I was invited to crawl, climb and fall through what was without a doubt the most intense haunted house I have ever experienced – and lived to tell the
I was invited to crawl, climb and fall through what was without a doubt the most intense haunted house I have ever experienced – and lived to tell the tale.
Located in Fullerton, California about 10 minutes from Knott’s Scary Farm, in a warehouse behind a 99 Cent Store, The 17th Door is an unconventional haunt attraction that takes you through a series of rooms so terrifying that there is a safe word (“MERCY!”) if the environment becomes too much to handle, and patrons must first sign a liability waiver before entering.
The paper, with your mandatory signature, forewarns you of many things you may confront inside The 17th Door: scare actors who are able to touch you, claustrophobia (fear of confined spaces), moving floors, loud noises, foul scents, live insects (we were told thousands of cockroaches were bred specifically for this year’s event), electrical shocks and projectiles that may leave welts or bruises.
My boyfriend’s shirt was stained with something that resembled fecal matter and his prescription glasses were broken in half during this experience, so take heed: do not bring in smartphones, delicate clothing or anything else that might be lost or damaged!
The theme for 2018 is “Crybaby” and follows Paula, an inmate at Perpetuum Penitentiary, with a storyline that picks up right where the previous year’s installment left off. It becomes clear that Paula’s time in prison has taken a heavy toll. To help her heal and move on from her trauma, the prison psychiatrist has prescribed art therapy for Paula and uses a therapy puppet called Lincoln, cruelly named after her dead infant son, to force her to acknowledge and confront the fact that she killed him by suffocation. The subsequent scenes depict her psychotic descent into madness as she becomes more and more unstable and unhinged.
Unlike the “conga line” approach of other Halloween haunt mazes, in The 17th Door, small groups of guests move from scene to scene in a timed manner, with each room lasting approximately 30 to 60 seconds, each buffered with a locking door and a transition room with a number that glows green when the next scene is ready. It’s very intimate and very hands-on. Scare actors are able to get right in your face, and there are moments where you are expected to pull levers, crawl, duck down, and climb into very confined spaces. At one point, hoods were pulled over our faces. There is also a ball bit, a signature feature of The 17th Door.
An optional add-on is The Vixi Ward, a 15-minute VR experience promising new experimental treatment methods for Perpetuum’s most troublesome inmates. For an extra $13, your wrists will be strapped to a chair and you’ll don a VRX-2000 headset capable of interfacing with the human brain … and administer electrical shocks, as well as other sensory surprises. It’s part simulator, part video, and part torture chamber. Once the “treatment” concludes, a secret entrance leads to the rest of The 17th Door’s maze rooms inside Perpetuum.
If you’re not too busy screaming, be on the lookout for hidden cans and references to Diet Coke throughout the experience. It’s an inside joke and beverage of choice of the Luthers, The 17th Door’s creative team.
The video below was shot during a behind-the-scenes tour of The 17th Door and shows a few of the scenes you will see during the experience. SPOILERS AHEAD:
The 17th Door is definitely a “love it or hate it” experience with not a lot of in-between. It’s like a traditional Halloween haunt maze mixed with theatrical, interactive, virtual reality and extreme elements. As mentioned before, do not bring anything inside that you don’t want to lose or get dirty. Possible triggers include rape, child abuse or PTSD.
If you’re a tough guy looking to impress your girlfriend, a thrill-seeking teen or 20-something, a glutton for punishment, or a horror fan who feels you have “seen it all”, this experience is for you.
Tickets start at $23 for The 17th Door on select nights now through October 31, 2018. Parking is free.