You know how little ads sometimes pop up on Facebook that tell you about fascinating attractions that you’ll probably never end up visiting? Yeah, those. So, I saw one of those, maybe you have too, with people walking into a refrigerator, sliding into a washing machine, climbing into a fireplace. So, I was like “What is this Alice in Wonderland madness?”. Well. Let me tell you, it is exactly what the video made it out to be, even wilder. So, here’s my usual SPOILER ALERT. Kind of? The whole thing is nonlinear, interactive storytelling, (look at me with all my fancy terminology), so there is a plot. In this post, you will find information about the plot of the Meow Wolf “House of Eternal Returns”, what I understand of it at least. I have cleverly labeled that section “The Plot”. If you don’t want to know then don’t read it. Pretty straightforward.
THE FIRST IMPRESSION
When you get to the parking lot you’ll see this excellent wolf and a giant metal spider with a sign, telling guests not to climb on it. They saw right through my plan…
After you get your wristbands you are pointed towards the entrance to the actual experience. There’s a video playing that is mostly exposition, partially pre-show spiel. You enter through a black door in a black wall, and then you’re in a new world. Seriously it is so self-contained, even the parts that aren’t fanciful. It’s a straight up house with real rooms. You walk in and there’s the mailbox, the house, the porch. You just walk right into this house. And to whoever built/acquired all the set pieces and dressed everything, you are FANTASTIC. I was in a house. I was not in a fictional house. I was not in a theatrical reflection of a house. It was just…a house. You opened a dresser drawer and it had clothes in it, the computers had information on them, there were doodles on the beams above the bottom bunk of the bunk bed. Not to even mention everything in the other dimension, endless colors, textures, lights. I can’t imagine the fun they must have had putting this thing together. There are staff inside the house of course, in case you get lost or have questions or whatever, all wearing the white lab coat uniforms of The Charter and looking appropriately eerie.
They tell you that there is a plot you can experience if you want, a mystery to be solved. It’s a sort of self-guided, non-linear thing that begins with some clues in the mailbox. I began knowing full well that I would get distracted and sneak around the secret passageways before returning to the plot. I wanted to do that too, of course, I love a mystery. I had read about it online a bit before, and I read the clues in the mailbox, so I already had a little background to work with when I ran off into the refrigerator. Yes, the fridge was a portal to a different world. Isn’t that fantastic! This place was my dream come true honestly, it was the combination of all of the things I like. It’s actually almost literally my dream come true. I dreamed a place like this once, but it was an Alice in Wonderland thing, and I still want to make it happen.
Eventually my wanderings took me to a little office with a computer, which I monopolized for probably an hour-I apologize to the other guests. There were lots of notes on there, and some on the bulletin board as well. That’s when I knew it was officially time to set about solving the mystery. Note to anyone wishing to solve this mystery, make sure you have access to a cell phone or device with internet, a flashlight, and a camera, and make sure it is charged. Also, bring paper and pen/pencil to take notes. You can do that on a phone too if you want, just have something to take notes. So, of course, throughout this whole thing I had 5% battery on my phone and was taking notes on the back of a gift card package, so yeah…you can do better. It’s a little like a haunted house experience, but not haunted. I mean don’t get me wrong some of the stuff can be a bit creepy but it’s “weird sci-fi fantasy” creepy not “guys with chainsaw chasing you” creepy. I read all of the notes on the computer, I searched through rooms, watched videos, read journals, snuck through portals, wandered through dreamscapes of glowing shapes and neon trees, chilled out for a little while in a cave full of giant eyeballs, and played a laser harp.
Now you can absolutely experience this place without bothering with the mystery. It stands alone as a interactive, immersive art beautifully. I like solving mysteries though, so I tried to unearth some of the story. I was there with my Dad, though we were split up most of the time, so this is a summary of our combined knowledge, just in case you’re curious about the story itself. Not that I’m sure I’m right about it, it’s pretty wild, I could be wrong about so many things, but that’s what’s fun. It makes the experience repeatable. I don’t know who wrote the story of “The House of Eternal Returns”, but I really wish they would turn it into a graphic novel or something, it would be so cool. Here’s how it goes, as far as I can tell:
In the beginning of, I guess of the universe, there was an entity known as The Anomaly. The anomaly was a being of creative chaos so beings called The Shadow existed to provide balance, they were the order. There are little animated background videos and The Anomaly looks kind of like a giant brain with wavy tendrils while The Shadow look like robots. I love the art in those videos. So, The Shadow formed a Charter at one point with The Anomaly, and The Anomaly got a different form. The Charter became an organization that watched over them, and The Anomaly turned into a family. People. The people who lived in the house. That’s the background story of the main story.
Years and years later we have Emerson Selig and his wife Jean, who I believe had prophetic dreams. He was a scientist of some sort, he performed experiments and made this hamster immortal with sound. I think? Their daughter Piper, an artist who paints the other worlds she imagines, married Nicolae Pastore, who uses esoteric music to unlock the secrets of the universe (laser harp). Piper’s brother Lucius is kind of awful, he was hurt in one of Emerson’s experiments and it caused him to unlock this power to move through different realities. He ended up as a cult leader and had a sort of interdimensional tourism business. Piper and Nicolae had twins, Morgan and Lex Selig, who were also gifted. Morgan was an empath and Lex was following in his grandfather’s footsteps by experimenting on the hamster. Lucius got involved, hoping his nephew’s experiments would somehow return his powers, but instead Lex slowly faded out of reality. Over a course of time he became increasingly intangible, saying he could see only fog, until he was gone, lost to another dimension known as the Fog Space. A plan was set in motion to use Nicolae’s laser harp to bring him home, Jean had once said that she dreamed “your music will find lost children.” They open the portal in the fridge, (yep, the wonderlandian areas through the secret passageways are meant as Fog Space), and Piper and Lucius go through. They succeed in bringing Lex home but then the family reforms into The Anomaly as it originally was. I think so at least? This causes some kind of multiverse event thing that concerns The Charter and they move the house from its originally location and basically quarantine it, until they can detangle the bits and pieces of other dimensions that are clinging to it. This is where we enter, left with all the evidence of the family’s lives we piece together a story. I still don’t understand the endgame though, is there a correct answer I’m supposed to get? Is there someone I tell to find out if got it right. All I know is that I don’t know it all. I could go on for ages trying to pick the story apart, citing different pieces of evidence, creating a timeline. And I probably will on my own time, I’m not done with this thing yet.
If you like Alice in Wonderland, Welcome to Night Vale, Stranger Things, Weird Art, Household Appliances with Ulterior Motives, Glowing Things, Neon, Music in General, Solving Mysteries, Exploration, Metaphors About the Power of Creativity (I Think…), Science Fiction, Fantasy, Giant Rabbits, or Untrustworthy Guys Named Lucius, you should 100% check out “The House of Eternal Returns”!
Seriously this is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.
Hint: find the story in a frame. You’ll need WiFi.