Creepy doll head in blue light

In the abandoned hinterlands of Stripmallovia, aka the outskirts of Columbus near Reynoldsburg, a group of artists have transformed an empty big box store into a sprawling interactive weird choose-your-own-adventure art exhibit you can explore. I finally got a chance to visit this weekend with my family and teenage stepson. I found it to be a pretty cool experience and certainly an improvement over its previous use as a Sports Authority.

First, when driving in you are reminded of the decline of the American dream, as you see a huge decaying parking lot and numerous big box stores that their corporate builders have abandoned for greener or, should we say, virtual pastures. But Otherworld sticks out as quite a few people are parked in front of it. Walking in behind dark curtains and a giant projector, you do feel like you are leaving the reality you entered from, as you see what seems like a giant window on the all-black background.

Once you pay, there isn’t really a whole lot of direction (or at least wasn’t when we went) and you are basically expected to do your own exploring. There is a brief “intro” video that explains the premise, but I didn’t get a chance to really orientate myself to the imaginary backstory of the place, and it really isn’t the main attraction as far as I could tell. Otherworld isn’t a role-playing game or “escape room,” but it reminded me of a mixture of what I imagined would take place if you crammed together a bunch of burning man art installation pieces and added a mixture of random Ohioans of various age ranges and backgrounds to just wander around and explore a bunch of weird art.

The whole place had something of a fun-house vibe and there was, for instance, a hall of mirrors. But there were also highly technological pieces such as glyphs that turn on and produce ambient light and sound when you shine a light on them. There were also different puzzles to be solved by interpreting the glyph patterns and interacting with different art work but I didn't get a chance to fully explore this aspect of Otherworld.

Otherworld offers many different styles of art – from the wild flying collage book room to the psychedelic neon blacklight-lit fiber art to the more macabre creepy cartoon world you can enter if you just step inside. There are also numerous bizarre passageways to crawl into and explore. We easily spent a couple of hours walking around the space and we probably could have spent more if we had really tried to investigate all of Otherworld’s secrets.

One of the more interesting things about the experience was the variety of people exploring the spot. Unlike a party or concert that typically attracts a certain crowd, this place had people representing a multitude of backgrounds from goth-punks to suburban parents. There were some young children who seemed to be enjoying the place, even while they freaked their parents out playing hide and seek. The whole thing has more of a sci-fi than horror vibe but it’s hard to say how a little kid would take it. Most of the kids I saw seemed to be having fun. Overall it was a stimulating fusion of work by a variety of artists creating a space to allow you to pretend to enter another world.

I’d definitely recommend people check out OtherWorld if they are looking for something unusual to do. The tickets are typically around $22 per person, kids are $18 and children under three are free. It’s generally open on the weekends and it looks like they are a venue for electronic music concerts too, if that is more of your thing. You can find out more at and if you just want to show up, their address is 5819 Chantry Dr, Columbus, OH 43232

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