If you've heard of The Terrortorium then you might also have heard that the owner purchased the original "Haunted Castle Dark Ride" a few years ago from the now defunct Miracle Strip Amusement Park in Panama City Beach, FL. This ride was created in the late 1960's by famed dark ride guru Bill Tracy and was something I was really excited to see. I had enjoyed the ride many times as a teenager and was glad to have the opportunity to ride the old girl again and introduce it to my fellow reviewer. My primary draw for The Terrortorium was the Haunted Castle Ride and the haunt itself was just an added item. Little did I know the the walk thru would eclipse the ride.
We purchased a combo pass and since the Haunted Castle line was shorter we opted for that attraction first.
The ride is what you'd expect (or what you remember) from a mid 60's carnival-type dark ride. Plenty of day-glo paint, simple animatronics and the familiar sound of track sparks. It was a fun nostalgic jaunt down memory lane for me and an interesting 1st time trip for my fellow reviewer. The dark ride lasts about 5 minutes and then we were hoping out and moving towards The Terrortorium proper.
The theme and setting for The Terrortorium is classic horror/haunt. The facade of the attraction itself is very well done and gives the impression of a 1970's amusement park ride entrance. At the head of the line we were greeted by the gate keeper who bore a striking resemblance to photos I'd seen of the owner. We didn't have a chance to meet Mr. Cruse, but if I am correct in my assumption that the greeter was the owner then I am very pleased with this. I appreciate that he is taking a truly active role in his haunt. That is where the love of haunting shows through...it's not just a business, it's a passion.
We were shown into a small room decorated in the manner of a gothic library. It felt very reminiscent of Disney World's Haunted Mansion and I loved it. There was a lot of detail that a terrified guest would miss, but the ambiance it adds is unmistakable. We entered the maze and that is where the surprises began.
The haunt has a lot of great startle moments combined with a claustrophobic feel to the path that was really intriguing. I kept noticing there was a familiar aspect to the attraction that I just couldn't put my finger on. There were a few spots where a complete absence of light helped heighten the anticipation for the startles and they were all very well timed. There were also quite a few really well staged "character" scenes. The actors in these scenes gave the impression that we were stumbling upon them and their nefarious doings and they were just waiting for us to pass through so the evil deeds could be resumed. And still...there was that feeling of "familiarity" that I couldn't place.
There was one element that involved a female clown character that was really cool and again....that question, "what does this remind me of?"
Without giving away too much there was a female character that was in a position above us and there was something so disturbing in her expression and setting. As we passed her by I found myself shying away from her so that she wouldn't inadvertently brush against me. Excellent!
As we exited the attraction I finally pinpointed what The Terrortorium felt like. It FELT vintage. From the Haunted Castle dark ride to the detail of the setting and sets there was a prevailing impression of Retro. Even the way the greeter intoned the rules and story along with a disembodied voice and the tableau-like characters in many of the rooms seemed to be a step away from an episode of Night Gallery. I felt transported back to my childhood and the scary things I loved, carny spook houses, Dark Shadows, late night classic horror flicks.
The Terrortorium is not a gore driven haunt. You won't find any over the top torture chamber scenes or blood encrusted shockers. It is done in a very classic style. There is a true understanding of horror kitsch and a wonderful homage to time-honored horror sentiment, old school haunted houses and venerable attractions that have made the industry we have today possible.
My hat is off to The Terrortorium for taking a piece of the past and bringing it to life and giving haunt patrons of today a taste of classic haunting. This is a haunt Lon Chaney Sr. or Bela Lugosi would have felt at home in.
4 bats out of 5