Alas, my camera is still not cooperating, so Halloween photos are delayed indefinitely. However, I will start with the first day of Halloween (yes, Halloween is just one day, but I celebrated all weekend). On Friday, I met up with friends at the Steampunk Haunted House in the Abrons Art Center. Steampunk is basically an aesthetic embracing what the Victorians imagined the future to be, meaning lots of gears and lacy clothes. No photographs were allowed, so you get this dramatic picture of me in the Victorian inspired outfit I wore.
It was an interesting, immersive experience, not at all like a traditional haunted house where people with chainsaws jump out from trash cans. It was more unsettling and eerie than frightening, and without a drop of blood. The first room you entered had a collection of objects on a pedestal in its center, and a broken music box was playing “Beautiful Dreamer” from the darkness. We were told to examine the objects, as they would be clues to what was to come. We were then each given a 19th century-inspired lantern to wear around our neck as our only illumination and told we would all be separated, no exceptions. And if anyone offered us a rope, we had to hold onto it and not let go.
We walked silently to the next room, where a woman was thrashing on a bed as if in a nightmare. Then she disappeared into the bed and the bed flipped into the wall. Pale faced people suddenly whispered behind us and many of our group were offered ropes and led away alone into the multiple stories of the haunted house.
I found myself watching the nightmare dreamer again in another room on a huge bed. From then on I felt like I was in a nightmare of my own, where a couple of friends kept appearing and disappearing among pale faced dancers and rooms with dusty mirrors. Before entering, we’d been advised to follow the actors to see scenes play out. One of the first places I entered was the theatre, where a chain was being pulled on stage. I went over to look into the hole from which it was being raised to see smoke and odd machinery. Suddenly a man started singing “Beautiful Dreamer” in my ear and I realized there were people in gasmasks creeping over the seats.
I wandered through every room, sometimes finding them empty except for a maid dusting, other times coming in the middle of disturbing scenes. There was a woman who walked spiderlike against the wall, terrorizing a man. For a while, I followed a sinister school teacher who kept whispering “you know what you did” as she chased a child, dragging her ruler on door frames. She eventually caught him and another child in the first bedroom and put him inside a glass tube filled with fog.
The details of the haunted house were incredible, and even the tiny rooms in the corners had disturbing shrines. They were also very clever with getting people to leave. There were stairs going down to the basement blocked by one of the actresses, where some people were allowed to go, but I kept being blocked. Of course, this made me really want to go in the basement. When I was finally allowed down, I found the original dreamer writhing on another bed, this time attached by chains to the machine I originally saw from the stage. Three of the female characters, including the scary school teacher, were working the machine. This was the end of the haunted house and we gave back our lanterns and returned to the streets, which were much less wondrous that the beautiful and unearthly dreamland inside.