Terror Vault: The Initiation (through October 31) provides one of the most uniquely San Francisco offerings for Halloween’s spooky season: part haunted house, part live theater, part escape room, all fun. The Terror Vault crew transforms the Old San Francisco Mint into something different every year: This time around, the 1874 building becomes a creepy cult complex. As new “initiates,” small groups of guests are guided, cajoled, and prodded through a series of scenes of a consciousness-raising, coercive cult and its rebel faction.
Fright is subjective. For some it’s the element of surprise (there are many surprises here), or eerie sounds in the dark (ample!). For others it’s the reality that cults do exist and slowly seduce otherwise bright, capable people like themselves into their ranks, employing darkly coercive techniques to foster obedience.
Embracing these fear-inducing scenarios, the “Initiation” cast and crew excels at attention to detail. The hour-long tour took us through an introductory meeting room (with chalkboards and a coffee set up from many a bland meeting—even a actual brochure for The INsight Institute), a living room, dining room, dorm and bathroom, basement, all through the labyrinthine maze that connects them.
Each set is elaborately appointed. This same detail is applied to the costumes (custom-made amulets with the logo abound), make-up (prosthetics, black light reactive). Copious amounts of “fog” augment the otherworldly mood evoked by the set and actors.
Careful observers will notice that “The Initiation” storyline alludes to and pokes a bit of fun at cults and religious movements. The tour even provides a Milgrimesque moment set amid a visually stimulating room. The captivating acting, detailed sets, interactive elements, and sensory details make a thrilling experience for those who partake. And for those who don’t, one of the INsight Institute’s players co-ops the favorite expression of Sheela of Wild, Wild Country: tough titties.
Before and after your entry time, the FangBang Vampire bar and cabaret accentuates the tone of the evening with themed cocktails and sultry performances. Fun social media photo ops are also available. Don a robe and document your “initiation” or hang out with the huge disco skeleton. Go and have fun and/or be frightened! (As you plan your evening, keep in mind: the scene is dark, there are stairs, fog machines, strobe lights, and some unique surprises that I won’t spoil here. Guests sign a waiver before entering.) — text by Patty Riek, photos by Jon Bauer
TERROR VAULT: THE INITIATION runs though October 31 at the Old San Francisco Mint, tickets and more info here.