By Kristy Chase Tozer

On select evenings this October, The Vault, Downtown’s premier event venue at the 92-year-old Exchange National Bank on Franklin Street, opens its heavily guarded catacombs for the first time, its chambers the backdrop for an experience that’s interactive, personal and very unsettling.

The Vault of Souls is a reservations-only, otherworldly performance the likes of which Tampa has never seen. Guests will explore a paranormal reality transcending time and space, art and theater, opening their eyes to the darkness of true terror.

“We’re redefining what it’s like to sense real fear,” said Scott Swenson, creative director for The Vault of Souls. “We’re creating a haunted performance that immerses and surrounds you. You become a part of the story. It is a very personal experience.”

Entering through the bank’s original, opulent marble lobby, guests encounter a richly appointed cocktail bar. But the party soon ends. Masquerade masks are distributed and numbers are assigned. Small groups are called and directed to not speak as they descend into the massive, 1920’s era crypt. No instructions are given and no pathway is marked. Guests are left to their own devices as they navigate the labyrinth, coming upon interactive performances depicting ghastly scenes from the bank’s tortured heyday.

Professional actors and performers bring The Vault’s departed inhabitants to life. There is no time limit and the living must find their way out. Of course, spirits will assist those seeking a sooner return to the other side.

Upon exit, guests may be relieved to find an elaborate, prohibition-age Gin Joint, where they can enjoy a beverage amid the revelry of singers and dancers. Those wishing to stay connected with the world beyond can have a personal reading from a psychic or spiritualist.

The Vault of Souls is an unforgettable, one-on-one event. Technology allows each guest to be identified individually, and elements of the performance can be altered “as needed” in response to each visitor’s unique circumstances – and their fears.

“This is the most immersive and personalized haunt experience I have ever developed,” said Swenson.

Performances occur throughout the evening and packages start at $100 per person for adults over 18. Reservations are available at TheVaultofSouls.com.