For many years Orlando has been home to some of the country’s best-haunted attractions, designed to give each attendee at least a good startle or two. But what happens when thrill-seekers want more than a simple walkthrough, desiring a deeper and darker experience? Enter Catharsis, the new Halloween time experience from Pseudonym Productions.
Immediately following the success of their uniquely interactive experience When Shadows Fall, Pseudonym retooled vastly detailed sets to create Catharsis, an opportunity to enter the realm of “haunted” experiences – in a bold manner previously unseen by Orlando haunt fans.
Catharsis was a 30-minute immersive haunted experience that deviated from the traditional haunted houses Orlando is famous for, replacing long winding conga lines with intimate, personal horror. Guests began their journey by entering an old, unmarked warehouse entirely on their own. Inside, they were met with little more than a flickering screen indicating they had arrived in the right place, along with instructions to sign a guest book and proceed down the hall. In the guest book, a question was posed to every visitor: “What sin tempts you most?”
This theme permeated throughout the entire Catharsis experience, decidedly sinful from beginning to end, a thematic departure from dystopian worlds Pseudonym has previously built.
Those brave enough to venture down the darkened path on their own were delighted to find the Deadly Sins Bar. There, guests found no lines to enter this experience, instead replaced by a comfortable, lively, and sexy lounge featuring unique cocktails, burlesque entertainment, and even a chance to be pulled away for one-on-one interactions.
After indulging themselves in the bar, guests were summoned by bar “owner” Selena Blackwood (a character of the experience), who sent them on an urban exploration through the fallen society of PENUMBRA – a tie-in to the previous production of When Shadows Fall that occupied the same space.
So what evil awaited each guest in the shadows of this formerly sordid society? Everyone who entered soon came face-to-face with temptation, ultimately forced to choose a path of sin or salvation. Across multiple scenes, guests were faced with interpretations of gluttony, envy, lust, wrath, greed, sloth, and vanity.
In one moment, guests were ingesting a particularly potent unknown concoction delivered by blue vial in a less-than-appetizing laboratory of sorts. In the next, they found themselves cuddling with a masked man who had taken a particular liking to the skin of his victims, photographing each one. The rest of the manic experience thrust guests violently against walls, wandering in total darkness, and even surrendering pieces of themselves to a deranged and lonely self-proclaimed doctor.
The experience of walking through Catharsis was not never about simple startles. But it also was not an “extreme” haunted house. Catharsis was about reaching participants on a deeper level, invoking that chill that runs down your spine and the involuntary feeling of dread that consumes you as you step out into the unknown. Most of all, it offered the freedom to discover your true nature – no matter how horrible that may be.
Catharsis was true to its name, enabling each participant to find their own version of “catharsis” – to find out what happens when our species is given complete freedom to express a few dark desires.
Guests could enter alone or in small groups of up to four. Being touched was pretty much a guarantee, at least, during this highly personal experience. Whether entering alone, with friends, or with strangers, every person who ventured down the experience’s immersive paths found their way into a bizarrely uncomfortable situation or two.
Catharsis was staged in Orlando across 13 nights in October 2016. It creeped out more than 1,000 attendees and opened the door wide open for Pseudonym Productions to push boundaries even further with future experiences. To discover what Pseudonym is up to next, visit their website at PseudonymProductions.com.
Note: I was the co-creator of Catharsis and, for most nights, an actor gleefully creeping out the hundreds who came my way. This event showed us that Orlando is indeed ready for even more unusual experiences, so expect the unexpected as Pseudonym Productions continues to design new mysteries.