You can enter the ‘catacombs’ of one of San Francisco’s most historic buildings


The last time I descended into the depths of San Francisco’s 5th Old Mint building and the Mission, I ended up being chased by an individual in a horrid clown costume as I tried to search for the one of the many rubber rats hidden among the 1800s. bank vaults disguised as prison cells.

I failed the challenge, the one that served as the finale of Terror Vault in 2019, an immersive theatrical experience and haunted maze of the mind of Joshua Grannell, also known as pickup icon Peaches Christ, as well as from Creative Director David Flower, who is instrumental in transforming the historic building’s winding hallways while preserving much of the aging architecture that makes you feel like you’re trapped in time – and that it doesn’t there is no other way out than to cross.

As the strobe lights lit us up, my friends and I demanded the exit, half screaming and half laughing so hard we couldn’t breathe. When I tell this to Grannell, he laughs himself.

“Just wait until you see it this time,” he said. “It’s kind of a ‘make or break’ year. At the very least, we put on the best show we’ve ever done. ”

Joshua Grannell, also known as drag icon Peaches Christ, poses inside his haunted immersive attraction, “The Immortal Reckoning,” at the San Francisco Mint on September 13, 2021.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

On a recent Wednesday night, I dared to brave the attraction again for its return in 2021 as “The Immortal Reckoning” and discovered that the surroundings had changed completely. Instead of creepy clowns and barred passages, there are crystal chandeliers and plush vintage sofas that I learned were from the Edwardian Ball. Red, blue, and green disco lights twinkle to the beat of ‘Dominion’ by the ’80s goth group, the Sisters of Mercy, as scantily clad vampires prowl the brick-lined hallways. An elegant cocktail bar called ‘Fang Bang’, where guests can soak up unholy water or perhaps an O-Negative margarita, connects the atmosphere together.

“We decided that instead of having the bar upstairs in the ballroom like we did in the past, let’s move it to the chests because, selfishly, I really wanted to make a new wave. 80s, a gothic vampire moment, and chests are so much better for that because they’re like building catacombs, ”Grannell said.

Although the lounge plays an important role in the history of “The Immortal Reckoning’s”, it will also be open to the public for the duration of the show until the Halloween weekend, whether or not you have a ticket, unlike to previous shows. .

But that doesn’t necessarily mean the actors won’t try to have a little fun with you. As I sip a sweet tangy but potent Reviver Corpse, one of the vampires walks up to me and sniffs the scent of my hair. “You don’t look like you are from here,” she purrs. “Are you a mortal?

Unholy Water is part of the cocktail selection of "The Immortal Judgment."

Unholy Water is part of “The Immortal Reckoning” cocktail selection.

Courtesy of Kevin Kopjak / The Immortal Reckoning

The pop-up bar draws heavily on former San Francisco club Roderick’s Chamber, which was popular throughout the ’90s. It is also influenced by an event called Jesus at the recently closed Stud bar on 9th and Harrison, as well as Death Guild, the oldest gothic and industrial dance party in the country (held for years at the Trocadero Transfer where the Grand is located today, although the event is now hosted by DNA Lounge). Grannell said many of these clubs shaped his early experiences in San Francisco nightlife when he moved here in the ’90s, and he wanted to find a way to bring them back to the very different neighborhood where they once thrived. .

“In a lot of ways I think this whole show is inspired by San Francisco,” he said. “My experiences in the city and my aspiration for the old SoMa.”

A look behind the scenes "Croc-bang" in the haunted immersive attraction "The Immortal Judgment" at the San Francisco Mint on September 13, 2021.

A behind-the-scenes look at “Fang Bang” at the immersive haunted attraction “The Immortal Reckoning” at the San Francisco Mint on September 13, 2021.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

Two years of preparation – much of the elaborate set design was built during the pandemic – “The Immortal Reckoning” begins as what appears to be a tour of a new exhibit at the Mint featuring rare artifacts that belong to the occult and the supernatural. A museum guide invites visitors in groups of eight to explore some of the most prized acquisitions, the Tablet of Hecate and the Book of Shadows.

I won’t say too much, but something goes wrong, and the powers of these ancient artifacts transport guests through a portal into another dimension filled with a clan of rabbit-worshiping witches (largely inspired by the Sisters’ Easter of Perpetual Indulgence in the Park event), a spooky orphanage and more vampires that populate another iteration of the “Fang Bang” nightclub (which offers touches of the Folsom Street Fair). There’s also an underground peep show inspired by the Lusty Lady, a North Beach club that unionized and became a worker cooperative before it closed in 2013.

One of the walls of a haunted children's orphanage inside

One of the walls of a haunted children’s orphanage inside “The Immortal Reckoning” at the San Francisco Mint on September 13, 2021.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

“The Lusty Lady was one of those places in San Francisco, like many, that I thought would be there forever,” said Grannell, calling the scene her favorite in the attraction. “Like Stud, or Finocchio’s, or the Lexington Club. When they’re gone, you realize how much you’ve taken them for granted.

Former Lusty Lady dancer Roxanne Redmeat stars as Joan Blackwell, one of the heirs to the cult artifact collection. Joining the cast of “The Immortal Reckoning”, she suggested reproducing the deceased location.

“[Joshua] asked us what places in San Francisco we thought were haunted, and for me it was definitely the Lusty Lady, ”she said, noting that some nights the dancers slept on the sofa in the club’s dressing room because that their last shift ended at 3 a.m., and BART was not working at that time. “There were all kinds of strange sounds, vibrations and shadows. “

Former Lusty Lady dancer Roxanne Redmeat dances at "Croc-bang" disco inside "The Immortal Judgment" at the San Francisco Mint.

Former Lusty Lady dancer Roxanne Redmeat dances at “Fang Bang” nightclub inside “The Immortal Reckoning” at the San Francisco Mint.

José A. Guzman

“The Immortal Reckoning” lasts about an hour from start to finish, and guests can choose to “sign up” for a more interactive experience by wearing a glowing necklace, letting the cast know they can be touched, fed something (think of a Fruit by the foot disguised as something rude) or even isolated for a one-on-one scene. A number of William Castle-inspired gadgets are also on display throughout the show. The filmmaker behind horror B classics like “13 Ghosts” and “House on Haunted Hill” was famous for his marketing ploys like recording buzzers under theater seats that would go off at the right time, surprising moviegoers when of a climactic scene.

“This year we are electrocuting people. We lock them in coffins. Is there more of William Castle than that? Grannell said in a recent episode of his “Midnight Mass” podcast, which offers more information on how the director influenced the attraction.

One of the halls of an immersive haunted attraction,

One of the halls of an immersive haunted attraction, “The Immortal Reckoning,” at the San Francisco Mint on September 13, 2021. (This is one of Peaches Christ’s old wigs.)

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

That said, a number of security measures are in place. Following the lead of the San Francisco theater community, Grannell said, guests must wear masks at all times and show proof of vaccination – no negative COVID-19 test will be accepted. Other features are implemented such as “scream boxes”, a gadget that emits a loud sound effect when an actor presses a button to prevent the spread of respiratory aerosol particles.

But is the show really scary? Even as a dedicated horror fan, I’d say yes, but there are still plenty of campy, comedic moments that keep the vibe light – and that’s the point, Grannell said.

“I want you to scream, sure, but I want to take it one step further and make you scream and then laugh,” Grannell said. “I think in these scary times we live in horror, especially funny horror, is a liberation. You know? It allows people to sort of exorcise this anxiety that we have from everyday life. ”

Some of the mask artists will wear to "The Immortal Judgment" at the San Francisco Mint on September 13, 2021.

Some of the mask performers will be wearing “The Immortal Reckoning” at the San Francisco Mint on September 13, 2021.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

And in a sense, “The Immortal Reckoning” places a mirror next to old San Francisco nightclubs to prove a point beyond Grannell’s feelings of nostalgia.

“What I really want to say to people this year is, ‘These unique places that we love are going to be gone if you don’t support them,” said Grannell.

Even the show itself won’t last forever in its current form. While event company Non Plus Ultra currently rents the Old Mint building, the California Historical Society plans to eventually turn the space into a museum.

“I have the impression that there is a Y on the road [as nightlife slowly begins to reopen]”Grannell said.” And I think right now we can say, ‘Let’s fight for this Renaissance. Let’s fight to bring back the weirdness and protect these things that make the city so special.’ “

“The Immortal Reckoning” opens to the public at the San Francisco Mint on Friday, September 24. Tickets from $ 50 to $ 70.

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