Escape This Post-Apocalyptic Pasadena Bunker Before Cannibals Get You
Are you ready for Halloween, but don't know where to go until all the haunts start opening later this month? How about The Bunker Experience in Pasadena, where you have to escape a tunnel full of bad guys who want to eat you? You open a door on an ordinary street in Pasadena and enter a stairwell. At the bottom of the stairs, a woman pushes open the door. She's in military gear and looks like she's seen some shit. She doesn't have time for your questions, just hurry and get inside. She admits you and your friends into a bunker, which her group has been able to secure, for now, from The Vandals. See, inside The Bunker Experience, it's the year 2078. Global warming has wreaked havoc on the Earth and the remaining 10 percent of the population now lives in various subterranean bunkers. While the bunkers are in communication with one another, only one—the United Human Compound—is truly safe from malevolent intruders.
In any post-apocalyptic world, there's always that one group that resorts to mayhem and cannibalism perhaps a little too quickly, and in this world, that's the Vandals. They and their leader, known as Lightcrawler, would love to get their hands on a map to UHC and really drive this whole apocalypse thing home by murdering the rest of the survivors. Your own bunker has been attacked by the Vandals, forcing you to flee to seek shelter elsewhere. Unfortunately, you have allowed the Vandals to follow you straight to this new bunker (which is super rude of you). Your only hope is to find a map to the UHC that has been hidden here and escape before the Vandals manage to break through the bunker's barriers and kill you. And then probably eat you. You're as good as dead out there if you don't find the map, and your fellow survivors estimate you have about 45 minutes before it's curtains.
For those 45 minutes, the Bunker Experience is a lot like a traditional escape room, full of clue-finding, teamwork and riddle-solving. There is one actor in the room, who plays an injured, worn-down survivor. If you need hints, he or she will help you. Unlike other escape rooms, however, creator Bea Egeto tells LAist her experience aims to be a fully immersive narrative told in several parts.
Egeto has a background in the entertainment industry producing web series. She had first imagined The Bunker Experience as an interactive, choose-your-own-adventure-style web series, where watchers would follow the adventure of a female hero with the option to set different paths for her as she navigated a ravaged world. However, once Egeto began playing escape rooms such as The Basement in Sylmar, it occurred to her that perhaps an actual hands-on experience might be a better way to proceed. The Basement, like Bunker Experience, is one of the few escape rooms that has an original, continuing story. The Basement's narrative revolves around a serial killer that traps his guests in his basement, but who will allow them to survive if they can solve all of his riddles and escape.
"I was hungry for more from escape rooms," Egeto said. "I was disappointed that when you get in, you solve the puzzles, and then it's the same guy who lets you out again. I thought, this could be so much more."
What Egeto says is true: most escape rooms have a pleasant, brightly lit lobby where a friendly game master will explain the rules and the game's story before locking you inside the room. With her experience, you're in the story from the moment you open the door and the panicked survivor waives you inside.
The game also ends differently from other rooms. Actually escaping is not as simple as unlocking a door and leaving: players will be required to navigate a maze, similar to those found in haunted house attractions at Halloween. For the month of October, Egeto says she plans to up the adrenaline in this portion by hiring extra scare actors to torment players. (Don't worry, they won't grab you and fans of escape rooms are not likely to find the experience too scary to enjoy.)
The space itself is an old bank vault, but this would not be its first incarnation as something meant to frighten. Before Egeto took it over and converted it into an escape room experience, it existed as a haunted house called Old Town Haunt. Old Town Haunt's last year was Halloween of 2013.
Should you complete Egeto's first room, you'll have the map you need to get to UHC. But her story does not end there. Egeto says she has several more chapters planned, each corresponding to a different location on the map, with at least one of the chapters taking place outdoors. She will also post the map and various pieces of the story online so that players can follow along.
"I wanted to not have just one specific avenue of the story, but to do multiple media [formats]," Egeto said. "There's the escape part, but it's also online and there are images and videos. To me, that is where [the industry] is headed."
This could be true. The Tension Experience, an immersive 24-room haunt that takes up an entire city block in Boyle Heights, began as an alternative reality game, built mostly online. Months of solving puzzles on websites, finding and calling phone numbers, watching creepy Periscope broadcasts and the occasional real-life encounter with Tension actors would ultimately culminate in a 2.5-hour experience that combines immersive theater, Halloween haunts and escape rooms. The demand for this type of entertainment seems to have only increased since 2013, when there were about six escape rooms around L.A. Now, there are over 30.
The Bunker Experience is located at 20 N. Raymond in Pasadena. Tickets are $30/person.