This past weekend at ScareLA, the creators behind The Tension Experience promised to unveil themselves during a panel discussion. Leading up to it, they asked people to enter into a raffle of sorts, as only 100 people would be allowed into the room to see the events unfold. Though I was one of the lucky ones chosen, they wound up opening the panel to the general public as well, so everyone could see who was behind it. Unfortunately, attendance was a bit light, save for the devoted few, due to the panel being in a separate building than the main convention, and a bit of confusion for folks trying to obtain their passes into the show not being able to make it in time.
However, those who were there were able to find out who was behind the Tension Experience and just what their motives were, in one of the most confusing, convoluted hours of my life that I have ever experienced.
The panel opened with a moderator who claimed to be a writer for the site Escape Room Chaos, which does not exist, nor have I ever heard of him. However, whether he was an actor or not didnt matter, because he asked the questions I have been wanting to ask from the beginning.
To start off, he called some of the devoted Tension followers to the stage, unbeknownst to them, to ask them questions about their experience so far, and just what it was all about. Russell Eaton and Mike Fontaine of My Haunt Life, and two friends of mine, were part of those called to the stage, and tried to explain the events thus far to those in attendance.
Followers of Tension on the panel
For those who want a not-so-brief rundown of everything that has happened, be sure to visit The Tension Experiences handy timeline on their website. It is missing the last few bits, such as when a woman was murdered by having her throat slit in a video on YouTube, but you can get the general gist of it from there.
Afterward, the moderator released the fans, and called the creator to the stage. From the audience, a nondescript, late 20s-something guy came up, who revealed himself to be Ellis Gordon, the man behind it all. The moderator asked him for some insight into how it all began, and about some of the cult-like aspects of the whole thing.
Ellis explained that it is all fictional, and there is nothing cult-y about it. However, he did say that he bought his grandfathers desk at a garage sale years ago (which is kind of weird, if you ask me), and found a flier for the O.O.A. in a drawer. He later found a secret compartment, which lead him to a book all about the O.O.A. and the Church of Anoch. From there, he created this fictionalized experience based around the things he found.
The moderator, smartly, called him out on the cult aspect again, saying that he created this fake experience based on these real things. As he kept using the word cult, an older, gruff-looking man in the audience stood up to correct him. Apparently, he was Atticus, someone whose name was heard before by the hardcore followers, and was revealed to be the co-creator of Tension. Atticus joined them on stage, and was very adamant that Tension was NOT a cult, and just an experience. Anytime the moderator questioned it, Atticus stood up threateningly and declared it wasnt a cult. Over and over again.
“Ellis Gordon,” the “creator” of Tension
Eventually, two actors from Tension joined them on stage as well, further blurring the line, as they kept forgetting they were actors in this experience, and had to be reminded, quietly, privately, a few times, to regain their characters and pretend to be in this experience and not part of an actual cult.
You see how I am using quotation marks here? Because now it was getting confusing and convoluted.
The discussion got away from Ellis and the moderator quite a bit, and it basically turned into Atticus yelling at them that it was NOT A CULT.
Like when a woman behind me in the audience stood up and said her brother did Tension 2 years ago in Oklahoma and how it was all bull shit. She claimed it ruined their family. Throughout the rest of it, she kept muttering to herself, which was actually kind of hilarious.
Another woman from the audience, claiming to be an actress, wanted to be part of it. She was asked if she wanted a taste of Ascension by the actors on stage, and was taken into the back. Within moments, she came back out, screaming her head off, claiming that they had no right to do that and what the fuck is wrong with you people? before running out of the room.
Also, Addisons father, whom has showed up at Tension events many times in the past, was also in the audience, and began to freak out about his daughter to anyone who would listen. At this point, it became so comical, so over the top, that I started recording everything on my phone, just so I could try to make sense of it later.
He began yelling at me to post the video on YouTube, on Facebook, and Pintrest so the world could see.
So I did.
Oh, and THEN in the middle of all this, the BoS, a rival faction, showed up on the video screen. Between Addisons dad yelling, the Tension actors yelling, and the video yelling, it was too hard to make sense of anything that was said. I THINK the video showed Ellis Gordon’s IMDB page, revealing him to be an actor as well? I think? Maybe?
At the end of the day, the audience was left in silence, and darkness, and told to leave.
Seriously, what the hell was going on?
At this point, Tension is so deep into its own rabbit hole that I dont even know if THEY know what they are doing. There have been so many back and forths, double, triple, and quadruple crossings, fake actors, real actors, fake actors pretending to be real pretending to be fake, fake companies taking over and then leaving, people outed as being behind it and then not, and so on, that is just one big jumbled mess.
The “actors” who were not “actors” but were “actors”
While those devoted to the cause did eat it up, many of them remarked to me in private that even THEY are confused as to what they are even going for at this point.
I ran into Atticus outside afterward, while he was handing out fliers for Ascension, and asked if I could ask him a few questions, but he turned me away, claiming “the others inside have more answers than me.”
I applaud Tension overall for creating this impressive, gigantic immersive experience that blends the line between fantasy and reality. However, its gotten to the point that you need to take a college-level class to catch up on the backstory of what has happened, let alone even begin to understand. If you havent been following along since Day 1, chances are, you will get lost in the mix.
I just re-read everything I wrote above, and even I was confused, and I was there. Who knows how you guys feel.
Who knows how this will all play out during their event, Ascension, which begins next month. Tickets are on sale for it now, and I will be attending the two hour experience on September 17th. Perhaps that will shed some light on the subject?
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.