Review: What to expect at Blackout Haunted House in New York City (Halloween 2013)

Water droplets snake through my hair, pass the blood streaks on my face and seep down the back of my soaking wet t-shirt. For a moment I am blinded by the headlights of cars tearing down 11th Avenue. I almost fall on my knees as I stagger out of the crumbling warehouse and into the frenzy of a Saturday night in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District.

This is not a nightmare. This is preview weekend at Blackout, New York City’s most terrifying haunted house– and the only local haunt that requires visitors to enter alone.

Read on for my first impressions of Blackout 2013, and advice for other visitors.

>> WARNING! This review of Blackout 2013 contains a few general details of the show and offers advice on how to prepare for it. There are no major spoilers here! Look for the “spoiler alert” labels (in red) if you want to be totally in the dark.

>> UPDATE: Read our 2014 review of Blackout NYC!

Survivor of Blackout NYC Haunted House

After posting this post-Blackout photo to Facebook and noting I was left "bloody and wet," a concerned family friend replied, "What happened? Don't know if it's fun or serious..."

Not your Grandma’s haunted house

This was my second year at Blackout NYC, so I had some idea of what to expect and did not suffer the extreme case of last-minute jitters that overcame me in 2012.

Way back in September 2012, I was just a newbie who only found out about Blackout from a chance encounter with The Jaded Viewer (a well-respected horror blogger whose love of haunted houses is so extreme, he attends the terrifying off-season haunts that take place in hotel rooms and corn fields).

After finishing Blackout 2012 without calling the safety word, I proudly joined the ranks of “survivors.” And like many haunted house fans, I was eager to convert other newbies to the experience. This year my husband Jake joined me for the 10:30pm Saturday slot on preview weekend. It was his first Blackout, and I couldn’t wait to see his reaction. Admittedly, September 7 was a bit early to experience a Halloween attraction, but it got me into the holiday spirit!

You will get dirty

This is not a children’s haunted house where animatronic ghouls jump out at you. Blackout is a highly tactile experience (meaning you will get touched, poked and prodded).

>> Mild spoiler alert! Read on for general details about his year’s show. If you don’t want any more details, however vague, then skip to the ‘bottom line’ section below!

If you’ve read descriptions of past Blackout haunts, then you know to expect some crawling, pushing, rubbing, grinding, kneeling and/or climbing. You are always advised not to wear your best clothes, but I am taking this advice up a notch this year. In fact, here are my hard-fast wardrobe rules for the 2013 Blackout show:


  • Wear nice shoes! They may be destroyed, like Jake’s fancy sneakers.
  • Wear heavy makeup! Unless you want to look like Tammy Faye Baker on a crying jag.
  • Wear a skirt! One can only imagine how this might be incorporated into the show. Plus, you don’t want to crawl desperately around dark, confined spaces in a miniskirt!
  • Wear an outfit appropriate for a community service day at your house of worship, gardening, painting your living room and/or being trapped in a serial killer’s dungeon for a week. 

It may get sexual

As I mentioned in my review last year, if you are homophobic, squeamish in sexually charged situations or uncomfortable with strangers touching you, then Blackout is not your haunted house! I’d recommend visiting Blood Manor, a family-friendly haunt with impeccable (and campy) makeup and set design.

Blackout is a series of rooms/scenarios manned by different performers. Some are very touchy-feely and “in your face,” while others just bark at you from a distance. You never know what to expect, but there is usually at least one semi-naked performer.

Your experience may depend on the time of day, your chemistry with a performer, and perhaps your gender and the level of fear you display. Jake experienced a lot more nudity and sexual content than I did at Blackout 2013, although he entered just after me and had a similar trajectory. I was actually a bit disappointed not to get some of the hands-on action he described during our breathless recap of the evening.

A note for macho / homophobic guys

When I included the above warning in last year’s Blackout review, several guys asked me on Twitter, Facebook and in the comments field what I meant by “homophobic.”

Rest assured, you are not going to play out a scene from Oz, but you may have a male or female performer touch you– or rather, imply they will touch you– in a sexually-charged way. For reference, during the 2012 Blackout I had a male performer lick my face with only a plastic bag between us. It was like being french kissed by a serial killer through a giant condom! I also was exposed to scantily clad men and women in the 2012 show.

This is a Halloween attraction in America’s largest city, not a ping pong show in Bangkok, so things will not get X-rated. However, at times you may experience a hard R. 

Blackout haunted house safety word

The truth about the safety word

People do panic at Blackout and use the safety word to ensure a quick exit. (In my interview with creator Josh Randall last year, he described a woman so panicked that she curled into a ball and had to be carried out of the attraction).

While the safety word is a good option for people suffering from PTSD, aversion to strobe lights, panic attacks or other conditions that exacerbate the terror, I’d advise you not to use it unless you really need to. Remember that this is a performance, with highly skilled actors who are not really going to murder you. Making it through the haunted house without calling “safety” is a badge of honor– don’t rob yourself of it!

The bottom line

Blackout is meant to get you out of your comfort zone; if this were a horror movie, you’d be hanging on the edge of your seat in anticipation of the killer’s next move. It is incredibly scary for a ‘newbie’ visitor to walk alone through this much-hyped haunted house, but don’t let your nerves get the better of you. You should visit Blackout NYC haunted house at least once in your lifetime; it will get your adrenaline pumping and chances are, you will want to go back the next year for more! Just make sure to wear your lazing-around-the-apartment clothes and bring an open mind.



What: Blackout Haunted House
Where: The Vortex Theater, 164 Eleventh Avenue (Ground Floor), Manhattan, NY
When: Open now through November 5, 2013. See website for show times.
Cost: $65
Tickets: Purchase advance tickets on the Blackout website. Walkup tickets may also be available at the door.
For more info: Follow Blackout on Twitter (@nychauntedhouse) and Facebook for the latest news and ticket details.


Did you attend Blackout? Share your experience by leaving a comment below!

Blogger disclosure: I attended the Blackout show on a press pass.

About Leslie Koch

I'm a New Yorker with a passion for travel and art. I founded after returning from a year-long backpacking trip around the world. Find me on Twitter at @leslietravel.