The Culbertson Mansion's "Literally, A Haunted House" (2022 review)
Updated: Nov 27, 2022
Literally, A Haunted House at The Culbertson Mansion 914 E. Main St. New Albany, IN 47150 http://www.hauntedculbertson.org (note: this is not updated as frequently. We recommend checking their Facebook for the latest updates!)
Date of Visit: 10/15/22 Reviewer: Lindsay
Those local to the city of New Albany, Indiana should be familiar with the historic Culbertson Mansion, the former home of one of the richest men in the state - and thought to be the site of some real hauntings, too! And things at the mansion take an even darker turn with the arrival of October, and the opening of its annual haunted house. The monsters, spirits, and maniacs that take form are very real, and fully committed to scaring the snot out of the patrons who dare to visit every season. But it makes one wonder: what evil could be the source of all these creepy creations? They had to come from somewhere, right?
That evil has a name, and this year, he's finally chosen to show us his true form. A demon known only as Anguish has been the one pulling the strings all this time, and it is by his hands that darkness has come to consume this place every Fall season. Hence the name appropriately given to this event by the team behind it: 'Literally, A Haunted House'.
'Literally, A Haunted House' is the Culbertson Mansion's annual Fall fundraiser, with proceeds going towards the restoration and upkeep of this important piece of local history. Built and run by a dedicated team of volunteers, the haunted house follows a different story or theme every season. For 2022, their story is built around an entity named Anguish, the demon thought to be responsible for the monsters and madness that has plagued the property for so many years. Will you give in to your darkest desires and join his coven, or resist and end up becoming their next sacrifice?
Admission to the Culbertson haunt is quite affordable at just $15. (General admission is the only ticket option offered here, so if you're planning to hit multiple haunts in a night, you may want to make this your first one.) Because of its location in downtown New Albany, free street parking is plentiful, with several spots close to the mansion and more a short walk away. Speaking as a local, my city is a lovely sight in October, with several homes going all out in decorating. I personally recommend parking a little ways off and walking over so you can scope out all of the cool houses.
After you've parked and arrived at the mansion, proceed up the steps and through the gate, then walk around back to find the haunt. The tent on the left- with a 'Tickets' sign pointing towards it- is where you can purchase tickets, drinks, and snacks, while the tent on the right is where you enter the line. Atmosphere was a small area of opportunity for the haunt this season; some years have done a better job of building anticipation than others, and there wasn't a whole lot going on outside the night I went. I did spot some cloaked figures roaming the grounds and lurking within the waiting crowd. (One carried a book that burst into real flames!) Unsettling music occasionally played in the background, and I got some serious Blair Witch vibes from the weird stick symbols they had hanging in the tent. On a somewhat unrelated note, I really enjoy the sense of community that surrounds this haunted house - a lot of us have been going for years, and you'll see people of all ages coming here for a night of spooky fun.
A consistent part of the Culbertson experience is having to cross through their graveyard to reach the carriage house where the haunt is. It was missing the ever present fog on this night, but they still didn't make it an easy journey... within moments of my group of three coming in, a pack of mysterious figures quickly had us surrounded, and pursued us all the way to the stairs! (Followers of Anguish, perhaps?) You'll also be warned prior to entering that this is a light contact haunt, and you might experience that right away... one of those following gave me a surprisingly strong push and I about went flying. Loved it though!
Upon reaching the top of the stairs, we were greeted by another of Anguish's followers, who lined us up in the demon's study. It was here that Anguish himself turned to meet us, though a peculiar thing happened... he stepped closer to me and asked, "Are you the one they call... Lindsay?" What the - how did he know my name?! I swear I didn't know anyone working the house, but I guess it could've been someone I don't keep in touch with. (Regardless, it gave me quite the shock!) The demon promised us he could deliver anything we sought- power? Riches? Fame?- but of course, this came with a price... and a heavy one at that. With his offer made, Anguish then sent us off into the darkness of his abode to prove our worth. "Do not disappoint me," he hissed softly as we drew out of sight.
For a haunt that is all volunteer, the Culbertson team does a lot with the space they have to work with. Each scene within the house is well designed, and their team comes up with some fun tricks every season. Bookcases revolve to reveal secret passageways, floors slide beneath your feet - and there's a few other effects I'm not going to spoil. All three of us were impressed by the detailed swamp/forest area early in the haunt, which effectively used darkness and mirrors to disorient groups. (I got mixed up and managed to go the wrong way twice, much to the amusement of my group and the actors. Sorry y'all.) The walls of the rooms were often painted in mysterious runes, symbols of the infernal creature who rules over this place, and candles flickered along the hallways. One bit that really creeped us out was the scores of missing person posters plastered up near the attic - many of them appeared to be young. Were they unfortunate sacrifices for Anguish? New followers inducted into his cult? We could only guess... and hope that we wouldn't share their fate.
The carriage house has been completely overtaken by Anguish's acolytes and monstrous creatures, and it's rife with spots for them to pop out and catch groups off guard. Something I want to make very clear about the Culbertson is this: *do not* assume they're just the community haunted house that's meant for families and isn't scary. All three of us in my group were seasoned haunt veterans, yet there were plenty of jumps and swear words from the poor guys I was with, and they definitely got me too! The coven seemed to be lurking around every corner, seeking to attack us, consume us, or pull us into the fold - whether we wanted to go or not! Whatever those monsters were lurking within the forest were particularly creepy, and the longer we were in it, the more they seemed to appear... spurring us to hurry up and find our way out. We encountered a couple of strange characters whose arms ended in maws full of sharp teeth; a weird, yet cool effect. Descending into the basement, we were confronted by a priest, demanding to know if we were loyal to Anguish. I couldn't speak for the two strangers I joined up with, but I was glad to serve if it meant I wouldn't share the fate of his caged and screaming victim.
An extra special shout out is in order for "Torment", the robed priest we found chopping up some poor soul when we came in. Not only did he look terrifying, he also acted the part; as soon as he turned around and saw us, he came at me with such wicked fury that I was stuck to the nearest wall in seconds, freaking the hell out while he insisted on taking just "a little skin" from me. No sir... I think not! The rest of the group didn't fare much better and he would not allow us to leave for a good while. Very scary moment, but what a fantastic actor!
One small critique: other than the "surprise" towards the end (that I will also not spoil), the final scare could've been stronger. I think we were supposed to be jumped by a chainsaw maniac- we heard it roaring while we were in line- but the actor was MIA when my group came out. A spooky looking girl did get in our faces and ask if we had a good time. Boy, we sure did... dealing with a demon and his cult trying to sacrifice or brainwash you is a real blast. I bet everyone wishes their Saturday night could be like ours.
'Literally, A Haunted House' surprises me every year, and this year's show was no different. They came up with an awesome backstory, created a creepy icon character to tie it all together, and left my group guessing at what might happen around every turn. The price is reasonable and the house isn't super long, making it easy to fit them into a night spent checking out the many other fun haunted attractions in this area. If you're looking to visit a great haunted house and support a piece of New Albany history along the way, consider pledging your soul to Anguish and visiting the Culbertson Mansion this season.
ENVIRONMENT: 7/10 - Solid, with roamers outside to spook the crowd, and nicely designed sets inside of the house that are appropriate to this year's story.
ACTING: 7/10 - Pretty good across the board! Dead space was minimal and we never had to wait long before an actor appeared (and usually more than one).
SCARE FACTOR: 8/10 - Lots of creepy characters, some tricks here and there to surprise groups, and the occasional moment of full-on ferocity (like our encounter with Torment - yikes!).
OVERALL: 8/10 - I've always loved the Culbertson, but 2022 was one of their strongest and scariest performances yet! Well done!