• Extreme Haunted Houses are actually Jackass Escape Houses

    Without any exaggeration I get easily 20 messages a week about "Extreme Haunted Houses." People seem to want to know what I think of them. A lot.

    If you aren't familiar with the concept, "Extreme Haunted Houses" are buildings that you enter and are treated like an assault victim. You might be locked in a cage, you might see a fake rape and then the fake rapist may put his exposed penis next to your face, or someone may fake puke on your back. Basically different bad things happen to you in each room.

    These things easily go viral because everyone loves a controversy. Controversy equals page views and ad revenue.

    I don't care what other people do as long as no one is actually getting hurt, but this is not the kind of thing that I personally enjoy so it's not the kind of thing that I cover. This concept is so far off from what an actual haunted house is that I don't believe that they should even be called "haunted houses." They should be called Jackass (As in the MTV show Jackass) Escape Rooms. Sure, I totally watched that show but I have no desire to personally participate in crazy and extreme stunts.

    The primary differentiator between Haunted Houses and Jackass Escape Rooms is the goal. Haunted Houses are here to entertain you and the goal is for everyone to get through and to laugh and scream while they are doing it. It's like friends watching a horror film together. The rooms are usually built up with lavish sets and staging so that you can experience a fantasy world.

    Jackass Escape Rooms have a different goal. They appear to hope that a significant number of their customers are made so uncomfortable that they cannot complete the attraction. It's a frat boy hazing challenge as opposed to good-natured fun. There is usually very little creativity or effort involved in the sets because the world around you isn't important to these attractions.

    There is a continuum of genres within haunted attractions that looks something like this:

    Visual & Auditory: Comprehensive set design, startle scares, can have improv acting, no touching clearly indicated before you enter.

    Interactive & Theatrical: Comprehensive set design, startle scares, improv acting, theatrical vignettes performed by the actors, can have light touching but this is clearly indicated before you enter. There may be an option to opt out of the touching in many cases. You may be asked to participate in a scene or push a button.

    Jackass Escape Houses: Physical and sexual assault simulations with little to no story or world-building. These are off the continuum. The only commonality they share with haunted houses is the fact that there are actors inside a room.