News / City Life

An immersive whispering spa is coming to San Francisco

Whisperlodge
Photograph: Emily Barrett Whisperlodge

You know that feeling you get when someone whispers into your ear and it sends a shiver of goosebumps straight down your spine? If that surprising, yet soothing, sensation sounds familiar, then you may have experienced ASMR, autonomous sensory meridian response.

What most practitioners refer to as a “pleasant tingling feeling,” ASMR provides a unique sensory experience that might best be described as a brain orgasm, or more frankly, a mind fuck. Brushing, tapping, whispering, or even watching someone perform repetitive tasks like brushing your hair can trigger a low-grade rush of euphoria that starts in the back of the head and then travels down your spine and into your limbs.

“If you imagine that gut-wrenching feeling some people get when they hear the sound of nails on a chalkboard, that's what ASMR is like, except that it is intensely pleasurable and relaxing,” says  Andrew Hoepfner, co-creator of Whisperlodge. “It's an impulse that you can't really control.”

Hoepfner, who has a background in immersive theater, was intrigued when he first learned of ASMR a few years ago. He reached out to Melinda Lauw, who has conducted research on the phenomena and created “tingle-inspired” artwork, and together the two design an immersive experimental performance unlike any in existence. In their first year, the team put on seven performances for over 250 people.

“Whisperlodge is an opportunity for people to explore and enjoy their senses,” says Hoepfner, who describes the performance as a guided experiment in intimacy and presence. “Most participants notice an increased sensitivity to their physical surroundings, and feel calmness and relaxation after being personally attended to by our guides.”

Hoepfner and his crew will be bringing their voices, brushes, blindfolds, and a myriad of other tools and tactics to the Bay Area for a six-show run of Whisperlodge from September 21-24. Hosted in Berkeley at a destination that is undisclosed until just a few days beforehand, the intimate ninety-minute sessions are limited to six people per event and cost $70 per person (TimeOut readers can receive a $20 discount using the discount code: TIMEOUT).

In concert with Whisperlodge, YouTube ASMRtist WhispersRed will make her U.S. debut with the second performance of ASMR Happens, a live audio show that will be held at San Francisco’s Brava Theater Center on Saturday, September 23. During the performance, which will be the biggest and most technologically-advanced that Whisperlodge has ever hosted, each audience member will put on a set of silent disco headphones and tune into WhispersRed as she whispers live into a binaural microphone against a backdrop of video projections. Doors open at 6:30pm for an hour-long show that starts at 7:30pm. After the show, attendees are invited to mingle for with performers and each other. Tickets for this event, which is capped at 230 people, are $40 (TimeOut readers can receive $10 discount using the code: TIMEOUT).

Following their run in the Bay Area, Whisperlodge will return to New York for October and November, but they anticipate coming back to San Francisco in 2018. In the meantime, seekers of a truly intimate ASMR experience can book customized one-on-one sessions called Whispers on Demand with Melinda Lauw, who is establishing a permanent presence in the Bay Area. Sessions are charged by duration, from $70 for 30 minutes, to $180 for 90 minutes. Price also varies depending on the complexity of the request.

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