The 5 Spookiest Theme Park Attractions in Orange County (No. 4)

Want to scare yourself silly this October? Then join me for OC Metroblog’s five-part series, featuring the scariest, most demented, creepiest theme park attractions in our neck of the woods. It’s just in time for Halloween!

Number Four: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

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On October 31, 1939 lightning struck The Hollywood Tower Hotel (located inside Disney’s California Adventure Theme Park) and sent the unsuspecting occupants of an elevator into… the Twilight Zone [cue theme music]. Actually, from the looks of the building, it appears the entire elevator shaft was sent careening into the fifth dimension. There is no word if the fifth dimension sent anything back in exchange for the elevator full of tasty vittles (aka: humans). I suppose they did give us Rod Serling’s ethereal beyond-the-grave performance in the ride’s pre-show area. Rod’s performance is creeptastic but unintentionally so. It’s creepy in the long dead Fred Astaire dancing with that vacuum cleaner kind of way. Yucky.

When you enter through the grand lobby you’ll notice the residents all checked out fled The Hollywood Tower Hotel on that fateful Halloween night and never returned. The place looks like it hasn’t seen a custodial staff in about seventy years. After you make your way to the Library, which for some reason is cleaner than the rest of the hotel, Rod warns you “Tonight’s story on The Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction”. He’s not kidding, the last time I watched The Twilight Zone I don’t recall having to check my lap restraints before doing so.

Just outside the Library is the boiler room. That doesn’t make any sense does it?. A person is not likely to get any peaceful reading done, what with all that clanging and screaming and moaning coming through the walls. What kind of nut-job designed this place anyway? Why is the Library adjacent to the boiler room? Hey, it’s the Twilight Zone, anything can happen! Anyway, it’s in this dank, damp, and dirty boiler room that you’ll queue up to become “the passengers on a most uncommon elevator” that drops you directly into the fifth dimension… or something.

So why does it make the top five? Because The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror really knows how to set the mood. The audio alone is worth the ride; the whole building creaks and groans and the elevators squeal and sputter to life for each group of wary passengers. It’s as if the place has a life of its own. Also, the pre-show has an excellent example of how a little surround sound can go a long way. When Serling says those three famous words – the twilight zone – it’s as if the phrase is whirling around you and then, as quickly as it enveloped the room, it disappears. Spooky stuff.

Part of the fun and fright of Tower is the fairly convincing way the whole thing is executed. It’s no easy task to make a person giggle and fear for their life life at the same time. There’s some boffo visual trickery on display too, especially the bit where they show the passengers themselves in the mirror and then proceed to make their bodies melt away only to be replaced by ghostly silhouettes. It’s more extraordinary than it sounds I swear.

It’s not the thrills it’s the chills you know? While the drop sequences are indeed frightening – just ask my wife – it’s the not knowing that really jostles your nerves. As the service elevator ascends to various different floors it rattles and struggles to make the climb all the way up to the 13th floor. Several times you can almost feel the cables give out until finally, without notice, your elevator drops pulls you down to a sudden and painful death… or something.

So. The next time you check into a deserted hotel on the dark side of a theme park, make sure you know just what kind of vacancy you’re filling. Besides, any attraction that can survive inside of Disney’s California Adventure and a movie spin-off staring Steve Guttenberg has to have some sort of merit, no? Drop in, if you dare indeed.

[Click here to read the Number Five pick for The 5 Spookiest Theme Park Attractions in Orange County]

5 Comments so far

  1. Dave Share (daveshare) on October 7th, 2008 @ 5:50 am

    I love ToT! My favorite thing to do is to look down. The floor of the carriage is a metal grate, so as you get pushed downward, you can see the ground get closer and closer! It’s really freaky.

    I also agree with you on the sound effects. Its really haunting. I love the faint screams they have recorded too. I’ve always said it would be awesome if they had a creepy "maintenance crew" crawling around the rafters above the queue, staring at all the people waiting in line. Would totally add another aspect missing from the ride.

    I will say, I’m disappointed we didn’t get the Florida attraction. I know space is a bit more limited here, but the whole part where the elevator rolls out of the shaft across to the other side? Ah-mazing! Never-the-less I do love this ride. Good choice my friend.


  2. Jon (oc_jon) on October 7th, 2008 @ 6:57 am

    Davey, you are correct! Florida’s version of the ride is far superior. In addition to even more realistic and exciting special effects their plot/story makes way more sense than ours: you get in an elevator and are transported to the twilight zone. your elevator leaves the shaft and enters the fifth dimension and then finally drops you back into the real world

    Our plot never did make much sense – probably because its the same story as Florida, only you never actually enter the fifth dimention.

    That being said, while Florida is a better and more complete experience CA takes the prize for the scariest. What comes off as a surreal bit of storytelling back east has been refined to pure fright on the west coast.

    Don’t even get me started on the Tokyo version, which has eliminated all references to The Twilight Zone completely and is being presented as just a haunted hotel with a wacky elevator. Sigh.


  3. Gina (oc_gina) on October 7th, 2008 @ 11:06 am

    Have I mentioned to you yet how much I love your series idea?


  4. Jon (oc_jon) on October 7th, 2008 @ 3:49 pm

    No you had not mentioned that Gina. :) Thanks!


  5. The 5 Spookiest Theme Park Attractions in Orange County (No. 3) | Orange County Metblogs (pingback) on October 17th, 2008 @ 2:46 pm

    […] [Click here to read the Number Four pick for The 5 Spookiest Theme Park Attractions in Orange County] […]



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