Normally, if we want to get scared, we'll just think about the Republican Party, thus obviating the need to visit a haunted house. But the Steampunk Haunted House, staged at the Abrons Arts Center by Third Rail Projects, is different. No blood, no gore, no chainsaw-wielding anythings. Instead, they elicit chills through disorientation and suspense, separating audience members from one another and sending individuals on an idiosyncratic route through the building's manifold chambers. We parted company in the first room, only to be reunited at the end when one of us popped out of a crate nearly into the arms of the other.
This year, the house draws inspiration from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, teasing out some of the more disconcerting strands of Carroll's novels and mimicking, through its randomized structure, the stories' topsy-turvy logic. An actual conversation we had afterward: "Did the Red Queen watch you in the mirror in that room with the French maid?" "What Red Queen? Was she near where you played chess with the animal-head thing?" "Um . . . what?" Rick Perry may be more horrifying, but he's not nearly so much fun.