We stood at the at the base of the ominous, stone steps. With more than a little fear in her voice Mommy Fearist confesses to me, “Norm, I don’t think I can do this. It might be too scary for me.” Totally ignoring her genuine tone, I flippantly remark, “Erin you are gonna love this. Trust Me. Peaches is EVERYTHING.”
I was referring, of course, one of Terror Vault’s producers, Peaches Christ aka Joshua Grannell. The drag legend, filmmaker, and prolific parody producer is also a horror fanatic and has decided to stage her own haunt right in the heart of San Francisco at The San Francisco Mint!
We climbed the weathered granite stairs to the entrance and the man at the door asked for our ID’s. Why? Because there is a fabulously spooky bar inside. More on that shortly. After checking in with the friendly folks in the box office, we were given wristbands that placed us in our tour group, “Zombies.” We next had the pleasure of meeting the show’s other producer, David Flower. After greeting us with a friendly handshake/hug, he guides us to said bar where we are to ingest our liquid courage and wait for the rest of our group.
The Bar. My god the bar. We pass through red velvet curtains to a parlor bathed in blood-red lighting. Silently, the film Häxan plays on an adjacent wall. Erin and I make our way to the bar and go over the themed offerings.
Protip: This is a cash bar with an ATM just outside in the hallway. If you hate paying services fees to spend your own money bring cash
This was, coincidentally, the same night that we were holding our special HorrorBuzz Passport to Fear event where we got to experience the haunt with a large group of HorrorBuzzers, then afterward we were going to be treated to a full lights-on tour and meet at greet with the creators of the show. So, it was in the delightful crimson watering hole that we waited for the rest of the passport holders to arrive.
Once the last of us were ready, we were called by our group name to queue up just outside a small door in the hallway. Our “Zombies” Group was set and we entered a quaintly decorated lobby. Bales of hay and charming Halloween decorations peppered the large room and our tour guide welcomed us in with cheery aplomb. Too cheery.
The rules of the haunt were made clear. Each of us could make our own personal choice in regards to how much interaction or participation we wanted to receive from the actors awaiting us below. Those who were fine with being touched talked to directly or broken off from the group were offered pink glow in the dark necklaces. Once all settled and ready we were led to the next room and given a rather colorful history of The San Francisco Mint.
Our tour guide informed us that there was a darker period that not too many people were aware of, in which the Mint was actually used as a prison. Hidden from public knowledge the vaults, at one time, held a collection of the most criminally insane folks that San Francisco had in its midst. “Afterall,” as our tour guide points out, “Alcatraz hadn’t been built yet.”
We are led to another room where the history of The Mint takes a darker turn. We are told that it is said that there is still some gold hidden deep inside the labyrinthian safes, vaults, and corridors and that we, as a group need to find it. Oh, and by the way, the weirdos, sickos, Satanists, and mad scientists? Yeah, they are all down there too waiting for us. With that, we are off.
Terror Vault assaults the haunt goer with an unpredictable mix of traditional haunted house walk through elements, escape rooms and theatre to create something that is wholly unique in the Bay Area. I have to say I was genuinely impressed with what this freshman haunt pulled off.
While I would love to share highlights I am loath to for the sake of keeping surprises that you should see for yourself. Let me see if I can explain WHY I found this to be one of the better haunts of the season without spoiling things.
The sets: The extensive set design and attention to detail are remarkable. In particular, the Doctor’s lab is great fun to be trapped in.
The Sound Design: While a haunt is usually a pretty cacophonous affair, there are times when silence is golden. Terror Vault knows this and also knows when to crank things up to 11. What’s more, I didn’t catch any sound bleed between scenes. That is something I can’t even say of some of the best haunts in Los Angeles.
The Talent: All along the route the actor’s were on point but a few really left an impression. Sporting what could be described as “Universal” polish with “Knott’s” heart, Terror Vault has some amazing actors working to scare the living hell out of you. Tina, the tour guide (Lisa Beth McHenry) at the beginning was phenomenal as a manic, chipper M.C. Then, of course, there was Peaches Christ, who, no question, has one of the best entrances in a haunt this year. The overt ringleader to this insanity, Christ has a fiendishly fun scene midway through that will have her fans gagging and screaming.
The Verdict; Terror Vaults is one of the best haunts in California this year. It brings a heaping helping of professionalism and production to the Bay area haunt scene that fans will go nuts over.
Yes, it’s pricey. $60 bucks for a haunt may seem like a huge amount for a singular experience. But seriously this is worth it. Oh, and Mommy Fearist? She’s fine. In fact, this was one of her favorite haunts of 2018.
Thanks again to Peaches Christ for a great time! (pic from the Passport to Fear Event.)