Postcard From Sleep No More

January 25, 2013

Filed Under: Haunted, New York
New York, NY

Aaron Sagers is an entertainment journalist and host/co-executive producer of Travel Channel's Paranormal Paparazzi. He is also the founder of the popular entertainment site and a contributor to CNN. He has gained a reputation for his specialty knowledge on the topics of paranormal entertainment, ghosts in pop culture, zombies, apocalyptic cultures, horror movies, curses in movies and celebrity ghost stories. Sagers has spoken at San Diego Comic-Con, New York Comic Con, Dragon Con and many other large fan events on those topics. Additionally, he teaches journalism at New York University in New York City, where he resides. He recently attended Sleep No More.

I went here to: Potentially drive myself insane. Sleep No More is an interactive theatre experience loosely based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, but that hardly covers it. Instead, this immersive production from British theatre company Punchdrunk is almost what would result if Edgar Allan Poe, David Lynch and the writers from Lost and American Horror Story joined forces on a living, open-world horror/suspense video game. So basically, it’s weird and brilliant.

I traveled here with: A few friends, but then I didn’t see them most of the night. Once we checked into the event and were given a playing card as a “ticket,” we entered the eerie early 19th-century-style Manderley lounge. After mingling with other guests and some quirky actors (including one creepily hushing us because “we mustn’t wake the babies!”) everyone was issued a white, beaked mask to be worn all night. We were ushered into a large freight elevator, and told to remain silent the entire evening. One woman was guided off the lift -- separated from her group -- while the rest of us were left on another level. Because of the masks, and the actions of the performers, everyone was eventually split up and led through a different, but connected, story.

The best way to travel here is: Located at 530 West 27th Street in New York City, Sleep No More is easy to get to via public transport.

I stayed at: While you cannot stay there, Sleep No More is set in the fictitious McKittrick Hotel. The story of the McKittrick is that it’s a 1939 lavish hotel shuttered before ever opening, and sealed from the public. In reality, it is a 100,000-square-foot space with 100 scenes set in a mansion, graveyard, ballroom, lunatic asylum and more -- all surrounding the same time frame as the hotel -- that will absorb you for about 3 hours (though there is enough performance material to last 14 hours).

When it comes to packing, be sure to bring: A sense of adventure and curiosity. There is no “right” way to experience Sleep No More. As you walk through the labyrinth you should examine books, letters, photos and items around you to unravel a mystery and discover the “plot.” Also, I quickly learned that if you stumble upon an actor performing a scene, stick around. And as they move to another room, you should follow them. But the great thing is that you don’t have to if you’d prefer spending the evening on your own mission.

The best thing I ate was: While I didn’t eat anything, I really enjoyed the funky cocktails at the Manderley’s full bar. There was an absinthe drink that was particularly fun and matched the surreal nature of the evening.

I wish I hadn't: Run out of time. Although I was there for a few hours, I wish I’d had more time and I plan on returning to have a new adventure.

Don't miss: The chance to see celebrities. Sleep No More has become a favorite attraction for the famous because of the anonymity afforded by the masks every guest must wear. However, you might sneak a peek of them at the Manderley, or in the moments before and after they don the mask.

Next time I will definitely: Get in the habit of going down dark halls, stalking actors and picking up objects faster. We have a societal apprehension towards opening doors and poking around in areas that look “off limits,” but trust me, your curiosity in such matters is rewarded here. If you should not be somewhere, you’ll know.

My favorite part of the trip was: Comparing notes with friends and fellow guests after the “performance.” Once we returned to the Manderley, the crowds were treated to a live performance of lounge music and began asking what each of us had seen, or what rooms we’d visited. While there was crossover between our evenings, each tale was unique.

My advice would be:
Be prepared to be creeped out and disturbed, but in a fun way. This is not a haunted house, but there are similarities and you’ll be dark situations. Also, the material (which includes nudity and very sexual scenes) is not for children or the easily offended. Also, don’t be the sort who talks or removes the mask throughout the night and your experience will be much more thrilling.

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