How did our (New York) dreams end up like this? As per Forbes, it was billed as a dream landscape on Governor’s Island; the birthplace of the state of New York would be transformed into a Halloween playground that bought together the forces of darkness and light on October 26 and 27. At US$100 or US$200 a pop, every ticket release sold out in minutes. Sartorially, the costume inspiration was of the highest fashion editorial order. One hundred and fifty circus acts, statues, dominatrix performers and the likes were reportedly employed to interact with guests on the historic site. The old hospital on the South island would be opened to a public audience for the first time (well, not since the mid-century) and each of its rooms would offer a different theatrical experience. You would be partying where old admirals used to live. It was exciting. And it was exclusive.
At the helm of this must-do, immersive event was a collaboration between esteemed, grand-scale party makers ‘You Are So Lucky’ and ‘Matte Projects’. Ask any American in-the-know and they will tell you about the incredible experiential executions both companies served up last year at an abandoned manor in Yonkers for Halloween. With these creators and their credentials making mention on the WhatsApp’s of New York’s elite social circles, this year’s event was a sure-fire one-way ticket to a good time. If you were in New York on Halloween weekend, this is where you were meant to be.
One handy wordsmith crafted a message to guests via email: “[The night] will require something of you, it will challenge you, it will seduce you, but, if you play your part, the night will return a set of memories to hold in your heart forever,” it read. “This is an adventure, a long kiss into the night, a journey of darkness and light.” Not bad.
But it was a finer promise, stamped as a title quote, that now proves more ironic than the theme of the night itself, How Did Our Dreams End Up Like This?
“This event is unlike anything else you will experience in the city.”
This guarantee was kept.
Arriving onto the island early as advised, myself and my group of friends (dressed to the nines in our vintage best) headed straight for ‘the hospital’ where we were told “the insides were warm and expansive”. We navigated stair cases before the peak crowds set in in search of these experiential installations. A few dance floors later, we were still hopeful albeit a little disappointed. Was this it? As more and more people began to pack into the non-insulated venue, it became less and less dream-like. The illusion of escapism, exploration or any type of magic is completely marred when there’s a line to get into the venue, another line to move between levels and a third line to get into a room with a DJ.
If you were interested in seeing the dominatrix show, forget it. There were only six people allowed into the room at one time. If you were interested in visiting the bathroom, forget that too. It was outside and if you exited the venue, you would have to line up in the freezing cold rain to get back in. Consequentially, people were going to the bathroom inside many of the blacked-out, empty rooms of the venue. The desperation of being either freezing or bursting took over most.
Determined to chase the high, we remained luke warm with the hope of stumbling over a really fun room. The running joke when meeting new friends or walking past the sad little faces of people waiting outside the venue’s doors was, ‘Are we at Fyre Festival?’, the infamous music event in the Bahamas which sold luxury and delivered pittance in 2017.
At 12.30pm, the music stopped inside the hospital. The lights came on and we were herded like cattle outside and into a large marquee. There were unconfirmed reports angry guests who had paid hundreds for a ticket were attempting to stampede the hospital venue causing the evacuation. “The event was clearly oversold and thus crowds trampled one another just to get in the front door,” one guest told GRAZIA.
“As the storm picked up, the second venue – the marquee – was unable to cope and started to leak,” the source continued. “Soon enough the event came to a close and we were instructed to make our way to the ferry dock to go back to Manhattan. A little past 3:30am, ferries were no longer taking passengers. In lieu of this, a barge was the mode of transport.
“Imagine 500+ freezing people on an open-air barge being ferried across the East River in a brutal storm. It was nothing short of painful and dangerous. I felt unsafe. Who in their right mind thought this was acceptable?”
Saturday night’s event was cancelled via email at 6pm, three hours before arrival. Most guests were busy getting ready into their Halloween extravagance or having pre-drinks. Refunds were offered to those who bought tickets to the Saturday night.
Today You Are So Lucky and Matte Projects released a statement:
“We’ve dedicated our lives to creating beautiful, transcendent experiences in unique spaces, many of which have never been used before,” it read. “We have had some incredible successes, and those of you who have been with us for years have experienced this. And yet, in the course of pursuing our vision, we sometimes find ourselves at the mercy of circumstances beyond our control.
“The frequency and severity of heavy weather is increasing, and special events around the world are being affected by this. The storm affected our event this weekend and the venue made a number of decisions that were beyond our control.
“We too were disappointed by the cancellation on Saturday night and the early closure of the hospital on Friday night. Please know that the hospital was fully permitted, had passed inspection, was well within permitted capacity, and was operating under the supervision of the FDNY, who, to the best of our knowledge, did not order any closure of the hospital. At this time, this is the only statement we can make about this.
“We apologise to you for delivering anything less than you hoped for. Our entire team was truly excited for you to experience the fullness of what we built…As challenging as it is to build extraordinary experiences in New York City, we remain absolutely dedicated to creating nights that are as full of life as the city that we love.”
Guests weren’t so forgiving.
“The waiting in line, the arctic temperatures and the rude security guards put a dampener on things – sure. But the most disappointing part was just the lack of…well.. anything special,” another guest told GRAZIA. “The [hospital] venue was an abandoned building… as is.
“Every corner we turned, hoping we would find the promised ‘immersive event’ revealed yet another empty, carpeted room. People make mistakes, bad weather happens, the venue makes decisions beyond your control etc etc – but there were absolutely NO redeeming features. It felt, and looked, like a warehouse rave. You can’t blame that on the weather or ‘events beyond our control” – they ran out of creative steam, got lazy, or ran off with the money.”
As a visitor to New York City, this was the first time I’d been in town over Halloween weekend. And one thing is for certain: This isn’t what dreams are made of.