ScareHouse's The Basement returns | Art Reviews + Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper
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ScareHouse's The Basement returns 

"It very much is meant to tap into deeper issues that are uncomfortable and unusual."

click to enlarge Cellar-dweller: another denizen of The Basement at Scarehouse
  • Photo courtesy of Racellyn Schoen, © Undead Productions
  • Cellar-dweller: another denizen of The Basement

Heavy darkness, thick air. A black bag over your head. Shrieking, moaning, growling. Then, you're pulled into a room by a hand at your throat, and you're the one screaming.

It's just a normal night in ScareHouse's haunted attraction known as The Basement.

This marks the second year for The Basement, a uniquely terrifying experience. The rules are simple. Adults only. All patrons must sign a waiver. There's no touching the actors, but they can — and will — touch you. And that's with hoods, electricity and restraints (to name a few).

The mind behind The Basement is sociologist Margee Kerr, who has a Ph.D. and knows how to scare with it. "The Basement is based on what research tells us humans' biggest fears are today," Kerr explains. "It very much is meant to tap into deeper issues that are uncomfortable and unusual.

"The Basement has a very clear goal: to invite customers to experience scary, different, interactive, immersive and unusual scenarios in a consensual and safe environment with the hope that it will teach them something they didn't know about themselves, and allow them to experience all the benefits of safe and thrilling activities."

Compared to similar events in other cities, Kerr believes The Basement stands out. "From a design perspective, too, we're much more elaborate and our actors are much more theatrical. ... They are crazy talented."

Horror is one thing, but for many, the line between adult content and full contact is another. "I notice that many customers will interpret scenes through a sexual lens, even though there is no sexual content," says Kerr. "It is just the act of a stranger being close physically and touching us that we read as sexual. Others will interpret that as scary, others as uncomfortable — it's all in the individuals ... what they are bringing to the scene."

Besides, if you can't take it, there's always the safe word.

If The Basement is too intense, the traditional ScareHouse experience remains. This Etna institution has attracted the attention of Legendary Entertainment, the stomping grounds of filmmakers Guillermo Del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, Pacific Rim) and Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen). Creative director Scott Simmons says that the company is working with ScareHouse on content for the main haunt this year.

Both the main haunt and The Basement do sell out, so the brave should book ahead at www.ScareHouse.com.

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