The Nest - Immersive Theater

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I know there is a haunted house in Chandler called "The Nest", but this post is about a show in LA, and the ideas behind it.

"The Nest" by Scout Expedition Company in LA is an example of something called "Immersive Theater". The participants do not merely watch the performance, nor do they walk just walk through and interact with the performers. The audience is really part of the show.


Here in the Valley of D̶e̶a̶t̶h̶ the Sun, haunts are really the closest thing we have to immersive theater. The Renaissance Festival allows people to walk through a 30 acre stage and interact with actors, and that certainly could be considered immersive, but it's more "interactive". There is no story there actually being acted out other than the daily jousts. Escape rooms are immersive, but not really theater. There have been some attempts at limited run shows, but nothing ongoing or even recurring.

Many haunts - home and pro - attempt to create a world for the patron to enter. There is usually a story behind it. Some are elaborate and some not so much, but those haunts do try to tell a story. The patron is in the middle of that story.

"The Nest" is just the kind of immersive experience I think a home haunter could not only enjoy, but actually pull off. The Nest is produced in an actual home in a residential neighborhood. Patrons go into the home and wander through it, learning the story by finding audio tapes. The entire experience is driven by set design, props, the tapes, and the minds of the patrons. Some direction is given before entering the house, and the story is revealed through the tapes and other props.

Each person's experience is shaped by which tapes they find, and the order in which they find and play those tapes. Certain tapes with core information are left where they will be easily found, so everyone gets at least the essential story. No one finds all the tapes, and no one finds them in the same order. Many people go more than once for this reason.

There are no actors inside. There is no "escape". The experience itself is the point of the exercise.
Patrons buy a 90 minute time slot and you go through the house either alone or with someone they bring along. That's the limit. Two people at a time for 90 minutes.

The intimate immersive experience seems, to me, perfectly tailored to home haunters. Pro haunts rely too much on throughput to replace their current shows with something like this. A home haunter does not usually focus on throughput so much, nor on profit. It would be a labor of love, no doubt.

There is no rule that says the event has to be limited to two people or take 90 minutes. A ten minute show with 4 people at a time could probably accommodate no more than maybe 100-150 people per night, depending on how long the event runs. A pro haunt would never be able to survive on that. I believe a home haunt would slowly develop a following in much the same way the House of Restless Spirits in Santa Monica did.

Home haunters are already building low-capacity haunts in residential areas. Home haunters are typically short on actors, and with this approach, none are required. What if you could build your haunt into an immersive experience that includes patrons exploring and finding clues that tell them what happened in the haunt or why they were invited? The Nest is a quiet experience, not meant to be scary, but certainly you could build scares into it. Not wall to wall jump scares, maybe, but various triggers that cause effects. Maybe the tapes could have eerie sounds, even voices, on them. Maybe you could work in pepper's ghosts and other illusions that tell the story of a tormented soul murdered by a force that remains in the house.

Would you have to use audio tapes? Of course not. You could include home videos that show the rooms of the house with strange things happening in them. Maybe there would be creepy or telling pictures in an album, or old-fashioned slides meant for a projector. Maybe you can come up with a more high-tech approach, but I like the idea of audio and video diaries on tape and VHS.

There is a lot more potential in this idea than may at first be apparent. As I said, I don't think a pro haunt could replace their current shows with this kind of intimate event. What about supplementing the Halloween season with Immersive Theater Shows? Permanent Pro haunts looking to expand their revenues could conceivably use their existing buildings to have limited-run like this year-round. Such shows would appeal to some of the same people who already go to haunted attractions, but also to other groups. The actor investment would be minimal, so the off season shows could become financially viable.

Hear an extensive interview/conversation with the creators of The Nest HERE.

Would YOU go through an immersive experience like The Nest? Do you think it could make a cool haunt experience? What would YOU do with this idea?

Happy Haunting!