There are two things I have looked forward to this fall: the return of pumpkin spiced everything and The Vault of Souls coming back to downtown Tampa. For those unfamiliar, this event takes place in the real creepy basement of a real bank built in the 1920s filled with real history.
Unlike a typical haunt attraction, The Vault of Souls is not about blood and guts, monsters jumping out of “boo holes” (places for actors to hide and pop out to scare you), or conga lines to get from one end of the maze to the other. Instead, visitors don masks that encourage them not to speak and are given free reign to explore the basement of the bank on their own at whatever pace they choose. Once downstairs, guests come into contact with the ghosts that have inhabited the bank for nearly 100 years.
I recently got a chance to chat with Scott Swenson, the creative genius behind The Vault of Souls and asked him how the planning for this year’s event was going. “We are really thrilled to be bringing this event back to Tampa this year,” remarked Swenson. “We actually started working on this year’s version just after last year’s event wrapped up in November 2015. After the run ended, we sat down and started to evaluate what worked and what didn’t work last year. In February of this year, we started work on developing new storylines and overall structure and by April, construction had begun. Casting was done back in June and rehearsals are underway now.”
According to Swenson, they are going to focus more this year on story starting with your journey before you arrive to The Vault of Souls. Several videos will be made that can be accessed online that give a bit of backstory to some of the characters you’ll meet during your visit. For those who visited last year, you’ll know that the event centered around a girl who was accidentally trapped in the vault named Lucy. This year, I am told we might find her parents as well as other characters that tie in with her story which gives the experience even more depth.
In addition, there will be even more performances throughout the arrival experience (the bank’s main hall which is used as a holding area before the main event), including a historian who briefs you prior to your descent into the basement of the building.
“We actually have a guy,” he explained. “Who went to the event last year who spent three hours in The Vault of Souls who is our storyteller this year. He was perfect for the role because he already had such a strong grasp of the characters.”
It’s also worth mentioning that if you didn’t attend last year’s event, you will not be lost if you come in this year without a prior knowledge of what happened. By no means is this a Chapter 2 of a novel, but rather an enhanced version of last year’s event seen from a fresh perspective.
“I tell my team it’s like stirring soup,” Swenson said. “Once you start mixing up the ingredients, some things you may not have noticed before rise to the top while others fall into the background a bit… but it’s the same soup!”
I cannot recommend The Vault of Souls enough. If you’re a fan of Halloween and are looking for an event that is more sophisticated, immersive and elegant than nearly any other you can find in the country, you owe it to yourself to visit ElegantFear.com and reserve your time slot to enter the Vault on your own… but wait!
A quick word on the pricing of the event, which is $100 per person. I get a lot of people responding to some articles scoffing at what an attraction like this costs versus what a typical haunt might be in a theme park or even an independently owned haunted house. Indeed, this isn’t cheap. This is designed to be a treat. Not everything can be priced to where it’s easily affordable by the masses for two reasons: it allows for more exclusivity and frankly, operating costs can be on the high side. Here’s the deal….
Sometimes you want a hamburger and sometimes you want steak. Now both will satisfy your craving for beef, but clearly one trumps the other in terms of quality. If you’re a person who can splurge on steak every once in a while, surely you’ve asked yourself: grocery bought top sirloin or filet mignon at a steakhouse with all the trimmings? Occasionally, if it’s your thing, and you’ve got the funding to do so, some people treat themselves to the full steak experience. You know… the fine linens, delicate china and being served by a guy wearing a bow tie and cummerbund. The Vault of Souls is a visit to a fine steakhouse (steak not included).
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