Editor’s Note: This review of DELUSION: NOCTURNES & NIGHTMARES features spoilers. You’ve been warned.
Beware of the pipes, but follow them to know the author’s secrets.
Part haunted house, part escape room, part live theater, DELUSION: NOCTURNES & NIGHTMARES is an experience that’s rare, yet satisfying for those who enjoy wandering through the story rather than just watching it unfold from a seat.
Since 2011, Delusion has been a staple of the Halloween season in the greater Los Angeles area and has been a fan favorite amongst those who love to be frightened. Strangely, despite spending a few years living in Southern California, I’d never made it to Delusion despite it being right up my alley. The price tag may have been part of that issue, with the experience being anywhere from $95-$120 a person depending on the date you choose. This year though, for DELUSION: NOCTURNES & NIGHTMARES, I finally made it and it just so happens to be the year where a decade-plus story culminates.
Upon entering the Phillips Manor, a truly beautiful brick home with a bit of decay inside, I was greeted by another guest who handed off a doll named Manny. Immediately, this doll began talking with me and we conversed as I wandered the first floor. Through the living room, I told Manny who I was. In the dining room, he told me how he was not alone in the house. By the time we made it back to the grand foyer, he warned me about what I may find in the attic, a book that would bring to life a foul spirit. With that said, I handed Manny off to the next guest I saw enter the manor and made my way to the second floor.
Just beyond the staircase, I found a magician performing for other guests, a bar that featured marionettes hanging from the ceiling, and a charming woman, draped in white and lost in time from a century ago, who toasted my cocktail with her martini glass. I made my way to the last room of the second floor, a children’s bedroom where several wooden dolls were all sitting watching a black and white television playing Lambchop, the classic puppet show. You know! The one with the tune “This is the song that never ends!” I apologize if that’s now stuck in your head.
In this room, I also met Marion, a lifesize doll who can’t speak. After getting over my case of the creeps, I asked Marion if he could do shadow puppets, something he became very excited about and tried to show off. He also showed me his friends who were watching TV and made sure another guest knew he would soon be one of the marionettes hanging from the ceiling in the bar. This was all charming and fun, but after hearing from Manny, I needed to get into the attic so I waited with a few others until we were allowed to climb the steep staircase.
The attic was small and dark, but there was a book just like Manny had said. Reading from the book conjured a spirit who talked with us in real-time. We asked questions about the manor and listened to her warnings. This was a fantastic illusion that hyped me for what was to come as I had yet to hear the story of the author. This, I learned, was all just set up for the story I was about to be guided through.
When my name was called, I was asked to wait outside, just to the right of the front staircase. I met with several others who had been to Delusion nearly every year. They knew the stories. They talked about their favorite years. This was a much more beloved experience than I realized. Then a voice called for us telling us we were in danger. Throughout the next 45 minutes, I was locked inside a crawlspace. Don’t worry, I could stand and we were given light, Then we time-traveled to World War II. I was chased by a demented doctor, a fire demon, and vampire brides. All of these characters had been part of the stories “the author” had penned since 2011, where their stories flew from the page into the real world, kind of like a much more horrific version of that MacCullay Culkin movie PageMaster. Remember that? No?
Throughout DELUSION: NOCTURNES & NIGHTMARES, I was asked to participate, answer questions, duck down, run upstairs, and solve puzzles to find a way out of scenarios. Of course, with guides along the way, nothing was too challenging, although this might not be an experience for introverts who get anxious when becoming the center of attention. As for me, someone who loves to participate, this was top-tier-level storytelling. I was fully immersed thanks to the time I had spent in the manor as well as the beautiful sets, spectacular cast, and pacing of everything. In particular, I loved moving through the lights and sound design of this experience. It added so much drama and tension to a piece already filled with those exact things. My senses were heightened and I was willing to do anything needed to help my group escape the stories of the author.
As a first-timer, DELUSION: NOCTURNES & NIGHTMARES is a great “best of” experience that was completely easy to follow. I got a sampling of many stories and many characters through the years Delusion has been running. That said, I would have loved to have spent more time with certain characters in certain places, but I know that these stories aren’t going away forever. In fact, after our walkthrough, we were told that the plan for next year is to start over with the first story they ran in 2011, one that would give me more time with certain characters and spaces.
For long-time fans, not only is this year’s show a great way to reminisce about the stories of the past but I was told there were several Easter eggs throughout that were fun to find from previous years. After my walkthrough, I stuck around to chat with others, and to come back to some of the rooms of the house I wanted to spend more time in. This is the type of choose-your-adventure thing I love and could easily have closed down the place just to soak it all in.
If you are a fan of interactive and immersive theater, DELUSION: NOCTURNES & NIGHTMARES is truly a can’t miss horror experience. The experience really does depend on how much you are willing to participate and how much you are willing to play along with the characters both inside and outside of the manor. For the price, I would recommend having that conversation with those you’d like to go with as you’ll want to go with folks who are just as willing to put themselves out there, participate, and linger through the rooms of the manor in order to get your money’s worth. Bring your walking shoes and wear something comfortable. It’s not intense, but I wouldn’t want something long getting caught in a doorway or to run in some heels. (Maybe more like a fast walk.)
This year was my first year at Delusion, and as long as it returns in 2024, it certainly won’t be my last. You can find tickets and information for DELUSION: NOCTURNES & NIGHTMARES, which runs through November 12th on select nights, at enterdelusion.com.