Updated: Feb 15, 2022
Black Orchard Haunted House 704 Kentucky St. (Red Orchard Park) Shelbyville, KY 40065 http://www.blackorchardhaunt.com
Date of Visit: 9/11/21 Reviewer: Lindsay
Light pierces through cracks in the barn's walls, the only thing to guide me on my path amid sheets of chicken wire and heaps of rusted farm tools. It's a rare moment of calm in this place, and I'm suddenly aware of my own breathing, of the scent of straw and dirt reaching my nose. I don't see anyone, but I still try to move quietly. Not that it matters... glancing to the rafters, I swear I can sense the buzzards that they claim to guard their home, and the feeling of being watched is almost pervasive. They know I'm here, and I know it won't be long before I'm found. As I carefully press onward, the parting words of one of the brothers, Stitch, linger in the back of my mind. "Ms. Bacon, my family likes to hunt... no matter the species."
And that hunt began the moment I stepped into the slaughterhouse of Black Orchard Meats - the setting for Black Orchard Haunted House, located in Shelbyville, KY.
Black Orchard opened in Red Orchard Park over the 2017 season, and was a creation of the team behind Louisville Halloween, a local website focusing on haunted happenings in and near the city. For 2021, the haunt has officially changed hands, becoming a part of the Sindicate Haunted House Group. New ownership means a new chapter in the story of the Black family, and following the arrest of Silas Black, the family business now belongs to his religious brothers Stitch and Theodore. After taking over the property with their congregation and falling on hard times, the brothers have formed a cult in worship of the vultures that live in the barn, whose scraps helped them and their followers to survive. Viewing them as saviors, the family has pledged to provide tribute to their new deities - the flesh from hapless locals and visitors like you, who have come to see just "what's in the barn"!
A tour of the Black Orchard Meats farm and slaughterhouse starts at $25. Don't care to wait? Two types of fast pass are also available depending on how quickly you want to get in the door. Parking is free, and you'll find it at the top of the hill overlooking the barn. When you're pulling into the park, continue down the road and watch for an opening on your left, just before the event hall. Please be advised that it gets extremely dark up there, and on your way down to the haunt as well, so be careful!
After you've reached the bottom of the hill and acquired your tickets, you've got a couple of options: if your group is into escape rooms, you can take on The Silo for an additional price, or you can line up for your tour of the property. I opted for the latter, where Theodore was waiting to lead me in. Watching him and Stitch mess around with a departing guest had made me laugh when I first arrived, but I found no humor in the unsettling stare he now fixed me with, nor his ominous chuckle as he lurked nearby. A bell rang in the distance to signal that it was my turn, not unlike a farmhouse dinner bell. Cautiously stepping through the gate, I found myself hoping I wasn't on the menu.
A lot has changed with the Orchard since their last event in July, the most obvious of which involves a brand new outdoor section that serves as an introduction to the story. I was briefly stopped by Theodore, who told me a little about their "religion", then stated that I would have two choices that night: follow their beliefs and devote myself to their teachings, or join the fate of those who attempted to stray from the flock... he indicated a plot full of crude graves, each bearing the name of a traitor. Continuing on into the paddock resulted in some fun interactions with the farm's milkman and a couple of other characters before I entered the barn.
The rest of your visit takes place inside the Black Orchard Meats facility, starting with the butcher shop. Stitch or Theodore- or both, in my case- meet you here to talk more about their faith, and tell you a few things about the family, too. Make sure you're paying attention and heeding any warnings they may give you; this is a self-guided tour, and once you step beyond that plastic curtain into the slaughterhouse, you are officially on your own.
And good luck surviving that tour, because you're in for one hell of a ride! Black Orchard might introduce you to its story at the farm's gate, but entering the house is where you'll be completely ripped from your world and submerged in theirs. Just walking up the ramp into the meat processing area made me feel like a pig being led to slaughter... and the three maniacs coming after me certainly didn't help! The farm/slaughterhouse theme is maintained faithfully in most rooms, and the fact that the haunt is inside of a real barn only heightens the immersion. But they definitely don't let you forget about the murderous vulture cult that resides there, and the further you progress, the more bizarre and dangerous your experience becomes. One room was filled with hanging shoes and various personal belongings, most likely gleaned from the family's victims. A maze of sheet-wrapped bodies were strung up in another, with only brief glimpses of light to guide the way past them (and avoid the crazy that's trying to find you!). And an attempt at squeezing through a narrow space just about got me killed when giant saw blades came tearing through the wall! Yikes! All of this is backed by a loud, anxiety-inducing soundtrack that plays for most of the house, creating an environment that is as tense as it is creepy.
If you think this place sounds crazy now, just wait until you meet the rest of the Blacks, who hunt you throughout your tour. The deranged hillbillies and bloody butchers were to be expected - it's a slaughterhouse, after all. But one of the warnings you'll receive from the brothers is that their followers "don't look like us", and well... let's just say a lot of them are very in touch with their animal side... buzzards in particular. There were also some disturbing cultists in hoods and robes, one of whom was guarding live human captives and tried to convince me that they "wanted to be there" and totally weren't about to be sacrificed. (That they were all restrained, caged, and wailing desperately for help suggested otherwise.)
Speaking of characters, I have to drop a shout out to their cast. Not only did I visit Black Orchard on their second night of opening, I also arrived about 40 minutes before they closed, and it felt like they came at me with the same level of energy that any other guest would have received. Some did seem slightly more shy than the rest, and I'm sure they will gain more confidence with time - again, opening weekend. (They've got a couple of rock star actors with Stitch and Theodore, both excellent choices to be the "face" of their show.) I honestly don't have much more feedback regarding their actors or the rest of the haunt. The "laser swamp" room they have felt kind of random and briefly took me out of the experience, but I understand that it's a crowd pleaser. I'd also recommend adding attendants or some light to the parking area.
Black Orchard, and the story of the Black family, has lived in a dark little corner of my heart since the year it opened. The 2021 edition has put a fresh spin on the "crazy hillbilly family" trope that may be common in the haunt industry, but that the Orchard has done better than any other haunt I've experienced. It is not that far from Louisville, so if you are going to any of the haunts in the city, I completely recommend heading out to the farm and taking a tour of Black Orchard Meats. Just look out for those buzzards circling the barn... they're always watching.
ENVIRONMENT: 9/10 - Amazing. This haunt's here to tell a story and it pulls you into it from the beginning. There wasn't much at all to break that illusion.
ACTING: 7/10 - Despite me being there late and on opening weekend, it felt like every actor jumped into their role with a good amount of enthusiasm. I have a feeling they're only going to get better as the season goes on.
SCARE FACTOR: 8/10 - Very good! They won't get you in every room, but when they do, it's more likely to have an impact. I screamed, jumped, probably swore at one point, and was running for my life at the end!
OVERALL: 9/10 - One of the creepiest and best chapters in the Black Orchard story to date. Kudos to Sindicate Haunt Group for taking a haunt that was already great and making it even better.