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'Delusion' is not your father's haunted house

The haunted immersive theater experience
The haunted immersive theater experience "Delusion: His Crimson Queen" takes place in the West Adams district in Los Angeles.

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Haunted houses are a staple in October. But, in recent years, the haunts have become more sophisticated than a walk-through maze where someone screams, Boo! 

And they’ve become big business. There are reportedly as many as 30 of them happening in Southern California for this year’s Halloween season.

They aren’t cheap, either — to construct or attend. The creator of “Delusion” — Jon Braver — says it cost him nearly $200,000 to mount this year’s version, and the admission price is $75.

Delusion" is as an immersive theater experience where audiences interact with actors and are forced to participate in the show — even if it involves climbing into a coffin. 

The horror play was created by Jon Braver in 2011. Each year, the shows have been staged inside a historic location in Los Angeles, including an old church and an abandoned manor. For this year's edition, “Delusion: His Crimson Queen,” the setting is a dilapidated estate near downtown L.A.

The Frame's John Horn spoke with Braver about how he got the inspiration to create an immersive theater experience, and how audiences have been responding.


On how Braver's childhood experience influenced "Delusion":

I don't even like haunted houses. I never liked them and I still kind of don't. But I loved movies like "The Shining" and "Aliens," and I thought, How cool would it be to be inside one of those movies? It was really the idea of creating a choose-your-own-adventure thing within an actual structure. 

I used to do a lot of that stuff with my friends in a botanical garden. We set up treasure hunts and that was the impetuous. 

On how running an immersive theater is risky: 

This whole thing is kind of crazy to do because I'm trusting the audience to do what they're supposed to do — to really play the part. Half of them do and half of them don't. If you don't, you're just not going to get what I'm trying to give you. You're not going to get the story, you're not going to get that child-like imagination again. 

If you're able to really allow yourself to be captured into the moment and the music ... and the actors are spectacular, so you have to play along. We've had people that just don't really know what to do because it's a very unique event and they just stand in the back. 

They love it, but if they were to take that one step deeper they would get so much more. 

The haunted immersive theater experience
The haunted immersive theater experience "Delusion: His Crimson Queen" takes place in the West Adams district in Los Angeles.

On the most memorable audience reaction to "Delusion":

In 2014, we had one woman who was strapped to a chair by this puppet creature who was eight feet tall, and he would mess with her and puppeteer her arms. Meanwhile, her group is far away and they would come in [the room] in a couple minutes. 

So [the puppet creature] would leave at some point, but she didn't want him to because she was enjoying it way too much. She enjoyed it so much that she completed her enjoyment right there in front of the actor. 

HORN: This is something you'd see in an Adrian Lyne film? This is a little NC-17 rated? 

Well, she made it that [laughs].

On how Braver wants "Delusion" to be more than just scary: 

I'm definitely not going in to scare people. That's not my intention. But at the same time, nothing brings people closer together than being through a horrific experience. So my favorite thing about this show is definitely seeing people coming out with strangers and hugging each other and [asking], What did you do? And it just brings people together.  

"Delusion: His Crimson Queen" continues in Los Angeles through Dec. 11. 

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