Last year, the talk of the Southern California haunt community was the 17th Door in Tustin. At the time, we were intrigued, but our packed haunt schedule in 2015 didn’t leave us time to visit the haunt during its inaugural year. And, in full disclosure, we’re typically not fans of the “extreme haunt” experience, so we didn’t make it a priority. But after great word of mouth, we put this one near the top of our to-do list for 2016.
And we’re sure glad we did.
About the Experience
The 17th Door promotes itself as providing “psychological terror,” and although many people have described it as “extreme,” after experiencing it, we wouldn’t put it in the same category as Blackout or McKamey Manor. We found the 17th Door to be a great mix of a traditional haunt, theatrical haunt, and an extreme haunt experience. And for those who might be “extreme haunt curious,” the 17th Door could be a great choice.
Despite its location in a homogeneous, boring mall (typical for Orange County), once inside the 17th Door, everything is elaborately themed. Even the ticketing/queue area is impressively decorated, and victims should remain on their toes because some of the most unsuspected scares may happen before you even get your hand stamped. The haunt does make all customers sign a waiver. Be sure to read it thoroughly to get a preview of what themes and experiences may await you, and some of the subject matter could be disturbing to sensitive people, such as depictions (implied, not graphic) of child sexual abuse, abortion, and infanticide.
The back story of the haunt is a continuation from last year. Our heroine Paula has survived the mental hospital and is back in school at Gluttire University, where she finds herself unfortunately pregnant by her abusive boyfriend.
The haunt is structured such that each room is its own individual experience. You must remain in the room until the light above the door (17 of them) turns green before you can move on. We were particularly impressed by the fact that each room is very unique but also serves the overall story. Some rooms are simple and involve a typical haunt “boo” scare, whereas others are elaborate setups involving the actors playing out a scene to tell the story or lead into a scare. Other rooms–the most “extreme” ones, obviously–require guests to perform some task before moving on. Some may be easy, some uncomfortable, and still others might be completely unbearable depending on what you’re afraid of.
There’s always the option of yelling “Mercy!” to get out of a performing a task, but we definitely recommend that you push yourself and try to do as much as possible. We don’t want to spoil too much, but we will say that there are a few instances of electric shock, which is probably the worst thing we experienced in the haunt. You won’t have to eat any bugs or have any bugs put on you. You might have to touch some gross stuff, including butchered animals. You might get sprayed with water or have water lightly spit on you. But most of it was pretty tolerable. The actors will touch the guests, but it was mild and infrequent.
Your journey begins as a psychiatrist discharges you from the mental ward and releases you to the real world and Gluttire University. At least, we think that’s what happened. Our memory may have been erased! The first scene is an excellent introduction to the haunt, and the scares in this room are brilliantly used to set the level of fear for all the guests. We were instantly put on edge, and that feeling remained with us throughout the experience.
We progressed through various scenes, but we won’t describe them all here to avoid spoilers. But some standouts included a disgusting bathroom, a mini escape room experience, the outside of a fraternity house, a laboratory of insects, a McDonald’s “Play Place,” Paula’s dorm room, and the labor and delivery ward. Each room is fully immersive, and the scares and “tasks” build as you progress through the experience. The actors are also some of the best we’ve seen. They did a great job deciding on the fly who would be the best person in the group to pick on in a particular room, and they would also back off that person if they refused to participate, seamlessly moving on to the next “victim.” The actors at 17th Door have a particularly challenging task in striking the balance between psychological terror and fun, and they achieved it easily.
We loved 17th Door for its great mixture of experiences. It is definitely a step up from the traditional haunted house in terms extreme elements, but we think most of our haunt stalkers would be up for the challenge. If you’re bored of the “monster around the corner” type of scare, you should definitely visit 17th Door to see what the hype is about. It is definitely one of the best themed, unique, and fun haunts in Southern California right now.
Haunt Design: 5 skulls
Theming: 4 skulls
Scare Factor: 4 skulls
Fright Value: 4.5 skulls
Overall Rating: 4.25 skulls