The Tension Experience: Ascension

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. 

Photo via The Tension Experience Facebook Page

Photo via The Tension Experience Facebook Page

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.

Why are all the eyes scratched out of these pictures?”

”Oh.. You’ll see for yourself soon.

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.

III has awoken, is this still a game? A personal experience with Tension.

It's been a crazy few days in Tension land.

One week ago, were were given the opportunity to talk to a newly awakened "Gatekeeper" named III. A guide figured aptly named "OOA_GUIDE" posted on the Tension Experience forums that we have been given the opportunity to ask III any 3 questions, and 2 questions would be answered. 

After a day of discussion, we landed on these:

  • Please explain to us clues/links/puzzles we have missed?
  • Please explain to us what the OOA organization structure is?
  • Please explain the significance of the numbers that you are giving us, specifically 242 and 8 from the found letter and the numbers mentioned in some phone calls?

After submitting these, we were told answers would be coming when III awakes, and he would answer in his own time.

On Saturday afternoon, Tension was back on Periscope - this time, their broadcast addressed to a specific participant in town from St. Paul, MN. It showed who we were lead to believe was III, in Echo Park, dropping two black envelopes in some bushes. Immediately, Megan, the out of town participant, was on her way to Echo Park, and started her own Periscope stream as she walked around the lake, searching for these two envelopes, while the rest of us were cheering her on. It was an extremely positive moment in the community.

When she  found the envelopes, she collapsed onto the ground and opened them. Inside were three papers. One - an organizational chart of the OOA, positions listed in boxes connected by arrows. Second - a photocopied page from what appeared to be a scholastic journal, most of it crossed out with black marker, apart from two paragraphs in the middle, describing "8." Third, and ancient text, singed with flame, describing 242's dedication to Anoch and the creation of the Oracles. 

Organizational chart of the OOA.

After a forensic investigation from the wonderful @mkarrett/Melissa, we know that the redacted blocks contain the following:

In those now familiar sun-washed video farewells, the members of The Anoch Institute have and they had made up their own minds. Even the parents of one young woman found among the brainwashed tell us “she was happy, healthy, and acting under her own volition”
But despite claims that the 42 followers were not brainwashed or bullied by The Regent, there is evidence to the contrary. Far from being freely thought-out final acts, the followers are seen by some mental health experts and cule(?) scholars as largely the result of a sustained, calculated and ruthless program of psychological coercion.
I see them as victims of a hoax, said Dr. Louis J. Hammer, a UCLA psychiatrist and cult watcher. “There was treachery here.”
Hammer and others believe that members of “totalist” religious organization are subject to a form of psychological manipulation known as undue influence coercive persuasion or thought reform. And their analysis of The Anoch Institute practices from the insistence that members forsake family to the minute-by-minute schedules they had to keep suggest that the organizations was structured to undermine individuals identities, leaving them to ignore misgivings and do the groups bidding no matter how irrational”

However, the role of “thought reform” in cult behavior is hotly disputed in academic circles. Some scholars challenge the idea of psychological manipulation, arguing that followers are drawn into a cult by its philosophy as are observers of mainstream religions.

The very dubious of the psychological interpretation of the reported suicides, said Richard Hecht, chairman of the religious studies at UC Santa Barbara. A person is attracted to an organization like this because it espouses a “convincing narrative” in which the follower “finds meaning” he says. By implication, a follower is not passively brainwashed but actively “buys into” the message.


Needless to say, these answers brought to light just as many questions.

Later that evening, I was contacted by Aleister, who had previously called me in a panic in order to schedule a meeting. He said that unforeseen circumstances meant we needed to push our meeting from Sunday to Monday, 7pm, Studio City area. On Monday afternoon, I was given a zip code, and told to be in that zip by 7 that evening - they would call with an address. On my way north, Aleister let me know that III had awakened, and he could not meet with me, but is sending someone else in his stead, and that I should listen to what he has to say. 

Here's my description of the events that transpired from the Tension Experience forums:


I just met with someone. I’m not sure I should give his name or location, for his own safety. He is an actor, one who worked with the OOA about 10 years ago. He questioned me on why I’m a part of Tension, why I’m taking part in something with the OOA. 
-Because I’m interested in haunts, immersive theater, and ARGs. They billed themselves as such, and I am here to see what happens.
He asked if I knew what the OOA was about, what they were doing. 
-They claim to be guiding participants towards enlightenment.
What do you think they’re doing?
-I'm not sure and I have not been involved in their inner workings. At their last event, they took one of their own, a girl known as Addison, against her will.
So why are you still a part of this? A part of the OOA?
- Nobody has reached out to me and given me any other choice. But to loop back on a previous question, I'm here to find out where Addison is.
He made me call Kim, someone I met through the Tension Experience who has become a good friend and secure confidant, but also a member of the Brotherhood of Seraph (a group working against the OOA). He gave me an envelope with her phone number on it, told me to open the envelope and read what was written on the paper inside - I was forced to pledge allegiance to the OOA and cut ties with Kimberly.
He told me he had an audition for a voiceover part. At the location were old people in suits, stoic, odd. As though they’d never cracked a smile in their lives. Sounded similar to the people we met at the mixer. 
Instead of doing his piece in a recording studio booth, he was handed a phone. Into the phone, he was made to read essentially a Pledge of Allegiance to Anoch. While he was reading, he heard sounds on the other end of the phone that he did not describe other than that they made him very uncomfortable. At the end, they gave him a wad of cash, enough money to live comfortably off of for a couple months. 
The next day, he received a call from his agent for an on-camera role. He went to the location – same people as before, though a different location.
Mid-way through a similar spiel as the VO gig, he was not comfortable saying the words they wrote for him. 
When he resisted, they confronted him with very personal information from his past. Things he had never told anyone in his life – not his friends, his family, anyone. And threatened him that they would make it public if he did not do as they said. 
He warned me – the reason that there are so many “industry” people involved with Tension is a front. They’ve attracted these people to make it seem like a theater piece, something fun and simple and just another haunted house. He says that this is not true. They are VERY serious and do not have good intentions. 
He warned me I need to leave Tension. The OOA. Get away from them and not let them into my life. 
I asked if I could share this info, go public, he said it was my decision.
And then he kicked me out of the location we were meeting at. Said I had to leave right then and there. I actually started typing this in my car outside the location, but he followed me out and I had to leave the property.. Typing this from a secluded alleyway now.
I’m not sure what to do. It’s not the first warning about the OOA we’ve received. And I feel unsafe posting this on their official forums, but I feel like this info needs to go out. 
I know I’m reconsidering my association with this organization, and I guess asking that you all do this as well. Why are you here? What is the point? What are you actually looking for?
This is real. Yes, it says it’s just a game. “Performance Art” per Facebook. But are you really comfortable letting these people whom you’ve never met, who can’t give a straight answer, anything into your lives?


After I got home, I messaged Aleister. Told him he owes me answers. How did he know this man I met with? Why did he send an ex-OOA actor to dissuade me from associating with the OOA? Is Addison OK?

Al told me he can't answer my questions. This was my first real step towards enlightenment, and he cannot speak to this. But I should expect a phone call soon.



Hey Ma, I Joined a Cult.

Two months and three weeks ago, in the middle of the night and in a manner I cannot recall, I ended up on a website called “The Tension Experience.”

photo via The Tension Experience

photo via The Tension Experience

I was sitting in an edit, waiting for a greenscreen comp to render, staring at a red and black and rusty website, a screen with two black holes and one wax seal greeted me. Upon clicking the seal, a series of panels appeared, interactions leading me to quotes from Shakespeare, Aleister Crowley, Charles Manson. Their source code hid ASCII art of devils, sinisterly named functions, and a phone number that lead to an answering machine. I submitted my email, and all but forgot about it.

A few days later, again in the middle of the night, a questionnaire appeared. They requested information such as “Full name as it appears on your drivers license, cell number, mailing address.” Then immediately dove off the deep end. 


Have you ever had a paranormal experience?

Do you believe in God?

Have you ever considered the people in your life would be better without you?

Have you considered doing something about it?

When you are unconscious do you feel more at home?

Prior to a trauma, do you feel you have received messages from alternate realities?

If you had to give up any of your five senses, which would you chose to give up?

Do you have memories from other lifetimes?

Are you familiar with the practices of Mind Control?

Are you familiar with the practices of Remote Viewing?


These questions went on and on - hundreds of yes/no, multiple choice, open ended questions.  Until a final “submit” button, where I pushed my answers out to the void, giving strangers my personal information, a self-completed in-depth background check, and a deep stare into my metaphysical beliefs and disbeliefs.

Emails came, our first newsletter from something called “The O.O.A. Institute” with announcements, a calendar of upcoming events, with something called a “New Dawn” beginning on April 1st, a notice of an older woman achieving “ascension” and gaining new sight.




On April 1, a new button appeared on the site - a way to register for an internal forum for others going through the experience, a place to talk about theories as to what we’ve even signed up for, who is the OOA and what do they want, talk through puzzles that had been posted on their website. We uncovered secrets, dug deep into the info that was given to us, made instant friendships. 


(video via The Tension Experience)


But as soon as it started, on one weekend afternoon, anyone visiting the Tension Experience website was greeted to a red screen, telling us the OOA lies, and would be taken out by Sentinel and the Brotherhood of Seraph/BoS. It was a complete takeover - their website, facebook, instagram, everything went down and was taken over by the BoS. 


At the end of the month, there was an invite-only, in-person event. I was not invited to this, much to my vocal dismay, but you can read a quick review of it from those there at Dread Central


However, I did receive a personal phone call, my first of the experience, the moment the event ended. Of course, I was at dinner when it came through, but the moment the phone rang from an unknown number, I ran out the doors of Takuma, because I knew who it was on the other end. An older, almost robotic, male voice was on the line, it was a quick call, but they told me they knew I was frustrated and have every right to walk away, but they hoped I would stick around, because they had a reason that “not all the brightest were invited today.”


I stuck with it.


After endless puzzles, enduring leadership changes within the OOA (maybe leadership? three Gatekeepers in and we still don’t know who calls the shots over there), community stress, and crazy theories that REALLY MADE SENSE AT THE TIME, around 25-30 of us were invited to a ceremony called “The Ringing of the Bell”.


This was to be a two day event - one portion on Saturday, May 28, and another on Sunday May 29.  I was invited to the 29th, an OOA Mixer featuring coffee, donuts, conversation, and a speech from appointed OOA Scribe in the Archive of Knowledge and now close friend Mike from


Saturday did not go as planned. The BoS and Sentinel crashed the party, and introduced a lucky few to the parents of the illusive Addison (not me), a member of the OOA that seemed to have been forced into her post. You can read all about it here, also from friends at Dread Central


Sunday was intense. Here’s a quick writeup from my experiences, as shared on the Tension Experience forums:


I got to the venue, a VFW in the valley, around 1:20, and finally met the people that were previously just voices on the internet.

We entered the VFW, and it looked pretty much exactly how I expected it to be set up, it reminded me of community get-togethers in church basements in the small town I grew up in. Coffee and snacks in the back, folding tables and banquet chairs scattered around, dated posters hanging on the walls. But security cameras everywhere. One in the back, one on the stage, and one mounted near the ceiling on the side opposite the entrance.

I received my name tag (my name written in silver) and got a yellow rose from Addison. After going to the back corner and grabbing a coffee, and chatting with some brothers and sisters, I noticed everyone had a different number in the corner of their name tag, I had a 1 on mine. I don’t remember what everyone else had, though.

I noticed others getting pulled aside by our hosts, but I was generally ignored – I tried to speak to the leader of the event at one point, asked him what the program he was holding was, and he just walked right past and started talking to someone behind me.

I saw Addison standing alone by the accordion-curtain-wall, so I went over and made a joke about never meeting another Addison, and getting confused after receiving an email from her. She was mostly unresponsive.. but after a brief pause in our one-sided conversation, she looked me in the eyes, and gave me some advice that I’m not 100% sure I can share publicly due to worries of my own safety as well as hers, especially after everything that happened. She then put an X on my name tag.

I stood, thinking about that conversation for a bit, and decided I needed to talk to someone else within the organization, just to see a different perspective. I stepped in front of the older man with the shawl that had previously given me the cold shoulder, and thanked him for inviting me. He looked at my name tag, and asked, “Did someone already speak with you?” to which I told him that I was there to meet people, and learn more about the organization, and my previous conversation was a quick one. He told me that I “looked honest, and honesty is very appreciated” and that he had a task for me – to share a secret with three of my brothers and sisters, wait for them to react, and report their reactions back to him.

However, before I could think of a secret that would get a reaction worthy of reporting back to him with, the ceremony began.

The invocations were given by the older man with the shawl, who at one point in his speech, turned away from us and started talking to the wall at the back of the stage. @mike killed it with a moving speech. The bell rang. The cello player played. Then they had a traitor that needed to be dealt with. A hooded man was brought to the front of the room. After a moment of introduction, they removed his hood – Rizzo. After reciting his previously final thoughts on the OOA, we were given a chance to vote on his fate. Either accept him back into the fold or excommunicate him. We voted to take him back.

Then, it was announced that there was an initiate that needed to be dealt with, and they were to be brought up before us and disrobed for our inspection. Then our OOA hosts, now wearing orange and white robes, came in through a backdoor, dragging in Addison. She was brought front and center, made to kneel while facing away from us, but before anything could be done, there was a shout coming from the back door, a man screaming “Addy!” He eventually burst through the back doors, a flip phone recording video in hand, shouting for the OOA hosts to let her go home, for her to leave the organization, and that the entire internet would be watching. Addison was dragged, kicking and screaming, out the front door of the venue while her Father was protesting, very visibly distraught the whole time, and was eventually forcibly pushed into the wall where the OOA posters were hung. 

He was forced out the back doors while the leader of the ceremony shouted “this location has been compromised, please stay and converse amongst yourselves, we will be in contact with an alternate location to finish this,” or something to that effect.

We all got up and started checking out the environment, as others had talked about. At one point a note was found, the roster for the event. I forget who found it and where it came from, maybe @thebuz? Almost everyone had a silver or gold line next to their names, eventually realized they were split male/female – men had gold, women had silver.. except for me, male, and silver. Occam’s razor says it’s possibly because the Addison in their organization is female and they were confused, or possibly because I have long hair. Or there’s some deeper meaning that hasn’t been thought of yet.

Eventually @Kasch went into the back doors, and then shortly thereafter burst out shouting “EVERYONE NEEDS TO LEAVE RIGHT NOW.”

We walked out and milled about for a bit, then @mike noticed someone had written on the paper hung on the door asking us to wait until 1:30. In small handwriting in the lower left hand corner, someone wrote “You have been observed.”

Later on, after hanging out at a local bowling alley bar with other event attendees trying to dissect whatever we just took part in, I got a call from a blocked number.

“Did you enjoy today’s activities?” (or something to that effect)

And me, after a couple beers, could only think to say “You know, it was pretty interesting and gave me a lot to think about, but the donuts looked delicious!” and they hung up.


Over the coming week, we were shown what was happening within the OOA when we weren't around - a live video via Periscope of Addison, in a machine shop, on her knees, crying, and putting photos in an envelope before an unknown man drew the OOA symbol on that envelope in blood from an unknown source.

Much later that night, Addison was seen burning the envelope, and letting us know in seemingly forced words that she was ready and that this is her path.

Click the image to watch the video in full.

Click the image to watch the video in full.


A day or two later - Gatekeeper 4, our seemingly unstable point of contact with the OOA, left a letter of resignation in Griffith Park, and a new gatekeeper, “III” came to be, and has since begun apparently tearing down the internal structures of the OOA. We’ve been given another cryptic Periscope broadcast and the opportunity to ask three questions, two of which will be answered tonight. 



Updates to come as the clock is wound.

The Alone Experience

It’s been nearly a week since I was Absorbed, and I still don’t feel right (in a good way).

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Over the past 4 months, I’ve allowed my body to move and be moved through The Alone Experience, a full-contact “haunt” that refers to itself as “An Existential Haunting.” This year, they explored four indices of light, the way it is perceived and interacts with space and matter - Diffusion, Refraction, Reflection, and Absorption - through their extended “Unweave the Rainbow” storyline. 

As the name implies, you spend the majority of your time in The Alone Experience, well, alone. In the dark. With nothing but whatever happy thoughts you manage to bring into it. You’re left to your own intuition to find your way through their world, crawling through pitch black tunnels, walking down dimly lit, door lined hallways, and dropped into conversations with no clear beginning or end.

However, you’re not always alone - any given experience has you interacting with a handful of extremely dedicated actors, both seen and unseen, as they touch you, cling to you, dance with you, throw you around the room, and stare into your soul. And a few times, you’re interacting with others in the experience as well, in a some very well designed personal moments with complete strangers.

In Diffusion, the first Index of the year and my first interaction with The Alone Experience, I was brought on stage part way through a bizarre performance of The Crucible where I disappeared under a table, was trapped in a depilated bathroom, played piano, and went to a fog filled party. The moment I was guided back to the outside world, I knew I was hooked.

The second Index, Refraction, was a slightly shorter event at ScareLA, in which I was kidnapped by a giant black sphere in the middle of the conference floor, much to the confusion of other attendees, bound by the head to another person moving through the the experience, listened to an amazing overlapping story, and had one of my childhood nightmares reenacted through a brilliant use of light through a thin sheet and a slowly opening and closing door.

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Reflection, the third Index, was a three hour, multi site event revolving around a music playlist and puzzle solving skills, was one of my favorite things I’ve ever done. It turned into a very personal experience, more than the other two, and brought me to the brink of tears multiple times. Not through fear or sadness, but through emotions I never knew existed. I spent a lot of time in the dark. I was approached by seemingly random people on the street who, not until after an honest, innocent conversation, revealed that they were in on everything, watching me, guiding me through my experience before disappearing into the city.

I was immobilized, I was threatened, I was thrown across the room and had paint smeared across my face. I had an in depth conversation about if a fish knows it will die if it jumps out of its tank, and if it’s worth the risk for freedom. I had my palm read by a stranger in a white dress in a crowded bar, which led to a discussion about my earliest memories, my favorite memories, and my least favorite memories, and why I hold onto those. And then I had those memories altered, forever associated with this experience, and I wouldn’t change that for anything. After being in their world for an evening, and then suddenly released into the “real world,” I wasn’t even sure it ended when it did. 

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And last Friday, I was Absorbed. I’m still working through everything that happened. I think my current feeling, and my feeling for the past few days, has been that of waking up from a frighteningly realistic dream. In the days leading up to this fourth Index I was giddy with excitement, unable to keep my mind off of what could be waiting for me at Alone, Inc. - a permutation of Alone introduced in a mini-scavenger hunt experience a month prior. The night of my appointment, sitting in the lobby, my excitement turned to a nearly crippling anticipation as I sat fidgeting, waiting to move to the seat closer to the door. 

With my first steps into the darkness, it was immediately apparent that I was in for something new. I was given many choices throughout the experience, the actors knew my name and seemed to know that I had gone through the previous experiences, though maybe I’m projecting the context of the previous indices onto Absorption. I was quickly introduced to the concept of this Index as I was spun and rolled through a pitch black room in an office chair, I sat in many theaters, both empty and occupied by mannequins watching the abstract yet somehow deeply personal show of lights and sounds. I had the most bizarre job interview of my life, I danced in the dark, I was subjected to experiments, and had was marked by many people in many different ways. 

I always feel a sense of clarity on the other end of The Alone Experience. A slight buzzing in my extremities, a clear mind. Not adrenaline, not a flight or fight response. More like a trance, the feeling of deep meditation, of intense happiness, my mind completely clear, like I’ve just woken up from the best night’s sleep on a Sunday morning. And it stays that way for days after. To me, The Alone Experience is as much about the story it’s telling you as it is about the feelings you’re feeling, about pushing yourself down the next dark tunnel, opening the next door, staring into the eyes staring at you. It’s about surrendering yourself to the experience, being moved through their spaces, letting yourself slip into their world. 

Though it may not be the official storyline, Diffusion, Refraction, and Reflection told me about falling asleep - being jarred awake repeatedly in Diffusion, a bedtime story followed by childhood fear brought to life in Refraction, the sleepless restlessness brought on by self evaluation and anxiety in Reflection. Absorption was the feeling of going under. Being lucid in someone else’s dream. Being absorbed by the darkness, embraced by shadow. Being a triangle.

I can not wait for the next one.