I never saw myself as an “extreme haunt” gal. As a child, I was afraid of everything. EVERYTHING. From the movie Independence Day to a small fruit fly flying past my face. I am easily spooked by the tiniest of jump scares. I remember as a child, my dad took me to the long-missed Spooky House in Woodland Hills. That is the first time in my life I felt actual “fear.” I remember at ten years old thinking, “this is it. The scariest place I have ever been to. I will never feel anxiety like this anywhere else.”

I was wrong because Blackout exists.

When Blackout announced, they were doing a tenth-anniversary show I was ELATED. Then they said it was in New York. I thought about it. I thought about the past five Blackouts I had done and the feeling of anxiety it gave me, the adrenaline rush, the fear, the excitement, the concern, the conflict, the fun, the terror, I could go on for hours. I thought I hadn’t done it in years. It’s time. I’m going. I bought my plane ticket, and two months later I was there.

The first time I did Blackout, it changed me. I had never been so scared in my life. It was the first time I had done an extreme haunt — the first time I’ve ever had to sign a waiver and allow people to TOUCH me. But what sold me on the experience was the idea of a safety word. Through all this fear and anxiety, there is still the comfort of knowing in the end – I HAVE CONTROL OF THIS EXPERIENCE. If I want it to end, I can say “Safety,” and it’s over. I thought I’d probably say it the second I got in there, but I wanted to test my fear. How far can I be pushed? What are my limits? I didn’t know at the time. I have been through traumatic experiences in my life, but when I had the CHOICE of experiencing it — I didn’t know how much my mind and body could handle. I had no idea how strong I was. I didn’t say the safety word. I made it through. Sure, after it was over.. I needed time to process what had just happened to me. But, I have genuinely never felt so strong and accomplished. I was addicted. I needed to feel that again and again, and as often as I could. I’ve done Blackout six times now. Each experience was different – and not a day goes by I don’t think about all the things I’ve been through with each one.

Blackout‘s tenth anniversary went back to the beginning. New York City, go through alone, follow the path, follow directions, or be ejected immediately. Say the safety word “Safety” and be removed immediately. They are STRICT. There is no room to budge. You follow the rules of Blackout, or you don’t do Blackout. This is for the safety of you and the actors. And trust when I say, it is NECESSARY.

I arrived precisely on time, knowing if I had been there too early, I would be waiting in the lobby, letting my anxiety build, knowing if I had been even a second late – there would be no attending. When I entered the building, everything felt so familiar. On one wall, a bright red light shone on the next potential victim waiting to be led in.. on the other, the waivers where you sign your life away and the rules posted on the wall. On the floor – Shoes. Four different left shoes. Every minute or so, someone would walk out from the darkness and put down another left shoe. I can’t tell you why there were shoes… But you can probably guess. I signed my waiver, they put a numbered sticker on my shirt, I was asked to stand on an X against the wall looking into the red light, they handed me a surgical mask and instructed me to pull it over my nose and mouth – They shined a flashlight at me and guided me to the first room. They asked me a series of questions. Do you have any physical ailments? PTSD? History of seizures? Anything else you need them to know? What is the safety word? “If you’re fucking lying… We’ll know.” And in I went.

This Blackout was similar to the first year. Toilets, scenes of sexual depravity, demons, plastic bags, running, being screamed at, witnessing things you’d only see in your nightmares. Twenty-five minutes of this – and then it’s over. You’re back on the streets of New York. I was covered in liquids… What liquids? I hope it was water. My shirt was sopping wet, so was half of my head. I held my shoe in my hand. One of my socks was missing. The kind lady checking us in offered to call about it, but from what I saw what they were doing with my sock… I didn’t want it back. I had a friend waiting for me outside she asked me what happened. Through my shock and disgust of what I had just been through all, I could say was “..weird stuff.” She didn’t want to know. I don’t blame her.

Technically speaking, Blackout is very simple. Black trash bags on the walls and floors, single lights in each room. You’re mostly in darkness. Able to make out the silhouette of each actor until they approach you inches from your face. Honestly, simple is perfect. It keeps it eerie and mysterious. You can never tell what kind of room you’re in, where the next one will be, and how to get out until your instructed to do so. Loud noises and screams are heard on a loop in the background. Blackout is all about messing with your senses. And boy howdy… Does it. There are tastes; there are smells, there are visions, there are sounds – all of these are intended to add to the fear of your experience.

What made Blackout so great for me this year was the heart and vulnerability these actors put into their performance. I applaud everyone in it. Best Blackout performances I’ve seen – by far. Some of the best immersive theater performances I’ve seen. They made this place come alive. Truly, truly fantastic.

I have no regrets flying to New York to do Blackout. It will always hold a special place in my heart and my nightmares. Though I will admit, this wasn’t my FAVORITE one I’ve done – it was the most memorable. This one was… I would say grosser than the past ones – not necessarily as scary. But I didn’t mind it. It just tested another limit I may or may not have. And I’m all about being pushed to see what I can or cannot do. I made it through, and I walked through New York the rest of my trip feeling brave, accomplished, and proud. I can do Blackout. I can do anything.

Maybe it was the nostalgia of my first time? Perhaps it was because I was in a strange city that I had no idea how to navigate? Maybe it was my missing sock? I will never forget the mindfuck of Blackout‘s tenth anniversary. Well done. Well done.