Experiencing Delusion: Lies Within, a Los Angeles interactive haunted play

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“No new horror can be more terrible than the daily torture of the commonplace.” – H.P. Lovecraft, Ex Oblivione

By D.M. Kumarasinghe

I hate horror. Always have. I don’t blame it on the horror, horror creators, or those who indulge in it. I hate it because my imagination is so out of my control that I can’t help but see creatures and terrors in every shadow of my house. Every single time I climb the stairs, I see a ghostly woman reaching for my legs. Every time I glance out my bedroom door, I think I see movement in the hallway. Every time I sleep, I just know that some shadow is looming over me and watching. Horror is a delicacy that I can’t partake in because it would only exacerbate my already intense fears.

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I honestly had no idea what Delusion: Lies Within was before I found myself waiting for a friend in the parking lot. If I had known beforehand, I would have probably politely declined the experience altogether. It was apparently an interactive horror theatre by Jon Braver that had been going on for years, and this was the 4th iteration of the play. Each year, the creators write a new story and craft a new experience for theatre goers in the Los Angeles area. The previous year’s productions received rave reviews and praise for their immersion, interactivity, special effects, and the quality of the actors and narrative.

I would add at this point that the thing that interested me the most about this production is that it was a stage play at its heart, and I truly love all things theatre. The idea of being a part of the play is honestly something I’ve never experienced before and was curious about.

The location was the Fitzgerald House, also known as Elegant Manor, in Los Angeles. It was the former home of a music store mogul named James Fitzgerald and has passed hands a few times over the years. At one point it was a place where the local AA met, Soul Train used it for catering, various community theatre groups and vaudeville acts have frequented it, and it was even used for raves on and off. For now, it is the site of this year’s Delusion: Lies Within, which is written and directed by Jon Braver with Peter Cameron helping out as co-writer.

When you purchase tickets, you are assigned a specific time that you are meant to enter to experience the play, so promptness is of course expected and recommended. If you arrive early, there is a little lounge area where you can drink and check out some local magicians from the Magic Castle that are providing entertainment as well. The entire experience is about 45 minutes long, so you probably would want to give yourself a 2 hour cushion to experience everything.

The ushers are also actors within the play, so as soon as you enter the grounds you are a part of the story of a group of rabid fans of author Elena Fitzgerald who are attempting to break into her house to discover what happened to her and her unfinished novel.

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The actors guide you through the story and you are asked not to touch or talk to anyone or anything unless prompted to. It is a tricky line to walk as sometimes you want to say something but you shouldn’t, and other times you are expected to do things but you may be a bit reserved since this is still a play. The best way to approach this type of experience is to just do what is natural and be aware of yourself, so you are not disruptive. One thing that I would heavily insist is that you truly believe you are trapped in this haunted house. To go in with a level of cynicism completely misses the opportunity for pure immersion that is possible. In short, you will get only as much as you give to the experience.

I went in with a small group consisting of myself and my friend JB, another group of 4 individuals, and a lone person, who was the only one of her 4-person group that was on time. There was a nice intimacy to the smaller group and most of the people seemed like they were really into the experience. One person was a bit snarky too often and another person was so completely uninterested in the play that all she did was complain about how hot it was and how bored she was. Both of them were slightly disruptive in their own way and the only thing I and another girl in our group (without communication) did to balance them was ramp up our own reactions to truly be as believable for the others as we could be.

And there were quite a bit of things to be terrified of! The creature special effects and the acting was quite real and disturbing. At first, you will keep remembering that this is only a play but at some point you start to really feel the reality of where you are. For me that happened during this moment (that I will not spoil because it must be experienced) that involved me being separated from my group and I found myself wiping the back of an old woman with a sponge while she masturbated. It was a moment that was so shockingly surreal that it was unbelievable I was actually doing it. Other things happened to me in my little escapade away from the main group, but it is something to be experienced and not read!

There are so many other moments of horror that defy logic and reality that your brain just can’t quite remind you fast enough that it is all just make believe. You really do feel that you are in a horror story. Delusion: Lies Within is truly a play that no person should miss. It is this brief moment where you get to escape the mundane and explore a world of monsters. For me, it was unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.

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Being trapped in that haunted mansion with those same unspeakable creatures that crawl around in my unchained imagination affirmed something that I will carry with me for probably the rest of my life. In those moments of confusion and fear, I found in myself depths of cowardice and peaks of courage that I was unaware I was even capable of.

It was in experiencing these polar opposite feelings that I know that whatever is hiding in the shadows of my house isn’t as scary as my mind tries to convince me it is.
If nothing else, there’s always my Plan B. ::cracks knuckles::

Tickets for Delusion: Lies Within are currently sold out. But sign-up for their mailing list and you’ll be kept up to date on expanded dates and ticket availability! The annual Delusion event is based in Los Angeles and is developed under the Haunted Play, LLC. http://www.enterdelusion.com/

(Additional photos by Sabina Ibarra)

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