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Freddy Krueger, get a day job! The REAL nightmare isn’t on Elm Street but on East “D” Street in Tacoma, where the Black Lake Haunted Asylum will scare the giblets out of “patients” three more evenings of this week, through Sat., Oct. 31 (Halloween).
I voluntarily “committed” myself to the Asylum last night, and glad that I had used the toilet earlier, or it would have made for an unpleasant ride home. Of course, I won’t – CAN’T – recount all the high-voltage horror I endured (loving every second of it), but suffice to say that the last time I saw so many crazy people with their mouths open, it was around the buffet at my bar mitzvah.
Now in its second year, the Black Lake Haunted Asylum isn’t your garden-variety amusement-park haunted house: It’s a heightened state of mind – so long as you don’t lose it during the Asylum “tour,” which takes place in the cellar of Tacoma’s century-old Freighthouse Square (a place I wouldn’t want to stroll alone even in the daytime). Again, you can pump me full of Sodium Pentothal and I won’t tell you what I saw – why spoil the fun? – but it’s an experience you’ll be eagerly telling your coworkers, classmates and/or analyst about for days.
Part “Mystery at the Wax Museum,” part Off Broadway play and all Halloween FUN, the Asylum is a collaborative effort of master sculptor/prop fabricator Ben Isitt (www.bensartworks.com) and professional haunted-house creator Clark (so behind-the-scenes that he preferred not to tell me his last name). I didn’t have a chance to meet with Ben, but Clark is a beefy, goodhearted ex-Marine who you’d want on your side if you ever DO wind up in an enclosed space with a lot of homicidal maniacs.
Also integral to the “treatment” in this basement Bedlam are the dozens of volunteers – Clark said at least 36 participate in each show, many of them students at the Tacoma School of the Arts – whose talents make the Asylum come alive, in a manner of speaking. So there’s no need to dread suddenly finding yourself alone in the dark amid lab specimens and experiments gone awry: THEY are always there … although, as Clark casually assured me, “they’re all crazy!”
And before you go, I advise ratcheting up the shock value of your tour by visiting the Asylum Web site at www.blacklakeasylum.com and reading about the institution’s “history” – which seemed so real that I went through four pages of Google search results before I convincing myself that the twisted Dr. West and Crazy Kristen (who scared the pants off me, to the disgust of other visitors) were figments of the Asylum organizers’ twisted imaginations. I think.
Incidentally, being of an inquiring mind, I couldn’t help asking Clark if anyone had suggested that the Asylum is, well, making light of a sensitive subject. (Actually, I asked him if anyone flat-out complained that satirizing a mental institution is in lousy taste.) Yeah, Clark replied, someone asked why he couldn’t stick to standard haunted-house fare: murderous ghosts, butchered corpses, ghouls and zombies with bad personal hygiene and even worse table manners – good, wholesome stuff like that. “Serial murderers are OK, but not an asylum? It’s ENTERTAINMENT,” he pointed out.
Entertainment it is indeed – and you have only three days left to enjoy it. Remaining show times are Thurs., Oct. 29, from 7 to 11 p.m. and Fri. and Sat., Oct. 30 and 31, from 7 p.m. to midnight: Check www.blacklakeasylum.com for details. Admission is $13 per “patient” ($1 off the price of one ticket at the door with military ID). Freighthouse Square is located at 2501 East “D” St., Tacoma. Visit www.freighthousesquare.com for more information and directions.
NOTE: The Black Lake Haunted Asylum actively supports My Sister’s Pantry (www.mysisterspantry.com), a Tacoma food bank that serves hot meals and distributes groceries and clothing to the poor and the homeless. Visitors to the Asylum are encouraged to bring a nonperishable food item for My Sister’s Pantry for which they’ll get $1 off the ticket price at the door.
Images provided by Terry Carpenter of Lugh Waterman Surreal Photography
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