TV OD hallway leads to neon Chinatown in the multiverse. Op Art floor boosts sensory assault.
TV OD hallway leads to neon Chinatown in the multiverse. Op Art floor boosts sensory assault.

House of Eternal Return

Field review by the editors.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

"It's a 'choose your own adventure' sort of experience," said Vince Kadlubek, CEO of the group that created the House of Eternal Return. "it's like a science fiction novel, except instead of reading it off a page, you're actually exploring it."

House of Eternal Return.
Socks and tourists vanish into the drier wormhole.

Vince is the artist in charge of Meow Wolf in Santa Fe and believes in the creative power of spontaneity and chaos, which is how the House of Eternal Return was built. "It came out of the minds of 150 different people, with a lot of collaboration and scrappiness," Vince said. "We're an art collective; we operate without much structure or hierarchy." Even the name Meow Wolf, said Vince, was invented serendipitously, by drawing two words at random out of a hat.

Vince sold the idea of House of Eternal Return to fellow Santa Fe resident George R.R. "Game of Thrones" Martin, who shelled out $3 million to buy and renovate an abandoned bowling alley that now houses the House. The welcome mat outside its front door reads, Beyond Here There Be Dragons. But if you're looking for the King of Spectacle inside, you won't find him -- unless he's ambling through, just another tourist. "George has visited many, many times," said Vince. "We kept pitching him opportunities to participate, but he only wanted to be the landlord."

Visitor favorite: the walk-thru
Visitor favorite: the walk-thru "Glowquarium."

Color-shifting mastodon bones make music when whacked.
Color-shifting mastodon bones make music when whacked.

The House, according to its official narrative, is a two-story Victorian home from Mendocino, California (site of the eerie Time and the Maiden statue) that's been somehow transported into the former Santa Fe bowling alley. The family that lived in the house possessed innate creativity so powerful that it opened wormholes from the house into the "multiverse." The home's only current inhabitants, besides tourists, are people in lab coats trying to contain the forces of spontaneity and chaos.

The superficially normal house is anything but. Walls and ceilings ripple. Things glow that shouldn't. Trans-dimensional portals snake through household appliances. if you're brave enough to look into the toilet bowl, you'll see something that shouldn't be there.

Visitors hunt for clues to the family's fate by rummaging through newspapers, post-it notes, office files, and other ephemera found in various rooms -- every homeowners' Open House nightmare. "We just let people do whatever they want to do," said Vince. This is where the lab coat people come in; they're House of Eternal Return employees, who tidy up after the free-ranging visitors (Vince has at times worn a lab coat himself).

Spinning eyeball Illuminati pyramid oversees giant rodent with circuit-board brain.
Spinning eyeball Illuminati pyramid oversees giant rodent with circuit-board brain.

Once you pass beyond-the-wormhole into the multiverse, the attraction turns from a spook house into a fun house/art house, with over 70 connected chambers -- and no map or visitor guide. "It's accessible to everybody," Vince said. "They can explore and they can go into the spaces however they choose. There's no purpose to it other than exploration. Everybody knows how to do that."

The big fuzzy alien blinks its eyes.
The big fuzzy alien blinks its eyes.

The multiverse is a Candy Land of color. A neon Chinatown is a nod to Bladerunner; a glowing tree evokes Avatar. Some parts of the multiverse are distorted "memories" from the house, such as the "Glowquarium" -- a fish tank grown into a human-size fluorescent corridor -- and a tabletop mastodon skeleton model transformed in a color-shifting cave fossil that can be hammered like a xylophone. Other rooms more clearly reflect their artist creators, such as Nico Salazar and Scott Hove, whose quirky sensibilities echo Meow Wolf's. There's a dome covered in eyeballs, a furry alien creature that winks, a musical "laser harp" you can play with your hands, a mirrored room full of human heart models, and a 20-foot-tall white rabbit with glowing eyes. The only reminders of the real world are the EXIT signs and occasional wall-mounted fire extinguishers.

Despite its similarity to "immersive" haunted house attractions, the multiverse has no alien autopsy room or blood-spattered cannibal zombies. Meow Wolf, said Vince, wanted the House of Eternal Return to be family-friendly, a place that multiple generations, from kids to grandparents, could experience together.

Tim Burtonesque kitchen in the House of Eternal Return.
Tim Burtonesque kitchen in the House of Eternal Return.

While some in the art community have dismissed House of Eternal Return's pop-culture skew (and others decry its lack of bowling), Vince sees it as a way to bring experiential art to a mass audience. Visitors can even wander the multiverse in their own dress-up costumes, and Vince said that everyone is encouraged to visit the attraction's "Maker space" and "be less of a consumer."

Vince told us he was "surprised by how many people actually want to try to solve the mystery," and implied that there might be no tidy answers at the House of Eternal Return -- a universe, after all, conceived by a chaos-fueled art collective. "Once something is understood, it's no longer interesting to us," he said. "We only want to think about the things that are kind of hard to understand."

House of Eternal Return

Meow Wolf Arts Complex

Address:
1352 Rufina Circle, Santa Fe, NM
Directions:
Meow Wolf Arts Complex. Southwest side of the city. I-25 exit 278-B. Drive north on Hwy 14/Cerrillos Rd for 3.5 miles. Turn left at the stoplight (Taco Bell) onto Cll Del Cielo. Drive to the stop sign. Turn left onto Rufina Circle. You'll see a large parking lot on the right.
Hours:
M, W-Th Su 10-8; F-Sa 10-10 (Call to verify)
Phone:
505-395-6369
Admission:
Adults $22. No one under 15 without an adult.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

30-Foot-Tall Robot, Giant Spider30-Foot-Tall Robot, Giant Spider, Santa Fe, NM - < 1 mi.
Hand Mail Box and Rock LizardHand Mail Box and Rock Lizard, Santa Fe, NM - 3 mi.
Folk Art All Mixed TogetherFolk Art All Mixed Together, Santa Fe, NM - 4 mi.
In the region:
Connie's Photo Park, Madrid, NM - 19 mi.

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September 23, 2018

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