Blumhouse.com is thrilled to have first hand testimony of the wild and creepy events that The Tension Experience is inflicting on the select participants. Industry editor, director, and horror buff Andrew Kasch tells us in his own words just how f’ed up and weird The Tension Experience has become for those involved!
When Blumhouse writer Rob Galluzzo called me out of the blue one day, the conversation began like this:
Me: (answering phone) “Rob, you scared the shit out of me!”
Rob: “Dammit, Andrew, I’m NOT The Tension Experience!”
There’s a reason I’m a little jumpy. Because every phone ring now sounds ominous and at this point, I can’t even trust my own Caller ID. As an “Apostle” (i.e. test case) for this unique haunt/ARG/interactive theatre hybrid, I’ve been taken on an eight month (!) odyssey by the dreaded Oracular Order of Anoch (aka. the OOA Institute) – the shadowy religious cult at the heart of The Tension Experience. This has all been a prelude to the main attraction; a teaser which co-creator Darren Lynn Bousman refers to as “Indoctrination.”
But we’ve also been informed that Bousman, who recently revealed himself and co-writer Clint Sears as the real brains behind the operation, is just a smokescreen… and that the real truth behind the Institute is far deeper and more terrifying than we could ever suspect. I’m inclined to agree. Since last February, I’ve been closely monitored, caught in a war, and even watched as my best friend became a murderer.
I’ve detailed my time with the OOA Institute in several different articles:
Some people I talk to confuse Tension as some sort of “stalker experience”, but that’s not what it is at all. Bousman, Sears and their associates have constructed what may be the biggest, most elaborate psychological horror experience in live theatre, with a mythology that goes very, very deep. Interactions with the OOA happen on an almost daily basis, through phone, e-mail, Facebook and Periscope videos. The website even has a community forum where all the players come together to share stories and theories. The more active you are, the more you get out of it.
At a prior event, I was asked by the OOA Institute what my best friend’s name was. I tell them – Buz Wallick.
Shortly after, Buz starts receiving calls from me… or at least, that’s what his Caller ID says. But it’s not me. And before I know it, he’s pulled into the game.
At one point, The Tension Experience website is given an overhaul by a new corporate takeover. We meet an annoyingly pandering PR person by the name of Sam who promises a more traditional family-friendly haunt full of “spooky skeletons” and “fun ghosts.” He is promptly killed.
One weekend, members of the forum decide to hold a poolside BBQ outside of the game. As we all drink beers, our phones go off in unison and a Periscope video played of the OOA at the house’s doorstep. We end up with a package and spend the entire night debating what to do with its contents.
The amount of things I have experienced could fill a book, so I’ll focus on the one thing that really matters in this crazy story: Addison Barrow.
At the beginning, Addison was a doe-eyed low-ranking “attendant” within the OOA who brought us messages on behalf of the Institute. As the months drew on, we noticed outside sources trying to reach her. An Anonymous-like cyber group called the Brotherhood of Seraph (BOS), lead by a man called “Sentinel,” hack Tension’s website and declare war on the Institute. They threaten to expose the truth behind the cult.
One of the players, Russell Eaton, is intercepted by them on his way to an OOA event. He is introduced to Addison’s father, Tom Barrow who has come to Los Angeles and is desperate to save his daughter from the clutches of the cult. He is given Addison’s most precious childhood object – a plush cat toy – and is told to give this to her the first chance he gets, hoping it will snap her back to reality.
The next day, during a deeply unsettling public event in which Tom tried to save his daughter (detailed here: http://www.dreadcentral.com/news/168815/tension-experience-continues/), Addison is whisked away by the Institute.
In the aftermath, an internal power struggle erupts within the OOA. The Gatekeepers (the Institute’s time-appointed leaders, each bearing number) are thrown into turmoil when one of their own disappears with Addison. Through a twisted series of events and a heavy body count, we learn that the current Gatekeeper, “III” has declared himself the all-time de facto leader of the Institute and is working with BOS to destroy the entire religion. Lines are drawn and everyone in the community is forced to pick a side in the upcoming war of the OOA vs the BOS.
That’s when Addison returns. Or rather a darker, angrier version of Addison. She now calls herself “Gatekeeper 2” and declares her arrival by slitting the throat of previous leader Gatekeeper 4. The war goes into overdrive with threats being made on both sides. It’s Addison vs Gatekeeper III, OOA vs BOS.
I stand firmly with the Addison and the OOA. But the BOS see that and try to recruit my best friend Buz against me. So the two of us hatch a plan in private:
Buz will pretend to join the Brotherhood so he can infiltrate it. We put on a fake public feud in the community forums and before we know it, Buz is invited to meet with the homicidal Gatekeeper III. Over a hundred people tune into the Periscope video of the meeting and watch in shock when Buz viciously strangles III to death on camera!
The war is won…or so we think.
Addison/Gatekeeper 2 declares she is here to bring us the TRUE glory. That the OOA has been twisted and distorted and that she is the one who will lead us towards the original prophecy. What is this prophecy? I still have no idea, but all signs point to the coming of their ruler and God, Anoch. Like a possessed religious zealot, Addison steals the cult’s sacred text (the Book of Anoch) and disappears to Europe. She sends video to us followers as she reads various chapters and threatens the OOA that she will usher forth “The One.”
In a clear panic, a division of the Institute called the OSDM (Oracles Security and Data Management) is sent to recapture her. They unleash her private diary to all of us in an attempt to discredit her. It’s there that we learn the truth: Addison was an aspiring actress who moved to Hollywood to become a star. The OOA’s modus operandi has been to target naive young girls who have been chewed up by Tinsel Town, and Addison was pulled into the cult by a boyfriend. And months of being indoctrinated have taken their toll on her psyche.
And that’s when Addison re-emerges. She calls several of us followers to a secret rendezvous…where she will unleash “The One.”
We find ourselves hooded and in a dark room…and the following transpires…
We are “The One.” As a community, we have helped spread the true word of Anoch. A huge celebration is held for all. Eight wild months have ended in a joyful evening with the community. Everyone is happy…
…until Russell hands Addison her toy cat. And ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE!
Addison breaks from her trance and screams “You’re all delusional! None of this is real!” before being dragged away screaming by the OOA. And with that, our Indoctrination is over.
The following day, we receive a note and a photo…
What has happened to Addison? I have no idea but I am terrified for her. And in a few days, I will come to find out the ultimate truth behind the OOA Institute, when I go to “Ascension” – the main event behind The Tension Experience.
Ascension promises to be a 2+ hour, stand-alone event in Los Angeles that take participants into the heart of darkness and the OOA itself. Best of all, anyone can experience it – whether they know anything about Tension or not. Having lived with this event for the better part of a year, even I don’t know what to expect.
Those wishing to go must act quickly though. Tickets are on sale at www.thetensionexperience.com and performances are quickly selling out.
So what are you waiting for? Join us down the rabbit hole…