Please note, Differencengine has now entered liquidation and The Hollow Hotel production has unfortunately and unexpectedly closed. With this said, we managed to visit them a few days before they closed and this will be a SPOILER review as this attraction won’t be coming back.
The Hollow Hotel is the latest (and now final) production of the company DifferencEngine. They create immersive and interactive theatre since they started back in 2014. Huge previous successful attractions they have brought to the tables are Battlefield Hardline: Live, which was a high adrenaline , high stakes interactive experience which lasted 8 days with a £10,000 prize pool.
A quick background into The Hollow Hotel. This is based in the 19th century on the murderer H. H, Holmes, who used a hotel to murder over 200 of his victims. Over the experience, uncover the hotel’s intricate histories, dark secrets and hidden agendas – whoever built The Hollow Hotel built a literal death trap; designed just for you.
This was a mixture of an escape room, murder mystery and horror experience all thrown together as one. This was the first experience like this we have ever seen. Below is our experience of The Hollow Hotel…
As mentioned, we were lucky enough to attend The Hollow Hotel before it entered liquidation. On Sunday 13th May we went into London to take on this immersive experience. Located in Bermondsey, in an abandoned building on the top floor. We were greeted by one of the team outside the front who gave us a briefing before the experience started. This included all of the basic safety for our experience which you could expect. The key thing to take note of was we were given a safe word. Using this would end the experience for our group and should only be used in genuine distress or if somebody was injured. We also liked being given a briefing before entering the building, this mean’t as we entered inside, the experience had started and wouldn’t have to deal with this later on. After the safety brief, we made our journey into the building as was asked to follow the red line to get to the hotel lobby.
When reaching the top floor, we entered into a very realistic hotel lobby from the 19th century. We were asked to check in to our rooms and hand over any luggage to be taken over if required. This was a great little feature as it was actually checking into a hotel whilst keeping to the experience and not breaking the magic from the start. We then were asked to take a seat whilst they got our rooms ready, help ourselves to any water as the bar was currently closed and to fill in a name tag to attach to a lanyard.
At this point, there was two other groups in the room who we just assumed who were waiting for their rooms also. After a short wait, we started to meet a few characters. We met an awkward lady who was the manager of the new hotel. She introduced herself in a very strange way and gave us a little introduction to how the evening would pan out. She also then sat us with another group as we would be experiencing it with them. Another character was Morty (or known as naughty Morty), who was a hotel assistant we believe. He was one of the funniest but also very sinister characters in his strange way hanging around us. Finally at this point, we were introduced to another two guests who would be joining us on the tour. They were a couple and they had been staying in the hotel whilst they had done the renovation and were looking forward to the grand opening.
We should also mention all the characters engaged with everybody in the room, they introduced themselves, engaged in conversations and blended in to make it feel super realistic. At certain points in the dialogue, you can see the couple getting annoyed with Morty and the hotel manager and vice versa with the hotel manager getting annoyed at Morty. Before tensions got to high, we were invited to our rooms that we would be staying in before the hotel tour and the grand opening ceremony was to be begin. They had different sized rooms for each guests and were asked to stay in the room until called for later in the evening.
Each group was then dropped off at their room. As we entered our room, we were given an envelope and the door was locked behind us, meaning we couldn’t escape and wander the halls. The rooms were a typical hotel bedroom containing a TV, a bed, a phone and cupboards. The themeing of the room was very much matched to what we thought would be an 19th century hotel room. We then started to look around the room to see what we had and to see if there was any puzzles to solve. Moments after being left on our own, the phone rang. Naughty Morty was on the other line and he was telling us a few clues on what we should be doing, We had a safe and we had to somehow open it. He also mentioned to look under the bed. As we did, two girls from another group appeared. Each room was connected by a small passage way through furniture. Ours was underneath the bed, another room was through the wardrobe and another was through a bed side cabinet. We managed to meet up with the other groups and came together to try and solve the puzzle of opening each safe. We had no luck… Morty kept calling to mock us and then decided to set us on another path. He recommended we left the room to head to another corridor to go find the couple to pass them on a personal message.
As we left our corridor of rooms behind to find the couple, the hallways were very haunting but also very realistic again. It really was very well themed through each room and corridor we went down. As we found the room we were asked to head to, we knocked on the door and then entered. The couple were just relaxing and having a cup of tea. As we then mentioned the message we were asked to pass on, things started to turn. We told them about their dog that died and was buried in the ground. They started screaming and shouting at us as they had no idea how we or Morty knew about this tragic event that happened. As a very tense scenario built up, the lights flickered and went off. Whilst being in pitch darkness, everybody stood still and panicked as what could happen with things turning more dark by the second. Luckily, the couple had a torch in the room and put it on and mentioned we should go flick the switch in the storage room to turn them back on. Half of us went with one of the lesbian’s and the other half stayed in the room with the other.
We ventured into the store room which was across the hallway. As we entered, we found the light switch on the wall straight away and flicked the lights, which done nothing. A phone rang from the corner of the room and as we answered, Morty was on the other end. He started talking more into what was actually going on and how he wasn’t as innocent as we all thought he originally was. He was actually there to kill us… We solved a few puzzles in the room and then was asked to put a blindfold on the lesbian and leave the room by a secret passage way and not to ask any questions. We did as told and when leaving the room, we could see in through little wooden holes in the next. The room went red and within moments, she screamed and vanished. We killed somebody…
With the recent news of what was happening in the hotel, we definitely didn’t feel safe. As we just lost someone who knew where they were going, we were totally lost and terrified at this point. We then went forward into a very strange room. 3 doors, hundreds of keys and several signs telling us to be cautious and be clever moving forward. Finding the 3 keys were relatively easy, but the decisions to move forward was not. Each door lead to a different section of the next part of the room. Envelopes titled “Person who reads this risks their life and another” and several doors and corridors to other parts. We decided to all stick together and try not to touch anything that risked each others life. We ventured through one door which had an mattress up against the wall. We went in and closed the door and in came another character. He was death. He told us to move forward behind the airbag and if any of us had died. We hadn’t at this point, so he left us to move on. We imagined if we left any members outside the door or in another section at this point, he would of come and killed that member and taken them away. This was really terrifying moment in the experience as none of us had seen this character up until this point and you can tell the situation & atmosphere was about to get much worse! We all managed to leave this room safely before he could get any closer.
The next room we entered was very weird. In front of us, we had a layout of the whole hotel. We also had a script / story from each characters point of view and a doll for each member. Also in the floor plans / doll house of the hotel, there was a selection of keys which opened up different boxes at the other end of the room. There was around 12 boxes overall. We found this puzzle very tricky and struggled to understand it. We then grabbed a key and opened up one of the boxes. Included was a note telling that person to call a number and something would happen. We did, nothing happened. As we argued on what to do next, death burst in. Apparently we took too long and made a series of bad decisions and now someone had to die. One of our members was bagged and taken. His lanyard was also ripped off. If your lanyard was ripped off, you died and it was game over. As they both left, we were left even more clueless and now with one less member.
With one of our team “dead”, they were unknowingly taken blindfolded to Morty’s workshop in the hotel where a dialogue unfolded explaining what was going on and how Morty planned on killing the guests in the hotel furnace. This showed how much he didn’t appreciate his helper who had the role of death. They were offered to take Morty and death’s side and lead the rest of the remaining guests to their death, but first was an opportunity to scare the others who would be waiting in the corridor blindfolded.
Death came back in and told us (the remaining living guests) that we needed to move on. He told us to put a blindfold on and if we got to the end of the corridor unnoticed we were still alive, we would be free. We didn’t know if we should trust him but we had no choice. . As we entered the corridor, we obviously could see nothing. Odd sounds and movements were happening all around. People were touching us and making creepy sounds on both sides. This happened for a short while, and then Morty took us to another room.
The dead were then taken to the furnace room where Morty would later lead the guests into and it was their job to operate it at the right time by watching the cctv cameras. With Morty in the other part of the hotel, the death character opened up about how he had enough of being pushed around by Morty and how out of control he had gotten. He wanted to give the dead a second chance and the opportunity to save the remaining guests by killing Morty in the furnace! The dead chose to be rebellious and go against Morty, but it had to stay secret. One of the dead stayed watching the furnace and cctv cameras and the other was sent to follow morty and the others along with death. They were given walkie talkies to keep in contact and watch out for each other.
We were still blindfolded in a room awaiting our fate. To our surprise, we were also joined by someone who we also had not seen since the start and only heard by phone calls, naughty Morty. He told us we were going to play a game. We all had to keep our blindfolds on, and if he managed to take off your lanyard, you would die. However, if we could escape, then he would let it be. He basically wanted to play a game of chase. As he left the room, we were left worried on how we would escape.
We were then joined by the death character and a member from our party that died earlier. They told us to take off our blindfolds and gave us a plan of how we would escape. Upon Morty’s return, the game of chase started. We had to quickly move through several rooms trying to solve quick puzzles, which was find a way out and fast! There were several obstacles in the room which made it easier for Morty to find us blindfolded such as, bells and squeaky objects that would attract sound easily. Some rooms had dead ends and Morty did get awfully close to many of our party in these tight spaces.
We finally managed to find an escape and it was through this furnace. We had to take a route through a extractor fan pipe leaving into the furnace and then we could head out of the front. With Morty still following, we managed to lock the door and turn on the furnace using the other dead players & death’s help.
Morty’s death played out and his spirit went psycho and the lights in the hotel starting switching off and flickering. We were all alive and we had managed to kill Morty, but needed to get out before we would be trapped in the hotel forever with him. A final run through the dim corridors with the chilling voice of Morty creating a tesnse finale before we were back in the hotel lobby and back in the room it all started in, we had survived!
Overall, The Hollow Hotel was put of this world and they really put on such a strong and believable production whilst being completely unique. How they managed to incorporate the escape room element with actors, several rooms and a strong game play story is beyond us. This would of been loved by such a wide range of people and it is a shame this only lasted a short run…
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