by Jennifer Marx, Author of PassPorter Travel Guides
Today's Halloween, this is the 13th edition of our newsletter this year, and I simply can't resist having some ghoulish fun with this column. So come with me as I tour the thirteen scariest attractions at Walt Disney World.
MAGIC KINGDOM: Strains of Ella Fitzgerald's "That Old Black Magic" come to mind as we begin our tour at the original park, the Magic Kingdom. Shall we make a dead run for the Haunted Mansion?
1. Haunted Mansion - This is the quintessential Halloween attraction at Magic Kingdom. Spooky, creepy, a little bit scary, and a lot of fun. 999 grinning ghosts show their spirit as you ride through in a "doom buggy." The best part of this attraction may be the cast members -- unlike those everywhere else, these never smile. Really. It's quite creepy. Visit http://www.doombuggies.com to learn everything you may have wanted to know (or not know) about the Haunted Mansion.
2. Pirates of the Caribbean - Let's drag ourselves over to Adventureland for a dark ride with pirates and skeletons. The scary fun starts in the queue, where you wind your way around the stone walls of a dim, dingy fortress. Then you board your boat and head off into the dark. One of the spookiest things is the disembodied voice that calls eerily, "Dead men tell no tales," though it sounds more like this, "deaaaadmennnnntelllllllllnooooooootalllllllles."
3. Big Thunder Mountain - Frontierland is next door to Adventureland, where we can board a runaway mine train through Big Thunder Mountain. Ok, so we call this "not-so-scary" in PassPorter (p. 129), and this is true -- there's no fearsome drops or too-fast turns. But I distinctly remember pitch black tunnels, falling boulders, and a flash flood scene that spooked me. Read more about it at http://www.pansophist.com/tmrr.htm and http://www.emuck.com/aotw/bigthund.htm.
4. Tom Sawyer Island Caves - Tom Sawyer Island is just across the way from Big Thunder Mountain... let's ask Huck if he'll let us hitch a ride on his raft. The island itself isn't too scary (though Allie's claims to be spooked by the "wolf howls" that come from the Haunted Mansion across the way), but there is one place that is VERY scary: Injun Joe's caves. Very dark, very creepy, and LONG. Look for the eerily glowing crystals and the water flowing uphill. But beware, young kids and the easily frightened won't like this much. Neither will tall adults (there's not a ton of headroom). It's just a bit too realistic.
5. Snow White's Scary Adventures - By the time you escape the caves you'll probably be ready for a break... anyone for a ripe, red, juicy apple? I'm sure we'll find one at Snow White's Scary Adventures in Fantasyland. This dark ride isn't particularly scary for adults, but then again, Fantasyland isn't really geared towards as adults as much as towards the kidlets. This very dark ride with head-whipping turns through an enchanted forest has visits from a wicked witch with a tempting apple and a falling boulder. But hey, there's a happy ending.... "Ding Dong the wicked witch is dead."
6. Alien Encounter - Say goodbye to Snow White and hello to terror. The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter is Tomorrowland is VERY scary. No, let me clarify, it's TERRIFYING! I've been there countless times and I still get scared. Special effects, pitch black darkness, creepy sounds, and truly terrifying movements around you do the trick every time. This attraction is not for the faint of heart. Even the pre-show is creepy -- poor, poor Skippy! Think you can manage it? Well, go on then and get "seized."
EPCOT: We need a respite from all this ghoulish fun, and Epcot is just the place. There's just one moderately scary ride here, and even that is a stretch. Ready? Let's go trolling...
7. Maelstrom - The Norway pavilion hosts this dark boat ride through scenes with huge polar bears, a three-headed troll, and a raging storm on the ocean. Perhaps the scariest part of this ride is when it appears as though you're about to plunge over a waterfall, but instead fall backwards. To learn more, visit: http://www.emuck.com:3000/aotw/maelstro.htm.
DISNEY-MGM STUDIOS: Upon your arrival at the park you'll notice the towering presence of the scariest place in all the World: the Hollywood Hotel (home of the Tower of Terror). So let's take a deep breath and make for Sunset Boulevard and the Tower of Terror.
8. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror - Just the name makes me shudder. I have to be honest here. I've only managed to ride this twice in all the times I've been to Walt Disney World. Why? I'm terrified of it. It's not so much the creepy aspects of it -- the hotel is decaying around you and the dusty lobby seems to hold the terror of the past. The really scary part is the 13-story drop in the service elevator... again and again. Nevermind, I'm taking the chicken exit. You go on without me (and visit http://www.tower-of-terror.com for more background from someone who isn't so scared).
9. Sounds Dangerous - After the Tower of Terror, this attraction is going to seem like a circus. Oh wait, there is a circus in it. What makes Sounds Dangerous scary (other than it's slightly misleading name) is the fact that it takes place in total and complete darkness while you listen to surprisingly realistic sounds through headphones. Allie was so scared she had to take off her headphones and cling to us. I wouldn't recommend this for anyone who is scared of the dark or with an overactive imagination. Read more at http://www.emuck.com/aotw/sound.htm.
10. Who Wants To Be a Millionaire - You're probably wondering what on earth is scary about this attraction based on ABC's hit show, "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire." The fear starts when you're sitting in the audience and playing along with the show on your keypad -- getting the right answer punched in fast enough gets your blood pumping. And when you see your seat number flash on the Top Ten Screen, your adrenaline starts to flow freely. You think, "Ut oh, what if the person in the hot seat bombs and I'm in first place? I'll have to go on-stage!" And for those lucky few with quick reflexes, the hot seat beckons. And unless you're used to being on stage, its simply terrifying to walk down to the stage and sit in the hot seat in front of over 600 people. But the audience is surprisingly supportive of anyone in the hot seat, probably because they can feel your fear. Of course, if you go all the way and win a million points, your fear is replaced with elation as the crowd goes wild. It's worth the risk. To read about Dave's adventure in the hot seat, visit http://www.passporter.com/wdw/millionpointwinner.htm
DISNEY'S ANIMAL KINGDOM: Still hanging in there? Let's dash over to Disney's Animal Kingdom for a couple of creepy-crawly distractions.
11. Dinosaur - This didn't used to be so bad, but a couple of years ago they upped the fear factor and now I can't ride it without screaming at least once. The idea is that you're sent back in time to rescue a dino before a meteor strikes. So you're zipping through the jungle in the near dark, with huge dinosaurs lunging out at you from all sides.
12. It's Tough to be a Bug! - I have just one word for you: bugs. It starts in a very creepy, dark hole in a tree -- the kind that bugs like. When you get into the 3-D show and put on your "bug-eyes," the bugs come out of the woodwork. If you're at all freaked out by bugs, this is just over the top. It's not just the 3-D movie, but also audio-animatronics, sound effects, smell effects, and (ugh) "feel" effects. It's disgusting. (Ok, it's also charming and fun at times. I just don't like bugs.)
DISNEYQUEST: One last "theme park" remains to be visited -- DisneyQuest at Downtown Disney. This indoor theme park is dimly lit, but that's not what makes it scary. Let's go down to the first floor and hitch a ride with some pirates...
13. Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Buccaneer Gold - You and three shipmates get to pilot a pirate ship in search of gold. This may be a simulated boat ride, but it feels surprisingly realistic as you stand on the planked deck and feel the swells of the ocean. It's quite dark here, too. Getting shot at with "cannonballs" by other pirate ships is scary, but I'd have to say the worst part comes at the end when you try to kill or be killed. In all the times I've played it, only once have I "survived" the final test.
I'm impressed -- you survived to the end of my tour. Anyone else have to take a chicken exit like me at the Tower of Terror? 'Fess up... there's no shame in being scared out of your socks
I hope I've showed you that there's more to Walt Disney World than magic and Mickey Mouse. Unless you count that voodoo, black magic. Hmm, Mickey does have a Sorcerers Hat...
>>Things To Do: Didn't think these attractions were so scary? Or did I miss one that makes you shake in your shoes? Rate the attractions and let us know what you think at http://www.passporter.com/wdw/rate.htm