Monday, December 11, 2017
Holidays

The Vault of Souls turns Tampa’s Exchange National Bank into a creepy chic escape room

If you've ever wanted to help a lost spirit escape from eternal damnation, the Vault of Souls is the experience for you.

Now in its third year, the immersive haunt in downtown Tampa's former Exchange National Bank, now known as The Vault, is truly unlike any other Halloween attraction around.

Previous coverage: The Vault of Souls is an evening of 1920s elegance and fear

It was created by former SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment creative mind Scott Swenson, who for years helped bring to life Busch Gardens' Howl-O-Scream. With the Vault of Souls, he's plopping guests into a roaring ‘20s party that lets you interact with dozens of Jazz Age spirits.

Swenson and his team made some minor changes to the storyline and some drastic changes to guest activities this year, which makes the whole experience more enjoyable and certainly more affordable.

Vault of Souls

The first thing you'll do upon entering the Vault on Franklin St. is imbibe in the lofty, blue-tinged Arrival area. There's an elegant bar (try the Final Waltz special), tables of mediums ready to give readings and haunted actors chatting with guests about their 95 years of entrapment in the bank's vault.

The next part of the evening involves heading into the 94-year-old bank's stuffy basement, where you meet and interact with the dozen terrifying souls that live there. The guard, the dominatrix, the child and the doctor all have intricate backstories that'll haunt you long after you leave.

What to expect: Howl-O-Scream is crawling with monsters this year

In a drastic change, this year's experience is a creepy escape room rather than guests wandering the basement on their own. Reservations are made for a particular character, and guests are guided by a deathly bank teller. The teller than leads you to the particular spirits' abode, where groups have to work together to solve hands-on puzzles and release their character's soul.

Once you release the soul (our group freed the guard Mr. Plutus in record time, according to our teller's cute little hourglass) your reward is spending the rest of the evening back in the Arrival or in the third floor Spirit Bar, where you'll get to meet the spirit you just released.

This pivot to an escape room is a welcome and refreshing change. And it surely attracts more guests with the lower price point of $50 a reservation, halved from last year's $100 a ticket.

And I'm certain Vault of Souls veterans are overjoyed to be rid of those creepy white masks and vows of silence in the basement. They helped ramp up the fear the first year, but by the second they were just cumbersome and caused too much face sweating.

What to expect: Step inside The Shining, American Horror Story at Universal's Halloween Horror Nights

This year's Vault of Souls mixes scary chic with an immersive experience that goes beyond just strolling through a haunted house. Guests get to know these character personally, and Swenson and his team have created an event that feels like you're stepping into a movie.

It's a surreal, 1920s talkie that's sure to win Best Picture.

Contact Chelsea Tatham at [email protected] Follow @chelseatatham.

If you go

The Vault of Souls continues Oct. 27-28 at 611 N. Franklin St., Tampa.

Reservations are $50 per character release room. Guests can purchase additional release room experiences.

Elegantfear.com.


MORE

Carve this: Tampa Bay-inspired templates for a local Jack-o-Lantern

Horror show: Stay in and binge these scary movie offerings

Wild to mild: Top 5 Halloween haunts

 

Comments
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of Dec. 11-17

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of Dec. 11-17

Katy Perry: The Teenage Dream songstress roars into Tampa’s Amalie Arena on Friday ($45.75-$195.75). amaliearena.com. Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights begins Tuesday, bringing fun celebrations including Hanukkah in the City at the Sundial St. Petersb...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/10/17
Top holiday events, parades, parties this weekend

Top holiday events, parades, parties this weekend

ParadesApollo Beach Lighted Boat ParadeThe Tampa Sailing Squadron hosts this event and the party afterward with a chili cook off. Good viewing available from the clubhouse and docks. Free. Tampa Sailing Squadron, 1250 Apollo Beach Blvd., Ruskin. (813...
Published: 12/08/17
Fun and profound Hanukkah celebrations around the Tampa Bay area

Fun and profound Hanukkah celebrations around the Tampa Bay area

It’s time to observe the Festival of Lights, starting at sunset Tuesday and ending Dec. 20. Many congregations seem to be having a great time, because Hanukkah celebrations this year are hilarious. There’s a menorah made of fidget spinne...
Published: 12/08/17
From Hogwarts Castle to your home, digital projectors give a real light show

From Hogwarts Castle to your home, digital projectors give a real light show

At night, Hogwarts Castle is suddenly dusted with snow in steamy Florida. It’s not really snow, but light causing this trick of the eye. Projectors and sophisticated software then send ghosts across the castle towers. A turret spins and turns i...
Published: 12/08/17
Time to shine: Embrace this holiday season’s beauty trends

Time to shine: Embrace this holiday season’s beauty trends

The holiday season has officially arrived, bringing all the glitz and shine of twinkling lights and tinsel. It’s also bringing festive get-togethers, and whether they’re office parties or fancy soirees, the instinct is to look as shiny and bright as ...
Published: 12/08/17
Starbucks’ Christmas Tree Frappuccino tastes like broken promises and Thin Mints

Starbucks’ Christmas Tree Frappuccino tastes like broken promises and Thin Mints

You thought Starbucks was waging a war on Christmas when, in 2011, the company’s holiday cups featured nutcrackers that bore a coincidental resemblance to the Guy Fawkes mask, at the time a symbol of Occupy Wall Street. You thought Starbucks was taki...
Published: 12/08/17
Chabad Jewish Center plans Hanukkah festivities for Winthrop

Chabad Jewish Center plans Hanukkah festivities for Winthrop

RIVERVIEW — Chabad of Brandon and South Shore presents a family Hanukkah Festival at 6 p.m. on Tuesday (Dec 12) at the Winthrop Town Center, 11109 Winthrop Market St.AS in the past 10 years, the Chabad Jewish Discovery Center kicks off the holiday on...
Published: 12/07/17
Updated: 12/08/17
My holiday tradition: Making a whole bunch of beef Wellington

My holiday tradition: Making a whole bunch of beef Wellington

For the past 20 years, my family has looked forward to a boat parade party hosted by some of our dearest friends. The hostess provides cocktails, appetizers, dinner, desserts and a trombone choir to perform from a balcony overlooking her pool. My fav...
Published: 12/06/17
A guide to holiday events at Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens and more theme parks

A guide to holiday events at Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens and more theme parks

Instead of shoveling snow, Christmas in Florida means celebrating the holiday season in shorts and T-shirts at theme parks and local attractions. Some parks even haul in “snow” for an authentic holiday vibe. While the last two weeks of t...
Published: 12/06/17
Doctors identify brain abnormalities in Cuba attack patients

Doctors identify brain abnormalities in Cuba attack patients

WASHINGTON — Doctors treating the U.S. Embassy victims of mysterious, invisible attacks in Cuba have discovered brain abnormalities as they search for clues to explain the hearing, vision, balance and memory damage, The Associated Press has learned. ...
Published: 12/06/17