[Editor's note: This post is best when read with the music from the haunted house's website playing in the background.]
A nimble devil beat-boxes from behind a fiery face at the Ross Avenue entrance gates while another cloaked in red busts hinge-jointed moves that would make Michael Jackson proud and Chris Brown jealous. Immediately it's clear you're in for a treat -- in the form of a terrifying series of tricks.
"Lights down, music up," commands the security guard, who tells visitors he's been working at haunted houses for over 20 years. While waiting outside the circus-size tent that houses the haunt, guests may take his mortal command as a mental reminder, 'See this is just a performance, nothing to be scared of.' Oh, but wait.
A bald old man, the hostel's butler and greeter, welcomes guests at the entrance. He delivers the rules of the house with wicked wit, explaining that if you don't touch the house's inhabitants they won't touch you. A comforting thought, for about a second, until you're treading lightly through the halls and bedrooms of a hostel full of beings far creepier than those in some of the shadiest supposedly unhaunted hostels.
A figure waits in the corner, shrouded by long gnarley hair hanging over her face. Is it a statue, a person? Just when you're about to poke her, "AhhHHH!" Then, she follows silently, pushing the boundaries of haunted house performance and, 'Holy shit, is she supposed to be in here or is this for real?"
This thought follows guests in different shadowy forms throughout a night at the Hellmouth Hostel. "Get out, get out, get out!!" scolds a woman crouched over a straw broom sweeping behind guests, shooing them through her closet and out of her bedroom. The "holy shit" factor runs high.
In one stark boudoir, a bed violently jolts as though fighting with itself, while a possessed girl lays peacefully as though asleep and then, "AhhHH!'
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Down another hall, an empty rocking chair swings back-and-forth, and then the mirage of a young child rocking and laughing vapidly, seemingly unaware of visitors, appears behind it. Across from her, a zombie struggles painfully on a pile of suitcases.
Unlike other hostels where you may have actually spent the night, this one has a graveyard, not the least bit out of place viewed in context. Walking through the open space feels like a bit of a reprieve from the cavernous rooms, a scare waiting in each, until -- well, we'll leave some surprises -- but watch out for the landscaping. Hellmouth Hostel's demons may not touch, but they do cling.
Keep one eye on the rear-view mirror as you drive home.