For the third year in a row, the purveyors of filth over at the Armory are hosting a haunted house in their cavernous headquarters. Unlike the first year, this latest dive into darkness follows less of a blood-stained theatrical route and more of a tie-you-up-and-leave-you-in-a-room-with-an-insane-person route, kind of like last year. Instead of being led through some sort of spooky series of vignettes, Escape: Hell in the Armory, as the very interactive experience is called (more on that later), drags you into a dark world and puts the onus on you to get your ass out.
“This year, we’ve produced an entirely new kind of horror, where participants will be forced to escape from the darkest recesses of the century-old San Francisco Armory,” Audrey Joseph, Director of Events at SF Armory, explains in a press release. "Escape: Hell in the Armory is beyond anything we’ve done before — a terrifying game of cat and mouse, played out in a truly haunted building.”
The experience, I will say, is very fun, and you should probably go in blind if you want to be legitimately spooked. However, for those wanting just the teeniest of hints as to what they're getting themselves into, the sparse official website is of little help. With that in mind, here are six suggestions you should probably consider before signing away your life — and don't worry, we've kept the spoilers to a minimum.
1. Find a date. Tickets are sold in blocks of two, and you really need a +1 for the show to work. Also, and trust me on this, you'll want someone's hand to hold onto — making it someone you're comfortable squeezing tightly while you yelp in panic is an added bonus. Oh, and while the show is not super-erotic, do not bring your mom. Or your really conservative cousin.
2. Don't be late. Seriously, don't be late. The tickets are timed out for every thirty minutes, and you should plan on being there five or 10 minutes before your scheduled start time. This will both give you plenty of time to check your purse and jacket (which, as the woman working coat check correctly informed us, you really should do), as well as to get sufficiently nervous as you stew in a low-lit waiting room.
3. Read the waiver. So at some point, before you're told to face the wall and a hood is placed over your head, you'll be ask to sign a waiver. You should read it, as your signature means you won't sue Blackout (the event producer) or Kink.com — even in the case of death. And while things don't get that wild, you should always know what you're consenting to.
4. Take a deep breath, and pray you've worked out any panic issues. The premise of the "unique and terrifying escape-the-room game with haunted inhabitants," as its promoters bill it, is that you have to figure a way out. For that to be possible, well, they first have to trap you inside. Think hoods, ropes, ties, locks, and various assorted means of preventing your (hopefully eventual) escape. No one there is actually going to hurt you of course, and there's a safe word should you really start to freak, but you will be locked in a really dark place as weird things happen around you — maybe keep that Xanax/flask nearby for the post show jitters.
5. Be OK with getting wet. Not to give anything away here, but you may get a little wet. Leave the silk at home.
6. Take it all in. Organizers aren't kidding when they say you have twenty minutes to escape, and that time can go by rather quickly — especially when you're running from a madman. There's a lot of great detail and performances which could be overlooked in the mad dash that is Escape, and while you don't need to catch every little thing to get your money's worth, there is enough packed in to the experience to make you both laugh and gag.
Nightly "performances" run through Halloween night, multiple times per night, and tickets are $45 each. Plan on getting a drink afterwards.