Last weekend four members of our Creepy Crew had the opportunity to go through the 13th Gate Asylum Haunt in Oxnard, CA.
These are their stories.
By Roxy Tart
I live in Orange County, and during the months of September and October, I cover haunts such as Universal HHN, Knotts Scary Farm, Queen Mary Dark Harbor, etc. So when my dear friend Nikki (who may be one of the biggest scaredy-cats I know) asked if I wanted to drive for 2 hours to cover a small, one house, 15-minute haunt, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure. But, I love haunts, and I love the people that throw them and the community behind them, and when a few days before we were thinking of heading up there 13 Gate contacted me asking if I’d like to come…it was a sign, and I had to say yes!
So I swung through DTLA and picked up my road dog Michelle, and we headed up to the hemp fields of Ventura County. We arrived at Nikki’s and both her and our dear friend Angel (also a big scaredy cat), were already nervous wrecks. I knew I had my work cut out for me…somehow I’d have to keep these two from freaking out, passing out, or dying, all while taking in enough of this Haunt to do a write up (spoiler alert, it wasn’t hard because the people who run 13th Gate are phenomenal!). I laid down the “rules” at dinner.
1. I would go in front
2. Michelle would bring up the rear. (now is a good time to point out that Michelle doesn’t really love being scared either, lol)
3. I’ll hold your hand, but only ONE! I need the other one for my phone.
4. Do not freak out and pull out my earrings, or rip my shirt.
Easy peasy right?
My plan was simple. We would get there before the Haunt opened for the night, get Nikki and Angel used to the place, have them talk to security, other people in line, maybe the girl who runs the front door…and by then they would feel safe and just be able to have fun. Let me tell you, this is NOT what happened.
We rolled up and the first thing Nikki noticed was that there were scare actors in the parking lot. And when I say “noticed” what I mean is “freaked the hell out, froze in the driver’s seat, and couldn’t park the car!”. I was eventually able to get out of the car and ask the actors who were swarming like flies on a dead body to back up just a bit so that Nikki could park. I was honestly worried that as she sat there screaming with the car in gear she was gonna run someone over. So, the car parked, check. Michelle out, check. Michelle and I filming Nikki and Angel being terrorized and screaming their heads off while scare actors CLIMBED IN THE CAR WITH THEM, check. Now I’m gonna pause here a second and point out that in all my years of Haunts (I worked my first Haunt in ’96), I have never, ever, seen actors climb IN a person’s car. It was a super ballsy move, but it paid off big time. By the time we got everyone out of the car, the whole line, security, and everyone working knew what was up. We were full-on pre-show entertainment.
As the crew stood in line (I honestly don’t know how Michelle kept the other two from running away), I went and checked in. My first impression of 13th Gate was “these actors are in it to win it” and my second was how absolutely wonderful, charming, helpful and friendly the staff was. From security to checking in, to being escorted around, to watching the house through the video monitors (more on that later), I was blown away by how amazing everyone was. I found out that everyone there was a volunteer, they had people drive up from Orange County to work the haunt every weekend, and it was staffed with a bunch of families. Moms, dads, and kids all working together having the best time! And everyone that I talked to (other than the scare actors who were in the house in character of course) were super friendly, big smiles, and incredibly accommodating. They made me feel like I was part of the family, and that’s what really sets this place apart from other haunts. This isn’t a job, this is a community, and you can tell.
Now, back to our adventure. We were waiting to go in and the lady at the front informed us that they don’t funnel big groups into the house. You go with the party you came with. If that’s 6 people, you all go in. If that’s one person alone, you go in alone. One of the things I hate most is being herded into a house with 1000 other people and shuffling through the whole thing feeling like a sardine, so I was happy about that. It was our turn, and the four of us entered a church-like building where a person in a black robe stood blocking our path. The next thing we knew, it was pitch black, and we could feel people moving all around us, brushing up against us, and just being generally creepy AF. When they decided we were rattled enough, the lights came back on and we were surrounded by people in robes, who very nicely let us continue on our way. Now, as much as I would LOVE to go through room by room and tell you all the amazing and delightful things we saw, I won’t. Because A. I don’t want to ruin the surprise and B. that would make this write up about 20 pages long, lol. But I will tell you this; 13th Gate Asylum is a beautifully well-oiled machine that works on sound and lighting cues to let the actors know what’s going on, and in many rooms, the actors have complete control over where you go and when you leave. Every person in a room takes ownership of it, and you can tell they are proud of what they do.
After we went through we were invited to relax and watch the monitors. There are cameras throughout the house, and these are used to keep an eye on everyone and make sure they’re safe, and also for cues. There is one person at the monitors with a radio, relaying messages to other people all over the warehouse. After doing that for a bit, we were taken on a backstage tour where we got to see the ins and outs of the haunt, and we got to experience some of the rooms again, with the actors really showing off for the cameras! It was so much fun! I honestly didn’t want to leave, and if it hadn’t been for my two-hour drive home, I might have asked if we could just stay and hang out for the night.
Overall, the 13th Gate Asylum is one of my favorite Haunts this year. It was absolutely worth the drive, and I fully plan on going back every year!
By Michelle Mallek
I was excited when I found out when I was going to the 13th Gate Asylum in Oxnard. I had never been to this haunt and never been to a single maze in a warehouse. I did not know what to expect but I was eager to see what it was about. This would be shocking to most since I am a self-proclaimed scaredy-cat but I have always liked going to haunts and becoming less scared. Driving up to the haunt was the beginning of our experience. We were greeted in the parking lot by a clown and grim reaper character. My friend Nikki was driving and she was more scared about this experience than I was and totally freaked out. It was pure hilarity when she could barely park the car in sheer panic that there were scare actors following our car. It took us almost 20 minutes to get her and Angel out of the car. Just by the interaction with characters in the parking lot and their involvement in scaring us already had me hooked on this haunt. We finally made it inside the building and the atmosphere was set for the perfect buildup of fear. You could hear all sorts of noises coming from inside the maze with screams here or there. The neat thing about this maze was they weren’t shuffling mass groups of people into the maze. You only went with your group, even if you were the only one. This factor also freaked me out because I wouldn’t be able to hide in the crowds of people. But alas, I must be brave and get the whole experience since I could not hide. This maze has by far been one of my favorite mazes to go thru. Each room has a different theme or storyline and you are completely at the will of the actors. Many of the rooms have automatic doors that only open when the actors open it. This forced you to be involved in the room and all the scare factors that went along with it. So if you’re running around trying to get away from the people scaring you good luck. There were a couple of unexpected scares that would get even the bravest “I don’t get scared” person. They used scare techniques that I hadn’t seen before. Who knew people crawling creepily on the floor and flexible people would be so scary. When we were out of the maze we got to talk to some of the people that are in charge. I was surprised to find out that all the actors are on a volunteer basis and not only that but many families were involved. The moms proudly pointed out where their husbands and children were in the maze. You could really tell these people cared about giving the best experience possible and this wasn’t a job but a passion. I would recommend this maze to anyone because it is great for all scare levels. I plan on attending this maze every year and seeing what new designs they come up with.
By Nikki Jones
I feel like you should know a few things about me before I give my thoughts on my experience at the 13th Gate Asylum haunt. Fun fact number one, the reason I like the horror genre is that it generally ‘HORRIFIES” me. It invokes fear, which I kind of dig…. with that being said…Fun fact number two, I like my horror on the big screen or my TV screen…. NOT in my personal space…so haunts and scare zones usually put me in the fetal position and my appointed protector has to pick me up, fight off the Ghoulies and carry me out. Fun fact number three, I am a scaredy-cat…not a cool spooky girl… A BIG CRYBABY SCAREDY CAT.
Now for my thoughts…I assembled the cool crew to attend the haunt with me this past Saturday, October 19th. I briefed them about their roles in my protection for the evening’s event, and they briefed me on what to expect around every corner. Just so you know, I’m no fool…I assembled the best of the best…a seasoned haunt vet and my appointed protector (Roxy Tart) …. a good friend with fresh big girl undies who recently just did the Haunted Hayride in LA (Michelle Mallek) …and my scaredy-cat adopted ADULT child of mine (Angel Fajardo). My anxiety was high the entire drive to the haunt, and that anxiety was JUSTIFIED as the ghouls surrounded my car as I was trying to park therefore paralyzing me so much so that I could not park the car( something none of us expected…..HORRIFYING and fear justified….thanks guys!). Once my appointed protector was able to get me out of the car. That fear was so paralyzing that I literally felt like I just ran a marathon and I hadn’t even made it inside yet! Once inside, I totally disregarded my appointed protector’s (well…my whole crew actually) personal space and walked through room after room of the UNFORSEEN cussing and telling myself positive affirmations through my tears because…you know…. that whole FEAR JUSTIFIED thing. The actors who are actually volunteers are soooo believable that I even had a nightmare about one of the rooms…. way to hone your craft guys! The props, the costumes and the overall aesthetic each room had were spot on for the story being told. Oh my goodness… and the sounds completely startle while the lights and the fog disorient you. I am not a huge haunt fan like some of you out there but take it from THE most scared of all scaredy cats…..GO EXPERIENCE THIS HAUNT….and for those of you spookys out there that are too cool for school and nothing scares you…I guarantee the UNFORSEEN will scare the COOL right out of you.
By Angel Fajardo
When I found out I was going to the 13th Gate Asylum in Oxnard I was terrified. I love Halloween and watching scary movies but participating in haunts isn’t my cup of tea. I would consider myself a sympathetic scaredy-cat; if someone around me is terrified I am just as terrified if not more. I hate loud noises, creepy costumes, losing my personal space, and pop up scares. That being said, I hated the 13th gate asylum haunt! Would I go back? I definitely would!!
As soon as we arrived we were pursued by killer clowns, prison escapees, and hell raised demons. The insane make-up, crazy effects, and creative rooms kept me on my toes. The polka dot room was my favorite room. Who wouldn’t love a room full of polka dots! “I love polka dots, I wear polka dots”. After meeting a few scarers and members of the operational staff I fell in love with this “well-oiled rig” of a haunt. This haunt is run by different families, kids, and volunteers. I would definitely recommend giving it a visit!