“We want to scare the shit out of Cubans,” said Dominic Infante, manager of ¡Ño Que Asusto!, the world’s first haunted house designed specifically for Cubans and Cuban-Americans. “The first thing we do is convince them they’ve entered a post-apocalyptic world.”
Asked if this called for zombies or irradiated Cronenberg monsters, the master of Cuban terror just laughed.
“God no!” he replied, wiping away a tear. “That doesn’t scare Cubans! We say there’s a global cafecito shortage and make participants chug a cup of lukewarm American coffee.”
¡Ño que Asusto! doesn’t shy away from visceral gross-out horror either. All visitors are forced to take off their shoes and walk barefoot across a sticky dance floor.
“Nothing horrifies Cubans like patas sucias. And we lock them in a dance hall for an hour while blasting country music! No salsa or merengue!”
Infante laughed maniacally.
Other perennial Cuban bogeymen such as hurricane cones of uncertainty, el mal del ojo, and pastelito recalls also feature prominently.
The showstopper, however, is a fully immersive simulation where participants don virtual reality headsets that place them in the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution. Their property is seized, family members are jailed, and they’re forced to flee the country to avoid summary imprisonment or execution.
“We don’t really have jump scares,” explained Infante. “The only monster in the whole house is chupacabra, and he only tries to eat your dog.”
I questioned Infante about the wisdom of eschewing traditional haunted house themes such as ghosts, possession, and witchcraft. He turned suddenly serious.
“Cubans survived death squads, concentration camps, revolutions, starvation, torture, shark attacks, invasions, hurricanes, potential nuclear destruction, and complete societal collapse. Casper the Ghost doesn’t bother us. We have enough in our own history to keep us up at night.”
Check out the first chapter of our upcoming book!