Finally. After living in Central Florida for nearly 20 years, I have been craving a form of entertainment that goes beyond what can be done in a theme park. Something that can throw away all the rules of waiting in long lines, keeping your hands to yourself and being herded like cattle in order to make things efficient. An experience that is rich in character development, set design and story. I have found the promise land and it’s The Vault of Souls in Tampa, Florida.
Several weeks ago, I got a preview of the event and the chance to speak with Scott Swenson, who created The Vault of Souls and I was beyond impressed with my bite size tasting. After seeing the show, I can confidently say The Vault of Souls is my favorite Halloween event I have ever done in Central Florida. Before I give you reasons why you should pay a visit to the Vault, let me quickly explain what it is not.
Despite it being a Halloween event, The Vault of Souls contains zero of the following: blood and guts, monsters, teenagers in heavy makeup screaming at you and most importantly? Lines. I can’t stress this enough. If you’re a person who doesn’t care for the typical in-your-face Halloween fodder found at most haunted houses throughout the world? You need to buy a ticket to The Vault of Souls ASAP and here are my top 5 reasons why.
5. Choose Your Own Path
In a normal theme park or theater experience, consistency is key. Everyone sees the same pre-show, rides the same attraction and exits into the same gift shop. Not true in The Vault. Below the marbled floors of the former Exchange National Bank is a labyrinth of tunnels that lead to a series of rooms, hallways and scenes that need to be explored. Take your time. Make sure you see, at the very least, the entire labyrinth. Go down every tunnel and try and open all doors. You never know what you’ll find.
4. Touch Everything
Hardcore theme park fans know that if you look just beyond the surface there are hidden images, intricate backstories and even nods to the creators if you take the time to look and connect the dots. The Vault of Souls has story elements scattered everywhere. If you find a box, open it. Stumble upon a letter? Read it. You’re in a playground for adults. Everything you can see and touch was put there for a reason.
3. Follow The Leads
Assuming you take the time to read all of the notes and signs scattered around, you will occasionally find one with instructions on it. Perhaps it doesn’t make sense at the time because you haven’t uncovered a room, prop or character that the instructions connect to. However, I assure you that if you figure out what to do and find the right person or complete the task properly, you will get a piece of the story and show that others will not thanks to your intuition, assertiveness and puzzle solving skills.
2. Interact With All Characters
If you’re used to typical haunted houses, you know that an actor typically has a few lines before they are done with you before moving you along to the next scene. Take a moment, erase that notion from your head and read on. What if a character gives you instruction and you ignore it?
Let’s assume someone comes up to you and says “you’re going the wrong way!”, but what if they’re just trying to throw you off? What if you continued down that path? Here’s another example. Let’s assume you can’t gain access to a particular room. Do you chalk it up as a loss or take the time to figure out what needs to be done to get in? Perhaps another character can be of assistance.
Finally, let’s say you stumble across a character who is looking for something specific and they ask you if you have seen it. In a typical haunted house “have you seen my dollies?” is a rhetorical question. In The Vault of Souls, it very well may not be. Find that object, it could be anywhere, and bring it to whomever asked for it. What’s the worse thing that could happen?
1. Real Environments
I hate to break it to you, but the Hollywood Tower Hotel at Disney’s Hollywood Studios isn’t real. I know, it’s exquisitely detailed and truly looks like you’ve traveled back to 1939, but nearly everything in the building has been intricately designed to create an illusion that you’ve traveled into another dimension.
The Vault of Souls has a huge advantage, those tunnels beneath the marble floor of the grand lobby were never designed for an attraction. The main vault itself including the door that weighs several tons? Was not put there by Scott Swenson to add ambience. The bullet holes found in the glass downstairs? Also real. In terms of set design, 50% of the work was done for Swenson and his team long before they set foot in the bank and that authenticity gives a huge advantage to what they were trying to create.
At the end of the day, in order to fully appreciate The Vault of Souls, you need to experience this for yourself. The haunt industry needs this, the community needs this and most importantly, Central Florida needs to prove that it’s not just vanilla family-friendly entertainment. This community can step outside of that box and offer much more enriching, unique and fulfilling experiences that can bring so much more than cartoon characters and thrill rides. We deserve this. Buy your tickets now at TheVaultofSouls.com.
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Photos Copyright: Theme Park University, The Vault of Souls