A man travels to another state to visit some agricultural museum. Upon arrival it is quite late so he ends up at an old family owned inn. While looking around, it seems quite decent and he decides to check out a room. As he unpacks various things and looks around the room, he begins to notice several things. Predominantly, the abundance of potatoes: potato soup for dinner, potato smudge marks on the walls in the hallway and even a grotesque Potato Head man in the game closet in his room. He decides that it's fine, however, and goes to bed.

He wakes up sometime during the night by some sounds in the hall. (I'm gonna speed through this part a little to be concise). He discovers green shoots creeping up the hall along the walls and towards him. He decides to run to his room to escape but it is too late: the potato shoots have closed up his window. His only escape now is the roof/attic entrance he saw before in the closet. He climbs up using the ledges in the closet and is about to escape when the shoots from the Potato Head toy spring from the top shelf of the closet, tripping him and sending him hurtling into the waiting shoots below. As the shoots dig into his skin he feels only a brief moment of pain before he feels no pain at all. Even time is almost non-existent now.

After some unknown time a family ends up in the inn and he feels full pain as a child stabs the various limbs of the Potato Head toy into him. Several more unknown years pass before another man just like him happens upon the main character. Now he waits for the fall of night before springing into action.

If you didn't realize what had happened at the end, basically he got turned into a potato as well and is waiting for another unlucky visitor to repeat the process once again.

I have scoured the internet for this story but I haven't been able to find any hint of it. I heard this story on the radio.

  • 2
    The title of this question - I laughed out loud. Great! Commented Sep 25, 2019 at 10:50
  • 3
    Incidentally, Googling potato hotel "short story", the first two results were links back to this question. The third result was a Wikipedia entry for Subsoil.
    – Strawberry
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 8:33
  • Honorable mention for John Tain's short story "The Ultimate Catalyst" in which a scientist effectively hobbled to the service of a banana republic dictator wreaks his revenge by surreptitiously transforming the whole regime into (a mid 20th-C vision of) genetically engineered tuberous vegetables called "greenbeefos".
    – Lexible
    Commented May 13, 2020 at 2:17

1 Answer 1


"Subsoil" (1994) by Nicholson Baker

As far as I can tell it first appeared in the 27/06/1994 issue of The New Yorker. From there it has also been published in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Eighth Annual Collection (1995) and American Gothic Tales (1996).

It can be read online at The New Yorker link but it is pay-walled; I can't find anywhere else it appears online for free. The same link also includes a nice description of the story, as does Wikipedia, which is quoted below. Your description matches really well with it.

Nyle T. Milner, a hard-working agricultural historian, is busy researching and working on a book about the early harrow. He is in the process of traveling to the Museum of the Tractor located in Harvey, New York for the fourth time. He asks Bill Fipton for recommendations of accommodations, and Bill offers up "The Taits" inn stating that they make an "interesting" soup. He explores the hotel room and comes across a Mr. Potato Head Kit. He opens the box quickly and is surprised to find a real potato with all the facial features still punctured into it. The mummified potato startles him.

Following his encounter with the potato, Nyle makes his way down from his room for dinner. He learns that the menu was leek and potato soup; however, he is the only one eating it. After some time, he mentions the Mr. Potato Head Kit he had found earlier and states how it had startled him. After dinner, Mrs. Tait leads Nyle into the kitchen, revealing to him dozens of potatoes all shapes and sizes and making sure to mention that they only use "fresh" ones. Nyle leaves the Taits and proceeds to his room. While trying to fall asleep he wondered why Mrs. Tait used the word "fresh".

He wakes up to venture back downstairs to the kitchen, though when he gets to the door he notices a sprout coming through the keyhole. He opens the door and notices a dozen or more potatoes coming toward him. Nyle goes back inside and tries to blockade the door. The potatoes are coming after him. Nyle tries to escape; however, the dead Mr. Potato Head's spuds spawn veer toward Nyle's face, causing him to fall. The potatoes begin to inhabit his body planting themselves within. After some time Nyle wakes up in a very dark place - the box he originally encountered upon his arrival at "The Taits". A child begins pushing the Mr. Potato Head features into Nyle and puts him back into the box. Many years later, a man opens the box and is frightened by the mummified potato which ultimately begins the new Krebs Cycle.

Wikipedia, Subsoil

I found this with the Google query short story hotel potato.

  • 11
    Is there a sequel about carrots?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Sep 25, 2019 at 9:00
  • 4
    @Randal'Thor If not there certainly should be.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Sep 25, 2019 at 9:09
  • 23
    @TheLethalCarrot It would be part of a trilogy: "A New Potato", "The Carrot Strikes Back" and the critically acclaimed "Return of the Brussels Sprout".
    – Hans Olo
    Commented Sep 25, 2019 at 10:29
  • 6
    Let's not mention "The Phantom Radish"
    – Dancrumb
    Commented Sep 25, 2019 at 16:53
  • 10
    SPUD WARS Episode IV, A NEW POTATO It is a period of soil war. Rebel pitchforks, striking from a hidden shed, have won their first victory against the evil Taproot Empire. During the battle, Rebels managed to steal secret sprouts to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the DEATH SPUD. Pursued by the sinister Darth Tater, Princess Pea races home... Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 6:53

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