Recently, I had my first experience going through an extreme haunt when I attended The 17th Door. I drove from Los Angeles to Fullerton, California, where I arrived at a strip-mall. Behind the cheerful green Dollar Store sign and store, resided a building of horror. As I pulled around back, my anxiety level immediately ticked up a notch as I started to prepare myself for the experience.
The list outside the haunt was fear inducing as it stated, “You may be exposed to or come into contact with: insects, touching, projectiles, electric shock, lasers, foul language, latex, physical restraints, dizziness, etc.”
For the most part, this sounded like any party I attended while in college. The difference being that there was a level of fear that had already set in before I even stepped foot inside. Unlike the college party, the fear and uneasiness I have doesn’t have anything to do with picking out an outfit. It has everything to do with the residents of Perpetuum Penitentiary.
As I waited to go in, I could feel an electricity in the crowd. We were standing in what looked like a prison yard outfitted with high gates and bright spot lights. Security guards and ghouls patrolled the area to make sure we were all listening to the rules, which helped in setting the mood right off the bat. My group that was waiting all felt the exact same thing at the exact same time: fear; and fear never looks the same on each person. Some people laugh, some people get very quiet, some act tough, but deep down it’s a mask and fear is right on the underside. I tend to lean towards comedy. I joke, which relieves the tension of those I’m with and helps distract me from those feelings of dread. So, did I survive The 17th Door? Yes, and the following is my experience:
The 17th Door follows the story of Paula, who is trying to atone for her previous sins. After continuously pleading with a monstrous warden at Perpetuum Penitentiary for her release, a new Hell has begun for her and all who dare to step foot inside. Each inmate is now a part of unorthodox and sinister treatments which are less for rehabilitation and more for the sadistic enjoyment of the staff.
THE SET DESIGN
Perpetuum Penitentiary has set a high bar when it comes to the design of each room. From The Warden’s Office which includes everything from the accoutrements on the desk to the Prison Shower with its grime, faulty shower and hidden surprises. Each time I stepped foot into a different area it felt as if I was actually there, not simply in a room that was designed to look like a place. The 17th Door has meticulously curated and delightfully frightening rooms that I wish I could have paused to really enjoy and explore because of the attention to detail.
Performing night after night for any actor is like running a marathon. You have to pace yourself and not give everything away in the first couple of experiences. It’s physically demanding and takes stamina. Each of the actors, from Paula to the prison guards, performed to the highest level and really made the experience that much more layered. I loved that each of the actors we encountered played their part extremely well. Every actor was engaged and ready to pull us into this world of chaos and fear that had been created.
I hate to say it, but the group you’re with can also really make or break the experience. The one thing I hate most about haunts is that you are herded through in a group of 10 or so, with whoever is in the front getting scared and the person in the back out of luck. The 17th Door tackles this problem by making the group sizes small. I was in a group of seven and each actor made sure that the people in front had cleared before they allowed us to move on. This helped keep the flow without feeling like we were waiting around. I was by myself but was lucky enough to be popped into an amazing group that included a family of four. There was a father who himself said was anxious but was going to try and be brave. His wife who nervously laughed and said she was excited, as well as their two daughters. Also with our group was Scott Macias from HorrorBuzz and his equally sweet and funny mom. We all banded together and got each other through the experience.
Without giving too much away I will say this, the waiver is there for a reason as this is an experience that is not for everyone. I got a pretty banged up knee during one part of the experience and a few bruises as well. Know that this is going to be physically taxing and the waiver and list of triggers outside is not just for show. If you saw it on the list, assume you are going to have some interaction with it. I would also urge you to hold off on opting out of any of the rooms. In my group, I heard many times after someone opted out… “I wish I had stayed in! That looked like so much fun!” Sometimes the idea of fear can keep us from the fun we might experience if we just let go and take part. Ladies, don’t show up trying to be cute even if its date night; instead I would highly suggest long pants and a long sleeve t-shirt. You an be cute at dinner when you both chat about how scared you were.
All that said, The 17th Door was an experience I’m so glad I had the opportunity to partake in. I didn’t opt out of any of the experiences even though they were terrifying. Going forward, I will 100% join Paula in whatever the next chapter of her saga is. For more information on The 17th Door and to purchase tickets, visit https://the17thdoor.com.