Home » 3 Reasons Why You’re Too Frightened to Enter ScareHouse’s Basement

    3 Reasons Why You’re Too Frightened to Enter ScareHouse’s Basement

    Image © ScareHouse.

    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s ScareHouse is easily one of the giants in the haunted house field; not only has it consistently ranked as one of the scariest haunts by a number of different publications for the past several years, its reputation has also been bolstered by a now-famous visit from film director Guillermo del Toro, who left stating that he could live there.

    Part of the secret behind ScareHouse’s success lies with Dr. Margee Kerr, a sociology professor at the University of Pittsburgh, who was brought on as a consultant to help develop, implement, and analyze data on customers and employees to help the haunted house be “scientifically scary.”

    Image © ScareHouse.Image © ScareHouse

    As part of that scientific process, the idea developed to do a special extra attraction called the Basement, a separately-ticketed haunt that plunges just one or two individuals into an “R-rated” experience in which the scare actors can – and will – touch and restrain guests.

    (It’s so intense, would-be victims have to be at least 18 years of age and sign a special wavier before they can enter. They can also yell “Bunny!” if they just can’t handle it, and they’ll be escorted out of the attraction.)

    And as if that weren’t enough, ScareHouse has recently begun doing a series of special, one-off “ultimate scare” experiences set in the Basement, with the most recent being this Saturday’s “Hooded in the Basement.” Available for one night only, this off-season event has just one individual enter the haunt by himself, hooded and in total darkness.

    Where did the idea for such outlandishly scary experiences come from? And does it point to the future of where the entire haunted house industry will be heading in the next several years? And, most importantly, why will you be too scared to be Hooded in the Basement yourself?

    To find out, we picked Dr. Kerr’s brains, Hannibal-style. All the answers to our questions, plus a whole lot more insidious secrets, were in there…

    1. The Basement was designed to be scarier than anything else out there

    Image © ScareHouseImage © ScareHouse

    What was the genesis of the Basement? Where did the idea come from, and was there much resistance to it at first?

    The Basement began as a fun experiment in 2012 with just one actor. I had been analyzing the customer data since 2008 and noticed a trend of customers wanting more interaction and engagement inside the haunt. We noticed that there was a subset of the population who wanted a more extreme experience.

    In 2012, we created “ScareHouse Secrets,” which involved inviting random customers from line into the basement to interact with one of our actors who was experienced in improvisation and immersive theater (Ayne Terceira, who just recently had a great success with her own immersive theater piece, “Her Things”).

    “ScareHouse Secrets” was free and lasted only about five minutes, but the result was astounding; people loved it (well, those who agreed to go down – again, these experiences are not for everyone). So the next year we decided to create an entirely new attraction that offers the more intense, interactive, and engaging experience.

    Why is the Basement a separately-ticketed haunt?

    Because the Basement does involve interaction, touching, and R-rated material. Individuals have to be 18 and sign a waiver and fully understand what they are buying a ticket for. The Basement is not a haunted house; it’s a fully immersive experience with one-on-one interactions, so it was necessary to make it a different ticket.

    Could you elaborate on the “R-rated” nature of the experience?

    The Basement cast does use foul language (though we do have a list of banned words). It also contains scenes that are extremely intense and, yes, scary! It’s like being in your own R-rated horror movie.

    ScareHouse and the Basement do have boundaries, though – we will never have scenes (in the Basement or the main haunts) that depict helpless female victims or violence against women.

    Do these extreme haunts provide certain opportunities that normal attractions don’t allow for? I noticed that “water” and “strong scents” are listed on the Basement’s description…

    We utilize a lot of the same tips and tricks from upstairs, although I think we can push the scents a little further in the Basement and go for some of the more disgusting ones, like boars’ urine.

    2. The scare actors are allowed to think on their feet and go above and beyond

    Image © ScareHouseImage © ScareHouse

    Is there any kind of special training that the scare actors who work the Basement go through? I imagine it’d be difficult to “restrain” guests without hurting them, for instance.

    The Basement is a totally separate cast from the main haunts. We hire actors who have experience in improv and immersive theater, and they are trained separately.

    We know that our actors in the Basement are in a very unique position, and we want our customers to know they are working with professionals with experience and training, and everyone (in the main haunts and the Basement both) goes through a background check before working at ScareHouse.

    How many guests scream “bunny”?

    We did keep a tally last year, but it wasn’t as high as you might think. We don’t want people to use the safety word; we want them to stay in and complete the experience. Our actors are really good at sensing when someone is to that point of being too scared, and they back off. We want people to have a good experience – it’s all for the customer, so we want them to stick around!

    Is there a high incident ratio with the Basement? I imagine for a large number of people, not being allowed to touch the scare actors back would run counter to their fight/flight instinct.

    Nope – we haven’t had to remove anyone from the Basement, and we’ve had no incidents with customers or actors. We do a really good job of explaining what’s going to happen and what the rules are, and, honestly, people who come through the Basement want to be there and know what they’re getting into.

    ScareHouse and the Basement have never had a problem with rowdy customers; we tend to attract an older crowd.

    3. Being hooded is just over-the-top intense

    Image © ScareHouseImage © ScareHouse

    How did you all strike upon the idea of doing a hooded variation of the Basement?

    This is actually pretty interesting: Boy Scouts used to do blindfolded activities to achieve all kinds of things – trust, exploration, confidence, resilience – so it is coming from that, and then also the almost universal fear of being completely in the dark.

    Our sense of sight is so powerful and we depend on it to tell us about our environment, so when you take that away, the unknown and the uncertainty of what is going to happen goes through the roof.

    And fear is all about the unknown.

    How popular is the Basement – and how popular are these special one-night occurrences?

    The Basement is very popular. It sold out almost every night last year, and our off-season events both sold out, as well. These experiences aren’t for everyone, but for those who are looking for something different, challenging, scary, and exciting, it’s great.

    Are these extreme attractions – particularly these special, one-off variations like being hooded – the wave of the future for the haunted house industry?

    I think that there will always be a place for the traditional haunted attractions – each generation needs to experience the thrill and fun of walking through a haunted house. These other types of events will always be evolving with the time and responding to what customers want.

    What do you think the next generation of haunts will look/work like?

    I think the public is coming to have higher expectations about what a good haunt should look like; plastic bats and cheap masks no longer are enough. But along with that is the more important point that haunts need to be safe, they need to be professional, and they need to take everything very seriously.

    “Hooded in the Basement” is one of the most serious experiences you can have in the themed industry. It is available for one night only, on Saturday, July 19, 2014, from 7:00 pm to midnight. Tickets are $19.99 and are available here.

    If you’re brave enough to try it out, let the rest of us know what you thought of the event in the comments section below.

    Happy hunting!