Those looking for an alternative to the traditional ‘Haunted House’ decorated with cobwebs, skeletons, witches, and bats flying about on wires might with to experience the innovative and extreme haunted house-like experience of STAG: An Immersive Horror Experiment, which will be happening Friday & Saturday October 14-15; Oct. 21-22, and Friday through Sunday, Oct. 28-30th at Saginaw’s Counter Culture Art & Music collective, which is located at 620 Gratiot in Old Town Saginaw.
Presented in conjunction with Drunken Monkey Tattoo, according to event originator Blayne Adams, who conceived, scripted, and pulled together all the intricate details of this cutting-edge event, “STAG exists somewhere between an art installation and a haunted house. It’s an immersive and entirely interactive experience that is not for everybody.”
When asked how she developed the idea and what exactly distinguishes the STAG experience from a traditional haunted house, Blayne relates that her fascination began one Halloween back when she was 17-years old and visited a Haunted House in St. Charles. “I’m a scardy cat,” she confesses, “and last year I took my 13-year old sister with me and was the first one to go through and the entire experience gave me this incredible adrenalin rush. After that I became obsessed with haunted houses and started researching ones being staged all around America, reading interviews and watching videos of walk-throughs.”
“I started reading about these ‘Extreme Haunted Houses’ and this one in particular called ‘Blackout’, where they actually touch you and have you go through alone and you have to be 18-years and older and sign a waiver to experience it. I thought it would be incredibly cool to develop one of these experiences here in Saginaw,” she continues. “Right now they only do them in Los Angeles and New York and just brought one to Chicago last year, so basically I had a dream and went for it.”
Blayne’s boyfriend Curtis Dalton is one of the owners of Counter Culture and knowing that he had a pair of abandoned apartments upstairs above the venue, her brain started visualizing how she could pull together a similar immersive experience in the non-utilized space.
“This type of experience is based more on your senses,” explains Blayne. “The experience is more like theatre and people go in individually (hence the name STAG) and only four ‘victims’ are admitted per hour. Each person must enter alone and participants must be able to walk, crawl, and kneel and aren’t allowed to bring any personal belongings, including cellphones, with them. Each experience lasts 30 minutes, but since we have two apartments, once they ‘cross over’ we let the next person up; so essentially, two people are up there at the same time, only they never cross paths.”
The first ‘victim’ will enter at 7 pm and four tickets are available each hour up through midnight, so each scene in the experience needs to be simulated every time for five hours each night. STAG is also not recommended for people who have experienced trauma, those with epilepsy, pregnant women, or “people who don’t want to be touched by strangers,” notes Adams.
Approximately 15 volunteer actors and actresses involved with the project aim to terrorize participants; and each participant is given a ‘safe word’, in the event their experience becomes too intense. “Those who say the safe word are allowed to leave without a refund,” she adds.
Although she refrains from giving away too many details or script motifs, an earlier ‘trial run’ of STAG happened last August that was extremely successful and involved a panoply of horrifying scenarios whereby participants were hooded and exposed to a variety of frightening characters & experiences.
“No one really gets hurt because it’s just simulated danger,” assures Blayne. “Plus we have security cameras running to assure everybody is safe.”
When asked the most challenging thing about staging such an event as STAG, Adams points to the importance of each actor in the 15-member collective getting their timing down. “Jordan Frisch is my builder and has a lot of experience with haunts and always wanted to do something like this, which is a dream for him. Because each person goes through one at a time they have an intimate experience with each of the actors.”
Blayne says she developed the script for this Halloween version of STAG from reading reviews from other extreme house experiences and started thinking about what her own boundaries were and how far she wanted to take it. “Since each participant must be 18 years or older, it gives me the latitude to explore more adult themes,” she reflects.
“For the shows last August once the participant signed a waiver I would walk them up the stairs and hold their hand and ask them to repeat their safe word twice; and while walking up there these deafening sounds would be playing. Once they were up there, they got hooded and taken away and dragged into a back apartment, where their odyssey began.”
“To be able to offer this in Saginaw is incredibly exciting,” concludes Blayne, “and it’s incredibly gratifying to be able to offer this unique and singular experience.”
Tickets for STAG are $20.00 per person if purchased online; and $25.00 at the door.
Tickets can be purchased by going to this link: http://staghalloween.bpt.me
Here’s a video link that will give you a sense of the experience: