The Heritage Scare 2017 Review

Tired of tasteless screams and stale jump-scares? Try this delightfully delicious seven course meal of devious and demented games!

Ever on a quest to discover novel entertainments during the Halloween season, Hollywood Gothique ventured onto the grounds of the Heritage Square Museum this weekend to savor the fiendish delights of The Heritage Scare: An Evening of Competitive Murder. This is not a haunted house but a deviously demented seven-course meal of competitive puzzles and games, seasoned with skull powder and pumpkin spice suitable for alfresco encounters in a moonlit graveyard.  The night-long affair is far from frightening, but Victorian mansions, a simulated cemetery, and costumed characters provide just the right layer of fearsome frosting atop the deadly sweet confection.

Heritage Scare 2017 Review: Overview

Heritage Scare's interactive activities take place in seven locations around the museum: six inside the mansions and buildings; one on the grounds. The seven games range widely in terms of difficulty and time requirements - anywhere from 10 minutes to nearly an hour. Some games allow for "rolling" admission (new participants enter continually as space becomes available); others are group efforts that must be completed before the next group can start. The variety and spacing of the games allows for a fair degree of self-regulated crowd control, with participants jumping into shorter, easier games during the gaps between longer, more difficult ones.

Heritage Scare 2017 Review: The Games
Heritage Scare 2017 Review
A ghostly guide near the cemetery knife fight

We found the challenges at Heritage Scare alternately amusing, baffling, and exhilarating.  The simplest involved solving riddles, but the gimmick was that instead of shouting out the answers, players had to find an appropriate object hidden inside a Jack O'Lantern filled with oily spaghetti. Slightly more involved was a demented Halloween Tea Party, in which participants were required to follow the a Mad Hatter's instructions - unless they violated a secret rule (different for each player) handed out before the start; the goal was to guess the other players' secrets based on their actions.

The most satisfying intellectual challenge we faced all evening was in a game called "Cursed." The premise is that two of ten players begin the game "cursed" and try to pass the curse along to the others, who are trying to avoid the curse. Each player knows only his/her own status, so the object is to avoid touching players who seem too eager to make contact (presumably because they want to win by cursing everyone else). Hollywood Gothique's poker face served him well here; well before the end of the final round, we had cursed everyone else in the room.

Heritage Scare offers more than mind games. There's also dancing - not to mention a graveyard knife fight.

The Danse Macabre game - accompanied by live music - required dancers to follow a series of moves indicated by arrows on the floor. The goal was to avoid ending each round face-to-face with a "ghost" (identified by a glow necklace) - which is trickier than it sounds when everyone else is also trying to avoid facing off with a ghost. The characters in this house were among the most overtly ghoulish, including a Lurch-like butler, and special kudos go to the musicians for playing a fine rendition of Camille Saint-Saëns' Danse Macabre.

Our favorite event of the evening was the knife fight, conducted in a moodily lit "graveyard." Two teams of two each faced off, with everyone wearing blindfolds. Points were awarded for striking opponents with a (rubber) knife and for gently touching one's teammate with a rose. Mr. and Mrs. Hollywood Gothique left their hapless opponents perforated and punctured on the cold, quiet earth, while we shared a kiss of bloody triumph among the tombstones.

Heritage Scare 2017 Review: Tempus Fugit

Heritage Scare runs from 7pm to 11pm - theoretically enough to finish all the games with time to spare. The game leaders and guides were diligent about filling any downtime while waiting for the next activity to start. Riddles, stories, and quick games were always on tap. However, we finished games in five locations with over an hour left, and we still were not able to complete the last two - perhaps not coincidentally, two of the longer, more challenging games. In one house, players were taking so long to unscramble the obscure clues that the "rolling" admission was hardly rolling, necessitating a 25-minute wait. Though Heritage Scare allows entrance as late as 9:30pm, we recommend arriving promptly at seven to avoid this kind of situation (rewards are given for playing all seven games).

Heritage Scare 2017 Review: Conclusion

Heritage Square Museum, location of Heritage Scare 2017Rather like the Mad Hatter's Halloween Tea Party, Heritage Scare 2017 offers a menu full of grotesque tricks and treats that should satisfy those with a sweet tooth for the sinister. Many of the games could work in a non-Halloween context, but the Heritage Square Museum's historical buildings are suggestive of funerals and seances, and the Victorian garb of the characters is perfectly suited to an old-fashioned ghost story; guests are encouraged to attend in costume as well, adding to the atmosphere.

The 18 and over event is fun but challenging; fortunately, group play is possible in some situations, so participants can combine intellects. No alcohol is available, but a ghostly bartender will serve ginger bear and Victorian lemonade, and a food truck is available just outside the grounds. Jaded Halloween lovers, weary of tasteless screams and stale jump-scares, are encouraged to partake of these delightfully devious mind-games and mysteries.

The Heritage Scare 2017 takes place again on Saturday, October 14, from 7pm to 111pm, at Heritage Square Museum, located at 3800 Homer Street in Los Angeles. Heritage Scare is produced by Wise Guys Events. Our calendar listing for the event is here; Heritage Scare's official website is here. Tickets are still available. Use the discount code BOO20 to get 20% off.

Find more Halloween Festivals and Fun in A Halloween Haunts Master List.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.