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The Tension Experience Was An Immersive Production That Left Participants Paranoid For Days

Just east of downtown Los Angeles is Boyle Heights, a neighborhood that is a proud home to 100,000 residents. But in one corner of this bright community sat a dark secret: an eerie, blood-soaked warehouse that left visitors numb from horror. Though there are many disturbing and frightening haunted houses, they’re also a dime a dozen. The Tension Experience wasn't just an immersive theater show, or clever alternate reality game, or a haunted house in Boyle Heights - it was a life-changing amalgamation of all three.

So just what was The Tension Experience? It was an ARG and immersive theater experience rolled into one, a deeply psychological ride that left participants questioning what's real and what isn’t. According to the narrative, it was also home to the OOA Institute, a scheming cult with wickedly ulterior motives, and visitors doubled as initiates undergoing incredibly punishing indoctrination. The OOA cult’s haunted house left more than just an impression - it made guests paranoid, afraid, and possibly even emotionally and mentally scarred.

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  • It Blurred The Line Between Fantasy And Reality

    The Tension Experience was incredibly successful due to one crucial thing: visitors gave them their personal information, which they then used to haunt them even before the experience happened. They often got creepy phone calls filled with haunting songs, eerie laughter, or even lurid silence.

    They even "requested" in-person meetings or scavenger hunts where they lurked nearby and observed what happened. Some said that on the day of their experience, they were pretty much taken - a bag thrown over their head before they were shoved into a van, eventually being released in the parking lot in front of the location itself.

    All of it left visitors constantly looking over their shoulder, paranoid about being followed, watched, and psychologically taunted.

  • Participants' Fears Were Used Against Them

    As long as a participant was all in, the whole experience was tailored to them, based on the information they gave and the choices they made at the experience itself. And that wasn't limited to just one particular day - things happened in the days, weeks, and months leading up to the experience. Participants could be ordered to find a package, or be interrogated

    These events help hooked an individual into the actual experience, because they were psychologically weaker from the outset. And then, at their most vulnerable, the cult confronted them wielding their greatest fear.

  • It Was Masterminded By A Director From The 'Saw' Franchise

    Darren Lynn Bousman is perhaps best known as the director for Saw 2 through Saw 4, and the cult favorite Repo! The Genetic Opera. His vision for The Tension Experience was really about deeply involving the audience in the story. By participating directly with the actors and the set, they became more invested in the story than if they watched from chairs.

    And he was right on the money: becoming emotionally involved is what made the experience psychologically terrifying. In other words, being in the Tension Experience was a bit like starring in a Saw film, except everything was far more psychological, and a lot less physical.

  • The OOA Cult Interrogated Participants To Get Their Personal Information

    Most other immersive experiences are a one-off thing. You go, you explore and experience, and then you return home with all sorts of wild memories. In this one however, participants were asked a series of questions long before they even stepped foot in the warehouse.

    They were sent an official OOA Institute Processing Form, which asked deeply personal questions such as their blood type, if the government had files of their fingerprints, or if they had life insurance. Even worse, participants might have been asked to meet with an OOA Institute member for an interview - though most said it was more of an interrogation .

    All of this information-gathering resulted in the experience being customized around an individual and their worst fears. They returned home with all sorts of emotions.

  • Participants' Comfort Zones Were Continually Eroded

    Imagine sitting blindfolded in front of an audience and made to answer extremely private questions. Or how about being ordered to strip down and wear the cult’s clothing? Or are told to ingest a foul-smelling liquid while blindfolded, then squeeze into a tight spot with another frightened audience member?

    Many who went to The Tension Experience underwent all sorts of humiliations, each and every one designed to wear away at their comfort zones. The experience stripped away their barriers bit by bit, and left them psychologically vulnerable. Then they were thrown out into the street, where all of their clothes were piled in a heap.

  • It Adapted And Changed Depending On A Person's Choices

    The Tension Experience was like one giant Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book, without the ability to turn back to a safe page. And just like those books, participants made choices that changed their paths.

    Each person's participation enhanced not only their own experience, but the experience of the other audience members as well. Imagine that someone was ordered to interrogate, humiliate, or stalk you as part of their initiation. So making a choice to leave that nightmare would get you away, but might lead somewhere worse.

    Alone. In the dreaded Red Room.