. We decided to meet in person. I suggested dinner. He suggested the Haunted Basement at the Soap Factory. Hold up, wait a minute... did you just ask me to attend the creepiest haunted house in all the land with you ON A FIRST DATE? As if Internet dating isn't scary enough! We ended up meeting for coffee. It was nothing special.
I've long been terrified of the Haunted Basement.
For the past seven years, a group of artists deck out the basement of a huge old warehouse in NE Minneapolis. As you know, basements just scare me in general, and that's before you stuff them full of weirdos out to mess with you! It gets worse. You must sign a waiver prior to entering the haunted house that includes the following verbiage:
BASEMENT’S RULES. I understand that there are risks and dangers inherent in participating in The Soap Factory Haunted Basement including, but not limited to, risk of personal injury and damage to clothing or possessions resulting from walking through a basement area in darkness, flashing lights, strobe lights, low frequency sound, electric shocks, strong smells, concentrated fog/ smoke, physical contact, strenuous physical activity, projectiles, dust, dirt, disturbing and adult content.
Their website also states there will be PTSD triggers, claustrophobic situations and that you should bring a change of clothing with you (?).
A friend of mine went the first year and recounted in horrific detail how a maniacal clown blindfolded her, then strapped her to a wheelchair and rolled around the basement for a few minutes... then abandoned her in a room, alone, for ten minutes. Every HB survivor I spoke with said they were separated from their group at some point.
Tickets to the HB sell out quickly, so I nabbed four. I then had to wait agonizing three weeks for the big event.
For three weeks, I did not fall asleep until 3:30am. I'd like to blame it on a late afternoon cups of Joe, but no. I was obsessing over the HB. I checked out Yelp to see if people thought this year was really as scary as the last few (mixed reviews... though a few people said they "didn't pay good money to be physically assaulted." Yikes!), I asked every person who'd done it what it was like (ranged from "So fun!" to "The most terrifying thing I've ever done in my life!"). I drove by the building two or three times.
You can actually die skydiving, but that didn't freak me out nearly as much.
I know, I know... I am a fool!
Fortunately, my friends Melissa and Rick were brave enough to join Josh and I. We all signed our waivers, then headed into the lobby area where we checked our jackets, purses and any other loose articles. Then, they gave each of us a pair of mechanics coveralls and a paintball mask. The woman at the entrance (not in costume, wearing head-to-toe J Crew) gave us a few quick tips:
"Do whatever the actors downstairs tell you to do. Last night, someone vomited and the actors tried to stop people from walking into it, but they didn't listen. Needless to say, the ended up slipping in puke."
An alarm sounded and we slowly walked down the creepy stairs to the basement. I started my deep, deliberate yoga breathing immediately. We all passed a thick black curtain that separated real life from HB life. Immediately, we were separated by a swat team. One grabbed me and made me place my hands above my head on wall covered in paint. I was instructed to start painting... so I kind of half-assed finger painted for a few minutes until someone told me I had to keep walking. I managed to find Rick and we continued through the next few rooms together.
There are probably 30 different rooms throughout the basement & they are all amazingly designed.
One was filled with creepy dolls and toys, another featured a ball pit (like at Chuck E. Cheese!) that you needed to cross while two insane clowns pawed at you. My favorite part was watching another civilian (male) forced to give a back rub to an enormous, hairy "bearded woman." Josh said that same bearded man kissed him on the neck or something. Hilarious!
I was so busy being impressed by the Haunted Basement that I forgot to be scared.
Admittedly, I got the willies when a bloody nurse asked me to touch a couple of mummy-looking corpses (see below... initially, I couldn't tell if they were actors or props. They were props). But my fear was stripped away when a deranged surgeon screamed, "STOP TOUCHING MY THINGS!" She then forced me to sit on a nearby bed pan, which totally cracked me up.
Rick and I eventually found Josh, and the three of us continued on. There were way less BOO! scares than I'd imagined, and for someone like me who loves costumes, I kept wanted to ask how everything was made. Really, the worst part about the whole thing is that we lost Melissa in the first twenty seconds and didn't see her until the end.
So, so, SO lame.
My fear of the Haunted Basement was one of the reasons I almost didn't start this blog. That's how much I didn't want to go. Considering that fact, I can't believe how not scared I was. Maybe trying to scare yourself is like trying to tickle yourself... it just doesn't work as well.
For some behind the scenes footage of the 2012 Haunted Basement, check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWjGtvJfLCA