Haunted Basement returns to Soap Factory

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October 1, 2013
By: Annie Michaelson // Murphy News Service
Annie Michaelson // Murphy News Service

A change of clothes is recommended and cell phones, purses and pride are checked at the door, as you prepare to be frightened.  For its seventh year, the Haunted Basement will be held from Oct. 3 to Nov. 3 at Minneapolis’s Soap Factory.

Former Cirque du Soleil performer Noah Bremer, in his second year of directing the Haunted Basement, has crafted an experience that will disorient and terrify visitors at every dark twist and turn.

“It’s totally different from a normal haunted house. It’s an audience experience,” Bremer said. “We think about what the audience is there for – which is to be scared – and we provide this experience on psychological levels.”

During the 25-minute terror adventure through the Soap Factory’s “haunted” basement, guests enter in groups of four every three minutes. However, while they enter in groups, the possibility of being separated is likely.

“Patrons are very resistant to being separated from their friends,” Birdie Freitag, Haunted Basement company and stage manager, said. Patrons who want to take the journey alone Halloween night can buy “test subject” tickets, which will be sold in limited quantities.

What started as a small idea to spook Minneapolis thrill-seekers has now turned into an artistically masterful event. By combining makeup, costume and set design, the Soap Factory staff enhances the frightening experience.

Chris Pennington started it all. After hanging out with friends at the Soap Factory, he realized the basement could easily double as a haunted house. Pennington recruited friends to transform the space into a creepy haunt and soon enough, the Haunted Basement became a fall season staple.

“There was a line out the door the first night,” Freitag said. “Then we realized, ‘we need to make this more formalized.’” Now, in 2013, the Haunted Basement has expanded to 23 nights, with about 480 patrons going through nightly to test their limits.

As patrons walk through, they will be exposed to a variety of fear-factor elements, including nauseating odors, dark rooms and the creatures that lurk in them. Though patrons cannot touch the actors, these actors, who have been transformed into various terrifying characters, can move patrons around as they wish.

“The Haunted Basement is less of the pop-out-and-retreat or the jump-out-of-your-skin scares,” Lillian Egner, Soap Factory’s program manager, explained. “It’s the stuff they can’t shake at the end of the night that really makes their skin crawl. It’s the reason they say, ‘I shouldn’t have brought my Mom to this.’”

For Haunted Basement goers who have had enough, the Soap Factory has a safe word: uncle. “We have walkie-talkies placed throughout the basement and if someone says the safe word, I come pretty quick,” Freitag said. Those people are taken outside immediately, but are not allowed re-entry.

The scariest part of it all? “It’s not what you see,” Freitag said. “It’s what you don’t see.”

After taking the journey through the Haunted Basement, visitors can unwind at the Spooky Speakeasy, which will feature craft cocktails and eerie music. The Speakeasy is open Fridays and Saturdays while the Haunted Basement is open and is free with admission. The public may enter for $5.

For those unwilling to take the full-fledged basement adventure have the option to partake in a lights-on, ‘Fraidy Cat Tour, Sundays in late October.

For more information, visit www.soapfactory.org.

Annie Michaelson is studying journalism at the University of Minnesota. 

Things to know when you go… 

-       Admission: $25 weekdays and $27 Fridays and Saturdays. Must be 18 to attend.

-       Clothing: Must have appropriate clothing to navigate different environments. No high heels or flip-flops.

-       No alcohol.

-       No touching of any exhibits or actors.

-       All bags, coats, phones and loose items must be checked at the door.