I do not do well with Halloween attractions. I once stood, paralyzed, refusing to move at the entrance of a room filled with terrifying bunnies at Universal Studios Horror Nights (I have never understood Anya more). I once jumped and shrieked so much during the scares at the entrance to the Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor that I thought we were already in one of the mazes. I also once declared, whilst being chased by zombies during Universal’s Terror Tram ride (FYI, the tram is a LIE) that we should not wait for our other friends because they were probably gone forever. Aside from what concerns this may raise about my behavior in the event of an actual zombie apocalypse, my point is that I usually do not do well with scares, and approach haunted events with caution.
The one exception I will make to this rule is Delusion: The Haunted Play. My friends and I first visited in 2012, after reading about it on Neil Patrick Harris’s Twitter. He was then serving as a producer of the event, and in NPH we trust. Although Delusion is certainly very creepy and off-putting to some people, I can handle it so much better than a random maze with creatures jumping out at me. What makes Delusion different is that it is a play at its core, and you are part of a story. It is interactive theater, and you all know how much I love theater. You are led, in a group of ten, into a house (the specific location within LA changes each year, as does the story) where you become part of the plot, right alongside the actors. You are warned in advance that the actors can and will touch you, and you will be expected to participate. The entire thing lasts just under an hour, and the experience features an original score as well as truly impressive stunt work and costuming.
An important thing to remember about Delusion is that generally, the more you speak up, the cooler of an experience you will have. The actors will often ask for a volunteer for a specific task- for example, distracting a monster- and volunteering will lead to you being separated from the group temporarily and having your own side adventure. Sometimes, it is less voluntary. In the 2012 play, entitled Delusion: The Blood Rite, at one point we were forced to play a game of musical chairs. My friend who lost was kidnapped by one of the actors, and we came upon her later in another room, dancing with him. Another gentleman in our group who was taken later in the story was gone from us for a solid ten minutes, and when we re-encountered him he was in a bed with one of the actors braiding his hair.
This year’s play is called Delusion: Lies Within. The concept is that you are a devoted fan of a mysterious author of popular dark fantasy novels, and you have come to her house to find out what happened to the author and her daughter, neither of whom have been heard from for years. Without giving too much away, I will say activities our group participated in included: typing frantically into a typewriter to kill a monster, moving a wall, searching for herbs to make a potion, distracting a fire monster, playing Hide and Seek in a pitch black room, crawling through (fake) spiderwebs to free someone, and much more. The entire experience is highly physical: expect to have to run from room to room, hide under tables, and possibly crawl. Both this year’s story and the one in 2012 were suspenseful and very entertaining, and it forces your group to work together to uncover clues to solve the mystery and make it to the end. At one point during this year’s play, I acted as a conduit for a character’s spirit and was placed in a bed by one of the actors, blankets and all. You really have to just be ready to roll with whatever is thrown at you. Although it certainly has tense, scary moments, you aren’t allowed to be overwhelmed with fear because you have to focus on making it to the next room with your group.
The only thing I can compare Delusion to is Sleep No More. Sleep No More is an interactive theater experience based on Macbeth that takes place in a 5-story warehouse in Manhattan. Audience members wear masks, do not speak, and are free to roam throughout the five floors for up to three hours as the actors perform the story spread throughout the space. You can choose to explore rooms or to choose an actor and follow them throughout the night, but the one thing that is for sure is that everyone’s experience is different. When I attended in 2011, I went with 2 friends. One was immediately separated from the group before we even entered the hotel (they let off a certain number of people on each floor to begin), and we all ended up drifting away from each other because we were so absorbed in the story and the experience. While it is much less structured than Delusion in terms of audience experience, there are several elusive one-on-one encounters between audience members and actors that happen in specific rooms at specific points in the story. For example, one of the friends I attended with was given an item by the actress playing Hecate and instructed to deliver it to another actor on another floor. I found Sleep No More absolutely fascinating, and in many ways Delusion is its horror-based cousin.
I have always wondered how much the experience at Delusion can truly vary from group to group, since the play does follow a specific structure and path throughout the house (entrance times are staggered, so you may occasionally pass another group that is at a different point in the story). My friend did send me another review of this year’s show where a member of the group succeeded in distracting one of the monsters whereas our group failed. The actors must be prepared for every scenario, and I am sure the pacing definitely varies based on the group, but as far as I know the end result is always the same. One of the very few criticisms I have about Delusion is that this year’s ending was a bit anticlimactic. It would also be nice if the play was a bit longer. Tickets sell for upwards of $60 (and sell fast- this year’s run was sold out practically before it began) for an experience that is only about 50 minutes. While Sleep No More now costs $100, when I visited I stayed for a full 3 hours, so it felt like you got your money’s worth a little more. Regardless, Delusion is my favorite Halloween activity I have ever done, I look forward to returning next year, and I hope it inspires more interactive theater productions across the country.
Tickets for this year are already sold out, but for more info and to sign up to receive updates about next year visit http://www.enterdelusion.com/