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Mystic Motel - A Homemade Dark Ride

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Most amusement park enthusiasts dream of building their own ride, but few ever succeed in making that dream into a reality. So when Spears and I heard that a nearby homeowner built a dark ride in their 2-car garage, we knew we had to check it out. With low expectations but high hopes, we drove to Ladera Ranch, CA (a city about 30 minutes South of Disneyland by car) to see who this homeowner was and what exactly they packed into their 20 foot by 20 foot garage. (Seriously, how could you fit a ride in such a small space?) I’m happy to report that our expectations were far exceeded. While the ride, named “Mystic Motel,” was predictably short given the space, it was surprisingly well constructed and themed, and neat details abounded both on and off the ride.


The mastermind behind Mystic Motel is Scott D’Avanzo. We were surprised to learn that before Mystic Motel he had no experience building anything like a dark ride. He is a game designer by trade, but loves amusement parks and rides. One of his five children, Ashton, also shares his love of amusement parks, and was eager to have his dad build a ride at home. While most parents would probably laugh off the suggestion, Scott took it seriously, and in August of 2013 he got to work designing what would become Mystic Motel. Over the next 3 months he enlisted the help of his family and a local fabrication business to help him build the ride. The ride was constructed on a budget of approximately $5,000, $1,355 of which was funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign. After a pre-opening for advance ticket holders on Oct. 30th, the ride officially opened to the public on Halloween night 2013 and stayed open the following Friday and Saturday nights as well. Over 400 rides were given on Halloween night, and the response from the public was overwhelmingly positive.


For a first attempt at a dark ride, Mystic Motel was a huge success. We were blown away by the detail and effort put into the ride. Not only was there a reliable themed dark ride with motion-triggered special effects, but outside the ride there were also custom shirts for sale, custom paper tickets, a covered stand-by and fast pass line, a lit ride sign, and even a pre-show video. These are things that Magic Mountain struggles with! On top of it all, Scott and his family were truly nice people who were welcoming and accommodating to both the general public and the few media groups who showed up throughout the run. (Big thanks to Scott for walking us through the ride and answering all of our questions!)


Unfortunately this report comes after Mystic Motel is already closed for the 2013 Halloween season, so it’s too late to go check it out for yourself. However, Scott was very enthusiastic about possible ways to improve, grow, and change the experience, so we expect that we haven’t heard the last from this haunt. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Mystic Motel in the coming years, and we’ll be sure to keep you updated if there are any new developments! Check out our full report and POV of the ride below, and for more details check out the official Mystic Motel website at MysticMotel.com.


Mystic Motel POV Video:


We’re in Ladera Ranch, CA to check out Mystic Motel!


The Motel is closed, but basement tours are being offered!


We picked up our fast passes, and hopped in line. (Note: since it’s a private residence, I blurred out the address)


Spears is scared!


Here’s a look at the covered line.


It’s so cool that there’s both a stand-by and a fast pass line!


In the line there are decorations hinting about your upcoming experience.


A room repair form is affixed to the wall. FIX MY ROOM!


There’s even a pre-show video! How cool is that?


What it looks like right before you board.


Here’s the car you ride in.


The car can hold one adult or two kids. Or even two adults, but it’s a very tight squeeze! It's powered by a mobility scooter motor.


The story behind the ride is that the once popular Mystic Motel was abandoned and forgotten until Jack Turner purchased it for its mysterious activities. Jack knew he could make a buck off folks daring enough to take a ride through its mysterious basement. Parts of the motel are caving in through the basement ceiling, and some of the motel’s visitors have never left. Jack kept one of the original maintenance workers, Charlie, on staff to scare off any vandals, but even Charlie has gone crazy in this run-down mysterious place.


At the beginning of the ride you encounter Charlie sitting at the base of the stairs that go up to the hotel.


Room repair forms are plastered all over the wall behind him.


You can see some of Charlie’s maintenance tools throughout the ride.


This hallway was my favorite part of the ride. The run-down hotel has begun collapsing into the baseman.


You even encounter some of the hotel visitors who have never left.


Things get creepier as the ride progresses.


While it may have been a necessity due to the lack of space, I actually really liked the use of props above you throughout the ride rather than just having things in front of you to look at. It made it feel like everything was caving in around you.


The grand finale is a “fire” blasting at you from the boiler room. It was a great ending to the ride and had a big final impact.


Smoke hanging around after the fire.


That’s the Mystic Motel! It’s short but sweet. And it’s REALLY impressive for a homemade haunt - especially considering it was put together in 3 months and was the first time Scott has ever attempted anything of the sort.


All the little details really brought the ride together and made it feel complete. Outside there were custom Mystic Motel shirts for sale in various sizes.


There were even sponsors for the ride thanks to the Kickstarter campaign.


We took a group photo before leaving the Motel. From right to left: Spears, me (David), Scott - the Mystic Motel creator, and our friends Rick and Johanna from Theme Park Adventure.


Thanks for checking out our Mystic Motel report! It was a great first Halloween for this dark ride, and we can’t wait to see where Scott takes it in the future.

Edited by ILoveRides
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^ Cool! There's also an idea of a deck/platform extending at

the back of the garage, maybe ten feet wide creating an

"outdoor" part of the ride. And he's definitely imaginative

enough to figure out how to cover it "in case of rain."


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This is awesome. It looks better than a lot of dark rides I've been on at carnivals! Will be very curious to see how he expands on this idea.




It definitely has more working gags than your average carnival dark ride.

Edited by cfc
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I really want to get one of the t-shirts.

But I haven't "survived" it yet.


Maybe they could print some shirts up,

without the "I Survived" on them?


(EDIT to add: Couldn't stand it. Had to buy a

shirt anyway, lol!)

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^Perhaps the T-shirt will come with a terrible curse that you can "survive."


Naw, got enough of those, thanks very much.


EDIT: After watching the video... what an awesome family project!

Edited by Nrthwnd
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