The House on Haunted Mountain: A Look inside the Haunted Hotel at Funtown Mountain in Cave City

Take a spooky tour through one of the oldest standing haunted attractions in the country!

I remember summer family trips to Mammoth Cave as a kid, riding in the back of my father’s sky blue station wagon, cruising through Cave City on our way to the longest known cave system in the world. You can’t get to Mammoth Cave without passing Guntown Mountain, and that meant only one thing to me at the time.

Terror and fascination.

Glaring down at me from the top of the hill near the Guntown Mountain Gift Shop, with its sinister eyes fixed upon my very soul, sat that ramshackle house of nightmares we now call the Haunted Hotel. From the tailgate window I could see Charmin’ Charles in the front window tickling the ivories with his bony fingers as spooky music drifted all the way down to the highway.

Please, dad,” I begged, “I want to see the haunted house! Can we?

Unfortunately, a visit to Charmin’ Charles’ house was never on the family vacation schedule. Under my father’s breath I heard completely unreasonable terms like “rip-off” and “waste of money,” and I had to make do with being spooked by the bats in Mammoth Cave.

Years later, while attending Western Kentucky University, I would drive back and forth from Louisville to Bowling Green, and each time I passed the myriad of lurid roadside attraction signs in Cave City I could feel the gaze of those glaring eyes burning the hairs on the back of my neck, beckoning me to stop. During the school year however, the Haunted Hotel was always closed and I never got a chance to satisfy my childhood curiosity with a peek inside those dark and winding passageways.

Finally, thanks to the vision of local businessman and dreamer, Will Russell, and his project in the works to reopen, restore and rebrand the defunct roadside attraction park as Funtown Mountain, the Haunted Hotel’s doors are open to the public again, and this historic haunted walk-thru remains mostly unchanged since it opened nearly 45 years ago.

Designed and built in 1972 by a dark ride and funhouse props manufacturing company called Funni-Frite, the Haunted Hotel is the only still standing Funni-Frite attraction in the world, and it’s also one of the oldest walk-thru haunted attractions in America.

Although many of the props and scare gags inside have been moved and/or modified since they were first installed half a century ago, most of them still use the original Funni-Frite parts that were built into the attraction in 1972. The twisting, turning, disorienting maze in the dark remains pretty much unchanged by time.

The Haunted Hotel is like a time machine back to the glorious Halloweens of 1960’s and 1970’s. It’s a two-story piece of carnival/roadside attraction history frozen in time. It’s creepy and creaky, showing every year of its age through decades of screams and smiles and nervous laughter.

Ironically, the “Grand Awesoming” of Russell’s Funtown Mountain happened on Father’s Day Weekend, so I guess I can count my trip through the Haunted Hotel as one last act of very post-adolescent, parental rebellion. I can still hear dad’s voice echoing through the car as I pulled into the Funtown Mountain parking lot, but his mantra about “rip-offs” and “wastes of money” started fading as the sounds of Charmin’ Charles piano reached my ears. If dad were still here today, I think he’d change his tune too.

The Haunted Hotel still spooks.

Once the door that says “Beware” on it closes behind you, there’s no turning back. You’ll find yourself in a world of complete darkness from which you can occasionally make out shapes and images in fluorescent paint: spooky faces, glowing hand prints, desperate pleas for “Help!” scrawled in red on the black walls. It’s hard to gauge distance or direction as you make your way ahead mostly by feeling.

One of my favorite parts early in the maze is the series of disorienting keyhole doors that you must pass through. Some look like the right way, but are only painted facades, while others can be barely squeezed through.

As you progress slowly in the twisting darkness, you will occasionally step on a panel that will trigger animated shock effects and monsters including mummies, werewolves and creepy clowns. These “gags” can be loud and quite startling. I went through a few times and the machine gun goon got me EVERY TIME! Bursts of compressed air can also make visitors jump at unexpected moments.

Occasional strobe lit passageways and colored, fluorescent lit chambers change the mood as you progress forward. Wait, there’s a light up ahead. Is this the way out? No, but it will take you out onto the balcony of the second floor where you can take a breath and a moment to take in the rolling Kentucky hills and the cars on the highway passing by far below. This also makes a great photo opportunity if you have friends and family waiting down by the rusty gate.

The only downside is that if you’re visiting the Haunted Hotel during the day, you’ll be completely blinded again by the sunlight and now you must plunge back into the inky blackness with all new sensitivity to the dark.

The sneaky designers of the Haunted Hotel knew this, and they use it to your disadvantage to throw you completely off balance with a bit of misdirection involving a grisly spider cocoon and an unexpected change in elevation. It’s old school, funhouse genius. Simple, but it works every time.

Once you escape the Haunted Hotel, you can check out Funtown Mountain’s haunted glow-in-the-dark Putt-Putt Golf course and the ominous “Ouija Shack.” There’s much more fun to come. Will Russell’s plans for Phase One aren’t scheduled to be completed until next summer, but the Haunted Hotel should be open for the remainder of the summer during normal business hours of Sunday through Thursday from 10 AM until 6 PM and Friday and Saturday from 10 PM until 5 PM. Admission to Funtown Mountain is FREE and tickets to the Haunted Hotel are $5.

The Phantom of The Ville

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