A Malaysian haunting

14 Feb 2019 / 12:07 H.

IMAGINE yourself living in the 1950s, and you together with your friends (a maximum of 10 in your group) are guests at the Colle Eastern Hotel, located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

As you enter the amber-lit lobby, you are warmly welcomed by the hotel concierge, who assigns you a room number and leads you into the hotel lounge where you wait for your room to be ready.

Music from the 50s plays in the distant background, and while waiting, you can order some food, drinks, and snacks (all contemporary fare and at 2019 prices).

You hear your room number called out. With nervous laughter and smiles, you and your friends make your way deeper into the Colle Eastern Hotel.

Unknown to others, your group forms part of a secret gang that aims to break into the owner’s hotel suite, and ‘liberate’ him of his riches. However, the hotel itself has other plans.

This is the premise of an immersive horror experience at HauntU (pronounced ‘haunt you’) made by the people behind the successful escape room game, Breakout.

The HauntU experience is a trilogy, with each story being played out over a month as the mysteries of the Colle Eastern Hotel and its inhabitants are uncovered.

At HauntU, you need to play out your role and interact with other characters in the hotel. What you say and do will affect the outcome of your story.

Do not mistake this for a virtual reality or mixed reality experience. It is not an escape room-type experience. You do not get a weapon, there are no puzzles to solve, and you can’t fail at HauntU.

But you will find clues to the truth about the hotel scattered throughout. Sometimes, you will also need to find keys to unlock doors, and secret passages.

Make sure you wear comfortable clothes, because you will need to crawl and, sometimes, climb to get out of the hotel.

According to Johnny Ong and Leo Ka Wai, the two co-founders of Breakout, HauntU was inspired by an interactive theatre experience in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

However, the two wanted to make an experience that would appeal to a broader audience while, at the same time, be uniquely Malaysian.

Ong explained: “In HauntU, a cast of six to 10 actors, who are integral to the theatrical story, will perform their roles such as bellboys, witches, and chambermaids, among others, in full costume to ensure that each guest in each story has an authentic and eerie experience.”

Over three months, one story will be revealed for the public to experience each month.

“As the three stories are interconnected, guests will still be able to have the complete experience regardless of which story they begin their HauntU experience with,” added Leo.

HauntU is perfect for horror fans, mystery buffs, or just a group of friends looking for an immersive story-driven experience.

I went into the HauntU experience with five other journalists and photographers. Three others stayed behind, too spooked by the facade.

At the end of it, I came out of the hotel smiling and excited, with stories to tell.

At one point, when we were hiding from the security guard in a secret compartment, one member of our group got so nervous, that he tried to start a conversation and was promptly told to be quiet. We weren’t going to be caught out just because of him!

Later, when we met a female bomoh, she introduced herself and taught us a chant. While helping us to escape from the guard, she told us to call out her name when we hear a bell ring.

A minute later, we began to hear strange noises, and a bell rang. My five companions looked at each other and then at me. They had all forgotten her name.

“It’s Rahmah,” I shouted.

Once we broke into the owner’s suite, we searched the room. One member was tasked to keep an eye on a hidden escape door.

He was told to let us know when the door opened so we could all run away. He promptly pulled a chair up to the door, placed his hand on it and didn’t move.

HauntU is a lot of fun and an easy recommendation. It is open daily from 11am to 11pm, at RM58 per person. Each session is able to accommodate up to 10 persons, with the last session at 10pm.

For more, visit the HauntU website.

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