On January 1st I was busy eating healthy food and celebrating #NewYearNewMe when I received an odd message from someone called Bl4ckM4ss. I had been specifically selected to experience a new reality? Respond with my interest? What does that mean?!?!?
So I responded.
I received a date, time and secret location with instructions to arrive alone wearing clothes I didn’t care about. Honestly I was a bit uncomfortable with the whole thing. Was this another immersive/ARG/extreme haunt…or was it some actual crazy cult group or psycho killer’s elaborate plan to torture and kill me? No-one seemed to have heard anything about this Bl4ckm4ss aside from their social media presence. So I did what any sane person would do and showed up alone.
I still don’t know who’s behind Bl4ckm4ss, but I survived to tell you about it. However, they specifically asked that I not give away too many details since it is an ongoing experience.
Bl4ckm4ss is a “new augmented reality” but the waiver and initial email reminded me of an extreme haunt. It is not as physical as an extreme haunt, which is good because I don’t really enjoy extreme haunts. I have a few lingering injuries that prevent me from attending anything too physical. I was easily able to do this event without injuring myself further. However it is quite intense at times.
Fear is such a personal experience. Everyone’s past is different and that shapes their fears. I personally found one section of Bl4ckm4ss especially terrifying because it triggered flashbacks to a traumatic experience I had a decade ago. I was actually quite impressed with myself for not calling out the safe word. I was also pleased with the choices I made. I left the event feeling overwhelmed with emotion. I was also a bit chilly. (I recommend dressing in layers if you get cold easily.)
I appreciate the invitation to step out of my comfort zone. It was a great way to begin the new year, a short journey in self discovery. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do next.
If you would like to experience Bl4ckm4ss for yourself read the information below:
Who is BL4KM4SS? We are augmented reality. We give guests a theatrical immersive experience.
Creators- We are BL4KM4SS. You ask, we provide.
Current Show- “a Prelude”- accepting applications for interested parties.
DATES: February/March – By invitation only.
March 15-17, 29-31, April 1-5 and April 5-7- By application only
Future dates: TBA
Contact Info- firstname.lastname@example.org for an application to be considered for future shows.
Cost?- “a Prelude” will be $50 per person, Approx 1 hour solo show.
I love going to haunts and Halloween themed events all year, but I go a little crazy during haunt season (late September through early November). Here is a list of the events and haunts I attended in 2016 in no particular order.
Universal Studios HHN
Knott’s Scary Farm (Skeleton Key)
Motel 6 Feet Under
Los Angeles Haunted Hayride
All Saints Lunatic Asylum
The Haunt with no name
Terror Behind These Walls
Field of Screams
Pennhurst Haunted Asylum
Barrett’s Haunted Mansion
Chambers of Terror
Hysteria Conner’s Farm
Gallows Hill Theatre (performance)
Below is a list of Halloween events and haunts in the Los Angeles and surrounding areas in no particular order with links to their sites.
Delusion (initial run sold out)
Way of the Shadow Haunted House (2016 dates: 29, 30, 31)
CookHaunt (New Location: Anaheim at the Pumpkin patch – catty corner from Cinema City)
FAMILY EVENTS (not scary)
Boney Island (magical yard display)
Crown City Theatre Company Nosferatu (theatre)
Maverick Theatre Night of the Living Dead (theatre)
OUTSIDE OF LOS ANGELES
Please introduce yourself.
Hello! My name is Madison Rhoades. My husband, Luke, and I own Cross Roads Escape Games (Get it? Rhoades… Roads…? Well, we thought it was cool). I am the designer and scenic painter. He builds and makes my crazy ideas come to life.
I love puns! I agree that it’s cool.
Why did you decide to get involved in the escape room industry?
My husband and I love theatre. We did it in high school and college. I got my degree in set design & scenic painting at USC. His was in Scenic Carpentry at Vanguard University. We loved it, but honestly, we hated working with actors. Almost always we had some diva of the show tell us how to do our job. We decided that theatre would be perfect if it didn’t have any actors, but it also seemed kinda impossible. A few years later we played The Basement (back when it very first opened). We thought we were going to a haunted house, boy were we wrong! It was actually our first ever escape game, us 2 with 10 strangers. Needless to say, it was a hot mess, but SO MUCH FUN! We talked about it for months afterwards. Almost immediately we had our idea for The Hex Room and thats when we found out that we could actually make theatre without any actors. It was perfect.
What makes your rooms unique?
All of our sets are completely custom built. We have played quite a few escape games and found them to usually be inside prebuilt office buildings. We made sure to find a space with a huge warehouse so we could make our games exactly the way we wanted, built from the ground up.
Our Hex Room game is super unique. The story is a horror movie loving mad man wants to recreate a horror movie using you as his cast. What makes it super cool is that we have everyone fill out a questionnaire beforehand to find out which cliche horror movie victim they are: Virgin, Rebel, Prom Queen, Jock, Detective, or Nerd. We give you costume pieces so you truly become your character and then we put everyone in a room by themselves. This makes it so everyone has to participate and it also makes it replayable! You can come back and play The Hex Room as a different character and have a completely new experience. Even though you are apart from your group you do still have to work together as a team by relying information and sending objects from room to room to help your team get out, and hopefully they do the same for you.
The Fun House is the exact opposite of The Hex Room. This game is more silly and whimsical. The set is seriously beautiful. Its like stepping into a circus version of Alice in Wonderland. In this game you have to ask Zoltar for hints, who is a very sassy painting on the wall. It’s probably the best part of the game.
Hex is absolutely replayable. I’ve played it twice. It was fun and different both times.
What do you think is the most important part of an escape room design? (Story, puzzles, decor, etc.)
That’s hard to answer. I think all of them play a key point in an overall great game. For us, we definitely pay a lot of attention to detail when it comes to our set. We really believe an immersive atmosphere is very important. Everything from set, lighting, and sound can help tell a story on its own. Our puzzles are also custom built and completely from our own heads, so its something new that players have not seen before. I think what is very important that your puzzles should work with your theme and story. I personally hate it when I play a game that is suppose to take place in a dungeon but I am solving a puzzle that has to do with the periodic table on the wall… or a sudoku puzzle…? There needs to be a reason why you are solving these puzzles and why they are there in the space. I really think that gets overlooked a lot. Cohesiveness, I guess, is what I think is the most important.
Please share with us a fun story that has happened with your company.
I have SO many great stories of people getting scared in The Hex Room, but I don’t want to give away any of the fun surprises. Lets just say some people have screamed, “I think I just peed myself!”
What advice do you have for players?
“The key to escape is to communicate.” This is a sign we have on our wall that we stress to our players before their game and its remarkable how many people come out saying, “wow, you were right, communication is everything in this game!” Use your teammates strengths and talk things out. It’s surprising how people will clearly see the answer after just saying what they are working on out loud.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I am always looking for something new and different and without giving too much away Cross Roads does have some really great innovative ideas for the future with our 3rd game hopefully opening up this October! Our games are also constantly changing. We grow bored of puzzles or maybe have a new idea. I would say both of our games go through major changes at least once a month. We also have some big plans for The Hex Room for the Halloween season to make it really really scary 😉
Sounds like I’ll have to come back in October to play Hex a third time. I love scary!!!
I first heard about The Tension Experience in late February from friends that described it as an interactive haunt. The thing that drew me in and got me obsessed with checking their website and social media was the puzzles hidden throughout. I didn’t label The Tension Experience in the title of this blog as I normally would because honestly I don’t know how to describe it. It’s not a haunt or a puzzle game, it’s an…experience. So far I’m not clear of the purpose of it all, nor am I concerned, I’m just enjoying the ride.
The Tension Experience website allows participants to complete a fairly lengthy, personal questionnaire. After that everyone’s experience is unique. So far my journey has allowed me to have a few email and phone interactions with the OOA Institute that resulted in a live meeting in downtown Los Angeles.
I will do my best to describe my experience exactly as I remember it.
My meeting took place on April 30th at 8:05pm. I was given very specific instructions to arrive at a designated location alone and wait for my cell phone to ring. I waited on the corner near the bus stop watching people arrive and depart for several minutes when I heard that glorious Dr. Who theme song (my ringtone) begin.
I answered and the voice on the other end instructed me to raise my right hand. I stood on the corner with my hand raised high above my head as a young, nicely dressed woman approached. She embraced me in the kind of hug your grandmother gives when she hasn’t seen you since last Christmas and started telling me how excited she was for me. She gripped my arm tightly and we walked arm in arm like schoolgirls down the dark Los Angeles sidewalk. After a short walk she paused, had me sign a waiver and then asked if I trusted her. I assured her I did and she handed me a hood to place over my head. She then gently guided me through a doorway, down a hall and into an elevator. While in the elevator that felt as though it was traveling to a basement she continued to compliment me until I asked her name. This seemed to fluster her a bit and she explained to me very thoroughly that her name, Talia, was not important and she was the lowest of the low. Then she left me alone outside of the elevator still blinded by the hood to contemplate why I deserved Enlightment and wait for someone higher up to fetch me.
While I stood alone in the darkness with my thoughts someone approached and whispered the question, “What makes you so special?” Then after some pause stated, “I don’t think you are special.” Then they vanished.
After what seemed like an eternity, someone approached me and grabbed my shoulders to push me quickly down more hallways to a room where I was placed in front of a mirror still wearing the hood. I was asked why I had come. Then over the next several minutes I was allowed to remove the hood but only gaze directly at my reflection in the mirror while handing off my cell phone and answering questions being rapidly fired my way. “What’s your name?” “What have you done to improve yourself today?” “What have you done to improve humanity today?” “Are you a good person?” “Who is your best friend?” “Who knows you better…your best friend or your cell phone?” “Are you a good person?” “What’s the worst things you’ve every done to another person?” “What’s your biggest regret?” “Are you a good person?” Then I was told by a male voice that it only takes 2 minutes to completely download the information from a cell phone and they had done that. I was instructed to replace the hood on my head and shoved back down the hallway that smelled of burning candles to have my phone placed in my hand as a woman’s voice told me that they were not who they seemed and gave me instructions to look my attendant in the eyes and say something specific once my hood was removed. I was then passed off to Talia and escorted in the elevator and back to the entrance. We had a quick exchange and then I was heading back with instructions not to interact with anyone between there and my car. The entire experience took about 40 minutes.
I was not allowed to mention anything of my experience until after all applicants had completed their experiences that evening. Lucky for me I only had to wait about 15 minutes.
It was all quite exciting and fun. Well, that first moment when my phone was removed from my hand was a bit stressful. It’s not everyday unlock my phone and give it to a total stranger.
I was surprised to find the above photo of myself hooded in front of the mirror in my photo gallery.
I have since been checking The Tension Experience forums and sharing stories with other participants about their experiences with the OOA. You can visit the forum and even participate once you create an account on the site. Participants also discuss theories about the experience as well as plan meet ups and discuss puzzles on the site. It’s quite a community.
If this blog post has peaked your interest be sure to check out the site. Anyone can be part of the online action, however live events appear to only be happening in the Los Angeles area. Not only is it a unique and thrilling experience, so far it’s been free.
You will only get out of The Tension Experience what you put into it. So join the community and get active.
Update 1: I received this tweet tonight which has me excited for what’s to come.
Update 2: The OOA is always watching!!! Within minutes of posting this blog and sharing it on Twitter (around 2 am) I received a surprising call on my cell phone from a blocked number. The mysterious voice on the other end called me by name and then proceeded to tell me something to the effect of my account of the event had been noticed and I had done some good in light.
Below is a list of the Escape Rooms I’ve played roughly in order of MY favorite to least favorite. Note: I prefer strong storytelling and immersion, especially in horror, paranormal & magic themed escape rooms, so my preferences may be different than yours. Feel free to write to me Twitter @christinebarger or Instagram @TheHauntGirl GROUPED BY REGIONS: LOS ANGELES AREA, “THE VALLEY”, ORANGE COUNTY, INLAND EMPIRE, HIGH DESERT, VENTURA COUNTY, PALM SPRINGS, BIG BEAR, SAN DIEGO, SAN FRANCISCO
LOS ANGELES AREA ESCAPE ROOMS
Quest Room: Red Giant
Quest Room: Bloody Elbow
60out: The Orphange
Maze Rooms: They’re Coming
60out: Hyde Circus
Planet Escape Rooms – Wise Guys
Planet Escape Rooms – Game of Swords
60out Escape Rooms: Wizards Workshop
Maze Rooms: World of Illusions
60out: Alice in Wonderland
60out: Time Machine
Maze Rooms: One Way Ticket
60out: Wizard’s Workshop
Quest Room: Da Vinci’s Challenge
Maze Rooms: The Dragon’s Lair
60out: Zen Room
Planet Escape Rooms – Cntrl-Alt-Reality
Fox In The Box – Tesla
Maze Rooms: Jack the Ripper
60out: Jumanji Welcome to the Jungle
60out: Grandma’s Masterplan
Exit Game An Hour To Kill
60out Escape Rooms: Cartel DEA Undercover
60out Escape Room: P.U.T.I.N. (now Red Alert)
Get the F Out: The Virus (we played the old location)
60out Escape Rooms: Ghost Ship
Countdown Live: Tiki Palace (now 60out)
60out: DaVinci’s Secret
Maze Rooms: Castle
Mobile Escape Room LA: MacGuffins Cocktail Room
Maze Quests: Clinic
Countdown Live: Pandorus (now 60out Galaxy Quest)
Roomescape LA: Bunker (now Fox in a Box)
60out Escape Rooms: Quest in a Box (temporary popup- availability varies)
Escape Room Long Beach: Bad Blood
Horror Escapes LA: Edmond’s Attic
Horror Escapes LA: Captive Chamber
Horror Escapes LA: Dr. Office
Back in Time – Salem Witch Hunt
Escape Hotel: Day Care
Maze Rooms: Motel
Roomescape LA: Zombie Lab (now Fox in a Box)
Maze Rooms: FBI
60Out Escape Rooms: Hangover Game(now Mafia)
Escape Hotel: Witchcraft
Hatch Escapes – Lab Rat
Escape Room LA: The Pyramid
Escape Hotel: Jack Reacher (renamed Espionage)
Escape Haus LA: Masquerade Ball Room
“THE VALLEY” LOS ANGELES ESCAPE ROOMS:
Level Games: The Menagerie
Maze Rooms: Wizard’s Tower
Maze Rooms: Lord of the Swords
Escape the Room: Jurassic Escape
Theme Quest Escape Room: Houdini (now Architect)
Theme Quest Escape Room: Bonnie and Clyde (now Architect)
Nodus 805 Escape Room
Amazing Escape Room: Mystery of the Red Dragon
Amazing Escape Room: The Starlight Lounge
Amazing Escape Room: Escape the X Corporation
Unlocked Escape Room: The Professor’s Basement
Arcane Escape Rooms: The Agency
The Room Live Escape Room: The Cabin
Hidden Passage: Pharoah’s Curse
Escape the Room: Clock Tower
Enchanted Escape Room
ORANGE COUNTY ESCAPE ROOMS:
Scenario Escape Rooms: Mad Rapper
Hidden Donkey – Irvine School of Wizardry
Cinema Escape Room – The Strange Thing
Puzzle Workshop: CSI Hollywood
Escapade Games – The Last Experiment
TrapZone Escape Rooms: The Asylum
Detectives Society Escape Rooms: Da Vinci’s Lost Workshop
EscapeX Rooms: Mafia Heist
Escape ERA – Ben Franklin
PuzzleMazement Escape Room: Paranormal
Immersion: The Cursed
Square Room: Harry Potter (now Sorcerer’s Study)
*DeadRingers by Escape Bus (seasonal 15 minute Escape game)
*Crossroads: The Asylum (ScareLA mini-game availability varies)
INLAND EMPIRE ESCAPE ROOMS:
Wizards & Wires: The Ghost Chamber
Gaslamp: The Sword in the Study
MindTrap – Wizard of OZ
Mind Trap Escape Room: Gold Rush
The 13th Room: Chapter 2 The Silence
Xscape Pods: Galaxy Adventure
Quest Tavern: Last Supper
Hall of Shadows: Shadow Menagerie
Clever Fox – Book of the Dragons
Mind Trap Escape Room: Conspiracy
Trapped! Escape Room: Sector 13
Xscape Pods – Pharaoh
Clever Fox: Forbidden Temple
Quest Tavern – Witches Cauldron
Xscape Pods – Government Secrets
Containment – Cabin
Chronos – ChronosTopia
Get a Clue Room Escape: The Toy Shop
Chronos – Jurassic Island
One Way Out: Bank Heist (now Exodus)
Unity Escape Rooms: The Cabin
Unity Escape Rooms: The Temple
HIGH DESERT ESCAPE ROOMS:
Escape the Asylum
CENTRAL VALLEY ESCAPE ROOMS:
Xcape Room Fresno: Murder Scene (original version)
Breakout Fresno: Sabotage – Code Red (now Method of Escape)
VENTURA COUNTY ESCAPE ROOMS:
House of Clues: Pirate Ghost Ship (original location)
The Ultimate Escape Rooms: We Are All Mad Here
PALM SPRINGS ESCAPE ROOMS:
Escape Room Palm Springs: Saw Room
Escape Room Palm Springs: Titanic
Escape Games at the River: Secret of the Dragon’s Spire
Escape Games at the River: Baker Street Mystery
BIG BEAR ESCAPE ROOMS:
Mountain Room Escapes Big Bear: Alpine Ski Lodge
SAN DIEGO ESCAPE ROOMS:
Quicksand Escape Games: China Town
Quicksand Escape Games: The Diner
Escape Game SD: Japanese Thriller Room
Boss Play – Chocolate Factory
The Entrapment: The Disappearance at Fogmore Manor
3rd Day Escape: Harvest Motel
Escapology San Diego: TH3 C0D3
Top Tier – Atlantis Dive to the Forgotten City
Mighty Awesome: The Office of Professor R.K. Alogee
Nightwalker Caverns Escape Room: Clownotorium
3rd Day Escape: Hourglass (original version)
NORTHERN CALIFORNIA AREA ESCAPE ROOMS:
Enchambered – Whispering Halls
Enchambered – Containment Breach
Palace Games: Houdini
These are rooms that I have played in California but are not currently available:
The Purge Truck
Countdown: Mrs. Jezebel’s Tea Party (original version)
School of Hard Locks: Halloween Room
CatCon Animal Planet Escape Box
Trapped! The ChamberTrap House (Think Tank)
Countdown: Special Event Beta Test
Kaien (the game we beta tested, but isn’t open yet)
School of Hard Locks: Principal’s Office
SCRAP Real Escape Game Escape from the Cursed Forest Event
SCRAP Real Escape Game Escape the Magic Show
Salvation Room: The Inferno
SCRAP Real Escape Game: Escape from the Time Travel Lab
The 13th Room (ScareLA mini-game)
Room of no return: Jail
Escape the Night (VidCon)
Maze Quests: Queen Anne’s Revenge
Evil Genius Escape Rooms
Captured LA: The Starlet Killer
Escape Room Treasure Hunt: The Alchemist’s Lab
Famous Escape Rooms: The Great Redemption
S.H.A.D.I.E. Grove Escape Room
Hollywood Escape House: The Royal Indian Dungeon
PuzzleMazement Escape Room: Professor S!
Escape the Place: The Chamber
PuzzleMazement Escape Room: Saving Christmas!
The Cromwell Estate
The 13th Room: Alchemy & Wizardry
The Game Maker Escape Room (temporary room at Coffin Creek)
Real Escape Room: Bomb
Broken Chains Escape Games: Caught In A Rumple
One Way Out: Apocalypse (now Exodus)
Escape This! Mosi’s Curse
Rooms of No Return: Dead Silence
The Great Escape: Mafia Bomb Squad
Real Escape: Bootlegger Warehouse
Real Escape: Wizards Lair
Escape Room Palm Springs: Mystery Room
Divergent Realities: The Informant
Great Room Escape San Diego: The Lab
School of Hard Locks: Art Class
Maze Rooms: VR Cosmos Game
Escape Room Police
Escape SF: Escape from Antique Room
Kaein LLC: The Alien
Escape the Night – PopUp at UTA
LA Dragons – Knights of the Round Table
Escape From Godot