Previously I reviewed Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return without any spoilers. Well now it’s time for the deep dive with plenty of spoilers.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Once you’ve entered and received a wrist band, you can head to the bathrooms in the back, an art room mostly aimed at kids, the gift shop, the cafe, and most importantly: the exhibit itself.
Upon entering the exhibit you’re presented with the house and a somewhat foreboding soundtrack. From here you can go to all three parts of the exhibit, but you should check out the mailbox first.
The obvious place to go is inside the house, which will take you to an entryway that leads to the staircase in the middle, a study/art room to the immediate left, and the living room to the right. If you go to the right you’ll also see the dining room and kitchen, and the laundry room just past the kitchen.
The house has a number of secret passages: the coat rack, the fireplace, the fridge, and the washing machine all lead outside of the “prime” world of the house. But you don’t even need to enter the house at all.
From outside, if you go to the left you’ll enter Portals Bermuda (also accessible via the fridge and coat rack) and to the right you’ll enter a colorful forest that takes you to the Multiverse (all other passages.)
This is not a complete list of secret passages; you will have to find that on your own.
Okay. So. I’m going to attempt to tell an abridged version of the central story. This story is told incrementally through dairies, letters, videos, and other such items left behind in the house. It’s up to you to piece them together and figure out the story — or you can read on and have it spoiled for you.
During the Vietnam War, Emerson (the grandfather) met a Viet Cong soldier known as Seventeen who owned a sonic device that could somehow bring people back to life. As a fellow “child of the Anomaly,” Emerson continued to study this technology after the war at his job at Bell Labs.
When the family pet hamster died, Emerson used this sonic technology to resurrect the hamster — but in doing so, his son Lucius grabbed the hamster and neither were ever the same. While the hamster slowly turned into a robot, Lucius gained the ability to jump between realities (or “astral project”) and could bring others on his other-worldly travels. He wrote a self-help book about his experiences and eventually created a world called “Portals Bermuda” which he intended to bring others to.
Unfortunately for him, a course-correcting force called The Charter scuttled those plans and eventually stripped Lucius of his powers altogether.
This power vacuum led Lucius back to his childhood home, where his sister Piper was raising her children including his nephew named Lex.
Lucius befriended Lex, and upon telling Lex about these other worlds, he coaxed Lex into firing the experimental technology at him in an attempt to regain his powers. Unfortunately this backfired, and Lex began to fade away into “the fog” before he disappeared entirely.
Upon discovery of what had happened, Lucius was thrown out and the family decided to try to bring Lex back — no matter what. His mom, Piper, knew this would end badly but continued anyway.
Later a government agency scooped up the doomed family home from Mendocino, California and placed it in a warehouse in Santa Fe.
The House of Eternal Return has been around for seven years now and as such they’ve had plenty of time to work out the kinks. There’s still a couple of rough edges, however.
I mentioned this in my spoiler-free review, but the space is not wheelchair friendly. In fact, if you’re not flexible enough or too overweight, you can still enjoy it but you won’t be able to explore a few tighter spaces.
This entire thing is an incredible work of art, and being Meow Wolf’s first permanent installation it’s been lovingly updated and maintained. Just recently for example they added a new room made entirely of discarded objects — the floor is paved with bottle caps, the art on the walls is made from anything from used dolls to old floppy disks. So even if you’ve been before, you might find something new.
The space is very easy to get lost in, and I say this as someone with a pretty good sense of direction. Once you’re out of the house area, there aren’t many walls built at 90 degree angles.
It took me two lengthy visits to get to the point where I was mostly certain I’d seen everything. But I’m not entirely sure about that.
The story goes into quite a bit of depth. The story about the family is largely confined to the house, with the secondary story about The Charter vs. The Anomaly playing out in the wild Metaverse area in the back.
On my second visit they were having a scavenger hunt. No idea if they’ll do it again but I’d recommend trying it out if you’ve already been before and have your bearings. If it’s all new to you, you’re better off exploring the space and uncovering the story.
This installation is already legendary in the world of immersive experiences and it’s easy to see why: there’s always something to do, things to look at, music to listen to, etc. If you’re lucky there will be live music in the large room in the back.
The fact that this place has been around for a few years now and still draws crowds proves there’s an audience for this type of of experience, even in a small sleepy town like Santa Fe. That’s extremely encouraging, particularly when you consider this type of art didn’t even exist until very recently.
This was my second visit to a Meow Wolf installation after I visited Omega Mart two years ago. And I have a visit to a third one planned soon. Very soon. Stay tuned.