No zombies or jump-scares: This artist-designed haunted house gives you a safe way to process day-to-day fears

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By Maggie Donahue, Denverite

It is once again that time of year when we lean into the darkness and choose, for a little while, to be afraid. We bring the macabre into our homes and our yards, opt into movies designed to frighten us, and immerse ourselves in fear landscapes via haunted houses.

For many, haunted houses are a cathartic experience — a controlled, safe way to dive into subconscious fears. Once we step outside, we know that everything is OK.

But this year, it feels as if we’re steeped in fear and anxiety about the pandemic, the upcoming election and what will come of it, forest fires, and of racially motivated violence and of rising tensions between political groups across the country. Fear is now all around us, inescapable.

At the same time, we now have fewer means of confronting those fears due to COVID-19 lock downs. How can we experience the thrill of haunted houses without enclosed spaces or too-close-for-comfort interactions with strangers?

No Place to Go is attempting to answer that question. Presented by Redline in partnership with 40 West Arts, No Place to Go is an immersive, socially distanced, multi-site “unhoused” haunted house. Participants remain in their quarantine pods and drive to five different installations where they interact with performers via a mobile app, from a safe distance, or through a protective glass barrier.

But NP2G doesn’t just adapt the haunted house for pandemic times. It reimagines it altogether.

The project was created and directed by Serena Chopra, a writer, dancer and multidisciplinary artist; Kate Speer, a dancer, choreographer and community organizer; and Frankie Toan, a craft and DIY artist specializing in visual materials arts and immersive arts. Together, they conceived of an immersive, artist-created haunted tour, one that would tackle complex, everyday fears rather than the ones that typically manifest in haunted houses. They proposed a “queering” of the haunted house: an experience that preys upon fears that emerge in a society fixed in binary thinking and considers how different bodies exist in oppressive, inhospitable socio-political spaces. Rather than explore supernatural terror, NP2G critiques the very real terrors of the world we live in.

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