A response to Stephanie Sylverne’s article “Extreme Haunted Houses Aren’t Cool – They’re inhumane.”
We love Halloween. All of it – the history, the whimsy of pumpkin picking and bobbing for apples, and the ability to make yourself feel more alive by stepping outside of your comfort zone. We freely admit that we are adrenaline junkies. We love the adrenaline rush we get from performing on stage and we love the adrenaline rush we get from extreme haunted houses.
Extreme haunted houses provide a safe environment to test your physical and mental limitations within the realm of a fictional immersive theater experience. We have attended many extreme haunted houses (including the infamous off-season events of Blackout Haunted House) and we have never been placed in any real danger.
That being said, we are both women in our early 30s (one of us is even a mom) and we take our safety very seriously. We do not sky dive, bungee jump, or participate in events like the Tough Mudder extreme obstacle mud run because we are unwilling to risk our safety.
Extreme Haunted houses like Blackout and Freakling Bros create the illusion of an out of control experience, but the reality is that every moment is precisely planned and monitored. The actors are trained to handle different scenarios and many have backgrounds in stage combat and professional wrestling. This illusion allows you to push your boundaries and face your darkest fears in a safe environment where no real harm will come to you. Nearly all extreme haunts have a safe word. If the experience becomes too much for you then you say the safe word and it’s over. McKamey Manor is the one exception. They do not have a safe word and all participants are aware of that fact before they enter. No one enters an extreme haunt against their will.
The psychological aspect of these experiences allows you to project your deepest fears on the subject matter, which can be very personal and unsettling, so it is perfectly understandable that survivors of abuse like Ms. Sylverne might find the thought of these simulated experiences appalling.
Extreme Haunted Houses are not for everyone. Fear is subjective and affects everyone differently. I sleep just fine after visiting an extreme haunted house, but I can’t watch horror movies like Hostel, Silent Hill, or the Saw franchise because they give me nightmares. So, I believe that it’s inaccurate to suggest that extreme haunted houses exist solely because our society has become desensitized and dead inside. Everyone is different and it’s important to know your limits before you participate in any kind of extreme activity.
Extreme Haunted Houses are what you make of them. We find it very empowering that we are able to withstand the simulated violence and horror scenarios that others cannot. The adrenaline rush you get from playing the role of the lone survivor in a simulated horror movie comes with a sense of accomplishment and pride for having challenged your fears. Standing up to our fears makes us feel powerful and we’d like to think that in some small way our experiences in extreme haunted houses might help us to remain calm in dangerous real life situations. And it’s fun. Because it’s not real. It’s make believe, but when it’s over you return to your life with perspective and a deeper understanding of who you are.
In the future, we encourage news publications and journalists writing about these events to contact the haunt owners directly or speak to someone who actually participated when it comes to the content of these shows. Just because you think something happened, doesn’t necessarily mean that it did. There are numerous theatrical tricks that can be used to create illusions and the haunt owners can discuss how they safely create the moments that feel very dangerous.