Todd - With countless haunted house experiences under my belt, I'm quite often asked in one form or another, "What's the most extreme haunted house you've ever been to?" The Haunted Hotel is always the first to come to mind.
It's become a tradition of ours to stop by every year and to be truthful, I'd be pretty upset if I missed it. The Haunted Hotel is unlike any other haunt I've ever been to. There's virtually nothing traditional about it. There are no cemeteries, no lore of ghosts and very little left to the imagination. Instead, everything it offers is presented in full force, up close and personal. This haunt is nothing short of an adrenaline-inducing experience.
The entrance is a single sliding metal door; once it closes, that's it. There is no coming back out. Well, that's not true...but if you come right back out (which happens often enough), you'll have to do the walk of shame in front of the hundreds of people waiting in line. From the moment you enter, a sense of personal threat and trepidation pours over you as the hotel owner greets you and seals your fate - you are now one of them. The hostility to come is merely foreshadowed in his preaching. The first room is so small (now even smaller than in recent years) that the sense of claustrophobia is just a taste of what is to come.
Inside, the pathway to the end is feels like an endurance of will. You'll be forced to come face to face with some of the most intimidating actors in the business. The interaction WILL be physical. Expect to be touched, grabbed, picked up, slammed against walls and even caressed (in appropriate places). The worst thing you can do is show signs of intimidation - they'll be like moths to flame.
The Haunted Hotel isn't about offering a lot of jump scares. There's not a lot that will take you by surprise. When you enter any given room, you'll be able to size up the situation wondering how bad this one will be. The interior is often structured so there's no way to move on except through the actors, leaving you vulnerable to whatever they may choose to do with you. If you're in a larger group, you may luck out if someone become the prime target. However, if you think you'll get through the entirely of the haunt unscathed, think again.
The building is very unassuming. It's plain brick exterior provides no hint as to what is inside. There's more inside those walls than you would guess and fortunately, the outdoor ending portion seems to have been extended more so. The actors are unrelenting and it's astonishing that they can put this insane amount of energy into the production night after night. Their appearance is spot on for their roles too. They come across more like characters from Mad Max: Fury Road than spooks or specters and their demeanor is void of morality - quite intimidating. However, of the ones I've had a chance to talk to, they were all incredibly nice people with true passion for their craft.
I swear this haunt is turning me into a sadist or something. These days I go through welcoming the brutality! When I tell people about the things that have happened to us over the years, they usually give me that "What the hell is wrong with you?" look. To my slight disappointment, recent years have been a little less extreme. Of course, my definition of "less extreme" is probably enough to really shake up the average person. This year, I was grabbed by the throat, touched numerous times on the face, slammed against a wall and had my personal space invaded too many times to count. And yes - I want more! I miss the days of being grabbed by the head and thrown in a closet or bent over a metal table to have sparks fly at my face. I store these special memories away along with believing in Santa or when my daughter was born. Seriously though, those are the lasting impressions that The Haunted Hotel gave me over the years.
We heard last year that after a complaint that went somewhat public they had to take everything down a notch. I say, give us some kind of option for the "R" rated show and not settle on the "PG-13" one. It's made perfectly clear upon entering that you're going to be touched (to say the least) inside. To be fair, maybe I'm just THAT desensitized but I really wish the hands-on kicked back up a notch or two. Or five.
Why? Not just because I find delight in getting bruised for entertainment, but because The Haunted Hotel offers a surreal experience that's different from the convention - it's memorable, as often are the things that pull you out of your comfort zone.
Teresa - If you want to experience a real adrenaline rush, this is the place to go. It isn't the longest walk-through, it doesn't have the shortest wait, it doesn't overwhelm you with fancy decor and animatronics, nor is it a fun place to bring the kids (unless you're raising little Michael Myers). But, if you're looking for aggressive actors, and appreciate a good R rating, come to the Haunted Hotel. There's a reason the line here is always long. Waiting for your turn, you may get a sense from the queue actors with the really creepy masks and costumes that this one may be a little more intense than that neighborhood haunt you went to years ago that the local boy scouts put on. From the minute you walk inside, where you are greeted by the proprietor, with his old-timey clothes and accent, you have to control the urge to run. These actors are intimidating; their costumes look like something a demented person made. The humor can be raunchy, and they will grab you, caress you, bear hug you, tickle you, keep you behind while your friends walk on, tease, insult, and possibly gang up on you until you're huddled alone in a corner, shaking. You may get wet. You may get shocked. I just want to warn you what you're in for. Having said that, it is so much fun! I still love the elevator scene. You have to see it to believe it. The hotel has jump-scares galore and a thrill around every corner. We were screaming and cracking up from the start. I'm not sure if the lighting inside the house was changed this year, but I liked the flickering strobe effect. Outside was definitely improved. And we were not disappointed with the end. Watching people run out the exit, screaming, is always one of the best parts! I've been coming here for several years now, and it isn't quite as aggressive as it once was, due to parents' concerns over their teenagers coming home with stage blood or marks that look like bruises, which I find to be a shame, but I understand. I feel like the actors do a great job of using touch (and humor) to scare you, without hurting or being inappropriate for a majority of adrenaline junkies looking for full-contact haunted attractions. I did come out with black makeup down the side of my face. I have no idea where it came from. I like coming away with some small memento. I just saw a study today that says people who go to haunted attractions come out with an adrenaline high that is really good for your health. You owe it to yourself to get scared! And if you're anywhere near Louisville, this is the place!
Paul - The Haunted Hotel is the most extreme haunt around.
There are dozens and dozens of haunts within a few hundred miles of my home in Cincinnati, but there isn't one that I can say is more extreme than The Haunted Hotel. The combination of their acting, set design, costumes, lighting, gore, and intensity are completely unmatched, and if you're someone who has debated walking out of any other haunt early, you probably won't make it through the hotel.
You start out getting a little overview from the proprietor of the hotel (who is amazing) before you board the elevator to head inside. The absolute craziest elevator ride I've ever been on leads you to the front desk, from which you start making your way through the hotel. You'll see some of the wildest scenes ever, and you WILL be touched along the way. Honestly, you'll be lucky if you make it through without having your feet leave the ground because these creeps can be rather aggressive! This year was one of the milder HH experiences I've had, but there were still many hands to the throat and more violations of personal space than I could possibly count.
You'll wind through all kinds of scenes before you finally make your way outside into the maze. Don't think the insanity is over at this point because you still have a long road ahead of you. You think you've experienced chainsaws at other haunts? You haven't experienced chainsaws.
I love going through The Haunted Hotel. It's a challenge! Every time I walk out there's a bit of a sigh of relief and a feeling of accomplishment. There are other haunts that match up in a few areas, but nothing with this overall combination of kick-your-ass-and-scare-you-to-death.
Think you're up for the challenge? Think you can handle the abuse? Well make your way to Louisville and try your hand at The Haunted Hotel. Something tells me you'll break your reservation.