Check in to Haunt Season

Louisville loves Halloween, and we start the season earlier than most. Maybe the Zombie Walk in late August whets the locals’ appetite for gruesome fun.

Whatever the reason, The Haunted Hotel recognized the hunger and opened September 2 to feed it.

Located near Churchill Downs at 3000 S. Fourth St., The Haunted Hotel is the longest continuously running haunted attraction in the state and has been listed as one of Haunted Attraction Magazine’s 25 must-see haunts.

Photo courtesy of Life of the Party Entertainment

Photo courtesy of Life of the Party Entertainment

The haunt has a stack of awards and certificates, and I use the word stack literally. Owner Kevin Stich’s 2013 and 2014 Haunt of the Year plaques, 2013 Best Haunt in Kentucky plaque and a number of certificates and other commendations are piled in a cubby in the haunt’s garage/workspace.

I checked out (into?) The Haunted Hotel on opening night and was consequently one of the first to experience the new thrills Stich and company have cooked up for this year.

Just for the record, I am easily scared. Horror movies horrify me. So when Stich told me his goal is for guests to believe that they might actually die, I was a bit concerned.

Most nights, a few people don’t make it all the way through the attraction, begging to be removed only a few rooms in. “We take them out right away,” he says. “But there are no refunds. We feel like we’ve done our job if you have to leave.”

Guests go through in groups of no more than six. “It’s very tight quarters,” Stich explains. “There’s no dead space in the haunt. Every corner there’s something.”

Just inside the front door, my small group was given a very creepy greeting from Mr. Gribbons, the hotel’s owner.

Beyond that, I won’t tell you much about what you’ll encounter, but The Haunted Hotel sticks to its theme. Guests explore what seems to be an actual hotel, complete with check-in desk, bar, guest rooms and gift shop.

Be warned. The actors can touch you, and they will. During my trip a ghoul delighted in caressing my arms and breathing over my shoulder. At one point I was lavishly and revoltingly drooled on.

“We’re a full-touching, in-your-face haunt,” Stich emphasizes. “We push people up against walls. All of the actors here are very, very good. There is an aspect that you might get killed.”

But they will not hurt you. Guest well-being – physical, at least – is a top priority. “There’s a lot of training,” Stich says. “Our cast was in place rehearsing about three weeks before we opened.

“This is an extreme haunt,” he continues. “It’s family-oriented in that we don’t try to really gross you out, but this isn’t the place to bring your 7-year-old if they’re scared of Jason movies.”

I’m proud to report that I made it through the 20-something minute tour through 24 rooms plus an outdoor maze unscathed, if perhaps a bit damp. VT

By Jenna Esarey, Contributing Writer