Thirteen dollars isn’t enough to buy you a large pizza in New York. A thirteen-dollar cab fare might get you from midtown to the East Village — as long as it’s not rush hour, of course. But here’s something you can buy with thirteen of your hard-earned clams: an after-hours tour of Central Park that involves handcuffs, experimental music, a blindfold, and, if you play your cards right, some recreational drugs.
Meet Bernard Herman, the host of Haunted New York, a psychological minefield that pushes participants’ boundaries beyond any place considered normal. It is a one-on-one tour of Central Park at night, whose cost is either the aforementioned $13 or a urine sample. Think of it as a real-life New York Choose Your Own Adventure.
Herman, with a painted white face, long blond hair, colored glasses, and a maniacal laugh, is a character created by experimental musician and performance artist Barkev Gulesserian.
“I wanted to see what would happen if I didn’t stay within the structure of a song, but let the thinking I use to write lyrics unfold within an environment instead,” says Gulesserian, who was born in London and moved to Brooklyn in 2013. “A story about the city is told and guests are given the opportunity to partake in that narrative by accepting various propositions, such as being blindfolded, tied up, or by having conversations with inanimate objects.”
The tours take place irregularly, announced over social media and by word of mouth, and go from dusk until dawn (well past Central Park’s official 1 a.m. closing).
People who have taken the tour say it’s an interesting — and terrifying — twist on the myriad others offered throughout the city, and specifically Central Park.
“Central Park has such a spirit of its own, and I think he was able to capture an aspect of it that is not able to be marketed through brochures or music festivals,” said Sarah Reiter, who took the tour. “This is really an artistic experience, it’s a personal experience, but it’s very much a unique New York experience.”
Other participants, like Soren Roi, were a little less composed afterwards.
“He’s out of his mind and it’s fucking genius. It was terrifying,” said Roi, who was unable to finish the tour. “In my head, I’m like, reading the news headlines: ‘Something goes too far and somebody dies in Central Park.’ ”
The next Haunted New York will be taking place over Thanksgiving, November 25–27. And to go along with the spirit of the season, Herman has a new Halloween-themed track, “Behind the Glass,” which you can hear below.