Wisdom from Chaos – Sean Adams Discusses Santu Deliria, California Occasions, & Beyond

Little was known about the mysterious creator of Santu Deliria – a Los Angeles-based company excelling in surreal and intense horror experiences – until now. Emerging from the shadows, creator Sean Adams has moved on from his secretive persona and Santu Deliria, and onto a new venture called California Occasions. He agreed to sit down with Haunting to shed light on his past endeavors and tease his ideas for a blossoming future.

 

The Beginning: Santu Deliria

Santu Deliria’s 2017 experience, Inductio, was an expression of beautiful madness, but how did it all begin? Adams answers, “Santu Deliria was created when I had food poisoning one time. That’s when I wrote it down, anyway.  But it had been gestating for a while, in various forms. I’ve been a horror fanatic since childhood, and became a wary immersive horror fan in more recent years. I never particularly liked traditional haunts, and thought immersive horror sounded far more to my liking. Turns out it was, but probably not as intended.”

 

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Despite its full-contact horror events, Adams says that Santu was a playful reaction to other immersive horror shows. “I was deeply fascinated by this stuff, but felt that the inherent absurdity of it all went underappreciated. While I wouldn’t call Santu a parody or satire, it was definitely an attempt to play with that line of gaining profound wisdom or meaning from nonsensical or vaguely unpleasant experiences.”

 

“After the initial show, Santu became a kind of playground for me to utilize any ideas I had as and when they came to me. Mixed results, admittedly, but I enjoyed having a forum and audience with which to explore these concepts,” Adams explains. “Before then, I was constantly coming up with ideas for things I wanted to do, but with no real place to put them. Santu became that place – it was an amorphous enough premise that anything I thought up could be made to fit in.”

 

“My influences are varied and I wear them pretty shamelessly,” Adams jokes. “Aside from the concept of extreme haunts or horror in general, my primary influences for Santu Deliria were comedic and musical. Nothing inspires me to write more than hearing the right song at the right time. But I pick up stuff from everywhere and it usually makes its way in somehow.”

 

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Halloween Spooktacular

One of the absolute highlights during the run of Santu Deliria was the 2017 Halloween live-stream, Samhain Spooktacular–a ridiculous, silly, and Halloweeny radio drama filled with his trademark irreverent humor and some damn good music. While Adams explains that it was “about as big a shark-jump as you can get,” the fans absolutely loved it–and that enjoyment was also felt by Adams. “It was very fun to record, but I was genuinely considering cancelling the entire thing five minutes before it went live, knowing that it would likely damage any chance of Santu being taken seriously ever again. Luckily, I remembered that being taken seriously was never the aim with Santu in the first place. Even though the Spooktacular was technically part of that now-dead universe, we do have tentative plans to keep it going regardless.”

 

The Spooktacular, Adams says, was partially inspired by the “BBC ‘hoax’ broadcast Ghostwatch, which I can’t recommend highly enough, but it was mostly inspired by Art Bell’s paranormal/conspiracy show Coast to Coast AM, and its Halloween counterpart Ghost to Ghost, which I became a bit obsessed with for a while. That show is funnier than anything we could have come up with, but I kind of wanted to distill its essence into an easy hour or so of Halloween banter.”

 

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“As for the music, I went through a period where I’d collect obscure music from the ‘50s to ‘70s – mostly really cheesy stuff, vanity pressings, song-poems, bizarre jingles. So I have these huge folders just full of this stuff – it ties back into my obsession with failure and delusions of grandeur.” Adams jokes, “I’m thinking of starting a free event where people come and just listen to me play these recordings for them and explain the story behind each piece, although I imagine I would be the only person in the audience. I’d do it anyway. I’ve lost friends over this.”

 

A Fresh Start: California Occasions

Adams created his new endeavor, California Occasions, when “Santu Deliria ran its course. Once my identity became known, it felt like I was circling the drain, and a lot of the initial intrigue had vanished. Which also made it less fun to do. As much as I enjoyed being able to throw anything at the wall in Santu, it’s liberating being able to do so without any pretense with California Occasions. I don’t need to bend ideas to any overarching mythos, they can just exist on their own. I don’t need to crowbar in references to floors becoming bouncy anymore.”

 

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California Occasions is broken into three different kinds of experienceszcz, a unique brand of interactive and transcendence events; The Paraside Institute, horror-themed, minor extreme haunts; and pleasure inc., highly-customized, extreme solo events with explicit sexual and violent content.

 

While not making any concrete promises, Adams ideally wants to put on one California Occasions show per month. “I get bored and lose faith easily, and there are all these ideas that will just die in my brain unless I get them out there. The shows are all pretty different, there’s no one “type” of show that I’m going to focus on.  I’m not limiting myself to anything, so you’ll have to take each one as it comes, although I feel like they’re categorized fairly clearly. It’s reasonable to expect that The Paraside Institute shows might broadly appeal more to some people than others, for instance.”

 

Finding the Humor

Having created such varied events, Adams says “I don’t think I have any particular process for developing shows. I tend to be a one-man-band to an extent, but I’m very fortunate to have a creative partner who’s with me every step of the way. He knows me better than anyone, and is great at encouraging good ideas that I’m not confident about, as well as shooting down awful ideas that I’m far too confident about.”

 

Even with such diverse offerings, “I think anything I do, theatrical or otherwise, shares a running theme of loneliness, impotence and failure. Common characteristics of both comedy and horror,” Adams expounds. “Disappointment, too – things not turning out the way you wanted them to. Moving to Los Angeles especially made these themes very apparent to me. The underwhelming dream come true. People are just lost here, nobody really likes it, but for whatever reason they have nowhere else to go. That’s fascinating, bleak, and often really funny.”

 

California Occasions | Paradise Institute

 

As a fan of Visitor Q and Withnail & I, Adams thinks immersive horror experiences should explore the dichotomy between the mundane and the extreme. He says, “In my experience with immersive theater – and extreme haunts especially – I found that being relentlessly grim and dark was actually detrimental to whatever they were trying to achieve. When there’s no real dynamic, I feel like the desired effect is always going to be lessened. There’s that great scene at the end of Salò, notoriously one of the bleakest films in existence, where the two boys are dancing together, asking about each other’s girlfriends, while the vilest human depravity continues to rage on just outside the window. That kind of thing resonates with me a lot.”

 

“As for humor, I never really set out to make “comedy” – that just tends to evolve from whatever I come up with.  I’m instantly suspicious of anything that pauses for laughter. I personally get a lot more from comedy that exploits the natural absurdity in characters or situations. I also find a lot of humor in things that are not intended to be funny – again, things not turning out the way they were supposed to. Virtually all of my biggest influences incorporate humor into their work, even if their work is traditionally seen as “serious.” I don’t think irreverence should be mistaken for insincerity,” he clarifies.

 

Playing a Role

Adams says he often plays characters in his own creations out of necessity. He explains, “I’m a control freak, but also a poor-quality actor, so these characters sort of have to be rooted in things that come naturally to me.  They’re all avatars for certain elements of my own personality, in some form or another. Anyone who knows me personally is aware that I’m as much Passag Chad as I am Papa Santu. It’s fun to take those most undesirable parts of yourself and make them sing and dance as loud as possible.”

 

California Occasions | zcz

 

Adams is happy to have moved on from maintaining his mysterious, unknown creator role in Santu Deliria to having more freedom with California Occasions. “I think the mystery is essential for certain types of productions, but also unrealistic to maintain – especially when you start getting into ARG/ARX territory. If I could have kept it up, I probably would have, but I don’t think I can name an example of a production where the creators weren’t “exposed” fairly early on, and then had to contrive all sorts of awkward ways to keep it “in-game”. The reality of things is just more mundane than you’d like it to be, and any mystique can be ruined instantly by something as banal as metadata on an audio file.”

 

“You then run into the embarrassing situation of suddenly having to be “in-character” if you happen to bump into someone when out-and-about. It’s a lot of stress. The only way I can see it working is if you have zero connection or mutual friends with participants, and preferably have no chance of ever meeting them. Or fake your own death, and do it properly,” Adams laughs. “As it is, I’m enjoying not having to keep up the pretense of being a character in “the real world” with California Occasions. I like being able to engage with audience members and supporters honestly and on a more personal level. It felt incredibly lame to have to constantly pretend I don’t know them.”

 

The Meaning of it All

Adams commends his audience for being “very loyal and vociferous in their support and engagement, so it’s one of those things where girth seems to matter more than length.”

 

California Occasions | PleasureInc.

 

With immersive events, the meaning can sometimes get lost in the physical or extreme. Conversely, some events relentlessly beat participants over the head with the intention behind it. “I never really wanted anyone to “learn” anything from my shows. That’s one of the things I found most annoying about a few immersive shows I’ve been do. Don’t tell me what I’m supposed to think of it! That will have the opposite effect, if anything,” Adams chastises. “I mostly try to make stuff I think I would like as a participant. I know exactly what my intentions are with whatever show I create, but if someone takes something else away from it, that’s fine. The meaning of Santu, truly, was that it meant nothing, but the feeling that it could have meant something was enough, sometimes. I think some people got that.”

 

 

Click here for more information on California Occasions, or check our Calendar for upcoming events.

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About The Author

Lacey Pawlowicz
Ever since seeing Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video, Lacey has been obsessed with all things horror and Halloween. Now, she watches, produces and acts in horror films, and is lucky enough to attend haunts/immersive events and write about them. Groovy!

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