Are you a total adrenaline junkie who dares to be scared come Halloween? If so, there's a new haunted house experience that you'll die over. Early this week, Cambio writer Jeanette Batur reported on the 17th Door, a haunted house so terrifying that guests must sign a waver before entering - and, naturally, I needed to see if it was the real deal. I loaded up my car with three brave recruits and drove the 50 miles from Los Angeles to Tustin, California, all the while preparing myself for a seriously scary adventure. The 17th Door totally made good on its promise of that, but should you check it out? Here's what you need to know.
(Warning: Spoilers for the 17th Door haunted house below. Read at your own risk!)
The 17th Door is definitely in an unusual space for a haunted house: it's in the middle of a strip mall in Orange County, which is about the least scary location you can think of. You'll forget that the second you walk in the door, of course: though you'll have to wait on line to sign your waiver and then again to actually enter the haunted house, creepy actors in pig masks are determined to freak you out before the actual experience begins. But perhaps the thing that will freak you out the most is that infamous waiver itself, which highlights some of the mature themes that you'll encounter within the house. The 17th Door is all about psychological terror, and that means that sometimes the things in the haunted house get just a little too real. The waiver warns guests that they will experience things that could be triggering for some people, and they're not kidding: while walking through the house, we witnessed scenes depicting bulimia, gun violence, and the aftermath of a sexual assault. The very first scene is particularly difficult to stomach, as it involves a depiction of a school shooting. If any of those things make you extremely uncomfortable, I would suggest skipping the 17th Door.
Though the haunted house is thematically disturbing, not all scenes are quite so dark - of the 17 "rooms" that you walk through, plenty are goofy and fun. One scene that takes place in a locker room involves having a bunch of colorful ball pit balls dropped on you from the ceiling. (Not great if your claustrophobic, but it definitely brought me back to childhood.)
Save for some of the actors in the above-mentioned "triggering" rooms, most of the actors are lighthearted about the whole thing, and try to creep you out without getting in your face or pointing fake weapons at you. You may feel on edge, but overall, you'll feel safe. Pro tip? Do whatever the actors ask you to do - they may involve you in passing things between one room and the next to further the story along.
(Here's the group I brought with me. Don't they look scared?!)
That's not to say that the actors can't touch you: they're allowed, and no, you can't touch them back. I didn't have a huge problem with being touched throughout the haunted house, but there was one room that almost had me crying "Mercy," which is the safe word that would have ended the 17th Door experience. That was the "cafeteria," a room in which the actor made it his personal duty to chase me around with a dead fish - and, yes, touch me with it. I may not be able to eat salmon for months.
Though the house claims that the 17th room is the scariest, I would disagree. While I have a newly-realized phobia of being caressed by a dead fish thanks to the 17th Door, the room that would freak most people out is the cockroach room. Though the lights are off, you'll notice the cockroaches on the ground right away - all dead, of course, but definitely not a pleasant experience. Even less pleasant? The actor in the room putting them down your shirt. (I checked my bra a few times just to see if any somehow got stuck in there. Fortunately, they didn't.) The sight of hundreds of dried, dead cockroaches on the floor was, to say the least, so not cute. So was the 17th Door worth the hype? Absolutely - if you can handle it. Though you won't be chased around by masked dudes with chainsaws (something I personally appreciated) the 17th Door will definitely mess with your mind. If you feel comfortable exploring some disturbing themes and don't consider cockroaches a deal breaker, then the 17th Door is a necessary part of a truly scary Halloween season.