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San Francisco’s spookiest haunted house is inspired by the city’s ties to cults

Terror Vault returns to the Old Mint with "The Initiation," a haunted house based on a cult, from Sept. 29-Oct. 31. | Source: Jose A. Guzman Colon

San Francisco has a long history with cults and cult-like entities, from Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple in the 1970s to the hypersexualized but certainly less deadly and apocalyptic OneTaste in the 2020s. That history comes to the fore this month, as the Old Mint in SoMa hosts spooky production company Terror Vault’s latest haunted attraction, The Initiation, nightly through Halloween.

A joint project by David Flower Productions, Non Plus Ultra and San Francisco drag legend Peaches Christ, The Initiation takes the form of a cult that promises its adherents the gift of vision while blinding anyone who fails to live up to its tenets.

For anyone who's been to a Peaches Christ haunted attraction in the past—and there have been more than half a dozen so far—this may be the most relentlessly terrifying yet, an elaborate narrative filled with murder, deceit and eye sockets. Don't miss the ghoulish exhibit elsewhere in the Old Mint's basement, a kind of museum of horror artifacts (and goth New Wave).

Be warned: The feature-length trailer is Eli Roth-level unsettling, with more than a bit of gore.

Millions of Americans now seem to believe that queer people are demonic entities, but that’s no deterrent for Peaches, San Francisco’s eternally impish performer and producer, who routinely scours the mortal realm and all its horror conventions in search of frights.

"This year's completely new Terror Vault show, The Initiation, is inspired by San Francisco's rich history of being home to so many strange and bizarre cults,” Peaches, also known as Joshua Grannell, said in a release. “From groups like the Manson Family and the Symbionese Liberation Army to people like Jim Jones and Anton Lavey, we've taken this inspiration and crafted a show where guests become members in the play and must make their way through becoming part of the cult while surviving its evil leadership."

Peaches Christ has been a driving force behind Terror Vault at the Old Mint every Halloween for years. | Source: Jose A. Guzman Colon

She is nothing if not touched by the spirit realm, producing one immersive haunted house after another at San Francisco’s decidedly eerie Old Mint. For what it’s worth, it was Peaches who discovered her fellow drag icon and good friend Heklina had died while they were on tour in London in April of this year.

The Initiation makes use of dozens of actors over at least two floors of the Mint, with plenty of unsettling lights, maniacal laughter and claustrophobic passageways. Gone are the multiple timelines of Terror Vault’s 2022 experience The Summoning, but this year is as theatrical as ever, with guests given the option of wearing a glow-in-the-dark necklace so performers can see that they’re open to becoming a willing participant in the plot.

Tickets run $55 to $85, depending on the night, with an optional $40 VIP experience that grants access to the cult’s theology and a photo op. Everyone can hang out in the pop-up vampire bar Fang Bang, a re-creation of a 1980s goth night with Halloween-themed cocktails.

The Initiation

📍 Old Mint, 88 Fifth St., SF
🗓️ Sept. 29-Oct. 31
🎟️  $55-$85, with optional $40 VIP experience

Astrid Kane can be reached at