Let’s set the record straight: I’ve never liked ASMR. It’s weird, creepy, and more likely to put me on edge than to relax my senses. This was all made worse when I accidentally opened an ASMR video on YouTube while wearing my noise-cancelling headphones, which amplifies everything.
So why did I sign myself up for a live ASMR experience, you may ask? Well, I didn’t. Fully aware of my aversion to ASMR, my editor bamboozled me into going for this, and told me to report to Whisperlodge.
There are different ASMR videos on the Internet from mukbangs to whispering videos.
Image adapted from: Talisa Tossell
The acronym ASMR has been thrown around a lot for quite some time. For the uninitiated, Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) is the stimulation of your senses which leads to a warm, tingly sensation that flows through your body.
It’s often achieved by using audio stimulation, like the bristling of a brush. Of course, I didn’t know what to expect from a live ASMR experience. But while I dreaded this assignment, a part of me was interested to find out what ASMR was really like in the flesh. After all, there has to be a reason why ASMR videos get millions of views all over the world.
So when the day came around, I went forth with much nervousness sprinkled with a tinge of curiosity since I had no idea what to expect and had no prior experience.
When I arrived at an old industrial building, I met up with the host Herman and a guide, Wei Ying, on the slightly creepy looking 3rd floor. They explained that each 90-minute session at the Whisperlodge is limited to 4 participants – and that it was probably going to be the weirdest thing I’ve gone through.
Each individual would be paired up with a guide, who was going to lead us down the rabbit hole of live ASMR. “Well at least I won’t be going through this alone” I thought to myself.
And with that, she handed me a blindfold to wear. She then started speaking in whispers, which is an essential part of the ASMR experience.
While I get that whispers are often used to help soothe the nerves of a person, it felt a little too intimate for me and my issues to handle. Judging from this, I figured the rest of the experience was going to be done in whispers and I had to prepare myself for that.
She then took my arm and led me down a hall. It was soundproofed and pitch dark – presumably to numb all the senses – and I felt that I had entered a void. As I stepped into the air conditioned room, I was ready to dive into the world of ASMR. At least, sort of.
After getting plonked on a wooden bench, sounds of humming metal and ringing bells began to go off. It was reminiscent of being in a zen temple with rituals being played out using the same instruments. I guess that was the start of the program and after 5 minutes, I was told to take my blindfold off.
I. WAS. SHOOKETH.
Image adapted from: @whisperlodge
When my eyes finally adjusted to the dark, I realised that I was sitting in a hall with 3 other equally-confused participants. That’s when mellow music began playing as a warm light shone onto the centre of this space.
One of the guides walked into the spotlight and kneeled facing the curtains behind her while 2 other guides came forward and kneeled by her side. She then proceeded to take her top off, as 2 others began drawing gentle strokes on her back with makeup brushes.
Given that this was the first thing I saw after I took my blindfold off, “WOAH” was the first thought that crossed my mind. Although it wasn’t erotic per se, it’s a lot like watching a steamy movie scene with your parents, where the awkwardness of not knowing where to look was real.
Throughout the performance, I kept glancing around the room to see if anyone else was freaking out, but the rest of the participants were fixated on the show. Thankfully, the lady finally put her top back on. Wei Ying then took me to the first of 3 different rooms.
At first glance, The Office didn’t seem particularly special, with a glass table at the far right of the room and a series of bookshelves adjacent to the table. I took a seat at the table and Wei Ying brought over a black leather suitcase for me to select an item from within.
The bag was filled with a bunch of things that made noises like honeycomb paper and plastic sheets. But like the manchild I am, I went straight for the bubble wrap thinking I would get to do some popping like K-pop star Nayeon. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
She brought the bubble wrap close to my ear and said, “you may close your eyes and take in the noises the bubble wrap makes.” So I closed my eyes and waited for that tingly sensation that everyone’s been talking about as she rustled the plastic, but it never happened.
The only thing the rustling of the plastic reminded me of was that I had 2 deliveries waiting for me at home to unbox. I was slightly relieved that I wasn’t mentally rekt by this room, and headed to my next stop.
Room 2: Boudoir Room – Brush pattern more than badminton
The next room I entered was called the Boudoir Room. As I walked in, The guide in charge introduced herself as Sonia and welcomed me into her space.
She told me to select a makeup brush from a box as I sat myself down on the couch. There were 10 different brushes, which I didn’t even know was a thing. Concerned with what they might do with the brushes, I decided to be conservative and went for the medium brush.
She told me to relax as she began making strokes with the brush on my hand, in an attempt to get my sense of touch firing. I honestly didn’t mind this since the feeling came quite close to stroking my dog, Bacon. But it did lean on the slightly ticklish side.
After a series of strokes on my hand, I was asked to lie on the couch as she took a larger brush and began making large strokes around my head.
Now this was different from what I experience every morning when my dog walks his furry underbelly across my face. Instead, this was actually pretty relaxing, like a gnome sweeping a tiny broom across my face, and I had to stop myself from nodding off on the couch.
After about 5 minutes of brushing, she sat me up and thanked me. My next room awaited across the hall.
My last stop was the Pantry and Derrick was the guide in charge of this room. He invited me to sit at a very retro-looking table and picked up a traditional wooden brush alongside a towel.
He took my hand, rested it on the towel, and began moving the bristles of a comb through my hand. As a fan of feeling prickly stuff on my hands and feet like those acupuncture mats, this wasn’t too bad and that this would be as “normal” as the rest of the rooms. But boy, was I wrong.
Once Derrick had brushed my palm a couple of times, he stood up and came around behind me. Then he whispered ever so softly, asking if he could BRUSH MY HAIR.
It was a literal “what the damn heck” moment for me. My dad has never brushed my hair and now, a random dude I just met 5 minutes ago was going to give me a combover. The emotional damage that I sustained over the years did not prepare me for this level of intimacy.
I was freaking out internally but being a Virgo, I clearly didn’t show any of that. I figured that even though this was the strangest thing I’ve ever come across, there was no harm in trying it out. Just when I thought nothing else could surprise me, he took a ribbon from within a container and tied it on the top of my head.
I could feel that he was struggling to find an anchor point since I have short hair. Even though that was strange, it did make me feel pretty and special.
I am in Spain but the s is silent.
Once he managed to find whatever strand of hair he could tie the ribbon to, he proceeded to give me a massage. But as someone who doesn’t really like anyone touching me, I was in a weird spot where I was feeling shiok but slightly fidgety at the same time.
The massage closed out my time in the Pantry and Derrick told me to return to the main hall for the final phase of the experience.
I sat down in the main hall and next to my seat were a pair of headphones. Now, having accidentally opened an ASMR video with headphones on, I knew where this was going.
I put on a set of headphones with much reluctance and that’s when Melinda, the co-founder of Whisperlodge, appeared in front of a microphone. She began to whisper into the mic and the soft, sharp tone made me shiver, with the hairs on the back of my neck standing at full attention.
As Melinda upped the ante with props that made different noises like necklaces or a pair of scissors, I was constantly adjusting the headphones to reduce the intensity of the sound.
But nothing worked. For a good 10 minutes, I was sitting there with multiple shivers travelling down my spine. The headphones blocked out any ambient noises and accentuated every small aspect of the noise which came close to giving me a headache.
When all that was done, Wei Ying handed me my blindfold and brought me back to the lobby. She took me down to the first floor of the building, whispered a rhyme, and thanked me for participating.
I removed my blindfold, but she had vanished like a ghost and there was no one else around. My feeble mind could not comprehend what I had just gone through.
This experience gave me a sense of the depth that ASMR had. It really marked the difference between a simple YouTube video and experiencing it irl.
I also came to understand that it’s more than just watching some dude on the screen do a mukbang and listening to him eat. Each section is designed to stimulate a specific sense like sound in The Office and touch in the Pantry. But because it’s so unique, you can never really grasp the true meaning of something like this.
Although I came in with strong objections to ASMR, this experience was so radically different from anything else I’ve tried. And with a series of curated activities alongside a comfortable environment, it makes for a relaxing experience if you’re not opposed to ASMR.
After going through it myself, I can understand why something like this can turn into a phenomenon globally due to its relaxing nature and its known ability to decrease heart rates.
But personally, it wasn’t for me. Did it make me question my life decisions? Definitely, but did I regret giving it a try? Nope and I would recommend others to give it a go too.
For more strange things, check out:
This post was done in collaboration with Whisperlodge. However, all opinions are ours.
Photography by Poh Jin Ron.
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