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Things we feared about haunted houses in 2019: Clowns. Jump scares. Dismembered dolls.
Things we fear about haunted houses in 2020: Getting COVID from some poor community theatre actor desperately trying to make ends meet with little income and even less sympathy from landlords.
The pandemic has put an interesting twist on Halloween this year, indeed. There is actually more to fear than fear itself. There’s zombies coughing on you, or dudes holding chainsaws breathing moistly. It’s pretty safe to say that most regular attractions won’t be running as normal this year—there’s a difference between the fleeting rush of a jump scare and the lasting panic of a close encounter with a stranger.
“Shattered” at the Beaumont has given the COVID-era haunted house thing a go, and a journey through the dark studios is likely as close to “normal” as you’ll feel this spooky season. There’s no human actors (save for a few masked mad scientists who make sure that everyone’s staying safe and distanced), masks are required, and all of the scares are electronic. You have a designated time to arrive with your bubble, separate bubbles enter at separate times, and unlike a regular haunted house (which most of us try to get in and out of as fast as our trembling legs will carry us) there’s a riddle you have to solve to “escape” at the end. So no covering your eyes and running for the exit—you really have to pay attention. Also, taking photos is a must. There’s probably nothing more humiliating than telling mad scientist #5 that you couldn’t figure out the riddle.
You know that awkward moment after a bloody nun jumps out at you and she won’t get out of your way, and you’re just standing there feeling embarrassed at how loud you screamed and uncomfortable asking her to please move? There’s none of that. Score.
Instead, there’s spooky lighting, creepy curios, and some very cool electronic effects (including a room with 3-D screens on both sides). There’s also a lounge between parts one and two of the experience, where you can get a drink, chat within your bubble, and I don’t know, maybe pay extreme close attention to strange things on the walls. Wink wink. The folks at the Beaumont say it’s not recommended for kids under 10, but of course, it’s up to parent’s discretion. Personally, I think that it would be fine for kids a little younger than that. I’m childless myself, but I am a person who was deeply scarred by ET as a kid and am simply not a brave adult. Your kids will be fine, says me. Give them something besides a global pandemic to worry about.
“Shattered” at the Beaumont is on until October 31. You can find more info and buy tickets here.