Upstairs, craft cocktails are served, guests are mingling, and macabre tales are told – but here in the basement, I’m alone in the dark. As I make my way down the creaky wooden steps I remember the usher’s instructions: Step into the shaft of light which offers my only safety from the horrors in the shadows. Next, I raise the mirror they provided up to my face, look into it, and call out “Molly Magpie, Molly Magpie, how did you die?” At first, nothing. Then just a hair’s breadth too late I sense the flurry of movement behind me and out of the darkness comes a bloodcurdling scream that makes me nearly jump out of my skin. The light fades. A new shaft appears, beckoning me further in. I like this game.
Produced by Meyer2Meyer, House of Spirits: A Haunted Cocktail Soiree is, on the surface, exactly what it sounds like: a two-hour cocktail party where guests are able to sample specially-crafted themed drinks while interacting with an eclectic cast of wandering spirits, each with their own personalities and stories to tell. After a bit of preliminary socializing on the lawn of the event’s venue – a beautiful mansion in Hollywood – guests are given The Spiel by the event’s cadaverous, well-dressed host and gradually admitted to the house’s interior. There they are greeted by the first of six drink stations, which are included with the price of entry. Technically you can spend your freebies however you want, so if you find one you’re fond of early you can get refills instead of trying them all.
What happens next is entirely up to each individual. House of Spirits is structured in a sandbox format, with several looping options available for guests to occupy their two-hour time there. They can schmooze with one another and the aforementioned ghosts, some of whom may be willing to lead people they take a shine to off to a secret one-on-one session. They can head into the Puppeteller Theater, where they can learn more about House of Spirits’ spectral denizens via short puppet shows accompanied by a narrator. They can take part in one of two experiences in the basement: a jump-scare-laden walk-through where they learn the fate of one Molly Magpie; or The Ritual, an Urban Death-esque scene which is best left unspoiled. They can head upstairs and go on a small scavenger hunt, where they will need to collect special items from the lairs of six unique and terrifying demons. Or they can wander the grounds, including a delightfully creepy flower garden.
Truth be told, the $60 admission gets you access to a lot of content. Guests will be hard-pressed to see everything in one trip. I prioritized the basement, upstairs, and garden (and, I’ll admit, sampling the libations), but this meant I only got to see one of the Puppeteller stories and missed the chance to meet several of the ghosts. My advice is to do the things you’re most interested in as early as possible, since the house will fill up and wait times for The Ritual in particular can eat into your limited amount of time inside.
One of the things I really appreciate about House of Spirits is that there’s a lot of lore for guests to uncover. Each of the resident revenants has a distinct personality and surprisingly rich history, and the house itself has its own hidden story. For those who like to probe and hunt for Easter eggs, House of Spirits has plenty to offer for scratching that itch. I won’t spoil the stories here, but I do recommend you dig in to what’s really going on in terms of the narrative. Folly and madness were themes I frequently encountered: a fortune-teller cursed to find and deliver notes to different, ambiguously-defined individuals (played a damned good stage magician); artists tortured by loss and horrifying nightmares; familial betrayal with dire consequences; and so much more. Each tale presented could probably be built out into a production in its own right, and I have to give kudos to the creative team for the caliber of storytelling involved.
The same could also be said of the basement and upstairs experiences. While in their current form each lasts probably no more than 10 minutes, the concepts behind them and onsite execution left me wanting more. I don’t mean that to say they felt incomplete. Rather, the scenes are like shorts with the makings of a feature film. Meyer2Meyer could run a whole season of spinoffs with the right care, and I sincerely hope they have more shows in the works.
The production value is also top-notch. The costumes are, quite simply, amazing. The sets upstairs in particular also stand out: not terribly complicated in design but perfectly tailored to suit each demon, making great use of decoration and lighting while mostly working with the house’s existing structure. The basement experiences employ light, shadow, sound, and movement to great effect as needed, and the Puppeteller Theater creates a suitably spooky vibe with black-light paint on the puppets paired with the narrator’s pallid makeup and sepulchral baritone.
That’s not to say it’s perfect. House of Spirits suffers from a problem common to sandboxes designed for high through-put: crowding. Combining a large audience with side activities set up for small groups means lines, and feeling like you’re wasting precious minutes waiting rather than experiencing. There isn’t much to distract from this sensation while queuing up for the basement or upstairs, either. So, again, I’d say do those early before things get too full up or else focus on mingling with the spirits and fellow guests.
In the end, though, it is worth it. House of Spirits: A Haunted Cocktail Soiree offers guests quite the buffet of mini-haunts, engaging characters, and hidden story nuggets where time is the only real enemy. House of Spirits is a must-see for haunt and cocktail enthusiasts who like a heavy dose of story mixed in with the macabre.
House of Spirits has concluded its run. For more information on House of Spirits, visit their website, and follow them on Facebook and Instagram. Check out our Event Guide for more immersive entertainment throughout the year.