In Our Opinion

KILLERS: A NIGHTMARE HAUNTED HOUSE

By • Oct 5th, 2012 •

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Initiate your body’s response to fear: a quickened thumping in the chest, a cold sweat. Submit to the psychotic and perverse. Journey this tour of remorse, a labyrinth of interconnected themed scenes ripped from the pages of history’s true crime. Place yourself among the tortured souls; the tortured and the torturers.

KILLERS: A NIGHTMARE HAUNTED HOUSE is currently open in New York’s Lower East Side. The locale is ideal as the area is enriched by its history of brutality and debauchery that has made headlines since the 1800’s. “Loisaida” was unwelcoming to the teeming immigrants bludgeoned by the harshness of slums, rats, gangsters, murders, rapes, disease etc., replete with all the trimmings to thoroughly stomp upon the American Dream, shattering it onto the fabled streets paved with gold.

Today, compass points lead to nearby places of interest. Broome Street is voted stinkiest street in the city. Tompkins Square Park, where resident Daniel Rakowitz, aka, The Butcher of Tompkins Square Park, served the homeless a consommé daringly prepared with a heaping of his ex-girlfriend’s parts. (Perhaps this meal was truly tasteless or an epicurean delight. The morality in gastronomy debate is endless.) Take a walk to Umberto’s Clam House where gangster Joey Gallo was gunned down. Hop on the subway at the Delancey Street Station and go to 406 West 15th Street to view the residence where Albert Fish abducted Grace Budd.

KILLERS is under fire by victims’ families. There is no glorification as voiced by the opposition. Recordings and actor monologues deliver factual information in an interactive setting. Rather than watch a moving image on the screen or stare at a stage, KILLERS places the guests face to face with the murdering mad men and women.

The expected spooky bump in the night uneasiness is experienced inside, while the anxiety begins as one waits to enter. While in line I witnessed the departing guests shrouded with facial expressions ranging from cheerfulness to downright tearful sadness accompanied by a supportive shoulder. I watched the group going ahead of mine. They were given instructions and told that it’s not shameful to tell any of the actors inside that if you choose not to go on for any reason, “I need to leave, “is the key to a quick exit. No body movement, gaping mouths, and pensive thoughts about going through. No crappy carnival fare to be found here.

The descent into the cavern of Hell’s heroes begins at the home of Grace Budd. In the kitchen, a confession is broadcast – giving loathsome details – by The Brooklyn Vampire, Albert Fish. Little Grace’s mom is victimized by the heinous demise of her daughter, setting the tone of foreboding for the road ahead by asking, “Why did you come here?”

A woman strapped to a gurney is pleading for help. Her limb is mangled. Who is the Bone Collector? Piqued by the experience, I researched this and learned that Dr. Henry Howard Holmes is actually Herman Webster Mudgett. With all the news about bullying, this demented doctor’s malpractice is relevant today. As the story goes, the young pre-murderous Herman was bullied and forced to touch a human skeleton by classmates. From this touch was sparked a penchant for death. Bullies watch out!

The Australia serial killer fans. John Cooper, Lauren Cooper, Lisa Nixon.

Where else can one visit to view actual artwork by John Wayne Gacey, the scribbling of Charles Manson, and take a look at yearbooks where “Most Likely To Be a Homicidal Maniac” was omitted. Jeffery Dahmer is pictured with glasses in his school portrait. In another, Ted Bundy is in a suit and tie looking clean cut and happy and full of optimism. Image placement is interesting in this case. Bundy’s school picture is on the upper right-hand corner of the left page, he’s just about smiling at a snapshot of Julie Jonson. Below her image is the caption, “Julie Jonson displays encouraging enthusiasm.” Oh, Julie, was there ever an inclination?

Before entering, opt for the “X” on your head to be accosted inside. The people that give the rules and regulations will ask you to participate. In doing so, I was taken by John Wayne Gacey and removed from my group. I won’t reveal what went down. Later I rejoined my group and learned that I missed an exhibit. So, I went back through the entire tour to encounter what was missed. The second time around, I picked up on a few elements that I missed the first time through and realized that the company you keep makes all the difference.

The first group was fully engaged, enhancing the experience. The second group was from California and totally oblivious to their surroundings, bypassing key elements, arguing with the actors, refusing to participate and shattering the illusion. They gave the actor portraying Dexter a particularly difficult time. Perhaps in time they will get their due.

Group one was a trio of siblings hailing from Australia. John and Karen agree that their sister Lisa’s obsession with serial killers is attributed to, ‘She’s a sicko.” Karen finds the serial killers interesting since it deals with extremes of humanity. The brother and sisters knew much about film. John spoke about the finesse and mastery of Alfred Hitchcock. Of course, WOLF CREEK, is brought into the conversation. It was delivered with the preamble that this was not about waving the Australian flag. But hey, a murderous bushman would be at home here tonight with his brethren. Bloody oath!

Karen watches DEXTER and filled me in about the DEXTER exhibit we saw since I have yet to see the SHOWTIME production. As if it could be any other way, the serial killer cheerleader Lisa revealed that her favorite film is TED BUNDY. With vigor and zeal she went on to talk about HOSTEL. Incidentally, this skull-shirt-wearing horror movie buff clung to me twice while we ventured through the KILLERS HOUSE. Yes, it’s less scary on film.

‘Tis the season to be frightened. KILLERS: A NIGHTMARE HAUNTED HOUSE is at 107 Suffolk Street between Rivington Street and Delancey Street. That’s Rivington, not Rillington Place. There is no John Christie here. Just Jack the Ripper, Ted Bundy, Ed Gein, and others. Be sure to scream, Dr Satan! Dr. Satan!

Parting word: As you wait to go in with strangers, ask yourself this: Who amongst us walks through these halls of horror to pay homage, to revel in the misfortune and misery of victims, embracing the kindred flesh of those featured that surely harbored similar aberrant behavior?

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