So there I was, down on all fours with this woman I’d only just met sitting sidesaddle on top of me. The altar was cold, and the bishop was getting a little handsy, but, well, I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’m not one that loves horror movies – good ones, like Halloween and the Exorcist, are good because they are just good movies with solid pacing, writing and acting. I love them despite them being horror movies not because of it. I’ve never seen SAW (and don’t feel I ever need to) or the myriad of other slasher pics that are around. I just don’t find the charm in being scared. And to be quite honest, I don’t find the movies all that scary to begin with.

Same thing with Haunted Houses. I went to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal this year, with my friend Kecia. She works there and was able to get a preview. Even then the houses were crowded, and mostly entailed walking through dark rooms with crowds of people, where random characters yell at you, and every five feet there’s a security guard standing stoically. It was fun, as a shared experience, I suppose. But nothing I could really get too engaged in, frightened by or invested with.

Last night, I got to experience something that checked all those boxes. This was Delusion, an experience billed as “a live-action, first-person horror experience.” Think of it as a private group haunted house outing, where you are part of the story. And I know it’s a couple days after Halloween, but it was the first day we could get an appointment.

We rolled up on the church at the requested time. Yes, the creepiness factor was instantly upped by setting up the event in an old church in Silver Lake. Normally, I’m not even allowed in Silver Lake because I’m not cool enough, but since I currently have a beard, I did make it past the border.

I was with my aforementioned friend Kecia, blonde bombshell I’ve been BDBs (best drinking buddies) with for half my life; and we gathered with the rest of our group – Mike, rockstar keyboardist, and our de facto leader (he collected the money); Natalie, dear friend, and exuberant cheerleader for the evening and Halloween in general; Bryan, our learned elder (he might be younger than me) and general quipmeister; Robin, sardonic beauty who has a strong case of the fraidies (scared of everything); Joe and Pearl, young artist couple; Aya, sage singer; and Lindy, philosophical musician (she mentioned several things in our conversations as being allegories for her own life. She really just said allegory enough to make it a decent drinking game). We were an eclectic bunch, but we were game for this game. Mike, Natalie and Aya had done this before and all I recall were stories of getting tied to beds and crawling around. The rest of us were along for the ride.

Our group was shown to the lounge where we waited, our wristbands designating us “Pestilence 100.” As we stood there, an older gentleman came walking over. His outfit, leather apron, axe, suggested he was in character. He smelled of weed and booze and I couldn’t tell by our conversation if he was just really good, or full-on method. I was even more unsure as to what the night would have in store for us. After a few minutes, our group was called. We were shoved into a room where we were given the instructions: don’t speak unless spoken to and do what you’re asked to do.

As the ten of us stood there waiting for the this thing to start, amidst broken furniture and pallets, I could only keep track of one thing – how do I position myself so I’m not first or last? Because those are usually the worst positions in these situations. We were greeted by a character who delved right into the story of everything. It involved a lot of missing artifacts and angry people, and since I’m not going to describe the whole thing, it won’t make much sense to get too into the weeds on that.

Once we got the breakdown, we were in the next room, digging through the furniture looking for a missing journal, and two of our team –Robin and Aya- were pulled into another room. I held the journal. Joe got a backpack and our host got sucked through the closet (yes). A few minutes later our full group was reunited in another tiny room where now we had an antagonist. I mean, I assume he was. He had a knife. He had bloody tattoos on his back. He dropped F-bombs. I was urged to read from the journal (his journal as it turns out) in order to keep from going full Dahmer on us.

Funny side note – I got new glasses a month or two back. I need them to read, or any time I look at a screen and I want to know what I’m looking at. I do not wear them consistently, and given the physical options for the evening, I didn’t bring them with me. So when I was urged to read from the journal to keep us from being murdered, well, it was rather difficult. Thankfully, I had help.

What followed was a lot of running, being chased, hiding in small rooms, behind shaky doors. Soon we ended up in a long hospital-esque room full of beds. Still creepy. Still dark. Then, it was my turned to be pulled away. I was selected, along with Lindy, to guide a creepy undead girl with a doorknob to let us into a smaller room to get a key piece of the puzzle. Unfortunately, we did not succeed in our endeavor, and we were then taken downstairs to the actual church part of the church. Several pews were upturned, and we were lead up to the altar, which was dark and gothic, but, except for the guillotine, was pretty standard. There was a bishop who was drinking and admonishing us, all was giving me flashbacks to my time as an altar boy.

And that’s how I ended up on all fours. Lindy had mounted me, sidesaddle, because we didn’t know each other that well (at that point, I know we had shared our names, but little more). We were asked to recount our greatest sins. Not that I don’t have any, but I really weren’t sure what counts as my biggest, especially that was relevant to this audience. Based on our answers, I ended up in a locked confessional, whereas Lindy was put in the guillotine. I guess I had the right sin. Our group soon rejoined us, and there was some dramatic confrontations, bodies floating in the air, more running, hiding in closets, avoiding blind coroners (the old guy with an axe from earlier), hiding on gurneys, more separation, and me reaching into a furnace pulling out an artifact from a decomposed child (typical stuff, really).

It was a fun night. Some of the reasons it was a blast (and worth the fifty bucks for the whole experience) was because we were isolated in the experience with our group, we were active participants, and it was creepy as fuck. I’m sure the legal teams have neutered the shit out of anything Universal or the like can do, and since their business model means getting the most people through as possible, it doesn’t make that much of a difference. But it’s nice to know that there are alternatives out there for people that want a more genuine experience, whether or not getting scared is your thing.

Check out Enter Delusion if you want more info.

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