Eat Your Heart Out – American Horrorplex

Visit Date: 2/17/24

Visited By: Team Lone Wolf

While February is most often known for being a month dedicated to love, it’s also one that can be rife with relationship woes. If you’re suffering from the pain of a rocky relationship, there’s a hospital you can visit around downtown Louisville that’s got the cure for what ails you. I hear they can even heal a broken heart! Just pay no attention to those hideous creatures and creepy nurses lurking around the property – they’ve got nothing at all to do with the place, I promise.

Hey, wait… who turned out the lights in there?!

There’s only one way out now. For those couples brave enough to face the darkness within, the monsters of the Bracken-Hart Institute are ready and waiting to Eat Your Heart Out!

For the last few years, downtown Louisville, Kentucky’s American Horrorplex has mostly opened their doors for the full haunted house season every September. The threat of COVID-19 limited how many special events they could do for the remainder of the year. In 2022, they gradually began easing back into their fun holiday shows – which brings us to this year! The sinister staff of the Bracken-Hart Institute have chosen to reopen those hospital doors this February so horror-loving couples (and friends) can celebrate the holiday of love. Eat Your Heart Out is the Horrorplex’s annual Valentine’s Day event and is also what the industry refers to as a blackout show. If you aren’t familiar with this term, it’s when a haunt dims or even turns off most of their show lighting, and groups are provided with a single light source to find their way. Spooky, eh?

But if you know these guys, you can probably guess that this isn’t just a walk through a dark haunted house with a glow stick. AHP’s team decided to throw a challenge at all groups brave enough to explore the hospital: find the three glowing “hearts” hidden around the facility and capture photos of them with a cell phone! You’ll be given a fiery lantern to find your way, but take great care in using it… both the crazed hospital staff and vicious, mutated fleshlumpkin experiments are on the prowl and hungry… and with most of the lights off, they’ll be attracted to light and sound. Moving swiftly, acting with caution, and staying quiet will set you on the path to victory!

Just like it is during the normal season, the base admission price for Eat Your Heart Out was $25. Parking was completely free. You could either grab a spot in their small fenced lot on site, or a spot on the street if the lot was full.

Walking up to the property, the first thing I noticed was how strangely quiet it was. The usual parking attendants out front were nowhere to be seen. I was approached by security and briefly wanded, then purchased my ticket and headed to the waiting area. A heater provided warmth to both staff and the sole customer (me, haha) and a photographer was on hand to take group photos beside the Bracken-Hart Memorial Museum sign. I was a little surprised there wasn’t more going on; this isn’t normal for the Horrorplex. However, I did arrive about half an hour before closing and temps were in the 20s, so it was understandable. The haunt was also open for just two hours- 8 to 10 PM- so there wasn’t much point in having a lot of outside entertainment.

Due to the nature of the show, a lot of Valentine decor wasn’t really necessary. It was mostly a “Valentine’s” event in name. With that said, the house wasn’t pitch black inside. There was just enough light that someone who was familiar with the house layout could find their way fairly easily. I mostly used the lamp to see if a heart might be hidden among the props and animatronics… and for other purposes (more on that shortly!). Although most of the characters matched those you would encounter during their haunt season production, all costumes and makeup looked great; they definitely didn’t skimp just because it was dark in there.

While it was too cold- and the hours too short- to have the full midway running, AHP’s gift shop was open and not only loaded with any Horrorplex merch you could ever want, but also tons of Halloween decorations and trinkets. I was delighted to see one of my favorite visitors to the haunt- Butterfly Valley Rescue and Sanctuary– make an appearance. They were selling cool stuff to fundraise for their animals and allowing customers to visit with Nemo, an adorable white goat and one of the newest additions to their family. I can’t show enough love for these people – it’s always wonderful to see them!

Like I mentioned further up, the cast of characters hunting you in the house was more or less the same as during the Halloween season… and there were a lot of them! Deranged doctors and nurses and bloodthirsty mutants were on the loose all over the building. They would often react to use of the light or your cell phone, so I tried to hurry when taking the photos. (Not easy when you’re waiting on that darn night mode!) These actors came at me with everything they had… I mean, they tried so hard to get a fear reaction. They invaded my space. They blocked my path. They threatened me. They said creepy things. At least one repeatedly charged out of the shadows scraping a loud shovel along the ground. Some even climbed up and tried to strike from above! In other words, they pulled nearly every trick out of their book of scares.

It’s no secret among my local haunts that I’m not hard to scare. At all. And that’s probably one of the reasons they love messing with me, especially when I’m by myself and not with any group. But on this night, I’m proud to say I found the key to keeping my cool. How do you keep the Lone Wolf from getting scared in a haunt? Give her something to hunt for.

With the exception of one actor, it just wasn’t happening. (I really wish I could remember who that was! It was late in the haunt.) Hyperfocused on the task at hand, fear transformed into strategy and the people who were once my nightmares had become my opponents. While hunting for hearts, I would flash the light and try to misdirect the monsters hunting me, or tap on things to make a sound and try to throw them off my trail. Some of them figured it out and played along. “Where are you?! I saw you, for just a second…” It was great and really helped to pull me into that level of immersion: the one where you find yourself sinking into the environment around you, and in your head it becomes real. I’ve always credited Horrorplex for being an incredibly immersive haunted house and they completely nailed that with this show. Awesome!

By the way – curious as to what the spoils of victory were? The prizes I received for winning included: an American Horrorplex cup, my souvenir photo, a wristband, and a bunch of cute stickers. Nice!

It may not have been heavily themed around the holiday, but Eat Your Heart Out was still one of the most enjoyable Valentine’s Day haunt events I’ve ever participated in. I love a challenge, and I was proud of myself for standing up to my own fear – not an easy task when you’re completely alone with a bunch of scary folks in a dark hospital! And it was so great to see American Horrorplex return to putting on this fun and unique show. If you’re looking for a night out with your sweetie or your friends you won’t forget anytime soon, definitely give this one a shot next year.

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