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Haunted Houses Level Up in ALONE: An Existential Haunting

Haunted Houses Level Up in ALONE: An Existential Haunting

An enormous amount of mental energy can be spent fighting the gnawing suspicion that we are fundamentally alone. When tired of fighting, we spiral into feeling entirely irrelevant. If something so sad feels so true, it seems impossible to explore this state of being objectively. But from the inimitable imaginations of Lawrence Lewis and Devon Paulson comes Alone: An Existential Haunting, a fully immersive walk-through experience described as “lying somewhere in-between [an] art installation and a haunted house”, which is to be completed almost entirely alone.

My first brush with Alone was in 2014, conducted through a fictional organization called the Enola Foundation. I was given the address to a clandestine location only 24 hours in advance. When I arrived, two people dressed in white suits handed me a clipboard with a waiver attached, an agreement that included the stipulation the actors inside are allowed to make both gentle and aggressive physical contact. You agree to travel through complete darkness, in tight confinement or total exposure. I signed my personal space away, was led up a rickety freight elevator, guided through a red-lit yoga meditation, then grabbed suddenly from behind and dragged into a maze of bizarre and breathtaking design. I was hooked.

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Photo courtesy of facebook.com/theAloneExperience

Part augmented reality, part existential haunt, part spiritual journey, part scavenger hunt; you might think psychologists or cult leaders designed Alone. And yet, knowing that creators Lawrence Lewis and Devon Paulson come from expansive film and fine arts backgrounds, respectively, only begins to shed light on their process. While they are not able to divulge their methodology, speaking to them about their motives and inspiration cast a different sort of illumination. “We like things that tell the truth in every form, the truth of reality and experience and what it is to be a human. Truth in Art comforts us.”

Of course, Alone was not meant to be a comforting creation. “… At the same time, art should scare you; it should anger you, make you wonder, make you terrified, make you uncomfortable. It should press in upon your previously held conceptions and beliefs and make you rethink yourself and your positions.” When you enter a room of red pulsing light, a Hypnotoad drone blaring from all sides, and you receive the warmest hug of your life from a complete stranger before being draped in a white sheet for an indeterminate amount of time, remember those words.

It would seem that there are no limits to what they’re capable of. They do not see the world they are presented with as an obstacle, but as the thing that determines their creation. They call themselves “site-specific”, relying on the space to dictate the experience and the route. “There is a large amount of work that goes into structuring what we want along with the space itself as if it were another member of the ALONE team. The greatest challenge is always time, and never space.” Words to live by as you walk the entire underside of a downtown Los Angeles bridge, miles from where you started, guided entirely by music, riddles, and transients.

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Photo courtesy of facebook.com/theAloneExperience

Alone has now entered its fourth year of production, and the concept has only become more elaborate. This year there is not one, but four unique experiences, spanning from June and climaxing into October. Each month represents different behavioral phases, or “Indices”, of light, under the title Unweave the Rainbow: Diffusion, Refraction, Reflection, and beginning October 17th, the Index of Absorption.

Clearly, these events are a distant wail from your usual haunted houses. “We shy away from calling ALONE a haunt because it isn’t trying to do what other experiences that call themselves ‘haunts’ do. We appreciate those haunts, and are fans in every sense. ALONE, however, [is] more of an experience that explores all of human emotion rather than simply fear. If you are an extreme haunt fan you may well be disappointed that ALONE isn’t more extreme.”

Indeed, instead of leaving Alone feeling haunted, I felt exorcised. I have spent hours this year mingling with strangers to solve cryptic puzzles, wandering the streets at 1am with paint on my face, or creeping in pitch-black through wooden mazes, left only with the choice to trust the walls that determined my path and the strange faceless, bodiless guides who led me through, sometimes gently, sometimes aggressively, but always what I needed. To be alone does not have to mean feeling lonely. Alone has taught me that even when the path is unclear, and you are forced to crawl on your hands and knees, your best, most instinctual choice is to let go of fear, trust yourself, trust the darkness, and take yourself on an adventure.

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Photo courtesy of facebook.com/theAloneExperience

But Alone isn’t done with me yet, and there’s room for you, too, if you live in the Southern California area. Tickets for the Fourth Index of Unweave the Rainbow: Absorption are available online, experiences running select dates from October 17th through November 1st. 

Intrigued? Take a look at their site for an entirely “new tiered structure” coming January 2016 called Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 12.58.03 AM [intimate], an event for only one participant that requires a face-to-face interview, complete with background check, access to personal information, and contact with friends, family, and co-workers.

You can follow ALONE at the following social media sites:

Facebook: facebook.com/theAloneExperience

Twitter: @aloneexperience

Instagram: @aloneexperience

 

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