I let my sister get abducted by Santa. She did come back, but she was bloody. At least, that splatter of red on the shoulder of her t-shirt looked like blood. I think it might have come from Santa’s empty eye socket.
Fortunately, we’d come prepared for gore. When I wrote to invite Julia—my longtime Haunted Basement companion—to join me once again in this year’s decent to the Soap Factory’s depths, she wrote back with a list of lessons she’d learned in previous years.
1. Never wear heels. It’s not worth the potential foot fungus you could get from their bin of tennies.
2. Don’t wear a merino wool J. Crew sweater as fake blood does not come out.
3. Don’t eat the dog biscuit even if they tell you you have to.
4. The more they ask you to put on before you go in, the worse it will be.
5. They may bite.
After last year’s free-ranging fright show, this year’s subterranean scarefest—which is now in “Crash Test” public previews, and officially runs from September 30 through November 1—features a more traditional Haunted Basement experience, with a winding path through weird (and smelly) spaces.
The twist is that this year, you get to choose a path: you can follow the yellow lights (“to take the ‘easier’ path”) or follow the red lights (“the path filled with more horror and more torment than ever before”). When we first walked down those ominous concrete stairs, Julia was resolved that we’d stay to the yellow—but once we started to get our bearings, we daringly chose red.
As always, the fun (and fright) of the Haunted Basement is that you have no idea what you’ll encounter—except that it almost certainly won’t be any characters you’ll recognize from ’80s horror films. I don’t want to give away too many surprises, but I will say that in addition to Santa, we met a tormented ballerina, the usual number of demented children (a Haunted Basement standby), and several eerie figures that lurked in the shadows.
Even with the lights, there’s still plenty of uncertainty: another signature of the Haunted Basement is that there are times when you don’t know where you’re supposed to go, and it’s dark, and no one’s going to tell you. In one room, we definitely bumped into a pair of our fellow civilians who took us for ghouls and screamed in our faces. That’s the kind of experience it is.
When Julia and I finally stumbled out into the twilight—having been among the first to experience this year’s terrors—we were met by Noah Bremer, director of the Haunted Basement. Julia and I complimented Noah on another awful (in a good way) year, and Julia said that she’d been prepared to be physically accosted even more than she had been.
“They’re still warming up,” said Noah. “Come back next week.”
For my part, I admitted that I had one regret: for all the red lights we’d followed, there had been one creepy-looking tunnel leading away from the path at floor level. Unclear whether that’s where we were meant to go, I’d chosen instead to walk through a door. I was left wondering, though: what was down that tunnel?
Noah just smiled slyly. “Oh,” he said, “you could have taken the tunnel.”