This review is written by Downtown Traveler contributor Claudia Oddo, a first-time visitor to Blackout Haunted House.
In 2014, Blackout plays by new rules.
Do not speak unless instructed to do so
Follow all directions
The safety word is “safety”
….the choice is not yours…
As I waited in anticipation at New York City’s most terrifying haunted house and read the mandatory waiver, each line filled me with more and more panic. I scanned the document as a cold-faced woman checked in visitors one by one. What was I signing up for?
I had read countless reviews of past Blackout haunts and knew to expect highly sexual and violent ‘simulated’ situations, which in past years included a rape scene and faux waterboarding.
Yet these reviews could not prepare me for my experience at all, as Blackout is known to change its shows each year. I was certain there would be a high level of intensity, and came properly dressed for the part thanks to Downtown Traveler’s 2013 Blackout review.
>> Mild spoiler alert! This is not a step-by-step walkthrough of Blackout. Read on for general details about this year’s show. If you don’t want any details, however vague, then skip to the ‘bottom line’ section below!
The Dreaded Wait
One of the first things I noticed as I got on line on a cold October night was how so many of the attendees were guys—where were all my fearless girls? There were a few, but certainly not enough.
This topic even came up in conversation with a guy standing in line in front me. A friend from his military days decided to cancel on him last minute after reading one too many chilling reviews— so he asked me why a 5’3″ girl wanted to enter Blackout.
After I corrected him, telling him that I was in fact 5’2″, I explained that Blackout looked like an absolutely exciting experience, unlike any other Halloween attraction.
I had the perfect build-up to this moment– first attending Blood Manor’s campy haunted house then visiting Nightmare: New York’s dark history show. Blackout was the next rational step, and an opportunity to push myself to new limits.
The wait alone made me realize how far I was from Blood Manor’s funny zombie strip club, as after signing my paperwork I entered a bomb shelter-like atmosphere with a mask that was placed over my nose and mouth.
Once you sign those papers, know that your experience officially begins, and you can only wait to see what will happen next.
New Rules In Play
This year Blackout announced a new set of rules, which was clearly posted at the entrance:
“you will not walk through alone
the choice is not yours”
To be perfectly honest, I was looking forward to a solo experience. The traditional Blackout rule that “you must walk through alone” is what set it apart from other NYC haunted houses.
Not only are visitors required to go in a group, but don’t expect to go in with your friends…after all it truly isn’t your choice. We lost all our rights the moment we crossed our T’s and dotted our I’s on that waiver, remember?
Also, once two members in your group of four say the ‘safety’ word, your entire experience is over. This rule was unsettling in itself as it makes you depend on complete strangers to not cut your Blackout experience short.
** UPDATE: Blackout has now changed its ban against solo entry, presumably following feedback from fans, and offers ‘Walk Alone’ tickets exclusively on Sundays now until November 2, 2014. These tickets cost more than the standard group entry.
Blackout is not for the faint-hearted
This isn’t your typical zombie makeup, fake spider-filled haunted house. I’m not even sure if haunted house is the appropriate term for this unique and exhilarating experience.
Be prepared to face the simulated violence and sexually charged situations you have read about, and know you will find yourself way beyond your typical comfort zone with some of the Blackout actors. Also be prepared to see actors who are semi or fully naked.
Know that legal lines will not be crossed— you will not actually be assaulted– but you will be heavily involved in frightening scenes, and you will definitely have physical interactions with the characters.
You will be touched. You will be screamed at. And you will never experience a single moment of tranquility.
When going through the Blackout experience, stopping to try and piece together the completely twisted story line is impossible and pointless, because nothing can prepare you for your next scene.
The best thing to do is to carry on and follow all the instructions that are thrown your way. This will also ensure you have the best experience possible. Consider this a test of how adaptable you are to a breath-stopping situation.
Dealing with high expectations
As I stressed, each scenario at Blackout is different from the last, and the interaction between actors and visitors is always unique— so the best expectation to have is nothing.
I unfortunately did not experience the level of intensity I expected at this year’s Blackout performance. Still, as a first-time “survivor” of Blackout, I can honestly say that I have never gone through anything as extreme as this in my life.
I left the haunt without a single scratch, and the seasoned Blackout veterans in my group had mixed feedback about this year’s experience. I shared some of their disappointment, as I truly wanted to go in alone to amp up my level of fear. There were still many visitors (presumably first-timers) who came out of those exit doors in awe and completely speechless at what had just happened.
The Bottom Line
I have never been placed in such powerful and adrenaline-inducing situations as the ones I experienced at Blackout. Despite disappointment with the new group-entry rule, I recommend you visit the haunted house and judge it for yourself. Whether you are a proud haunted house veteran or a newbie like me, it’s worth a trip downtown to see what Blackout has to offer this Halloween season. I’m already excited to see what Blackout has in store for us next year.
What: Blackout Haunted House
Where: 225 East Houston Street (at Essex Street), Manhattan, NY
When: Open now through November 8, 2014. See website for show times.
Cost: $45 group/ $75 Sunday ‘Alone’ Tickets
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