[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]It’s summer 2015. The haunt season isn’t quite upon us yet, and we’re all anxiously awaiting it. People are outside, enjoying the sun, sunbathing by the ocean, and having a grand old time here in Southern California.
So why can’t I stop thinking about the haunts that take place during the Halloween season?
Maybe it’s because they’re not over yet. In fact, one in particular will continue in July, and then every month onward until October.
You guys already know I love haunt season. I mean, why else would I write about it so much? I love the feeling of getting scared, of not knowing what comes next, and of questioning my own boundaries.
One of the haunts I experienced in 2014 that helped push those things was ALONE [an existential haunting]. In fact, my experience with them started well before Halloween season truly began…and continued well into January 2015. But “haunt” is probably not the best word to describe them.
When I asked Devon Paulson and Lawrence T. Lewis, the creators of ALONE, about this, they said, “It’s not our job to classify what we are; we just do what we think we should without thinking about what kind of thing it is.” Which, to me, is a perfect answer to fit the cryptic nature of the experience (And for the record, I would personally classify it as a sort of interactive theater piece, with some haunt elements thrown in).
Back in August 2014 there was ScareLA, the premiere haunt convention in the Los Angeles area (and the country, for that matter), and ALONE was one of the big draws. They offered a 15 minute “experience” that took place in the bowels of the building, allowing many people to jump start the season.
As soon as the doors opened to the convention, I immediately ran to their table to sign up. I’m lucky I did, because within minutes, the line wrapped around a good portion of the show floor. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one wanting to get in on the action. Thankfully, I secured a spot, and after being “marked” by blue paint under my right eye, was told to await further instructions. I was handed a piece of paper with a handful of numbers on it, but honestly had no idea what it meant. So, I stuck it in my pocket, and forgot about it.
Already, this was different than most haunts. Usually, you wait in line for your turn to go in, and then experience it. ALONE promised to be something different right from the get go. And it absolutely was. For starters, it is one of the few experiences that forces people to go through on their own…just like their name implies. That by itself adds to the tension.
A few hours later, while wandering the convention floor, I received a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. I don’t usually pick up, but for some reason, I felt compelled to do so. I was greeted by a gruff voice saying “Hello, Jeff. You will do exactly what I say. Do you understand? Do not say anything to anyone you are with. Do not talk to anyone. Do not stop. Come immediately to the elevators.”
So, without a word to my friend, I left him standing there. I did exactly what the voice on the other end told me to do.
“Are you at the elevators yet?” they asked. “Yes,” I replied. “Good. Do not speak to anyone. Listen to me and only me.” And I tried to listen. I really, really did. But this lovely young woman, dressed in white, came right up to me.
“Hey, do you remember me? We met a few summers ago, at John’s house,” she began.
“Did you hear what I said?” the voice on the phone barked. “Do not speak to ANYONE.”
But the girl continued to make small talk with me. And I continued to ignore her, as instructed. Believe me, it took everything in me NOT to respond to her. I’m a polite person by nature, and it was killing me.
Though she was confused by my lack of communication, she continued chatting anyway. I held strong. Eventually, she forced a flier into my hand for “The Enola Foundation,” and said I should come look her up sometime there.
The voice on the other end of the phone said “Are you ready?” I simply replied “Yes.”
The line went dead.
The sweet, lovely face of the girl in front of me turned into a scowl. She grabbed me by the shirt, and pulled me over to an elevator. As soon as the doors opened, she pushed me in, with no regard for anyone coming out. As soon as it was empty, minus me, she stuck her hand in, pressed the button for the basement, and said “Good luck.”
She stared at me. I looked nervously back at her. Though it was only seconds before the doors closed, it felt like an eternity.
When the elevator reached the basement, the foyer was empty. I stuck my head out slowly. I called out a “Hello?” but was met with silence. I didn’t know what to do. A sign nearby had some letters missing, but it seemed to say something about…The Enola Foundation? Wasn’t that what the girl upstairs was just talking…
…and then boom! A man appeared from nowhere, grabbed me, and started talking a mile a minute. About life. What is life? What exists beyond it? What are our bodies for? Do we need our bodies? Enola wants my body. All of our bodies.
I won’t go into the details of what the rest of the experience entailed, but I will say that it was equal parts terrifying, thought-provoking, and, strangely enough, hilarious.
And then, before I knew it, it was over. I was thrust back out into the crowd. But was it really over? Or, much like the beginning, were the lines going to blur, and I would be pulled back in?
As I would come to learn, for those who experience ALONE, it’s never over.
Soon after, I realized that paper with the numbers on it, which I absently placed in my pocket, was actually a code that needed to be cracked. And if I realized that beforehand, I would have gotten something a little extra from Enola during the experience.
“Generally speaking, we try to create an atmosphere that unnerves, confounds, dislocates and pushes-out on boundaries and tropes, and exists in the gaps between genres. Sometimes it is in the form of a look for a performer or the concept for an interaction. The Enola Foundation arose out of the same atmosphere,” Paulson and Lewis said when asked about the organization.
In the weeks leading up to their Halloween event, ALONE reached a fever pitch. Want to know more about The Enola Foundation? Then there were puzzles to solve. And they weren’t just your run of the mill puzzles, either. You had to sit down and think about them. Since I missed out at ScareLA, I wasn’t going to let these puzzles pass me by!
Over the course of a month or so, you really got the feeling Enola was watching you. They wanted you to join them. They would converse with you over email. Tell you they loved you. Tell you how special your body was. Tell you they wanted you to come see them again. Remind you that they were watching your every move.
There was even a scavenger hunt, of sorts, that led people all over LA, to find a wooden coin. Though I wasn’t able to participate in this part of the experience, this is exactly the type of immersive stuff I love. I couldn’t wait to join them again.
On opening night of the Halloween event, I was there, one of the first in line, standing in some random alley in the middle of a seedy part of Los Angeles. Enola was also there, recruiting for their ranks. I went through the experience; I was lead in with four other people at first, but after the initial scene, I was on my own.
Again, I won’t talk about the specifics of the experience itself, but like ScareLA, it was fantastic. Since it was opening night, it was still a little rough around the edges, but it was still great. Scary. Funny. Weird. Those that did the previously mentioned scavenger hunt used their wooden coin to access an additional room within the experience.
This time around, ALONE did an amazing job of really blurring the lines between where the experience itself begins and ends. There were two stand out moments of this: one I won’t spoil, in case they do it again…and another where they knew about me.
What does that mean? Well, at one point, I was brought into a room where a man from Enola showed me a brief video, played word association games with me, and then asked me questions about photos he showed on the screen. Why did the photos matter? Well, because they were all photos from my personal life. My family. My friends. Me. It was incredibly…eerie.
“That concept fills the atmosphere and aesthetic that we are creating, and isn’t something the typical haunted house or theatrical production engages with,” said Paulson and Lewis about this. “It takes it outside of the realm of simply an event one attends or views and places it in the viewer’s space, in his or her personal space. “
Some people may not like that, but I absolutely loved it. It made it personal. It made it feel like they really WERE watching my every move, testing me, to see if I (or my body) would be a good fit for The Enola Foundation. I walked out feeling confused, alive, and a little bit violated. But that’s exactly what I signed up for, and they delivered.
“ALONE was born out of our mutual love of interactive art and real-life unnerving situations as much as haunted houses,” continued Paulson and Lewis. “However, our natural inclination is to push the boundaries of that box in any genre. So our creation of a haunted house ends up being whatever it is ALONE is.”
Then came January, and it STILL was not over. Enola still wanted our bodies. The Final Sequence, as it was called, took place on January 17th, and closed out The Enola Foundation storyline that began back at Scare LA.
Though the event itself was a full day experience, it was completely free. To me, that showed how passionate the team behind ALONE was about their show.
Despite being free, it wasn’t an easy task to find information on the event in the weeks leading up to it. In fact, more puzzles had to be solved, which lead us further down the rabbit hole. Before you even got to the registration process, there were multiple layers you had to get past.
Hell, there were times when I was woken up in the middle of the night by strange phone calls. Since they were from numbers I didn’t recognize, I let them go to voice mail. And man, I am glad I did, because in the morning, I was greeted by wonderful messages, such as this:
“Our sweet, sweet Jeff,” a gruff, mechanical voice said. “Oh, how we’ve missed you. And your body. That’s why we keep watching. We watch every single thing that you do. Please keep breathing.” And then, it clicked off.
Clearly, Enola makes good on their promises. They really ARE watching.
By the time January 17th came around, my brain was working overtime. I worked together with my good friend Allison on what turned out to be a whirlwind tour of Los Angeles. Clandestine meetings in seedy locations. Clues hidden deep within the city, under aqueducts, within tunnels, in half buried cans, and in library books. Visits to a strange apartment in a residential neighborhood.
Needless to say, it was kind of insane. Over 13 hours later, we were exhausted, thrilled, happy, sad, and a million other emotions. But, we received closure on the story of The Enola Foundation…just before they slipped off into the ether again.
And now, ALONE’s back, with a brand new story set to begin shortly. While last year’s events were dark and brooding, this year is much more…upbeat. For months, their social media has been teasing us with brightly colored images, a decidedly different approach from last year.
Their website was updated with the tagline “Unweave the rainbow,” and it left us all extremely curious. When their plan was finally announced, we learned this new storyline is set to happen over four indexes: June, August, September, and October. Each of these four phases will cover a different aspect: diffusion, refraction, reflection, and absorption, respectively.
These “real world experiments in human emotion” will seemingly explore a spectrum of our emotions.
From their website:
ALONE is an ongoing, site-specific, fully-immersive and existential experience that explores the range of human emotions.
Presenting itself in a variety of configurations, ALONE explores the complex folds of the human psyche, placing you as the participant within dreams and fantasies and nightmares that you may have had and within those that you definitely have not.
Your body may be aggressively touched and moved or tenderly embraced or be utterly left displaced and alone.
Unweave the Rainbow is four experiments in human emotion that explore interaction. When light encounters an object, one of four actions occur; diffusion, refraction, reflection and absorption.
The experiences will proceed through the Index of Diffusion in June to the Index of Refraction in August then to the Index of Reflection in September. After the three Indices constitutive of a rainbow occur, light is finally consumed within the Index of Absorption in October.
This year, in addition to selling tickets to each index separately, you may also purchase a “season pass”, which will allow you VIP access to all four events, and a shirt. I immediately purchased one of these passes, and am ready to become one with the light on June 27th when Diffusion begins.
“It is important to us that people have a unique, interesting, unnerving, dislocating, and mostly fun experience that makes one think however deeply one wants,” Paulson and Lewis continued. “In our recent series of productions we have been very body-centric in both our aesthetic and our concepts; body and consciousness extension and awareness; speaking about metaphysical notions in a materialist voice. Our hope would be that all this comes across if even as only a tone or shading within the various productions.”
“Mostly we want them to think, what the heck was that?”
Mission accomplished, guys. Mission accomplished.
To learn more about ALONE, please visit their website at www.thealoneexperience.com.
Be sure to sign up for their newsletter to hear about their upcoming events. Trust me, you don’t want to miss them.
You can also find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thealoneexperience[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][banner728 banner=”557356c28958a”][/vc_column][/vc_row]