Later this month, hundreds of sexy witches, Pikachus, and Disney princesses will strut up and down Mission Street in celebration of Halloween. For many, Halloween is a time to try on a sexualized costume or identity what they find dangerous or a little bit scary. Sweaty palms, heavy breathing, and increased heart rate — fear and arousal aren't such different feelings.
This year, the infamous San Francisco Armory, home of porn production company Kink.com, is opening its doors to the public and catering to those who love the sexy side of scary. “Hell in the Armory” is an immersive experience that is part haunted house, part tour, and part sexy adventure.
The Armory is more than just the world's largest porn castle, it's a historical landmark. Built in 1912 on top of a defunct zoo and amusement park, it has been home to the National Guard, high profile boxing matches, and even the Death Star and the Millennium Falcon (George Lucas used it to film some of the space sequences in the original Star Wars film in 1977). It fell into disrepair for decades, but Kink acquired the building for just over $14 million, and has been cranking out hardcore kinky porn, over-the-top parties, and educational classes ever since.
Hosting a haunted house inside the Armory is brilliant: Based on its eclectic history, the possibility that the building might house actual ghosts seems high. It's a creepy old castle owned by an eccentric British CEO who likes to get tied up and has been known to shoot guns in the basement on occasion — it's perfect for a Halloween adventure.
At this point, I've spent a great deal of time at the Armory as a model, guest, and instructor, but I must say that my date and I were genuinely a bit nervous as we sat in the drill court sipping our mock-tails on uncomfortable antique furniture, awaiting our tour of “Hell at the Armory.” A man in a suit came over and asked if he could join us. He was so excited he could barely sit still.
“Have you seen this place's website? I've done some crazy things in my day, but what they do is intense,” he said. He was particularly concerned about the disclaimer provided on the website, which states that by purchasing tickets, you consent to being touched and potentially filmed during the tour. The Armory is certainly capitalizing on its notorious reputation, and this guest seemed titillated by the idea that anything could happen.
But just like the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, “Hell in the Armory” is more delightful than deadly. I won't spoil it for you, but I will say that the thrills are more sexy than scary and the performers are more theatrical than terrifying.
Walking through the dank and echoing halls of the 100-year-old building is spooky enough on its own, but adding porn stars, ghouls, and demons to the mix definitely takes it to the next level.
When I first moved to the city, I would take the 49 Muni bus an hour each way from my tiny bedroom in the Excelsior to my boring job in the Marina. I knew this city had so much more to offer, but at that point I had yet to find it. Each night I would drive by the looming Moorish castle on 14th and Mission streets with its billowing rainbow and leather flags. I'd see twinkling lights in the windows of the top floor, and dream about what sort of magnificent depravity went on behind those thick brick walls. Like Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, the castle was shrouded in mystery and the only way to get in back then was a golden ticket in the form of a casting call. As the 49 lumbered along, I'd press my forehead against the window and dream of someday being one of the girls in the videos they made, bound, beaten, and screaming.
For those who have gazed up at that intimidating brick arsenal and wondered what delights and horrors might lurk behind those castle walls, “Hell in the Armory” is your golden ticket to find out.