The Alone Experience, a Halloween maze in it’s second year, breaks the haunted house mold with an inventive, personal, psychological horror theme. Combined with the optional treasure hunt and the complementary drink at the end of the run, the Alone Experience provides excellent enjoyment for the price. There are still a few kinks to work out, but for anyone looking for something new, the Experience is well worth checking out.
I found out about The Alone Experience through an article on LAist, titled The Most Beautifully Constructed Haunted House in Los Angeles. What intrigued me was not only the description of the attraction, but also the optional treasure hunt that could be had before you actually go to The Alone Experience itself. This is something I had not seen before in more conventional haunts and I was eager to see what happened.
The first stop on the hunt (or what I like to call the “Seek and Hunt” since there is no actual treasure) was a small store at the junction of Sunset Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard. It’s an artsy vintage shop with no indication that it is connected in any way with Alone. When I asked about the mysterious “Enola Foundation“, however, I was given a pamphlet along with a number to call.
Calling the number gave me a recorded message that then set me to a nearby library. Unfortunately, the library had already closed for the evening. I literally walked around the premises for somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes before giving up and contacting someone at Alone to ask for help. Fortunately I was put on the right path in a few minutes, but this did put a slight damper on my adventure. Right up until the hint came, I was convinced that the library didn’t need to be open for me to get the next clue. It would have required me to take off from work early to get there before the library closed and that didn’t seem fair.
Eventually I was led to a tavern which seemed empty for a Halloween night. The woman behind the bar was dressed as a nun and asked me what she could get for me. If you ever find your way to this tavern, I ordered a Kona Longboard, which wasn’t too bad. I also gave her a secret password. She was good; I didn’t see any hint of recognition in her face as she got me the drink. I was seriously wondering if I had come to the wrong place. When I pulled out my wallet to pay for the drink, I could feel her lean in close. I looked up and saw her staring at me right in the eyes with a devilish grin while tapping the counter to the rhythm of “Feed My Frankenstein“, which was blaring over the radio. After receiving my money, she walked away as if nothing had happened. Underneath the napkin was a token with a triangle etched in it-the symbol of The Alone Experience. My “Seek and Hunt” adventure was over.
I admit I was a little disappointed that it was over. I actually looked around the bar to see if there was another clue somewhere, but the token was the final prize for my adventure. I finished my drink, left a tip and headed to main event.
The Alone Experience is situated in the Fashion District of the city. That sounds more upscale than it actually is. As I drove by, there were tents all along the sidewalk where homeless people slept. At least the people not forced to stand under doorways or sleep out in the open. There was even a half-crazy man in a dingy suit, wandering up and down the sidewalk as I drove by the attraction. This definitely put me on edge for my general safety in the area.
All is not as it seems, however. As an oblique hint, let’s just say the mask of reality is pulled off when your own mask is put on. Leave it at that. Oh, and your mask gets painted as well. It’s fun.
Guests arriving to The Alone Experience wait in a small area in an alleyway. People in very clean white medical coats take their name and make them sign a waiver stating that they can be touched, will get wet and may get dirty. Then, guests are called up in groups of five and led to a loading dock. A dilapidated elevator slowly lowers and the Experience is on. And ho boy, is it on…
It would be unfair to relate what actually happened in the Experience, but it is worth noting how it was put together. The creators of The Alone Experience were very clever and the attraction did a great deal with very little. Much of the Experience involved darkened hallways, crawlspaces and being spontaneously covered in hoods and led around. On the surface, this doesn’t seem like much, but the attraction specialized in a more cerebral psychological scare than jump-outs or fancy effects. Also, the multiple websites created for the attraction, phone numbers with professional voicemail greetings, pamphlets and other accessories give the sense that the Experience is larger and more sophisticated than it actually is. It’s smoke and mirrors on a larger scale.
The concept behind the Experience is ultimately about trying to unnerve and disorient, forcing the guests to almost scare themselves via blinding lights, constant droning through hidden speakers and an endless amount of touching, pushing, pulling and directing from seen and unseen forces. While not truly terrifying, The Alone Experience is aptly named. It’s an experience that challenges guests by, in a way, forcing them to haunt themselves.
The unicorn scene was probably the most interesting decision of the Experience. With all other sections of the Experience being focused on disturbing guests, the unicorn scene was the exact opposite. I had read about this moment, but wasn’t quite sure what I would find. I would say, however, that the moment was something of a vacation from the rest of the attraction. Not everyone will realize that this isn’t supposed to be a scary moment, but those that do will find some bright silly fun before being sent off to finish the rest of the story. I can’t speak for the creators of The Alone Experience, but I think that this scene was a chance to take a quick break before continuing on. In any event, I couldn’t help having a fun time with the unicorn, right up until someone ripped open the door to the dance room and yanked me on my way.
At the end of the run, guests end up in a lounge where a bartender hands over a complementary drink. When I arrived there, I found a couple from my group and immediately began comparing notes. The boyfriend was nearly ejected for poking and punching anyone and everything around him. Someone actually told him if he didn’t calm down he would be ejected from the site. His girlfriend was wildly different and was terrified of absolutely everything. It seems that the Experience was customized on a per-guest basis. The girlfriend was treated in ways that didn’t come close to what I went through. She had ribbons tied on her and was even held by the throat and interrogated. This never happened to me. It seems you get out of it what you put into it (so to speak). Following this discussion, I headed out into the night to continue my Halloween adventures.
The Alone Experience is wide shift from the standard Halloween fare. How people feel about it will depend on what people are like prior to entering. I went through a very cerebral journey with very few conventional scares. Others were terrified left and right. Online, some reported boredom. Yet, despite this, it is one of the most inventive Halloween attractions I’ve been to in a while. Combined with the treasure hunt from earlier, and I have to say The Alone Experience was a bargain for what I got.
Halloween has come and gone, but give if you’re looking for something different, be sure to give it a try next October. And remember… Alone Loves You. Breathe.