Angels, devils, superheroes, villains, monsters and humans put their differences aside to dance under the moonlight on the first day of Insomniac’s Escape Halloween on Friday, Oct. 28.
The two-day festival, which takes place at the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino, offered carnival rides and showcased four stages, each seemingly more dastardly than the next. The psycho circus theme brought out the freaks, and the events in Crazy Town, the festival’s central gathering spot, provoked an uneasy feeling of insanity.
Alejandro de Leon, 25, of Victorville, has attended Escape three times and said he plans to return next year.
“This is for sure my favorite festival,” she commented. “I’m a fan of Halloween, and I live for some heavy bass music.”
The festival’s four stages were full of fire effects, each with its unique dreadful theme and several EDM artists. The Grim stage looked like a massive altar with an ancient skeleton draped in a sheet that moved its arms alongside screens displaying skulls with lightning during the performances of Marshmello, Alesso and Derro B2B Valentino Khan.
The Feeding Grounds stage consisted of thick, white webs all along the ceiling with giant hungry spiders at its core. Another spider-like creature and monsters danced along with the heavy bass sets of acts such as Shiverz, The Prototypes and Wooli.
The Sanitarium stage had an old brick background with eerie writing on the walls. The screens on the stage displayed patients in hallways with white straitjackets struggling to break free, while the crowds roared to the music of Sound Rush, DJ Anime and Sub Zero Project.
The Sewer District, a stage made up of graffitied shipping containers, provided enough space for the monsters to mash along with Meduza, Eli Brown and Anna.
Britney Wassern, 19, of San Diego, said it was her first time attending the festival, and she enjoyed the different stage designs.
“I came because I wanted to see Diplo, but the more I walk around and look at all the Halloween stuff, the more details I notice and see how well they put this all together,” Wassern said.
After sunset, the night made its sinister presence known with black, orange and purple lanterns lighting up the trees alongside jack-o’-lantern heads. Giant skeleton figures with lamp shades over their skull dimly lit the walkways while the weary sat on benches forged of bones. The head of Medusa and her hair of glowing snakes breathed fire into the cold air.
The madness was on display at Crazy Town’s silent disco cemetery, where dancers rocked, jumped and swayed but not to the beats of the nearby stages. If a passerby happened to miss the sight of their headphones, they might’ve thought they had indeed gone mad.
Crazy Town also had other creepy activations ready to capture its unsuspecting victims. The Poison Ivy room was shrouded in a thick fog with neon paint splatters on the walls and floors. The colors radiated thanks to the 3-D glasses given at the entrance and the pounding beats of the DJ. At its center sat a massive Venus flytrap with what seemed to be blood running down its teeth.
In the Butcher room, people with blood on their faces screamed and taunted guests at its entrance. Body bags hung from the ceiling, while a butcher in the corner of the room with a slashed face ate what looked to be human organs.
Over at the Circus tent, a burlesque show ensued. Other circus performers showcased their flexibility, balance, balloon animal tricks and other magic acts while ghoulish folks with top hats and vintage attire lured victims inside.
“It feels like an actual circus,” said Selena Chavez, 23, of Fontana. “I’ve never really been to one, but it reminds me of ‘American Horror Story’ and how creepy all the characters were.”
While every corner of Escape has a horror theme, there is a spot like the Oasis that provides festivalgoers a place to catch their breath. It’s a judgment-free zone where guests can find support if they’ve become too intoxicated or get more basic resources such as water or earplugs.
Yesenia Contreras of Stockton, California, said she had a bad experience at her first music festival, but a program similar to Oasis helped her get through it, and she was grateful to have that support.
“There was this really nice lady there that reassured me and told me I was brave,” Contreras said. “That really brought me back to life.”
As the night faded and the ghouls and monsters headed home for bed, they walked away with glee knowing they had celebrated with others who shared an affinity for the spooky.
Jacquie Sandavol, 26, and Jeremy Nguyen, 27, of San Dimas, are first time festival attendees, but are thinking of incorporating the event into future Halloween celebrations.
“This is my favorite holiday, and if you look at all the cool costumes and how much people put into them, you can tell this means a lot to them, too,” Nguyen said. “I’d come back just to see what other people dress up as.”
Insomniac’s Escape Halloween
When: Oct. 28
Where: NOS Events Center, San Bernardino