If you step off the tube at Bermondsey station in London and walk seven minutes south, you can travel decades back in time and thousands of kilometres away to an American hotel that was the site of many murders.
Built at the Biscuit Factory in Bermondsey, the Hollow Hotel is like an escape room, and visitors don’t stay the night. The premise is that after an unexpected closure, visitors have been invited to the hotel’s grand reopening. They are greeted at the bar and reception area but quickly whisked away to their private rooms—and that’s where the real story starts.
In a psychological horror experience that can last up to an hour and a half, visitors can pick how their nights play out. There are seven scenarios for the show, which vary depending on how visitors interact with different objects and characters. Each scenario is filled with twists and jump scares, and even if visitors are “killed off,” their stories can continue.
The Hollow Hotel was designed by the immersive theatre group differenceEngine. The group previously organized Heist, a similar interactive experience that was meant to last three weeks but ended up running for nine months because of its addictive popularity. Non-refundable tickets start at about $65 and guests can reserve suites for two to six people. The production is for people ages 18 and up, and it runs April 17 through June 17.
Based on a True Story
The hotel is based off one used by H. H. Holmes, one of America’s first documented serial killers. Holmes confessed to at least 28 murders—but could have committed as many as 200—before he was hanged in 1896.
Shortly before the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, Holmes moved to the city and built a 3-story hotel in Englewood. Locals in the neighbourhood began calling the structure “the Castle,” and after its completion, Holmes began running newspaper ads to attract young women workers and patrons to it.
The upper levels of the hotel contained Holmes’ office and more than 100 living quarters. Some of the rooms were soundproof and equipped with gas lines. Trap doors, peepholes, and stairways leading to nowhere riddled the hotel, making it a real-life horror house. Hidden chutes leading to the basement would dump bodies into Holmes’ laboratory. There, the serial killer would dissect them, boil them in vats of acid, or otherwise dispose of the corpses.
After the economic slump that plagued Chicago following the World’s Fair, Holmes abandoned the Castle and turned his life to insurance scams and random murders before police eventually caught up with him. Shortly after the police investigation, the Castle was bought up and rebranded as the “Holmes Horror Castle” tourist attraction. The remaining first floor was eventually torn down and today, the U.S. Post Office inhabits the lot at 63rd and Wallace streets.
LEAD IMAGE: London's new Hollow Hotel is based off "Murder Castle," a hotel built by American serial killer H. H. Holmes in the late 1800s (pictured). PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM, GETTY IMAGES