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Morey's Piers to unveil $1 million Ghost Ship attraction Memorial Day weekend


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Souce: The Press of Atlantic City

Morey's Piers to unveil $1 million Ghost Ship attraction Memorial Day weekend

 

By TRUDI GILFILLIAN Staff Writer | Posted: Sunday, May 23, 2010

 

WILDWOOD — The electrical control box, marked "zombie in stand up chamber," makes it clear this is no ordinary Boardwalk attraction.

 

Not that the headless body in the captain's chair wasn't a dead giveaway.

 

"This isn't a buy-it-off-the-shelf attraction," said Will Morey, president of Morey's Piers.

 

The more than $1 million attraction he's referring to has been shrouded in mystery, and red tarp, for months.

 

Click here for the photo gallery.

 

In fact, everyone associated with the project signed confidentiality agreements banning them from speaking of the attraction.

 

But now, with Memorial Day weekend just days away, the Ghost Ship is about to make its debut.

 

"It's like a first date. You don't want to screw that one up," said Jack Morey, the 49-year-old executive vice president of Morey's Piers, as the pier operator readies for the attraction's grand unveiling at 12:01 a.m. May 29.

 

For months, billboards, pamphlets and other advertising have heralded the coming of "Ignis Fatuus," the code name given the ride at the start.

 

The phrase has two meanings — a flitting phosphorescent light believed to be due to the spontaneous combustion of gas from decaying organic matter — or something misleading.

 

Both play a role here, as the Ghost Ship presents a new twist on the fabled Philadelphia Experiment, the famous conspiracy theory surrounding an experiment that supposedly made a U.S. naval ship invisible in 1943.

 

The story has inspired a new form of Boardwalk entertainment that Jack Morey calls "not for the faint of heart." It is not recommended for children under age 12. And on May 29, hundreds of amusement enthusiasts and industry leaders will be the first to decide just how scary the Ghost Ship really is.

 

Off the drawing board

 

Construction began on a cool January day as a miniature golf course on Mariner's Landing Pier started its transformation into a major new Boardwalk attraction.

 

"My brother is the driver behind this," Will Morey, 52, said of the effort to turn the golf course into something very different. "I commend him for seeing that we were underutilizing this space."

 

Over the next five months, construction workers of all trades built the Ghost Ship from the ground up, creating winding, cavernous walkways that move from one frightful scene to the next.

 

The contractors included four designers, four architects, four animatronics and prop creators, 25 carpenters, 10 painters, six electricians, and two heating and cooling installers.

 

All told, about 100 workers will have taken part in the attraction's construction, Jack Morey estimated.

 

"This will be a fully immersive experience that triggers all five human senses, and maybe a sixth sense," Jack Morey said during a tour with a Press reporter and photographer who were allowed to document the ride's construction.

 

He demonstrated as much during a tour weeks before the opening, when he invited a Press reporter to look more closely at a seemingly innocuous wall panel.

 

The panel suddenly opened to reveal another person on the other side. A scream followed — and that was in broad daylight.

 

In a much darker setting, visitors will pass through a not-so-inviting galley, a gruesome infirmary and a less-than-hospitable crew's quarters.

 

Along the way, a bevy of actors and high-tech animatronics will greet visitors as they move from Wildwood 2010 to an aging World War II-era vessel.

 

"Each room is sort of a 12-second event," Jack Morey said.

 

And from the faded red life buoy marked IGNIS FATUUS to the worn, wooden desk in the captain's quarters, no detail has been ignored.

 

"Mayday, Mayday. Come in. Come in," the voice desperately calls. "You have no need to be here," responds a mysterious voice. "Ignis Fatuus (scream) Ignis Fatuus, come in ..."

 

The Moreys and Wildwood

 

The detail harkens back to the pier operator's start in 1969 when brothers Bill and Wilbert C. Morey opened a giant slide, the Wipe Out.

 

Last year, the company marked its 40th anniversary with the publication of "Fab-O-Rama! The Story of Morey's Piers."

 

According to the book, the Moreys started as real estate developers, building 55 of the famous doo-wop motels that became iconic symbols of Five Mile Beach including famed locations such as the Caribbean and the Satellite.

 

They were inspired to bring a slide to the Boardwalk after spotting a slide attraction on a trip to Florida. The amusement empire was born.

 

The brothers went on to build more attractions on Surfside Pier, such as the Haunted House and Jumbo Jet roller coaster.

 

The company eventually expanded and the business was carried on by the next generation as Will and Jack Morey, sons of Wilbert Morey, took over.

 

The tradition may continue as the next generation looks into the industry.

 

Will Morey said his sons will be spending their summer in Germany at Europa Park, a family-owned operation, to learn more about the amusement industry.

 

He pointed to the company's past as an inspiration for its future.

 

"There was a lot of customization. Very Wildwood, funky, zany, unique. Ultimately, that's what people remember," Will Morey said of the rides of the time. "This is absolutely unique for the New Jersey shore, a one-of-a-kind attraction."

 

One of a kind

 

Will Morey said an attraction such as the Ghost Ship has been missing for many years from the Boardwalk.

 

He recalled some of his favorite rides of the past such as the pirate ship Skua, which once sat on Hunt's Pier.

 

"That was an absolute standout to me. It was a defining piece and it was there as if a ship had crashed into the pier. In many ways, we've tried to borrow from that. Its presence was phenomenal and this has the opportunity to be absolutely like that," Will Morey said.

 

Jack Morey said the company has been in the mood for something like the Ghost Ship for several years now.

 

"It's been 33 years since the New Jersey shore has seen this kind of attraction," he said.

 

While the Moreys have made a name for themselves in thrill rides such as the Sea Serpent and the Great Nor'Easter roller coasters, Jack Morey said non-roller coaster attractions definitely have a place on the Boardwalk.

 

"It is not a roller coaster, but I believe it can be as appealing," Jack Morey said.

 

Terry O'Brien, the Ghost Ship's manager, hired the actors, who began rehearsals about three weeks before the grand opening.

 

"When I am not managing things, I'll be in costume, scaring people, because I like to do that," said O'Brien, an actor who has worked in dinner theater, television and movies, serving as a stand-in for Burt Young in the feature film, "Rocky Balboa."

 

O'Brien, who grew up reading Stephen King and Dean Koontz, crafted much of the material used in the Ghost Ship.

 

It will be up to the actors to take the Moreys' vision and O'Brien's direction and turn it all into the experience the Moreys envision.

 

That experience will begin as visitors wait to enter. Costumed actors will prepare the crowd just slightly for what's to come.

 

But, O'Brien noted, no English will be spoken, only German in keeping with the ship's mysterious nature.

 

Opening night jitters

 

With just a few weeks before the big opening, O'Brien said he was "50 percent overjoyed and 50 percent terrified" as opening night approached.

 

The actors will resemble Humphrey Bogart in "The African Queen," in terms of dress.

 

"That is the template and you add blood and guts and zombies," O'Brien said.

 

Just a week before the big opening, the actors and O'Brien moved from scene to scene, each taking a turn at being their scariest. The screams could be heard throughout the attraction.

 

O'Brien simply has one goal in mind.

 

"We're going to go in there and scare people," he said.

 

That combination, along with the structure itself and the assortment of animatronics should make the attraction the memorable experience the Moreys are hoping for.

 

"We really hope and trust that it will bring first-time visitors to the Wildwoods," Jack Morey said.

 

He admitted that the opening, at least for him, could be as scary as the attraction itself. "I want them to love it," he said of the anticipated reviews. "I want them to say, 'You won't believe what's been built in Wildwood.'"

 

What's been built is a collaborative effort between the Moreys, their staff and designer Russell Bethea.

 

Bethea, who began his career in the amusement industry in 1971, said the Ghost Ship was the equivalent of a big stage, "so all the actors are really going to be the key elements."

 

Bethea has watched as his designs, still hanging next to some of the various scenes on the attraction, have moved from paper to reality.

 

The final product, he said, "is a corporate concert between the tradesmen, the owners and myself."

 

Is it scary?

 

"I was in here one night at 10 o'clock by myself and even though I designed it and knew where everything was ... just the mere ambience. It has a presence," Bethea said, adding, "Once the soundtrack is activated, along with the actors, I think it's going to be scary."

 

Bethea said it was complex to lay out given its position next to other attractions such as the pier's skyrides, but once the movement of visitors was determined, the rest fell into place.

 

"It has a very good maze quality about it," Bethea said, adding that he enjoyed working on the project with Jack Morey.

 

"His enthusiasm has been almost like a fuel," Bethea said.

 

Will Morey said the amusement industry has been supportive of the effort and "this is exactly what they've been looking for."

 

"This is really a ride that we think's been missing," Will Morey said, recalling the haunted castle that once sat on the Boardwalk. "You've got to have great rides, but attractions such as this can be different every time you go through it."

 

The Ghost Ship experience is not only unique for its look, but for its length.

 

"A typical attraction is 2 minutes. This will be over 10 times that," Jack Morey said. "It's the longest attraction on the Boardwalk by far and may be one of the longest attractions in the amusement business anywhere."

 

And the most expensive at 12 tickets a visit, the equivalent of $11.40.

 

Groups of 10 will travel through the attraction and at one point reach an opening that looks out on the pier before returning to the horrors inside.

 

Jack Morey smiled as he noted the one final surprise that may or may not appear as visitors exit.

 

"When they find the right girl, a real screamer, they'll start coming after her," he said.

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Wow, 12 tickets. I wonder if it will be included in the wristband (the only reason I am not sure is some other low capacity rides like Go Karts and Screamin Swing are both 7 tickets and not included with a wristband). If not, I don't think a lot of people are going to be willing to spend that much.

Edited by Yoshi
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I can't see how the attraction will take 20 minutes to complete, unless they keep you in certain rooms for "one-on-ones". Brigantine Castle and the Haunted Mansion at Long Branch took about that long, but those buildings were huge. I'll have to check it out this weekend.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here are some photos of the new "Ghost Ship"" attraction in Wildwood. Unfortunately, it was closed when we were on the pier... better luck next time.

 

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Prior to being a haunted walk-thru, the area was home to a multi-level mini golf.

 

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