With Halloween just around the corner, scary houses around the world are churning up new ways to spook the bejesus out of people. The latest is ‘17th Door’ in Tustin, California, guaranteed to give you one of the ‘scariest’ experience in the world. So much so that you actually have to sign a waiver before entering.
The house is a fictional medical college called Gluttire with 17 rooms, each more terrifying than the last. They’re meant to provide you a glimpse into the demented mind of a first-year student named Paula. She is tormented by her past, and she also grapples with drugs, anorexia, and suicidal tendencies.
Visitors are locked in each room for about 90 seconds, with only grotesque monsters for company. The monsters are free to touch and even lick them. All five senses are engaged, with foul scents, extreme temperatures, detailed visuals, startling sounds, and even a few taste tests. When the bell rings, it’s time to move on to the next, scarier room. And there’s only one way to end the experience: Yell ‘Mercy’!
Ever since 17th Door opened on September 25, over 350 guests have yelled the safe word way before the 30-minute experience was over. But owners Robbie and Heather Luther say they actually planned to make the place a lot scarier – so horrifying that it would eventually be banned.
“My original plan was to do a haunted house so extreme and awesome that it would get protested by all these groups and then I would get shut down,” said Robbie, who invested $100,000 in the project along with his wife Heather. “Some of my original ideas were pretty far out.”
“There’s a lot going on,” Heather added. “It’s very interactive and immersive kind of and kind of invades your space. You will get touched and you might get wet.” She revealed that they started brainstorming last fall and construction began in April this year, without either of them having prior experience in the business. They aren’t horror fans or haunt enthusiasts, but they chose to do it because it combines several skills Robbie has acquired during his diverse career – sound engineering, construction, and salesmanship. And Heather’s birthday happens to be on Halloween, which she has always celebrated at haunted houses.
The Luthers wanted to fashion the house after a storyline, not a theme, so visitors would feel like they’re actually in a horror film. So they wrote the story of Paula, a troubled girl who goes to study medicine at Gluttire University. The school setting has allowed the Luthers to include rich scenes – right from a library to a medical classroom, to a locker room. They also did several rounds of auditions to find the perfect actors for the various monster roles.
So far, the venture has been a success. A ticket to 17th Door costs anywhere between $21 and $35, and the place will be open on select nights until November 1. Over 20,000 tickets have been sold so far. They’re getting about 800 guests a night on average, most of whom say that the experience is terrifying.
“It’s super intense,” said visitor Monique Martin from Moreno Valley. “I’ve actually worked in haunted houses as an actor myself and this is very, very intense, very scary.”
The 17th Door might be scary, but it doesn’t seem to have surpassed last year’s scariest Halloween attraction, McKamey Manor, where visitors were not just touched or licked by monsters. They were tied up, gagged, forced into cages, and even force-fed rotten eggs. And the worst part – there was no safe word.
Photos; 17th Door