Freakling Bros’ The Victim Experience
On the edge of Las Vegas, far from the artificial lights of the Strip, is a place far more real and primal. It exists only for a few days in October, partly in a gravel parking lot in a strip mall, and partly in the darkest parts of your mind. The Victim Experience is set in the Gates of Hell, one of Freakling Bros.’ three excellent haunted houses, all worth a trip in their own right. A handful of people go in after hours, one at a time, and experience a private, single-occupancy Hell.
Many people, perhaps you, will have reached this point eager to read the details of what happens inside, having failed to find them anywhere else online. You will have to accept that your string of disappointment continues on. The veil of secrecy surrounding The Victim Experience is not so much to protect ticket sales — there are very few tickets to be had in the first place — but to maintain the integrity of the powerful black magic that will be worked on the Victims. To quote H. P. Lovecraft, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”
A Private Hell
The basic themes are easy enough to describe. Think of the Victim Experience as a realistic and visceral simulation of pretty much every violent crime you can imagine, with you in the role of victim, and you won’t be far wrong. Or get a ticket for Gates of Hell during its normal hours, and walk through its dark maze with its electric shocks, and actors who jump out and make contact with you, yelling terrible things. Now imagine how any given room could be made ten times worse — you’ll still be missing some critical details, but you’ll be on the right track.
If you think of Gates of Hell as an R-rated movie, Victim Experience is the NC-17 version. No matter what your personal fears or taboos, you will find something to shock, offend or trigger you. This is a design feature. The Victim Experience is not only physically brutal, but like any good rite of passage it will test your mind, body, and soul, and leave its marks on them all as well. It is not fun, not one second of it.
What makes this, for at least a few, an experience to seek out rather than flee from, is that the event is run by some of the most caring and hospitable people you will meet. The love is readily apparent in the pre-show briefing, and in the post-show decompression. It is still there, possibly in greater measure, during the show, which was built with incredible attention to safety. But you will not feel that love during the show; you will just have to accept that it is there, and that despite what any of your senses are screaming, the people around you want you to succeed.
Although over the years, fewer than 30 percent of the attendees finish without calling the safe word to end the experience, there are greater prizes than a t-shirt. The creators report that nearly everyone is glad they tried it, and that many report gaining insights into life. One of the attendees this year, who prefers to remain anonymous, had this to say:
“The part about The Victim Experience they don’t tell you is it’s not over when you exit…I never, ever anticipated the physical pain to affect me emotionally. What felt like the crushing weight of empathy for the thousands of people who endure torture and abuse without a choice, flooded over my consciousness…The next morning I woke up from what you could barely call sleep with the strongest sense of empathy for my fellow man and woman I’d ever experienced.”
As a consolation prize for not providing any juicy details of how the show actually works, here are some tips that might help you get through it, if you ever find you have ignored your wiser nature and bought a ticket. It’s free advice, and worth what you paid, but it is offered in the hope that it might also help you get through other dark places in your life.
Consider the following things before you walk into the darkness. Once there, you will probably only be able to think of yourself and your immediate survival. If you’ve considered them in advance, they may be waiting at the back of your mind when most needed. There are no wrong answers, but know your own answer.
Why are you here? What do you hope to achieve? Are you here to prove something to yourself? To others? Do you just want to learn what lives in the deepest parts of your mind?
What drives you? What keeps you putting one foot in front of the other? Pride? Duty? Friendship? Fear of failure? Sheer habit?
What is the source of your strength? (You have more of it than you think.) Are there friends supporting you? (You have more of them than you think.)
Look for the good things in your life. The worse things get, the more you appreciate small things. A quiet moment of peace or a breath of fresh air are things you might take for granted outside, but they are rare in here. Enjoy the hell out of them. (Pun intended.)
Remember that things are probably not as bad as they seem. This is usually true, and when it isn’t, it is still a very useful lie.
Thus ends the meditation.