Date of Visit: 9/17/22 Reviewer: Lindsay
Riding in a dimly lit elevator with another member of my team, we've just started checking in for the night. To be honest, we probably should've gotten the hint that maybe this wasn't a great place to stay when that process began with us being yoinked through the front door. But if that wasn't enough for us to get a clue, what's happening in the elevator we're standing in is a harsh reminder. What little light there is keeps flickering overhead. It can't seem to decide what floor it wants to be on. Worst of all, we're stuck in here with a batsh*t crazy attendant, who wavers between actually trying to operate the thing and randomly lunging in our faces. As the elevator shakes and shudders toward our destination, the lights suddenly cut completely out - and then we hear her insane, delighted screech:
I'm pretty sure we're both thinking the same thing that every unfortunate guest who enters ends up wondering: 'what in the hell did we get ourselves into?' September is here, folks - and the Haunted Hotel, one of the most infamous haunted houses in Kentucky, now has some vacancies.
The Haunted Hotel has menaced the city of Louisville for an incredibly long time, with 2022 ringing in their 32nd season of operation. To sum up the haunt's storyline, the hotel is the property of owner Thomas Gribbons and his relatives, but there's an evil flowing through these walls even he could not contain... and now, it's completely infected both the hotel staff and some of the guests residing there. Customers looking to "check in" should be forewarned: enter at your own risk, because you might never check out!
Spending a night in this horrific hotel starts at $25 for General Admission access. Need to get to your room a little faster? VIP ($40) and Front of the Line ($60) upgrades are also available. The parking situation can be kind of sticky; if you hunt around, you may be able to find a spot on a nearby street. Otherwise, you'll have to bring along some cash to park in one of the lots immediately surrounding the haunt.
This haunt has long had a reputation to live up to, but even if you don't know it, just waiting outside can be nerve-wracking. Creeps and monsters prowl along the line out front, seeking opportunities to scare the unsuspecting crowd. I had the male half of the Honeymooners, James, with me for this visit, and we watched Zizzle- a slider wearing an eerie, smiling yellow mask- send multiple groups fleeing as we waited. And while The Strangler is certainly dressed like a gentleman, he's anything but - daring to ask him for a photo got me wrapped in a headlock right after!
Then the door briefly slid open, and we looked up to find a young bearded man fixing us with a very hard stare. After a few minutes and a harsh banging on the door, he was back again - but before we could react, he charged down the steps, growled "I've been waiting for you!" and was hauling me inside by the shirt. He grabbed my teammate next, and both of us were dragged to the end of the room, where we were greeted by... his sh*thead manager? Mr. Sh*thead?... who promptly applied tape to our mouths so they didn't have to hear any of our nonsense. The bearded actor was a character I'd met before, Roland Gribbons, and he introduced himself as the secondary proprietor of Thomas' fine establishment. Following a short introduction (and a funny argument between those two), we were soon grabbed and forced into a pitch black elevator. Our rickety ride into this hotel of horrors had officially begun.
The Haunted Hotel is a superbly designed attraction, and with each passing season, it feels like their team does more and more to play up the hotel theme. Your journey through the haunt begins in the hotel's old, dingy lobby. From there, an intense elevator ride unceremoniously dumps you off into a damp basement... which happens to have a BIG bug problem! Other scenes include a security post (where you can actually view guests going through!), a super steamy spa, a dark and possessed church, and a laundry room left in major disarray. A couple of new scenes have also been added since my last visit in July. We walked into a room full of mysterious doors that left us highly apprehensive- 'which one is going to get us messed up the least?'- and while the insect problem in a guest room had been taken care of, the pair of freshly dead bodies occupying its bed was an unnerving sight. Some existing scenes were also tweaked; I don't recall the guest room following the bathroom having that many dolls in it before, but it nearly made James do an about face when he walked in.
As well put together as each scene is, the detail in this place is what really makes it believable. Rooms are often damp or dusty. Cobwebs glisten over props and fixtures. Layers of mold and grime coat surfaces and run down the walls. The Hotel has always been a gritty, grungy haunt, and believe me, they couldn't be more proud.
Whatever dark energy has cursed the walls of this establishment has also doomed its inhabitants, driving them to violent insanity... towards both the guests and each other! The worst have even found themselves transformed into monsters, shadows of the humans they once were. It was often hard to tell whether they all wanted us to be trapped in there with them as permanent residents, or if they wanted us to get the hell out of their home and weren't afraid to let us know that... sometimes forcibly!
Ah, about that. If you didn't get the hint earlier in this review, you should know that the Haunted Hotel is a FULL CONTACT haunted house. You could experience light touching, like your hair being caressed or shirt tugged on... or it could escalate to far worse, such as group members being dragged away, picked up, or cut down with chainsaws! Something I personally liked about this year's show was the addition of new forms of interaction. I was told to place my chin on the edge of a table, where one of the eccentric hotel "staff" drew sparks (!) inches from my face. Both of us were caught completely off guard by the janitor suddenly turning and flinging poop at us from the hotel toilets - what a great gross-out moment! The laundry room attendant tried to stuff me into a washing machine, and when we got to the mazelike portion outside, my teammate had his hat snatched off his head... so the crazy who stole it could dunk him face first under running water. And we barely managed to escape with our lives after a vicious chainsaw assault near the end! By the time we got out, we were soaked, and coated in varying degrees of grime - which is exactly how you should leave the Haunted Hotel.
Although our experience was pretty good, we did have a couple of issues with our visit. If you're going to bill your haunt as "extreme", you have to carry that energy the whole way through. We noticed a few too many characters who either went for the more subtle approach, or just yelled at us over loud music in their scenes. But what really hurt the experience is that 80% of the actors' attention was directed at one person (me, if you were wondering). This was my teammate's first visit since COVID, and I think he was looking forward to seeing the Hotel in its true form. And when we each spent the same amount on tickets- yet only one really got a show- that's not good. I hope the Hotel team will not view this as a "bad" review; my love for them runs deep, and I think James would also be willing to give them another shot. But we have to be honest when reviewing, too.
Despite the opportunities mentioned above, I enjoyed my annual visit to the Haunted Hotel, and I think my teammate found things he liked about it as well. They made some awesome new changes, both in terms of how they interact with their customers and in the design of their haunt. The immersion level has really gone up over the last few years. All that's left is for the Hotel to get back to doing what it does best: messing up every guest foolish enough to spend their night here!
ENVIRONMENT: 8/10 - Well designed haunt that is very true to both the hotel theme and its heavy reputation. Loved the changes that were made!
ACTING: 7/10 - Solid cast with no dead spots; there was at least one actor everywhere we went. I would like to see them ramp up the aggression the Hotel is known for.
SCARE FACTOR: 6/10 - New forms of interaction were a nice touch! Their cast does need to be more physical with guests and try to divide their attention evenly among the group.
OVERALL: 7/10 - All things considered, it was a good "stay" at Louisville's scariest hotel! I hope to find them back to bringing the pain the next time either of us stops by.