Disclaimer: the following is a spoiler-rich recap of HVRTING’s How to Summon Santa event from December 2018. Please also note in the interest of full disclosure: HVRTING is an extreme haunt offshoot of this website (Haunting.net), and the two entities share multiple staff members, including the writer of this review, on occasion. The writer attended this particular event as a paying participant. How to Summon Santa How to Summon Santa How to Summon Santa How to Summon Santa How to Summon Santa How to Summon Santa
It’s a chilly Friday night, around 10pm, and I’m walking back to my car on a quiet street somewhere far south of Los Angeles after HVRTING’s How to Summon Santa. Well… walking is a bit of an overstatement. The sticky combination of peppermint schnapps, soy egg nog, and so much blood hasn’t quite dried yet; it slowly drips off me now that it’s soaked through the layers of wrapping paper that have been lovingly duct taped all over my extremities. So, it’s not much of a walk at this point, more like a damp shuffle. Neighbors peer out of their driver’s side windows and slow as I squelch far too slowly across the street toward the car. I wave, pulling my Oreo-cookie and nog filled beard down to grin at them in the streetlight and yell “Merry Christmas!” as they speed back up in alarm.
Was it something I said?
How to Summon Santa was the latest experience from HVRTING, the brainchild of Haunting.net Creator and Editor in Chief Taylor Winters. It’s “an extreme haunt for everyone,” according to the website, and in the case of the How to Summon Santa participants, they represented the kind of everyone who loves a good botched home invasion, a chance to become Santa Claus, and the misreading of a demonic summoning ritual as much as the next guy. For me: I came, I ate cookies against my will, and I was covered in blood whilst in the warm embrace of a demonic Christmas abomination before being thrust unceremoniously back into the cold, charming neighborhood.
I guess I should start from the beginning.
I arrive around 8:45 and am met on the street by two elves. Like…real elves. Twinkle is entirely too excited, covered in glitter and delivering awful Christmas puns, while Tipsy is bitter, over it, and drinking either peppermint schnapps or Listerine from a flask at his hip, I’m still not sure. Bad pairing aside, Tips and Twinks are way behind on their present-making for the year and need my help as Fake Santa to magic up some last-minute gifts to meet the real Santa’s Christmas quota. Their plan? We’ll knock on a stranger’s door and pose as carolers to get into the house, and then rob them of their hard-earned presents. What could go wrong?
Everything. Everything could go wrong.
It seems okay at first: with our guns drawn (yes, one is wrapped in a gift box just for me), we hold a mother and her two daughters (in matching pajamas!) hostage and restrain them with Christmas lights. After taking a minute to snap a photo (memories!), Twinkle and I leave to investigate a noise we’d heard from deeper into the house. “Let’s split up,” she says, gesturing toward a dark hallway off to my left. Knowing that splitting up is literally the worst idea we’d had since “let’s rob this house,” I jovially take off to the left and wait for something terrible to happen to me.
I don’t wait long; the Father of the house tackles me, yanking my Santa hat down over my eyes and bum-rushing me outside. It’s cold and the velveteen Sexy Santa jacket that Twinkle’s lent me isn’t providing much warmth. If Father Christmas/Murder notices my shivery discomfort, his only intention is to make it worse.
He duct tapes my hands together and sits me in what feels like a lawn chair but upon further inspection was a wheelchair he just happened to have in his backyard, because of course, and proceeds to interrogate me to determine if I was the real Santa from his youth. In the process, he force feeds me cookies and egg nog, because those are things the real Santa would love, right? I have never had egg nog; now seems like a great time. I don’t know what they call waterboarding when it’s with soy egg nog instead of water but “nog-boarding” has a certain, festive ring to it. Dad otherwise spends the rest of our time together alternating between accusing me of not being the real Santa (I kept my cool) and telling me how much he hates Christmas (I didn’t until I got here, dude).
I’m finally yanked to my feet, sticky and smelling like a holiday gone nuclear, and Papa Yuletide Death cuts my hands free and proceeds to tape wrapping paper all over my arms and legs. This fresh duct tape is alarmingly secure around my wrists and ankles and I already know it’s going to hurt worse than any of tonight when I peel it off my skin later.
Eventually I’m rescued (for lack of a better term) by Tipsy, who shoos me and my new best friend Rudolph the Red-nosed Felon-Father back into the house. Twinkle has apparently found a new room while exploring—and now Tipsy wants to show it to me, never mind the smoke leaking out and weird backwards singing we can hear behind the shut door. It’s the worst idea since “let’s split up,” so we go right in.
Unsurprisingly, there’s a demonic altar in the center of the room, albeit a vaguely Christmas-themed one. Tipsy finds a recipe on an aged parchment, entitled How to Summon Santa and says we should try it to get even more presents. We are full of amazing ideas tonight. We make do with what we have for ingredients, which is how I end up covered in peppermint schnapps instead of that fresh twig of mint we needed, and how the youngest of our hostages ends up in the room with us, forfeiting a few drops of her virginal blood for this time-honored and beloved holiday ritual.
We chant a few things in Latin and, as you can expect, the lights start flickering. It’s around this time that Tipsy points out that he thought it said “How to Summon Santa” but…you know…it didn’t. It said Satan. Of course it said Satan. But there’s a Plot Twist: Using Christmastime ingredients instead of what the list actually said has caused us to summon not so much Satan or Santa, but instead some Demonic snowman-reindeer-man abomination.
Yes. We summoned a broken demon. We can’t even do this right.
A tall, bloody monstrosity rises from across the room and Tipsy takes off like the worst teammate in history. Bloody Snowman has me on my back in a choke-hold before I can blink, and our sweet virginal hostage, now clearly possessed, dumps thick blood all over me. I mean all over me. I was sneezing out blood for a solid 48 hours after this. It was in the very fiber of my being.
Snow-Blood-man alternates between brutal roughhousing and scratching my skin like he’s trying to claw his way out from inside me for what seems like ages before Twinkle, somehow the responsible one here, bursts into the room and pulls me out with her.
We go back into the main room where Tipsy is passed out on the couch, ever the effective criminal, Twinkle is collecting presents from under the tree to achieve her goal, and I am left to snap another photo with the family (minus the youngest girl who’s clearly a demon now) before we head back out. I apologize for dripping whatever mixture is coming off me onto the nice carpet, as if that’s going to make it all okay.
We get back out onto the street and my elven friends are kind enough to let me keep one of our stolen presents as a thank you gift, seeing how I’m the only one of us three who looks like they’ve crawled through a garbage dump full of leftovers. They tell me to have a great night and send me on my way, wobbling in the general direction of my car.
So that was How to Summon Santa. A holiday treat sprung from a nightmare, it showcased Hvrting’s signature blend of sugar and spice for a Christmas experience subverted expectation at every turn, leaving me both frightened and amazed.
Well, I think, wringing the cinnamon flavored syrup out of my hair, it certainly was both sugar and spice. I throw some plastic over my car seats, scream my way out of the now-wet-but-still-sticky duct tape on my wrists, and take off toward home, waving at Tipsy and Twinkle as I pass them, wondering if they’ll make any other new friends and bad choices tonight and, somehow, really hoping they do. ‘Tis the season, after all.