Oogie Boogie Bash and into a more chilling Halloween atmosphere.I entered the historic Phillips Mansion in Pomona, California for the all-new Delusion haunted play 'Reaper’s Remorse’ pretty tentatively. Halloween is my favorite holiday, but I like to keep the more frightful aspects behind the safety of a TV screen; in-person scares have always intimidated me a bit. Delusion seemed to offer an unconventional type of experience though, so I figured the time had come to wander outside my comfort bubble of
Phillips Mansion is exactly what I picture in my mind whenever I hear the words “haunted house.” Second-Empire style architecture, high ceilings, and built in 1875, so statistically speaking there must be at least one ghost roaming around in there by now. I got there about 45 minutes before my scheduled show and stepped inside to a carpet of cascading fog backlit by eerie blue lights and an interior reminiscent of the old Hollywood Tower of Terror. I had plenty of time to explore the mansion and upon further inspection found a series of written-out clues scattered all around the ground floor. Open drawers, peer behind curtains and into dark corners, and you may be able to read enough to begin to piece the story together before the show starts. Not to worry if you don’t feel like finding and reading all these clues though at the beginning of the show the main character (Esther Phillips) explains all the backstory the clues provide, so reading clues is not necessary in order to have a full understanding of the plot.
I had a VIP ticket (which I would say is definitely worth the $30 upcharge), which allowed me entrance to the upstairs floor as well. There I found more clues, a wandering magician doing card tricks, and Esther Phillip’s Private Collection. The ten-minute wait for the Private Collection proved worth it as well. Four people are allowed in at a time, and you’re taken through a series of small rooms and large crawl spaces. I won’t spoil it, but beware that it is not for the claustrophobic or faint of heart. There are bars on both floors, so after I stumbled out of the Private Collection I grabbed a drink and chatted with some long-time Delusion enthusiasts before being ushered into a lavish parlor for the beginning of the show.
Our group of about 10 people was greeted by Esther Phillips, fully done up in costume with an old-timey slightly trans-Atlantic accent to match. She gave us some backstory, then sent us on our way under the guidance of a stooped groundskeeper with a lantern in hand. I won’t spoil the show but be prepared for a second haunted house behind the mansion, and a series of actors literally coming out of the woodworks (and perhaps even the ground).
@themeparkinsider Delusion’s interactive #halloween #theater installation. #spookyseason ? original sound themeparkinsider
At first, the structure of this show seems evocative of a traditional haunted house (the group is taken through different rooms where various frights await) but our small group size, combined with the element of fright and the interactive aspects of the show, made for a very intimate group dynamic and unique experience. The group element combined with the guidance of actors added a lot of depth to the show. You can’t just run through like you might be able to at a traditional haunted house. The pace is deliberate, and you feel like you’re part of a team, which allows for strategic anticipation building and a more thorough, plot-driven journey.
My favorite aspect of the show was how interactive it was. Again, I won’t spoil the story, but be prepared to assist your group’s journey in some way. You may have to read a creepy bedtime story, offer an artifact to the undead, carry a creepy talking doll through a few rooms, or even brave getting kidnapped by a ghost. Midway through the show, I realized I felt a bit like I’d been thrown into a horror movie as a side character, and I was watching it all play out before my eyes. The incredible production design and sound and lighting really emphasized this feeling, and coming out of the show felt a bit like coming out of another world.
I enjoyed the entire experience much more than I’d thought I would. The actors touched me a few times but always asked permission before doing so (while very much staying in character), and you can always pass a task to a fellow group member if you don’t feel like jumping into an interactive element of the story. The whole time I was on edge (in the way you should be in a haunted house) but very much comfortable. The show completely transports you, and the group setting makes the scarier bits less deeply terrifying and more of a fun shared fright. Overall I’d say that on a scale from "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" to "The Conjuring," this experience falls somewhere around "Rosemary’s Baby," thoroughly creepy but more reliant on plot than jump scares, and better off for it. Make sure to get there early enough to do some thorough exploring, and bring a friend to cling to.
Tickets are available on the Delusion website. Trigger warnings: small spaces, flashing lights, and suicide.
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