Between theme parks, hayrides, and haunted houses, SoCal horror fans have plenty of scary events to choose from every fall. But Delusion’s unique immersive experience packs a punch every year, and consistently ranks as one of the most-loved scares of the season. (Assuming you can score tickets, that is – they tend to sell out.)
This year, creator Jon Braver invites horror fans to experience a new cult classic: Valley of Hollows.
Each year, Delusion selects a new theme to spin its terrifying tale. For the 2022 season, Braver targeted a 70s-cult angle. Here’s the official setup:
“Remind me to decline any future invites from Esther Phillips!” Wise words from a former guest of the mysterious Miss Phillips. Rumor has it that she poisoned her guests at an elaborate pretense of a party, forcing them to collect souls in exchange for an antidote. Yet the antidote was no such thing. The two-part poison caused the dead to pile up. Soon after, Miss Phillips disappeared. Yet the mystery surrounding her spreads like a blight.
Since her disappearance over twenty years ago, a cult known as The Hollows has born. Fanatics from around the world have come to the estate, driven by a promise of a gift beyond this life, if only they would die on her grounds.
The cult and its elusive matriarch remain shrouded in mystery. Yet, a lead has emerged. An ex cult member has left you an odd message. Her little brother is missing. She fears he’s been swept into the cult. During her search, she claims to have witnessed a groundskeeper transporting bodies from a local cemetery back to the Phillips Estate.
She pleads for you to meet her at the Estate. Under the cover of fog and darkness, you will infiltrate The Hollows and uncover the truth behind one of the most disturbing cults in American history.
Everything you’ve heard and more
This year was my first experience at Delusion, and suffice it to say, this event lives up to the hype. No one is really doing it like Delusion; merging interactive theater with a haunted maze and even some escape room elements. It really is a totally unique and incredibly fun time for anyone who loves the spooky, scary, and supernatural.
Navigating the space in a small group (10 or less) makes the scares more personal and gives everyone a chance to become a part of the story. The actors are good at bringing the creep factor, as well as improvising on the fly to adjust to how your individual group responds to the story.
Plus, Delusion doesn’t just have horror improv actors – it has stunt people too! I didn’t know that coming into the event, and what a cool surprise. I feel like Delusion has ruined me for other horror events. Zombies stumbling after you at a theme park or grabbing at you from behind the wall of a haunted house is just not on the same level as seeing one do a six-foot vertical leap out of a trench right in front of you.
Delusion 2022: Hell’s Hollow
This year’s Delusion theme, Hell’s Hollow, moves away from the past eras that many of the previous themes have stuck to. Braver said he often listens to music to inspire Delusion’s theme, and ’70s hits led to this year’s cult theme. In the vein of Jonestown or the Manson Family, Hell’s Hollow cult leader Esther Phillips inspired something dark and deadly in her followers. And it’s your job as a Delusion guest to venture into the family home under the role of a deprogrammer – to help someone inside escape.
Inside the cult house guests step back in time to the ‘70s. As you navigate the grounds and the manor, you encounter allies to help guide you on your path, as well as twisted foes to avoid. Esther Phillips isn’t just a cult leader, you see. After killing off her followers, she buries them on the grounds. Then, through some dark power, they rise again. (And as you might guess, neither Esther nor her undead followers are interested in letting you escape.)
Though Hell’s Hollow is the first Delusion story I’ve been able to experience firsthand, it’s not my favorite the event has ever come up with. ’70s cult – necromancy – magic – zombies felt a little overstuffed as a theme; we only got a bit of each element, and I think knocking off a hyphen or two would have given the story a stronger focus. That said, the experience overall is undeniably fun and creepy. It’s really only because Delusion is so strong as an event that I’m nitpicking here.
The VIP Experience
General admission for Delusion: Hell’s Hollow includes the main event, as well as access to the grounds, complete with a food and beverage station, photo op, and merch area.
You can also purchase a VIP pass, which grants you access to the upstairs area of the main house. There, you’ll find a special VIP bar with premium spirits, a small lounge area (sticking with the ’70s cult house themed décor), as well as a short additional walkthrough.
Honestly, the VIP walkthrough didn’t do it for me. There aren’t any scare actors, and there are hardly any special effects. (Vague spoilers I guess, but you pretty much just crawl through a dark room on your hands and knees.) Especially compared to the impressive setup and execution of Delusion’s main event, this was a bit of a letdown for me.
However, while you’re waiting in line to get into the VIP walkthrough, there is a magician keeping the crowd entertained. Probably no tricks that will really blow your mind, but he was personable and entertaining. So, props for the overall line experience upstairs.
Personally, I don’t see much of a point in springing for VIP tickets this year. It’s something like a $30 difference in price between GA and VIP, which seems like too much for the low-effort walkthrough and the option to buy pricier alcohol than they have at the GA bar downstairs. But hey, I won’t stop you from paying a bit more to have an extra space in the Delusion house to explore, or just to support the organizers of this event if that’s what you want to do.
Delusion remains a must-attend horror experience
Delusion is a SoCal favorite for a reason. The dedication and craftsmanship behind every element of the experience really shines. The set design is meticulous and detailed; the actors are creepy and engaging; the stunts and scares will wow you. If you can score tickets, this is a must-experience event for any horror fan.
Delusion runs Wednesday – Sunday nights, now through November 20. You can grab your tickets at EnterDelusion.com.
Meanwhile, for more on all things spooky and scary, check out our 2022 Fright-A-Thon content.