ATLANTA UNTRAPPED: Exiting the Haunted Pink Trap House
The trap-themed haunted house from 13 Stories and 2 Chainz offers cheap freights and profound anxiety
The trap isn’t in the shadows anymore. In 2018, you can take your family out to the trap, pose for photos in front of the trap, and wave to the police ushering you into the parking lot. Because arguably the most visible trap house in the world is safe and sterilized, drug-free and decked in pink — and also one of Atlanta’s premier haunted houses.
Created in partnership between 13 Stories Haunted House and 2 Chainz’ management team, Street Execs Studio, the Haunted Pink Trap House is the latest and weirdest entry in the current outcropping of Atlanta’s trap-themed tourist destinations (see the the Trap Museum and Trap Escape Toom that T.I. recently opened).
While on the surface it’s just another kitschy Halloween attraction among many, the Haunted Pink Trap House is a physical metaphor for the consequences of trap’s rabid commodification, a disorienting walk-through of what remains when the brutal social context of art is stripped away.
Trap music has traveled a long way from home over the past two decades. The trademark trap sound of earth-shattering bass and skittering hi-hats that defined an entire generation of Atlanta rappers has migrated across the globe, spawning countless subgenres along the way. As trap music continues to disseminate through a worldwide game of musical telephone, the genre gets reduced to a few powerful signifiers — bricks of cocaine, ostentatious displays of wealth, and endless partying.
It’s these symbols in which the Haunted Pink Trap House revels. After entering through a replica of the iconic cover from 2 Chainz’ 2017 album Pretty Girls Like Trap Music, visitors walk through a confusing mix of typical haunted house scenes and shabby animatronics before arriving at the trap house in question.
Inside is an unsettling pastiche of these trap symbols weaved together in a maze-like array of different rooms and dimly-lit halls. These markers include, but are definitely not limited to, a grimy kitchen overloaded with cocaine-coated pans, a few massive junkyard dog props, phony cannabis plants, a stripper pole featuring a real dancer, and non-stop blasts of 2 Chainz soundtracking the whole nightmare.
However, the real problematic pièce de résistance comes towards the end, when actors dressed as cops and SWAT team members bark orders at oncoming visitors while sounds of whizzing gunshots echo throughout the area. Immediately after this scene, a live DJ celebrates your survival as you exit into the gift shop and spill back into the parking lot.
This is where all of trap’s, and by extension Atlanta’s, global success, cultural exportation, and frenzied commercialization coalesced into a gut-punch of deep, existential nausea.
The eminence of trap music’s cultural cachet has necessitated the purging of its historical roots. At the Haunted Pink Trap House, the fear of police execution for selling drugs to survive in a society defined by economic exclusion and systemic racism is a crude set piece. Visitors come in, have a fun scare, and go home while so many living in Atlanta’s historically black west and south side communities — the cradle of trap music — don’t have the luxury of exiting their realities.
To the credit of 13 Stories and Street Execs Studio, this effect isn’t exactly as intended. In an interview with Atlanta Magazine, 13 Stories owner Allyn Glover said that he wants the Haunted Pink Trap House,“to not glorify the trap lifestyle, but bring attention to it, and maybe bring about some change… Maybe people will think, ‘This is not for me. Maybe I’ll give to the Boys and Girls Club and try to help out, so people don’t have to live that lifestyle.’”
This idea is already gaining some traction among virtual reality advocates who say that VR visualizations of refugee camps and impoverished neighborhoods can inspire empathy in those who otherwise wouldn’t experience the reality of such environments. On the other hand, these sorts of exercises can also be misguided, giving off an air of absurd poverty tourism, similar to what Mark Zuckerberg was criticized for when he paraded his cartoon avatar around the flooded streets of Puerto Rico.
This isn’t to say that the Haunted Pink Trap House is inherently insidious. As art gets consumed and endlessly recontextualized, it’s inevitable that the creator’s original intent will get lost in the wake of success. And it would be misleading to say all of trap’s original practitioners wanted the genre’s social context to be its guiding characteristic.
The influential Atlanta-bred trap producer Burn One it simply in an interview with Stereogum: “In Atlanta, trap music is strip club music.”
However, during the promotion of his iconic 2003 record Trap Muzik, T.I. clearly wanted listeners to understand what it truly means to be in the trap, often against one’s will.
“Before, trappin’ was cool, but now trappin’ ain’t cool,” he said in an interview with Uproxx. “It’s necessary for some, but no, it ain’t cool – even if you a hustler. All the hustlers I know – sellin’ dope is the last thing they wanna do.”
The real problem the Haunted Pink Trap House symbolizes is the asymmetry between trap music’s rise to international fame and the socioeconomic stagnation of trap’s birthplace in Atlanta neighborhoods such as Vine City and Bankhead.
Maybe watching crowds laugh through a garish funhouse representation of poverty would be less upsetting if, as reported by Curbed Atlanta, the life expectancy of a resident living in the ultra-wealthy, mostly white Buckhead wasn’t 20 years longer than a person living in the predominantly black Bankhead — despite the two neighborhoods being a few miles apart.
But to expect or hope for trap music to recede back into the depths of obscurity would be an offense to the genre and to the people that risked their lives to start it. Other than calling for our leaders to address the racial scars of income inequality that continue to divide Atlanta, there is no easy way out of the Haunted Pink Trap House.
Steer clear of the “Zombie Crackhead Experience.”