If you’ve ever been to a traditional haunted house, either as a stand-alone attraction or within a theme park, you know the drill. Wait outside in metal gates usually meant for cattle and after a half-hour or even several hours, you and your herd head inside the house. Moo. Regardless of theme, the formula is relatively the same. You form a conga line and move from room to room. Somewhere there is an actor who pops out and scares you into the next room until you’re out of the haunt. Rinse. Lather. Repeat.
A tried and true formula that will exist until the end of time. But what if I told you that there was an alternative? Instead of moving through a haunt like cattle, what if you arrived at the event at a specified reservation time and someone was there to greet you to valet your car? Would you be interested in an elegant haunt event for adults that is personalized and provides a different type of scare? Friends, I just had a taste of such an event and the Vault of Souls in Tampa, Florida will change your perception of what a haunt event truly can be.
If you heard my recent interview with Scott Swenson, creative genius behind the Vault of Souls on Theme Park University Radio, you’ll know that we talked about how different this is from a traditional haunted house. When I met with him in person he gave me an extremely personalized sneak peak of the attraction and holy crap, it’s incredible.
Upon arrival, my girlfriend and I had our auras cleansed via the local spiritual medium. Each encounter we had with a character was personal, engaging and slightly chilling. As a skeptic, I have never had a tarot card reading done before, but since one was being offered to me (and is offered to guests at the event), I figured, “why not?” The gentleman who read my cards was insanely dead on accurate. He knew specific details about my family including exact names, recent deaths and births as well as a few projects I am working on. Color me impressed.
Moving on, Scott took me on a personal tour of the arrival space which will be home to a lounge where guests will relax while waiting for their time to head into the main attraction. Drinks, roving entertainment and live music in an elegant setting that has been home to weddings and fashion shows await guests when they first arrive to the Vault of Souls. Metal cattle gates be damned.
Before Scott took us down into the actual bank vault, we were instructed to wear masks that protected our identity. You see, this event takes place in what was once a real bank with real vaults and a really creepy 12,000-square foot basement. The spirits that haunt the bank kept their possessions there to be used in the afterlife.
As we rode the elevator downstairs, Scott informed us that there was no talking from that moment on until we arrived back upstairs again. Once downstairs, the spirits were crawling out from the walls, from behind and beckoning us deeper into the darkness. No screaming, no blood and guts and certainly no gimmicky effects.
Instead I found myself in the 1920s surrounded by around 10 performers who were interested in one thing only: me! They all wanted my attention and it was tough to decide where to look, who to respond to and even how to react. I got a small taste of what it’s like down there and everything from the lighting to the costumes to the sound and especially the talent, this goes far beyond any other haunt event I have ever done. The attention to detail, the personal touches and the overall passion that has been put into the Vault of Souls has me craving more.
There are three things in life you can count on: death, taxes and that Josh Young will 100% be returning to the Vault of Souls to experience the entire event. After recording the podcast with Scott recently, we chatted off air about our love for immersive theater. I told him that my first visit to Sleep No More (the gold standard of immersive theater) in New York literally changed my life. I have never looked at entertainment the same and Scott concurred that it had a similar impact on his life when he experienced the show for the first time.
Friends, the Vault of Souls has a very strong chance of being a life changing event for you. One that you’ll be talking about for weeks, months and possibly years to come. Sure, you can visit the haunted house events you always do year after year. Or, you can spend some extra dough, and try something truly unique in Tampa. A full evening of elegant fear.
Visit TheVaultofSouls.com to buy your tickets early, I guarantee they will start to sell out towards the end of the run from word of mouth and the limited number sold each night. This will be a very exclusive and special event. Assuming I make it out alive, I’ll tell you how my trip to the full Vault of Souls event went in a future article here at Theme Park University.
Images Copyright: Theme Park University, The Vault of Souls