I’ve been trying to think of a way to put my thoughts down for about 36 hours. On Saturday night, my time with The Tension Experience came to a head.
On Saturday, I attended Ascension - the two hour long live event following 7 months of Indoctrination, a largely internet based experience, with some in-person, very personal interactions happening to many. Ascension was very much in person, hands on, and unlike anything I had ever expected or hoped for.
It has recently been revealed that The Tension Experience comes from the minds of horror creators Darren Lynn Bousman and Clint Sears. Last week, I was fully expecting to put a big caveat at the end of this, that no matter how good it is, how lavish the set design, intense the story, extreme the situations, it still was coming from filmmakers who (to the uninitiated) seemed to be buying their way into the still very niche immersive theater and extreme haunt scene. However, moments after walking through the doors of The Tension Experience: Ascension, it was clear that I had the absolute wrong idea, and I'm actually ashamed for even thinking it. This comes from a place of love, not only love of immersive theater and extreme haunts, but also love for the community that has been built up around these things and love for the community that has been built around this experiment called Tension. And honestly, love for the human experience. The minds behind The Tension Experience have found a way to elevate all aspects of these things and create something extremely special that deserves to be celebrated. It is a showcase of raw and absolutely vital creativity in all aspects.
I’m having trouble deciding what to say, since this is an experience that can only be had for the first time once, and it’s honestly best to have no idea what you’re getting into. Though I’m speaking generally, if you plan on attending, do not read anything that follows - although everyone has a unique experience, and seemingly 75% of the show is unique to each participant that enters, there’s just a sense of horrific wonder that takes over that I’m not sure would translate if you knew the possibilities of what will eventually happen to you. I can say that this was the most meticulously designed, intense, intimate show I’ve ever experienced. It sets a new bar for immersive experiences. It gave me everything I asked for, did things I thought were impossible, and took me to places I never imagined. You need to buy tickets for this RIGHT NOW at The Tension Experience's website
It wasn’t a jump out and spook ya theme park haunted house, though there was one horrifyingly, quietly escalating sequence reminiscent of a middle school halloween party gross-out haunted house. It wasn’t an extreme haunt, though there were some very physical interactions and moments where I was legitimately not certain I would leave without lasting injury, if I would ever escape at all. It was not immersive theater, though there were scenes that played out as such, where I took on the character of myself in an ongoing scene, with my interactions affecting the experience for myself and for others all the way to the end. It wasn’t an escape room, though there was a room with a countdown and many locks and keys.
It began with myself, seven of my closest friends that I actually made through this experience, and a stranger (but good sport despite not knowing anyone else like we knew each other) all being hooded for a a speeding, bumpy van ride that led to us being ejected from the van, one by one, before it sped off and drove for another few minutes. From then, it was a descent into the dark as I was processed through a series of very specific to my life questions (they definitely did their research, and knew exactly what buttons to push to break before ringing the bell). I had my identity questioned, as the master of ceremonies and current figurehead of the OOA (the cult into which we were being initiated) was also named Addison. I was subjected to an extremely intense bout of sensory deprivation, beyond what I thought was possible.
There was this message sent to some friends when we were talking about what we hoped to get out of Ascension. They somehow gave me all of this, and it only scratched the surface.
There are images seared into my eyes, and moments that replay in my mind every time I let it wander.
All I can think now is that I need to go back.