We are driving down a dark road in an industrial area. I haven't seen any houses in a while; just gas stations with their buzzing fluorescent lights, fast food joints and mysterious unmarked warehouses. Have we passed it? Our eyes strain to make out numbers. Then, projected on the side of a building, stark white on black: CREEP.
"There it is!" I exclaim. I make a U-turn and pull into the lot.
A small group of people linger out front. A man in a dark hoodie and mask hands us cards inscribed with a single word and silently points to the X's on the ground in front of the door. We take our places. An orchestral cover of Radiohead's "Creep" plays. Are those children singing? It's hot in LA - still summer, really - but Halloween is in the air.
The door swings open. It's our turn to enter.
I ask to use the bathroom. It's lit only by candles; incense smolders in the sink. One of the creeps repeatedly pounds on the door while I try to pee. "This is all part of it," I reassure myself.
They call us forward, four at a time, and ask us to sign waivers. I don't even read mine, I just scribble my name. "Don't fuck it up," a creep hisses in my ear. After everyone has signed their lives away, they gesture: This way. Look for the man with the clipboard and introduce yourselves. We slink down a twisting maze in pitch blackness, the eight of us, thrown together by fate. Where are we heading?
Suddenly, a light. No one jumps out at us. There are no flayed corpses or fog machines or spiderwebs. Just a room that looks like a nightclub from a David Lynch movie, bathed in red light. PJ Harvey's "Electric Light" is playing. We order vodka sodas and wait, nervously. What have we gotten ourselves into?
A beautiful woman asks me to dance and makes me promise to go wherever the darkness takes me. A stranger pulls me away from my husband and takes me into an enclosed space. A man tells us the story of Erebus Burwyck, who believed the path to transcendence was paved with suffering, both mental and physical, before hammering nails into his face.
Then, the man with the clipboard says the word printed on the cards we were given. Purgatory is behind us now; only hell lies ahead.
We are led away. Our adventure begins in earnest.
If you're game, this is an experience that's rich with petrifying possibilities. Enter the darkness, and let the darkness enter you.
Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary passes to review this event.