Immersion.

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Attention is a highly prized commodity. Movies become background noise during dinner, interrupted by quickly checking up on social media and rapidly typing some response out. Youtube videos lasting over thirty seconds are skipped through to see the punchline as fast as possible, before moving on to the next one, and the next one, and the next one. With so many contenders vying for two seconds of our time, our already short attention spans can feel like they are being quartered. In a world where it gets increasingly difficult to catch our eye, moments where you’re in the moment and fully focused are rare and precious. Maybe in part as a countermovement to all this, ‘immersive’ has become a huge buzzword these last years in theatre and creative communities. So – let’s explore the subject for a bit. Read More

Fraternity – The story so far

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A mere two months ago, Fraternity was announced. An experience designed by the people behind the Frequent Fear podcast – lasting for about thirty minutes, all by yourself. In those two months, a lot has happened, different sides to the unveiling story have come forward, and it is even starting to look like the creators of this show are in over their heads. For those who just stumbled onto Fraternity, or for anyone who wants to refresh their memories – a recap of what has happened.

The Frequent Fear announcement

March 8th 2017. GNG Entertainment posts a status update. “Five years ago, for the first time in the UK, we asked the question “How far is too far?”. This year we really get to find out!”. Underneath those lines, the letters FRATERNITY are spelled out, in a font with a Greek aesthetic to it. Five years ago, referring to Project Fear – a show I never got to experience, but that sounded like a UK version of the Victim Experience. Along with that post, Frequent Fear releases a podcast, revealing Lee Conway and Gary Crompton as the creators of this show. The podcast would be used as a means to document the development process, to unveil different steps, different complications and their solutions, a very open approach to the design of the experience.

Listen to the announcement podcast here.

Over the next three weeks, bits of concept art were released, showing a general theme of red and black imagery, closed doors and secret society mythology. On March 31st, a second episode of the development podcast was shared online, teasing about the feel of the attraction, revealing it would be a hands-on, walk through alone experience. On the Fraternity website, a text appeared, revealing the Fraternity as a very new world order-esque organisation, pulling the strings of prime ministers and presidents, influencing elections, world economics, and generally controlling the way our society functions. Every ten years, the Fraternity offers a chance to join them. An initiation ceremony. And this would be our chance to enter.

Catch up on the second development podcast here.

The emergence of Dr. Henry Issac, a quest for the event dates

Then, April 4th, everything changed. A Twitter profile appeared, under the handle of @drhenryissac, and started interacting with a number of people who had been interested in participating in Fraternity. Among other things, he tweeted that the Frequent Fear guys are only puppets, and that we need to watch out for whoever was really pulling the strings.

I got in contact with Dr. Henry Issac on April 8th. He revealed the actual name of the Fraternity as being the Ordre d’Elysium, and claimed he had been following them for years – a chance encounter, after discovering and deciphering an ancient parchment he had found while researching theories about the Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. An order, promising people the world, after which they would be submitted to torment and brainwashing. He seemed very confused about this ‘scare attraction’ popping up all of a sudden, calling the guys behind Frequent Fear clowns who didn’t know what they were dealing with. This immediately raised a couple of questions. Is Frequent Fear being manipulated into marketing the initiation ceremony as a scare attraction, in order to lure people in? Are they aware of this, or are they being played? Or, alternatively, is this Dr. Henry Issac sound of mind? This latter theory is the one followed by ‘the two clowns’, laughing away these developments as the fabrications of a lunatic they claim not to know.

After a couple of days of interaction with Dr. Issac, we convinced him to trust us to join his search for the truth, for what lies behind the doors of the Ordre d’Elysium. With the initiation happening only once every ten years, the window would be closing soon, and we needed to act as soon as possible. He shared a parchment with us. The text on this parchment was identical to the one that had appeared on the Fraternity website earlier – with the addition of this line:

Ternion will start your path, and lead you through degrees to the promised land.

 

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Dr. Issac, or Henry, wasn’t willing to share the solution just yet, so the small community that had gathered collaborated intensely to reveal the dates of the initiation, said to be hidden somewhere on the parchment. A secret Facebook group was founded, under the name of #OdEwatch. Dr. Issac provided clues, telling us to look into Henry Lincoln’s writings about the Priory of Sion, a fraternal society that was founded and dissolved in 1956 as part of a hoax. Geometry plays a huge role in Lincoln’s work, and everyone set out drawing lines on the parchment, connecting symbols and trying to figure out the secrets within. Theories varied wildly, ending up in astronomy and calculations of planetary alignments, but we only got further and further away from the truth. Ultimately, either fed up with us getting nowhere, or impressed by the effort we had made, Henry shared a video on Youtube, detailing the solution of the problem, and revealing the dates for the Initiation as being July 14th until 16th.

 

 

I shared this date with Lee and Gary, the “two clowns” behind the Frequent Fear Podcast. They still claimed not to have an idea who this Dr. Issac was, but did confirm the dates were correct, and told me they had no idea of how Henry had predicted them.

Connection to a secret informant, the reveal of the location

Two days passed, until three members of #OdEwatch received mysterious emails. The email address itself, magendavid1897@gmail.com, potentially referred to the Star of David, which was uncovered on the parchment as well. The sender was only known as Deep Throat, or DT – I suppose hinting at the pseudonym that was given to the secret informant in the Watergate scandal, and not the slightly more x-rated meaning. The information in the emails consisted of a binary code, the Fraternity logo consisting of a repeating number, and the code LEIGGS1910. Cracking these codes would grant us the location of the initiation ceremony.

 

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LEIGGS1910 was quickly uncovered to mean SCHOOL 1910 – using a QWERTY keyboard based substitution encryption. The repeating number and binary code proved more difficult, as multiple encryption methods and conversions yielded no workable results. Translating binary into letters, back into numbers, and using these as grid references for a moment seemed to be the way forward, but ultimately, we got nowhere.

In the meantime, community members sent out emails to DT, in an attempt to find out more. In various emails, DT revealed himself to be on the inside of the Ordre d’Elysium. A younger member, who was born in the Order, and never had had the choice to join. In his emails, details slipped through, unveiling a strict hierarchy, with “i proélefsi”, or the Origin, at the top. A belief in reincarnation, of cycles of different body forms was hinted at. Before the initiation, it seems a window opens up for members to communicate with the outside world, but only after consultation of the Elders, the Origin. DT did not consult with them, and informed us of the grave danger he found himself in, confiding us with hints towards the location of the initiation, if they would ever find out. (Note – a late realisation, but I might be landing DT in a world of trouble by publishing this recap). Apart from these insights, a number of us were given nicknames, derived from Greek mythology, apparently based on the first impressions DT had had of us. Athena, Theia, Hermes, Actaeon, Asteria, Coeus, Ananke. In later emails, DT gave the impression of feeling sad, locked up, frustrated by his lack of choice.

Not getting anywhere with the codes, DT got restless, claiming the window was closing, and send one community member another clue – one that was far easier to decipher: Mechesburg 01709SE4700. This clue rapidly led us to the location of the initiation: Mexborough, a town in South Yorkshire, England. Five days later, on the Facebook page of the Fraternity event, this location was confirmed to be correct, along with mentioning that tickets to the initiation would be available on the next Monday.

Entry into the Initiation

The Sunday before, community members received a cryptic email from DT. A picture of a painting, without further context. Reverse google image searches revealed the painting to depict Saint Georges, and interestingly, that Sunday was St. Georges day. A clue? A hint towards advance access to the initiation? Nothing was uncovered however, and the trail ran cold.

Nine days later, DT resurfaced. One member of #OdEwatch received the following message:

“Tomorrow for 30 mins the window will open. If I get the chance I will inform you all 15 minutes before with a call out. Initiation is around the corner.”

Apart from that, several members received emails in Greek, which, when translated, combined to something that looked like the waiver to the event, detailing certain things we might encounter inside the initiation ceremony, including submersion in water, restraints, and interestingly, that we would be provided with a ceremonial gown for the initiation.

Indeed, the next day, a community member received a text message, stating that the Ordre d’Elysium was setting up a new website. DT claimed he was able to insert a glitch, that would take us to a page where we would be able to gain entry to the initiation. When opening the OdE website, nothing seemed to be there, except for a general image claiming the website was under construction. However, there was a hidden link on the page, granting us access to the initiation ceremony. Once again, Lee and Gary, the organizers of the Fraternity event, were stumped how we were able to obtain tickets, as these weren’t supposed to go on sale just yet. They could however confirm that indeed, we had purchased spots for their event. Three days later, tickets went on sale on the general Fraternity website.

Latest developments

In the meantime, DT hinted that he was working on adding a second glitch in the OdE website, which would allow us to access more information about the Order. Four days later, a text message was sent out, saying the glitch was live. The website no longer showed the under construction image, now showing the logo of Ordre d’Elysium (thematically related to the Fraternity logo, but using different letters). An “about us” button didn’t lead anywhere, but once more a hidden link could be found, leading us to a contact page, where we could leave our name, email address, and a message. Several community members sent out messages, as per DT’s hint, asking for more information.

 

 

The next day, DT came back to us in a panic – stating he hadn’t put up the link to the contact page, urging us not to send anything through, that any message sent would end up straight in the hands of OdE security officers. Evidently, too late for that.

As a latest development, on May 17th, DT claims to have found a way to stop our messages falling into the hands of the Order’s security. We are about to receive a code, split into three parts, that needs solving in order to plug the leak. DT is adamant that we should not underestimate the importance of this – claiming it “is more important than life or death”.

Questions piling up

So. That leaves us with the Ordre d’Elysium, a secret order who are about to have an initiation ceremony, happening only once every decade. Two scare attraction producers who seem to think they are just putting on an event called Fraternity – while clearly other people are at least having some kind of influence over content and ticket sales. Then there is Dr. Henry Issac, a potential conspiracy theorist who has been researching the Order for years, and who seems to be pulling away from us. It can be assumed he knows more about what is going on, but as time goes on, Henry is growing more reclusive, not responding to our messages, keeping his info close to his chest. Several community members have lost their trust in the doctor, and his hesitance to buy a ticket into the Initiation himself is making him look particularly suspicious. Cold feet, after all these years of dedication and trying to get to the truth? And finally, Deep Throat or DT, a hidden informant claiming to live within the Order. Both DT and Dr. Henry have made it very clear that we should stay clear of the fraternity, yet keep on giving us clues how we can attain entry into the ceremony – so their ulterior motives remain a mystery. DT’s recent stint with security, and several previous conversations point out that the Elders of the Order, i proélefsi, do not want us there. And that makes sense, why would an ancient order, recruiting only the elite of the elite, allow just anyone who buys a ticket to go through their initiation? Surely they would work with personal invitations of some sort? Yet, in some way, the initiation is being marketed as a scare attraction, and more and more it seems like there is way more at play, and that someone else entirely is pulling the strings. Are the Frequent Fear Podcast guys being coerced or manipulated into organising this event? Or, are they aware that they might be sending us into something darker? Were they blackmailed, have they accepted money? Or, are they part of the Order themselves? Is Dr. Henry part of the Order, perhaps? Are Dr. Henry and DT the same person? Come July, will we get out of Mexborough with both our kidneys in their correct spots?

Maybe our willingness to go along with all the mystery, our willingness to keep carrying out their requests and keep solving their puzzles is what makes us the prime candidates for whatever they are seeking for in the Initiation. Guests, too trusting for their own good, easily coerced into following orders. People who could be useful for carrying out the grunt work for whatever they are planning next, spreading propaganda, for being used as sleeper agents, perhaps.

To be continued – that is the only thing we know for sure.

 

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Helpful links

GNG Entertainment Facebook page

Frequent Fear Podcast Facebook page

Development podcast 1

Development podcast 2

Official Fraternity page

Official Ordre d’Elysium page

2017-05-13 – Snuffhouse After Dark

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I can’t complain. I had it coming. During three different incarnations of Snuffhouse Alone, it became a bit of a gag for me to tease Mr. Black. To see how far I could take it. And it was a lot of fun – at Christmas Dinner I showed up in a Santa hat and a silly christmas jumper, before Valentine’s I wrote him a cheeky love letter. And I always got away with it, kind of. Drenched and beaten up a bit more than I would have been, but good times, all in all. Now, I was to enter his home for what looked like the final time. He had four hours to give me a proper send-off. I wouldn’t be the one laughing this time. Read More

2017-04-17 – Cracked vs H E R E T I C

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“Dear subject 7. It is now less than 24 hours until Cracked vs Heretic begins.”

I had been at this place before. Ten of us, standing around a desolate road leading from nowhere to nowhere, dressed in layers upon layers of clothes we were okay with to discard in the hotel room’s trash can some six hours from now. We had been waiting nine months for this – nine months since Cracked vs Heretic first was announced. Scrutinized and evaluated thoroughly on the player page. Alliances and banter and friction. Tension arising. I had been here before, this situation, this place. Difference is, the last time, I was nervous. This time, I felt like my chest was caving in under the weight of a truck – for days already. Read More

2016-12-17 – Twisted Fairy Tales

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Sometimes, you really don’t know what you are getting yourself into, and tonight most certainly was one of those cases. An immersive theatre, about fairy tale characters. But, strictly adults only. We were teased with pictures of a police inspector, of a dancing pole along with some red heels, telling us basically nothing at all. We found ourselves sitting on a huge mattress. In front of us was a little girl, telling us how she was afraid to go to sleep alone. Whether we would please stay with her. The stories her father tells her, the characters in them, they haunt her dreams. Please, please, would we stay with her? We laid ourselves down on the mattress and closed our eyes. Mere moments later, the screaming began. Read More

2016-12-16 – Christmas FestEVIL at Scare Kingdom Scream Park + Snuffhouse Xmas Dinner

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‘Tis the season. Sickly sweet traditions, pretty lights, all the warmth and love you can endure. But, not for us, not on this day. We find ourselves in front of the Haxenghast manor, the eve of the Midwinter Solstice in 1847. The cold is biting at our fingertips, and when the front door opens, we hurry inside. A festive scene, with a sparkling christmas tree next to the fireplace, a big pile of presents underneath. On the table, another present, wrapped in red velvet, begging to be opened. Emily, the youngest of the Haxenghast family, usually such a well-behaved and obedient girl, has snuck out of her bed, to open just the one gift. Surely, with only a couple hours to midnight, it shouldn’t matter? But sometimes, just one misstep leads to an avalanche of trouble, and Emily’s premature opening of the present ushers in the presence of evil elves, malicious snowmen, ice demons, and Jack Frost himself. Read More

2016-11-19 – The Last Dance

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Finding solid footing after a blindfolded leap of faith is a reward all on its own. I knew barely a thing stepping through the doors of Hoxton Hall, but here I was, dressed in blue jeans and a white shirt, like all the other attendants. A tale of love and connection. A dystopian matchmaking institute, promising success rates of 100%. The price of love? We’d soon find out. Read More