Santa Fe's House of Eternal Return

Meow Wolf creates an immersive choose-your-own-adventure experience

BYTeresa Bitler
Despite the fact that it’s located inside a former Santa Fe bowling alley, the two-story Victorian house seems normal enough at first. But once you step inside, it immediately becomes apparent that something is very wrong. The home’s occupants are missing, and a newspaper on the kitchen table tells of strange lights accompanying an approaching storm — not to mention the refrigerator, fireplace, and similar spaces are now wormholes to other dimensions.
 
Welcome to Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return, a permanent art installation that feels like a science fiction novel come to life. It has been described as an amusement park without rides, a haunted house without ghosts, and a 21st-century children’s museum. CEO Vince Kadlubek prefers the term “immersive storytelling experience.”
 
How deeply you dive into that story is up to you. Visitors are encouraged to read the Selig family’s mail, thumb through their photo albums, and poke around on their computers to uncover the clues that explain their disappearance. But you also can head straight to the other dimensions to navigate the neon plants of a giant aquarium, survey the landscape from a camper in the trees, or bang out a tune on a mastodon’s glowing rib cage.
 
Since you decide whether to go left or right, or to spend an hour reading a journal, the House of Eternal Return is what you make it, and according to Kadlubek, it’s that sense of discovery that has made the installation so popular. “Life today is full of cookie-cutter experiences like big-box stores that all look the same,” he says. “We’ve created environments that are totally weird and full of surprises.”
 
Meow Wolf, the art collective behind the House of Eternal Return, has been creating unique environments for the past nine years, beginning with forts in a rented warehouse in Santa Fe, but the success of its time-traveling ship, The Due Return, convinced members they needed a permanent exhibition space. Knowing it was a longshot, Kadlubek emailed Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin, asking if he would consider purchasing the abandoned bowling alley. The Santa Fe resident enthusiastically agreed and became Meow Wolf’s landlord. Other investors came on board, and now, Meow Wolf hopes to expand by opening similar but unique installations, created by local artists, in other cities. But that’s at least two years down the road.
 
And depending on your mystery-solving skills, you may need those two years to figure out what really happened to the Selig family in Santa Fe.
TERESA BITLER is the author of Backroads & Byways of Indian Country.
If You Go
Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return
1352 Rufina Circle, Santa Fe
505-395-6369; meowwolf.com
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Friday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
 
Getting there: Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return is 4 miles from Santa Fe Plaza downtown. If you fly to Santa Fe, plan on renting a car or calling for transportation to get there.
 
Essentials: Tickets are $18 for adults, $12 for children. Plan to spend at least two hours there, plus time waiting to get inside. Depending on the day, the line can wrap around the parking lot.
 
Fun fact: The name Meow Wolf came from drawing two random words from a hat before Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin became involved. However, references to dragons, a fixture in Martin’s famous series, can be found throughout the House of Eternal Return.
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