The MTA’s haunted house at Union Square prompted countless jokes about how the subway system already is a horror show. But anyone who’s been dreading the impending L-pocalypse knows it’s going to get even worse. That’s the premise of The L Train Shutdown Nightmare, a pop-up nightclub and haunted house that’s bringing rat-roasting vagrants and man-eating rats to East Williamsburg.
The immersive experience was created by two Brooklynites who will soon be unfortunate victims of the shutdown: gonzo artist David Kirshoff, who once hot-boxed a tent with vaporized rosé, and events producer Adrianna Varedi, the former director of operations at Mission Chinese Food. Together, they’ve imagined the “terror and hysteria” of Bushwick six months after the shutdown.
On Friday night, we arrived at “Club Transit,” a warehouse space with arched ceilings like a subway tunnel (or, if you prefer, like the old Tunnel nightclub). Trippy lasers, LEDs, and holograms programmed by Bushwick rave fixture Nitemind made me feel kind of like a mole person on acid.
After grabbing a Shuttle Bus cocktail at the bar and signing liability waivers, we were escorted out of the club, down the De Chirico-esque streets of the East Williamsburg Industrial Zone, up a set of rusty stairs, and over a decrepit bridge that crossed the tracks of the Bushwick Branch freight railroad. As I wondered whether I was on the set of Repo Man 2, a pile of trash came alive and scared the bejesus out of us.
A woman dressed as an MTA worker took us into a musty, vacant loft building and up several flights of stairs. We entered a faux subway car—complete with Tim & Eric-esque ads for Transportane energy drink– that was being rocked to and fro. Another MTA type told us to deboard onto a discarded mattress.
“This is a real dangerous place,” he warned us. “There’s sewer rats. I just saw Harvey Weinstein.” With that, another track worker jumped out at us and told us to get out. We were warned he was a “biter,” but for better or worse the scares here were totally hands-off.
I should stop here and say the haunted house wasn’t nearly as scary as, say, Penn Station on a Wednesday afternoon—but the smoke machines, eerie lighting, and the ambient music reminiscent of Wendy Carlos definitely filled the experience’s two vast floors with spooky vibes. During our 10-minute walkthrough, we encountered a Transportane tweaker, a man in a hazmat suit who came at us with a smoke machine, rat people feasting on a cadaver, and an angry squatter who stopped cooking a rat over a barrel long enough to warn us that “The robots are coming; your stupid culture is going to ruin us, stupid gentrifier.”
That’s right, you can’t even get through a haunted house these days without getting an earful about gentrification.
That guy was living in a tent, by the way. So much for the L shutdown making North Brooklyn real estate more affordable.
The L Train Shutdown Nightmare + Club Transit continues Oct. 25, 26, 27, 30, 31, and Nov. 2 and 3 at 53 Scott Ave.; ticketsare $20-$35.