The Twisted Mind of Peaches Christ

By David Helton | Images by Jeff Kaluzny

Drag icon and horror queen Peaches Christ, best known for her outrageous Midnight Mass movie showings and elaborate Castro Theatre stage shows, is synonymous with Halloween.  Her reputation for giving audiences a complete immersion and true ‘4D’ experience is unmatched.   Peaches Christ believes in sensory overload.  She is the embodiment of excess.

Terror Vault at the Mint represents the accumulation of many years of work, planning and strategy. Peaches Christ is at the pinnacle of her career with this epic horror presentation and she’s pulling out all the stops – this is truly one of the most intense haunted experiences that San Francisco has ever seen.  From the moment you step into the 1920s speakeasy for a pre-tour cocktail, you feel that something lurks below.

The San Francisco Mint, also known affectionately as The Granite Lady, was said to have held nearly one third of the nation’s wealth in its heyday. Opening in 1874, it miraculously withstood the devastating effects of the 1906 earthquake and fire. The Mint continued in operation until 1937.  The building itself is creepy and one would suspect that being in the vaults alone would be pretty unnerving.  Once you begin your tour, you’ll learn that the history of the Mint is not for the faint of heart.

We spent some time with Peaches Christ deep in the vaults below Fifth Street and we were treated to an early sneak peek of what awaits.  All we can tell you is that it’s beyond anything your imagination can comprehend.

If I remember correctly, Halloween was always a big deal when you were growing up.  Oh, yes!  It was probably even bigger than Christmas – especially because I used to build these homemade haunted houses out in the woods by our home.  I would write a script and I was a little tyrant – I would boss all the neighborhood kids around. [Laughing].  We would paint props and build sets in my basement.  It was a lot of fun, but it was also a lot of work. It took us months to create.

How long did you host these neighborhood spook houses?  From age eleven until about fourteen; this was something I did every year.  Once I was in high school, I drifted more towards drama and making films.  I sort of outgrew it I think.  By that, I mean you have the charm of being a kid while doing a haunt.  We could impress people because we were young.  It was all very ‘Stranger Things’ at that age. However, once you’re in high school, it just wasn’t cool anymore.

Do you think that’s when the seed was planted?  It’s always been in the back of my head – since I was literally eleven years old – that someday I wanted to have my own haunted attraction as an adult.  For years I have thought about it.  I even thought about doing something at the Bridge Theatre, but San Francisco is a really, really tough market because of space. A lot of these haunted houses, especially the mom and pop ones, are built in empty strip malls.  You have a lot of space.  I personally love those kinds of haunts because they are purely imaginative and have to be built from the ground up.  Finding the right location has always been the ultimate challenge honestly.

PEACHES_headless_low res

This feels like the right location.  There is something creepy about this building even without décor.  Yeah! I am excited! This building just IS naturally scary.  I mean, I am sure it’s haunted. It’s got to be.

Tell me about this building. What have you learned about this structure?  When I realized we were going to do the attraction here at the Mint, one of the things I really wanted to do was make it site-specific.  I actually went to a haunt here a few years ago, maybe five or six years ago.  Without getting into criticizing someone else’s project, I can say that I was disappointed that they didn’t use the history and the actual space.  It felt like more of a strip-mall haunt… there was the vampire room, there was Freddy Kruegar, there were all the usual things.

So this really plays off the history and story of the building?  Yes! I did some research and wrote a show around the unique history of this building.  When you come to the Terror Vault, you are at the Mint.  We will have a full bar where you check in.  It’s themed.  We have cocktails.  You’ll wait there for your tour.  The tour guide will take groups of twelve through the exhibit.  These guides are experts on the history of the Mint.

“It’s a classic haunt with a storyline – and drama!  We wanted to do something with high production values; we wanted to stage it in a significant location.  We have a team of people working on this and it’s not some ten-minute maze.  This is a total, immersive experience.”

After the 1906 earthquake, the San Francisco Mint, also known as the ‘Granite Lady’, was one of the only structures still standing.  It was built on bedrock so that the vaults were impenetrable to people tunneling in to steal the gold.  Not only was the building stable, as the City burned around the mint, people took cover in here – and they only survived because the Mint protected them. Afterwards, when the City was overrun with desperate people – the looters and mobsters and cult leaders – it created all sorts of problems.  It was absolute uncontrolled debauchery.  The cops could not contain it.  There was no prison – Alcatraz wasn’t built until 1939.  The police made a deal with the Federal government to secretly turn the basement of the Mint into a makeshift prison to house people down in the vaults.  People were kept down there and, as things went back to normal, they were forgotten. The bodies were never removed.

What the hell is going on in the head of Peaches Christ?!  Quite simply, it’s a classic haunt with a storyline – and drama!  We wanted to do something with high production values; we wanted to stage it in a significant location.  We have a team of people working on this and it’s not some ten-minute maze.  This is a total, immersive experience. It can take 45-50 minutes to go through the experience not including the time you spend at the bar.  If you are comparing this to a traditional haunted house, you’re doing yourself a disservice.  This is a show.  Think of it like that.  This entire thing has been written and directed and performed.

Are people left to their own devices to get through it?  Not really. You have a tour guide when you start off and there are actors along the way to guide you.  The push through is pretty specific.  The end opens up into a free for all – and that will test your bravery.

What has been the most surprising thing you’ve learned in this process?  I was most surprised that this sort of thing hasn’t been going on in San Francisco all along.  But I have also learned that the space is the most difficult thing to lock down – but on top of that, this can take months to write, design, construct, install and rehearse. But maybe next year we’ll do it in another location… who knows!?

The Mint feels like the perfect space.  It does. We just love it.  And we hope that this would be something that’s a success and that we can do it throughout the year.  Why wait until Halloween?  Who knows?! Maybe we’ll have a bloody ‘valentine massacre’ someday.


INTO THE DARK: TERROR VAULT
Tickets available now.  Click HERE for tickets!
For more info please visit IntoTheDarkSf.com

A Brand New, Fully-Immersive, And Completely Terrifying Haunted Attraction

Discover the untold story and dark history of The San Francisco Mint when you descend into the Terror Vault, the debut Halloween haunt from Into The Dark. Featuring top performers and screamers, Terror Vault combines elements of theater, haunted mazes, escape rooms, and special effects to produce a uniquely terrifying experience like no other.

When you arrive, you’ll want to steel your nerves with a drink in the Ore Crusher Bar before being introduced to Tina, your tour guide for the night. Next, you and your friends will descend down the dark, narrow back staircase of The Mint and come face-to-face with a number of terrifying characters who, rumor has it, were once held at a secret prison in the rat-filled dungeons below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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