The Haunted House Where A Naked Woman Will Vomit Fake Blood On Your Face
At around midnight the other night, I was walking around Koreatown covered in blood. But don't worry, it was all fake, and just par for the course for participants of Heretic House. Heretic House is one of Los Angeles' most extreme haunts. It's also not tied to Halloween, as the mysterious group—helmed by creator Adrian Marcato and manager and FX specialist Missy Munster—puts on a new horror haunt once a month or so. They even did one on Christmas Day last year. (And, yes, the name Adrian Marcato is a Rosemary's Baby reference.)
This month's show "Hex," is based on a dream Marcato said he once had. It hints at sleep paralysis, being rendered immobile in the midst of a nightmare. It involves a bed, soaked in blood, where a killer has laid claim to numerous victims.
To give you an idea of how Heretic House compares to other haunts, we also went to Universal's Halloween Horror Nights and Knott's Scary Farm this season. You wind through dark mazes and monsters pop out at you. This causes some people to shriek uncontrollably, but I'm usually pretty chill at these kind of haunts. I also went to CreepLA, where deranged human monsters—arguably the scariest kind—crept out of the fog, shoved you into boxes, and grasped at your hands and ankles. I grinned the whole way through, even when pulled into a room alone by a man in a mask who whispered in my ear, "I can't wait to scare the shit out of you tonight." I also tried 17th Door in Tustin, where someone rubbed a dead fish on my arm and a clown licked my face. Once again, I guess I kind of liked it. In ALONE, I was manhandled and made to crawl down dark tunnels, forced to dance with people in animal costumes, and held a sobbing stranger in my arms. It was unsettling, but relaxing. Heretic House, I was promised, would not be relaxing. However, it would also not be the infamous McKamey Manor in San Diego, where guests line up to be waterboarded, covered in cockroaches and made to vomit for a seven-hour torture tour.
Spoiler Alert: Because Heretic House does a new show every month, I'm going to go into some details as to what I experienced during Hex. If you don't want to know anything else about Hex, exit now! Also, the description of the haunt may be triggering for some, so those wishing to avoid posts about violent or sexual scenarios should be warned before proceeding.
I began my Heretic House journey with an email that told me not to fight back against my tormenters, to wear clothing I didn't mind being destroyed, that I should be cool with nudity, and to meet at an intersection in Koreatown where someone would get me.
I waited at the intersection in the dark a few minutes before my 11:30 p.m. booking time, feeling apprehensive. I was mostly afraid that something would go wrong, I would get hurt and I wouldn't be able to sue them because I'd signed a waiver. My contacts would get dislodged and I wouldn't be able to see anything. You know, boring, ol' real fears.
I was expecting a white van to pull up and for a group of people in masks to throw me in the back, but was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by Marcato himself. We walked a short distance to the venue, and he made sure I knew that this was an extreme haunt and that I was of sound mind. He also asked about any physical injuries I might have that his team should know about. He introduced me to Munster, who I found very pleasant and fun. Soon enough, however, it was time to get tormented.
Marcato made sure I knew the safe word, which—when spoken—would cease the haunt. And then, he opened a door and allowed me to walk into a foggy room.
The room was well-lit with a single bright light, and there was a man seated at a table with a waiver in front of him. Another man in a suit directed me to sit down and sign a waiver of my own. I decided not to read it, lest further freak myself out, but I got the gist of it: proceed at your own risk. My supposed haunt companion soon began panicking over the waiver and saying he didn't want to go inside. Let's just say, things didn't work out well for him.
Once he was out of the way, the man in the suit took my waiver and said he needed to ask me a few questions, and it was framed as though I was about to voluntarily commit to a sleep study. He asked if I usually slept alone or with someone else. I told him I typically sleep with a partner and two cats, and he smiled. He then began asking about the quality of my sleep and my dreams. Things got weird when he asked if I had ever had sexual dreams, and if those dreams were aggressive. Were those things a part of my fantasies?
Then he requested I take a sedative so I could go to sleep. The thing about these haunts is that you have to trust the actors and if you don't, you might as well bail. I had taken "a pill" in a previous haunt and it was clearly a piece of candy. This time around, this pill, which I took with water, was large, like an antibiotic, and tasteless. I took it without hesitation, hoping it wasn't anything more than a placebo.
The man led me into another room where my mobility was challenged by a bulky suit, and I was asked to complete a series of odd tasks. A mask made it hard to see and hear, and at one point I thought I was being instructed to find a "bed" when I was being told to locate a bat. The lights and actors combined made for a disorienting experience. One might pause here to wonder if they'd really been drugged.
I was then led to the bed I'd been hearing about. It was damp with blood. I was tucked in by the man in the suit, who also bound my hands together with duct tape, as though I was praying.
I wasn't alone for long, though. Soon, a mostly (possibly entirely?) nude man and mostly nude woman emerged. They were slow to approach at first, but soon became aggressive. They ripped the covers away. The man grabbed my head and my hair and wrenched me around. The girl jumped on top of me, and crushed my chest with her knees until it was hard to breathe. She pushed up my shirt and scratched at my stomach and hips with her nails. They both choked me, and the whole time they whispered threatening things very quickly. "Nobody cares about you, nobody cares about you, nobody cares about you."
At one point they accused me of liking what they were doing. And to be honest, it was kind of like an abrasive lap dance, so maybe. At one point, they ripped my hands free from the duct tape, perhaps unintentionally.
The girl suddenly dragged me to my feet and started warning me about an impending danger, but her giggling led me to believe she wasn't going to be much help. She was right about the danger, though. She disappeared, leaving me to the mercy of a demon. He threw me down on the mattress and thrashed me about repeatedly. He snorted in my ear. I don't remember him saying anything specifically, but maybe that was at one of the moments where he was pushing my face into the bloody mattress. Eventually, he picked me up. I knew I wasn't supposed to touch the actors, but it was kind of like a violent dance and I found myself holding onto his arm.
He forced me onto a metal gurney, then pushed up the railing around the sides of the slab. The man and woman returned, and they all pushed the gurney around together. The woman was back with her nails, and she shrieked and laughed and encouraged me to wake up. She jumped on the gurney and on top of me again. A gloved hand went over my eyes so I closed them. Before I could open them, I heard her wretch and something warm and wet went all over my face, up my nose and in my ears. She jumped back, and I used the moment to rub the substance out of my eyes, so I could see again.
"Don't you want to wake up?" she screamed. "Only good girls get to wake up!"
This would be the point where if you did want to "wake up," you'd say the safe word. I didn't, though. I sort of liked it. It was like a fun carnival ride that sort of hurt and was really sticky. And there was nudity. So, my torture continued until, eventually, it was unceremoniously over and I was dumped from the gurney into a hallway.
I emerged into safety again, covered in bright, red fake blood, slowing crusting over my face. I told Marcato and Munster that I did not feel like using the safe word at any point and they assured me they'd go harder next time. As far as Hex goes, it is apparently one of the group's tamer shows. Their next show is in November, and what agony it holds is unclear.
Before and after, you'll find your haunt masters to be very nice. Marcato even seemed concerned about my extremely short walk home and revealed that while other guests had their clothing ripped or destroyed, he spared me that fate because he knew I would be on foot.
A shower took care of the blood, though I will say that a day later, I have a very sore neck and a few claw marks remain.
You look totally normal after Heretic House, clearly. (Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah/LAist)
Curious about the actors, I tracked one down—Joe Filippone, the male tormenter in the room. I asked him what it was like working in the haunt, and he was enthusiastic.
"[Heretic House] is one of the best haunts in L.A. in terms of pure fright and in terms of working as a scare actor. Adrian treats us right, allows us creative freedom and never makes his actors do anything we are uncomfortable with," he said. "It's one of the few haunts I would work over and over."
Though I had heard previous rumors of sloppier shows and potential dangers, of shorn heads and shaved eyebrows, my experience was one that felt controlled and safe, even when it was painful or gross. I'm glad I wasn't pushed to use the safe word and could experience the whole thing.
As for why anyone signs up to be distressed, I'm not entirely sure, though Christopher Bader, professor of sociology at Chapman University, suggests it could be the ability to feel the rush of fear without feeling like control is lost.
Heretic House takes place once a month at a secret location and time that is given out shortly before the event. To get involved, click here.