Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.
-Marianne Williamson

A lot of things happen when we are dreaming.

We can fly. Visit far off, exotic places. Have our wildest fantasies come true. We can also be sucked into a black hole, forced to face our deepest fears, or things that we didn’t even know we were subconsciously afraid of.

Most times, we awake later, not really remembering what exactly happened. Bits and pieces come back to us, but the full breadth of it is usually lost. But what if we could remember our dreams? What if the abstract images that confronted us stayed with us, hours, even days later, haunting our vision and making us rethink ourselves?

That, in a sense, is what Fear Is What We Learned Here is all about.

As we learned back in August, the team behind Fear Is What We Learned Here was very secretive. They kept themselves anonymous while intriguing the Southern California haunt community. They contacted Blackout survivors, at first, via Instragram, and sent them cryptic messages. From there, they branched out a bit, contacting others, and in turn, allowing people to contact them. Simple puzzles emerged, and figuring them out rewarded you with a way to contact them. The mystery of just what they were grew to almost a fever pitch.

Then, they began to schedule dates. Initially, 20 people were invited to partake in their experience. No more, no less. However, as demand grew, and word of what they were doing spread, they began to add more performances.

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I was one of the lucky few who were selected to be in this first group. I patiently waited for my day to come, and see just what it was about for myself. The weekend before, a few friends went through, but I had remained vigilant about hearing spoilers of any kind; I wanted to go in completely clean, with no outside influence.

Soon, it was my time. Fellow HorrorBuzz writer, Taylor, his girlfriend, Tay, and I drove to the location we were given, parked in the spot we were told to do so, and waited. We had time slots right after each other: 7, 8, and 9.

I wasn’t nervous, per say. These days, I tend to go into these things with a sense of calm. In a weird way, haunts, especially these solo experiences, are my happy place. I feel the most at ease in them. However, moments before walking the path, alone, to begin my journey, my stomach began to churn.

What the hell am I doing? I thought. We don’t even know who is running this thing! I have no idea what I am getting into!

Those thoughts were quickly put aside as I approached the gate. Who cares? I thought again. Walking in blind and getting an experience is the best way to do so.

And 45 minutes or so later, I agreed with myself.

While I never give away specific spoilers during these reviews, I can tell you the general specifics of what came next.

I was greeted, by name, by a figure that was waiting for him. I quickly read and signed a waiver, somewhat standard procedure these days. I was handed a mask, and asked to place it over my head, so only my eyes remained visible. I was given headphones, which covered my ears, and promptly cut out all ambient noise.

Immediately to my right, a bed, with small night stand complete with books and films, was set up. I was instructed to take off my shoes and socks, and lay on the bed.

How many other experiences do you start laying in bed? It was actually pretty comforting, in a weird way, and in the context of this piece, it makes total sense. We were told, repeatedly in the weeks leading up to our experience, that we would be entering a dream, experiencing it as it unfolded in front of us. What better way to enter a dream than to lay on a bed?

Soon, the headphones came to life, and I was watching a film play out, projected above me. It flashed above me, and it, along with the music, almost hugged me into a state of rest. Before long, a voice from within the headphones told me to stand up and turn around. Not in a rough way…in a dreamlike, comforting way.

From there, I was lead elsewhere, and a single LED head lamp was placed upon my head. Using this, I was motioned to find my way through the dark, fog-filled tunnels, which all took on a very dream-like state, while beautifully haunting music continued to fill my ears. The set design was exceptionally minimal, but it was incredible. Your mind will be blown at what they accomplish in the space.

At times, I was made to watch small vignettes, while a voice narrated, in a way, what was happening. All of these little pieces were dark, haunting, and beautiful. Some of these, I felt as if I was merely a passive observer. In others, I was forced to partake, and perhaps take on a role that would make most want to wake up from the nightmare.

The head lamp was also at the mercy of the performers. While it helped my traverse my way through the dark, it was often turned off, and I was forced to sit in complete darkness. Again, they perfectly captured what it felt like to be within a dream with just a few simple effects. It was fantastic.

I also really liked the mask aspect, as well. The mask shields us from them, and vice versa. While it may serve to protect us from whatever is we might encounter, we also remained nameless, faceless entities in the darkness of the dream. We were strangers, passing in the dark, and didn’t let our identities hold us back. It was a brilliant, and simple, move…and also helped conceal who was responsible for the experience.

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And that’s just what this was; an experience. Calling this a “haunt” would be an injustice to it. It’s a performance art piece, a play being performed in front of your eyes for you, and you only. And it was an intimate, wonderful experience.

Now that the initial 20 have experienced the dream, the team has opened it up to the public. While they have never been about promoting the show to the public, instead preferring to remain in the shadows for a select few, the demand for others to see if has definitely grown in recent weeks, which has prompted them to open it to others.

And now, after been through it, I am happy to learn who was behind the entire production. While I won’t say the names here, as you will learn them for yourselves soon after the experience, I will say that both come with the highest qualifications, and have the best intentions in mind. They came up with something wonderful, yet unusual, and it will definitely be the most unique experience you have during this haunt season. And while they are still being cryptically vague about the next step, I’m very excited for it, whatever it may be.

I highly recommend that, if you are in the Southern California area, you check them out. The entire experience is wonderfully done, and one of the most surreal, striking things you will ever experience. Do not expect to go in and get scared…go in to live out a fantasy that usually would be forgotten by morning.

To attend Fear Is What We Learned Here, send them an email at fear@whatwelearnedhere.com. And then…prepare to enter your dream.

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About the Author

Jeff Heimbuch writes. A lot. On a variety of things and in different mediums. He also created the fiction podcasts LIGHT HOUSE and RETURN HOME (of which you can find both on all podcasting platforms), loves all things horror, works in social media, and is probably writing something right now. You can find him on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok at @jeffheimbuch.
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Discussion

5 Comments

  1. Jason October 25, 2015 at 2:21 am

    That email address isn’t valid anymore. Is there any other way to get in touch with them to attend this season? Thanks!

    • Jeff Heimbuch October 25, 2015 at 12:38 pm

      It didn’t? Try again! I just spoke with them the other day!

    • Jeff Heimbuch October 25, 2015 at 12:38 pm

      If not, try getting ahold of them via Instagram

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