In 2013, ALONE was a great take on being “extreme”, as well as theatrical and frightening. It was aggressive and dark – taking place primarily in the pitch black, as guests were completely alone. My only complaint (but more of a suggestion) at the time was that I wanted to see the creators incorporate a story, or at least a consistent theme. I understood the rawness of the experience and disorientation; however, my preference in any attraction is to be able to somewhat follow what is happening.
ALONE successfully experimented with unique ways for guests to experience the attraction in 2014; this started as early as two months prior to the main event in mid-October. I had the honor to work with the creators of ALONE to bring a one-of-a-kind experience to ScareLA, the Los Angeles Halloween convention – something that I don’t think has ever been done before in that type of setting. There have been many haunted house walk-throughs at conventions, but this was a personal, interactive and aggressive attraction that each guest had to experience… alone. At ScareLA, guests had to check in at ALONE’s booth, and were given strange, cryptic brochures about the mysterious Enola Foundation. Some guests were marked with triangles or neon paint after checking in, which caused quite the hype and discussion among other convention attendees. When ALONE was ready, your cell phone rang with a man’s voice on the other line, asking “Are you alone? Drop all your things and head to the elevators on the second floor. Do not talk to anyone.”
To avoid spoilers for future guests, I won’t go into too much detail of the experience. I can say, I was thrown around and put into a wheelbarrow – 10 minutes of pure disorientation ensued. The blending of both worlds – fiction and reality – was absolutely genius. During the first part of the experience, you were still on the show floor with the bustle of the convention all around you, until you were suddenly pulled aggressively into a dark hallway in the basement. It was incredible and unique, and the feedback couldn’t have been more rewarding. A big thank you to the ALONE and ScareLA team for believing in something that was a crazy idea on paper, but turned out extremely successful due to everyone’s enthusiasm for this event and Halloween. It was one of the highlights of the entire weekend for me.
The mystery of the Enola Foundation appeared more high-profile following ScareLA on social media platforms, their website, and even through cryptic emails. On September 26th, I was received an email with the subject title: “Saturday’s Alignment” with an address in Los Angeles.
“A brighter today is a brighter tomorrow and tomorrow for you will be particularly bright!” read the message.
A few friends of mine received the same email and agreed to meet at this mysterious location in Los Angeles for “alignment”. There were no more than 20 people in this house – we drank tea, did yoga with a strange woman, and were given wooden coins to keep. The idea was fascinating – it made the hardcore fans excited, and caused much chatter about this exclusive event we all endured. We were all ready for October, and the main ALONE event!
“You do not have a body. You are a body.”
Fast-forward to October 30, 2014. I made sure the coin I received during the “alignment” in September was safe in my pocket, and I was excited to find out what this would unlock. The experiences in the past few months had been strange – nothing particularly scary, but incredibly bizarre moments that pull you in, wanting to discover more. ALONE was in a new location this year in downtown Los Angeles. In an alleyway between tall, brick buildings in the Fashion District, I spotted the familiar, brightly lit white triangle above a table. I love how the triangle is a prominent symbol/logo for ALONE – it’s something I’ve become familiar with and immediately associate with the event.
My name was called after I’d checked in, and I joined a small group of guests in a creaky elevator, ascending into the darkness. Upon arrival, I immediately recognized the music and type of setting we’d stepped into – very similar to the “alignment” surroundings from the September experience. I loved that I was familiar with the environment – I felt that I was already a part of the experience, and was there to dig deeper into the story and mystery of the Enola Foundation.
And then, we did yoga. Breathe in… Breathe out. Suddenly, the entire group was hooded and taken away; except me. I continued to do yoga with a mysterious woman, and oh how were we focused! Breathe in… Breathe out. After a few minutes of labored breathing and stretching, I was hooded and had headphones placed on me while I stood there, alone. The anticipation is what unsettles me the most, and something I’m never prepared for. I suppose that is the most frightening part of being alone – no one else is there to “protect” or “warn” you.
It isn’t easy trying to explain what happened during ALONE; maybe that’s the purpose. Some scenes were truly frightening, and others were beautiful. I caught myself smiling at some points as well as laughing. I was taken through a series of vignettes – most that didn’t make sense, but I’m sure were open to interpretation by each guest. I crawled, drank tea, ran, and was even tickled. Yes, I was tickled. And it was probably one of the most uncomfortable moments of my life, because I’m not a fan of being tickled at all. ALONE evoked different emotions from me, which is something that is hard to explain to anyone.
And remember that wooden coin I mentioned I’d kept from the “alignment”? It unlocked a secret room. This is where a unicorn and I danced. We danced in circles and had a pillow fight. Just go with it.
When I thought the experience was over, I was let out into a dank, darkened alley where a homeless man followed and heckled me. It wasn’t until I saw a security guard that I knew that I was safe, and that the alley with the creepy vagrant was a false ending; I felt so uneasy – I almost gave the security guard a hug! Congrats to ALONE for giving me my biggest scare of the season! I proceeded into another building where the experience continued. Kudos to the faux ending – very impressive!
The night ended at the incredible XXShadowLounge (speakeasy-type bar post-experience) where I received a complimentary beverage. I looked like I was thrown onto a muddy bed, tarred and feathered, and dumped down a flight of stairs! The lounge was a perfect place to relax and try to comprehend what just happened.
If I continued to attempt to explain my experience from ALONE, I’d sound crazy… or was it a dream? Maybe it was. ALONE is where your nightmares come true, but not where the demons, monsters, or ghosts live. The experience evokes different emotions that you feel the most uncomfortable facing – whether it is being in a sketchy downtown area alley, or tickled by strangers – neither are something that are particularly pleasant. You won’t find chainsaws, blood, or sexual circumstances here, and some may be disappointed without that. I found it not scary, but surreal, physiological and Lynchian – a dream-like experience through different vignettes of emotions. ALONE is not a traditional “haunted house”, but it is does and will haunt you. It was extreme in a way that guests were touched – it was aggressive and definitely uncomfortable.
I would like to see ALONE explore and move forward with their mini experiences and scavenger hunt-type events, which is what I thoroughly enjoyed. I can see ALONE being a year-round venture, where each event would be completely different from the rest (similar to the seasons of American Horror Story). Though I prefer the darker, more psychological experience of ALONE, I respect and love that any attraction can pull off something incredibly different or “extreme”.
Little did I know as I wrote this review, the ALONE social media pages have been hinting at a January 17th off-season event!
A big thank you to Lawrence Lewis and Devon Paulson, the co-creators of ALONE for the hospitality, and all the talent and fun you’ve contributed to this season. I am looking forward to uncovering more mysteries of the Enola Foundation!
– Johanna Atilano