(2008 Standing But Not Operating)
One of the more unique rides offered by the Vekoma company of the Netherlands is the Mad House, a modern version of one of the oldest rides ever created. The Mad House offers a gentle ride which can be enjoyed by the whole family, though the illusion created makes it seem to be one of the wildest. The perception of movement is enhanced by actual movement of the ride's seats, which pitch just enough to create the feeling of movement tricking the mind into believing what your eyes are seeing happening around you.
The location which was once home to the Garden of Marvels and later the Shockwave standup roller coaster, was redeveloped in the late 1990's, first with the addition of the Dare Devil Dive Sky Coaster, and then in 1999 with the addition of Houdini's Great Escape as part of the park's "War on Lines".
At the start of the 1999 season, parts of Houdini were still sitting in the Guest Parking Lot while the building structure took shape. The construction fence and the park maps both had the generic ride name "Mad House" on them.
The elaborate structure of the passenger gondola inside the drum that would become the room around it were being assembled over the next few weeks of the season, with its steel spider web of beams forming an hexagonal cage around the tilting platform.
Atop the structure a set of catwalks took shape above the mechanical assembly. These catwalks are part of the ride's lighting, shining through the skylights in the ceiling of the room.
Once the interior mechanical components were in place, the exterior of the building went up, with a fairly elaborate facade on the two most visible sides of the otherwise generic steel box. The front of the building was designed to look like a 3 story mansion. The original renderings of the ride were much more elaborate, creating a more Victorian looking facade with a widow's watch tower in the center.
The queue of the ride was to be set in a well manicured yard around the side of the structure, winding through the trees and under a graceful pergola. The queue under the pergola offered a shady place to wait, complete with outdoor ceiling fans to keep the air circulating on the hottest days. The ride was surrounded with an elaborate iron fence with brick columns framing the entrance gates.
Towards the rear of the house, large posters of Houdini's great escape act were featured along the wall towards the rear preshow double doors.
The rear of the building and the side facing the Main Street Shops were left the generic metal, and painted in a color to match the rest of the facade.
When the ride opened it offered one of the most unique experiences of any ride in the park. Being part ride and part show and being able to accommodate a wide range of ages, Houdini was a great family attraction.
The experience of Houdini's Great Escape was a complete themed presentation from start to finish. Guests passed through the gates and entered the garden in front of the house, following the brick path through the landscaping and past the fountain, passing under a graceful shade structure.
When operated at maximum capacity, guests were grouped from the queue into a holding area outside the double doors of the pre-show. Once the pre-show area doors opened guests were ushered into the parlor, sometimes by a costumed actor who helped set the scene. The room was decorated with gothic fixtures and the chambers Houdini would perform his escapes from.
An unseen narrator gave background information on Houdini with an accompanying film showing him as a young man. The spirit of Houdini was channeled and moved objects in the room in an attempt to cross over from the other side.
A set of doors opened and the audience was ushered into the next room with the sets of benches lining both sides of the room and a small table in the center. Once everyone was seated, Houdini locked his guests into place with a set of lapbars and the illusion began with the room rocking and then eventually turning a full 360 degrees.
After the first season, the storyline was modified slightly. The original show concluded with a huge illuminated mural of Houdini visible through the large skylight above the room. When modified, the center table with crystal ball and the illuminated keys at the ends of the rooms were added to conclude the story.
|The ride was
designed for high throughput having one group queued, one group in the
pre-show room and one group in the actual theater. Quite often
lack of staffing made the process slow and the ride never made its
Houdini was closed for safety modifications after a power failure in the park had trapped riders for a period of time. Modifications made the ride safer and it re-opened to the public.
Another modification was replacing of the original projection screen for the pre-show film with a large flat panel television.
While always popular, Houdini always drew huge crowds during Fright Fest, often stretching beyond the queue and out onto Dream Street.
|For the 2008 season, Houdini's
Great Escape was "standing but not operating". Before the
season had started plans were in place to open the ride, and new signage
was even in place in the weeks leading up to the park's opening day.
At the last minute a high level decision was made not to open the ride,
and for opening day all the ride's signs had been removed, and the entry
During the season the building was used as a venue for autograph signings, but no other activity took place.
In 2009, Houdini reopened during the Fall as a Fright Fest attraction and returned to a full time schedule on Memorial Day Weekend in 2010.