Updated: Feb 19
The Haunted Hotel (Kentucky) 3000 S. 4th St. Louisville, KY 40208 http://www.hauntedhotelky.com
Date of Visit: 9/11/21 Reviewer: Lindsay
The night is balmy and busy in downtown Louisville. A university game at the local stadium has begun to let out, and many more people have joined me on the sidewalk as I make my way down 4th Street. My eyes first find the lively crowd assembled just before the corner of the street, then they are drawn to the building that sits on that corner... almost of their own accord. It's a looming, derelict old house, surrounded by a white picket fence that's broken in several places. If I didn't know any better, it would seem like a place that has sat long abandoned and possibly condemned. But the more I look at it, the greater the uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach becomes. I swear I can hear screams, and what I can only describe as the shrill roar of a chainsaw in the distance. From somewhere behind the house, plumes of fog rise into the air. Almost like the building itself is breathing... like it's actually alive. It is this place that the crowd has lined up for: they, and myself, are about to spend a night checking into the infamous Haunted Hotel.
The Haunted Hotel is one of the oldest- if not *the* oldest- haunted houses in Kentucky, ringing in their 31st season for 2021. With a well known penchant for mayhem, the haunt has gradually grown over the years from a standard haunted house (albeit one that was louder and in-your-face) to a fully themed "extreme" attraction that's completely unafraid to physically engage guests and play off of their senses. The arrival of COVID-19 forced the Hotel to change up the way they delivered the frights to their customers in 2020, but this year, the pandemic chains have been thrown off, and I'm happy to report that this haunt is back to doing what they do best.
A night's "stay" in the Haunted Hotel will run you $25. You should know that this is an extremely popular place and that line fills up fast, so make sure you arrive very early, or spring for one of the fast pass options that are offered. The parking situation can be tricky; if you hunt around, you may find a free spot on a nearby street. Otherwise, you'll have to pony up some cash to park in one of the lots immediately surrounding the Hotel.
(Oh, one more thing. See that banner in front of the ticket booth? The one that states "you will be touched", among other unpleasantries? Read it and heed it.)
The Haunted Hotel has both a storyline and cast of characters that change each season, and 2021 is no different. However, I feel it's worth noting that since the regular introductory actor was out the weekend I went, I was treated to something of an alternate chapter. I didn't recognize the bearded man in the hat that I met in the opening room, but I can tell you his greeting of "well, lookie lookie who the f**k it is" was probably the nicest thing he said to me, and he put me in my place from the start... I was quickly seized by another character, hauled to the end of the room and cornered against the wall. Introducing himself as Rufus Prince, the man explained that he was talking to me now because the hotel's proprietor, Thomas Gribbons, had gone missing. Unfortunately for us, the darkness he created was left behind, and it has fully consumed the hotel. All of this was aggressively said about three to five inches from my face, and punctuated with a lot of touching, so forgive me for not remembering much else. But he ended his speech on a personal note, stating that I was going to absorb that darkness, take it home with me, "... and come crawling back to the Haunted Hotel, like you have so many times before."
Then I got shoved into a pitch black elevator. As the door slid shut behind me and it shuddered to life, my stay in this hotel of horrors had officially begun.
And a hotel of horrors it truly is: this is a haunt that sticks to its theme from start to finish, with every single room playing a role in the story. I'm not going to spoil the elevator scene as it's easily one of the best haunt moments I've ever experienced, but it completely sets the tone for what the rest of your walkthrough is going to be like. (No joke - it's made a lot of customers tap out over the years.) Many of the scenes you'll walk through are what you'd expect to see in an old hotel, like a guest room that's in complete shambles, a registration desk coated in cobwebs and littered with bits and bobs from previous visitors, and possibly the nastiest bathroom I've ever come across (you might wanna go before you check in!). But the creative team have also thrown some surprises in there. One of my favorites was a security room that's brand new for this year, and if you look up at the monitor, you'll see that the cameras actually show other rooms in the haunt! To quote the actor who was working in there, "I get to watch you DIE in every room!" Very cool.
In addition to closely following the theme, the Haunted Hotel also has some killer set design. Several rooms have stained, peeling walls, or spots where the drywall has rotted away. A moldy, musty odor seems to permeate the whole building. Most everything is covered in a layer of grime and dust. Make no mistake about it; this is one gritty, grungy haunted house, and between that and all the total strangers touching you, you'll probably walk out feeling like you need a shower. That, to me, is one of the most beautiful things about it.
Of course, a good hotel is nothing without its staff, and you'll be meeting many of the haunt's residents for the duration of your stay. These range from characters you could tell were once normal people and were driven to madness, to hideous monsters that have been fully corrupted by the darkness that plagues their home. Be forewarned that a lot of them have a tendency towards aggression, and they probably aren't going to react kindly to your presence! The majority of the actors have zero problems with getting right up in your bubble, and oh... did I mention touching? Yep - this is a full contact haunted house, and it's absolutely going to happen. The degree of touch can range from light caressing of your skin or hair, to getting "strangled", picked up, or even chainsawed! You can never be 100% sure of what you're going to get when you come here, but you should be prepared for anything. (With that said, the cast at the Haunted Hotel have been trained to use touch appropriately, and in eight years of going I have never felt unsafe.)
Hotel was another haunt that I ended up visiting on their opening weekend. Despite that, I couldn't find too much room for improvement as I was walking through. Something I have mentioned frequently in my reviews this year is actors that have been noticeably more reserved than others. It's to be expected when you go to a haunt on their first weekend or they have new cast members (both of which came into play the night I went), but in an attraction like this that carries a reputation for being intense, it was a little more obvious. If their newer actors happen to read this, don't be afraid to get in there and bring it! Most of your customers know what they're getting into when they purchase a ticket to your show, and that's why it has such a devoted following.
The Haunted Hotel is one of my absolute favorite haunted houses in Louisville, and I can't recommend it enough for anyone who prefers a show that's a bit more extreme. Losing the constraints of COVID has brought them right back to providing their guests with the performance they're known for. Make a reservation and step inside that elevator for a night you aren't going to forget anytime soon - they'll leave the light out for you.
ENVIRONMENT: 8/10 - Nicely designed rooms full of detail that are true to the haunt's theme and story. The outdoor "maze" is a little less so, being outside, but still well done and has some fun surprises.
ACTING: 7/10 - Few dead spots, cast did very well with dialogue and engagement for the first weekend. More time to get into their roles will help.
SCARE FACTOR: 8/10 - Actors weren't quite as out for blood as they've been in the past, but they still didn't appreciate my intrusion and they certainly let me know it! The hotel's animatronic/actor-matronic scares are effectively positioned as well (there's a *really* freaky one early in the house).
OVERALL: 8/10 - Awesome run through Louisville's scariest hotel! It's only going to get crazier as the season rolls on.