The Haunted Hotel, an elaborate haunted house walk-through experience at IMG Worlds of Adventure, is known to elicit just as many bloodcurdling screams as its roller coaster counterparts.
Client: IMG Group
Services: Attraction Design, Media Production, Sound Production
Location: Dubai, U.A.E.
A cast of creepy hotel staff members, ghostly wraiths, dead-eyed zombies, possessed souls, and graveyard stalkers await the bravest guests at one of the most popular attractions at the massive indoor theme park in Dubai.
It was the job of Falcon’s Creative Group to design the spook-filled house of horrors and produce arresting media and audio content. The themed experience design studio heeded three key principles when laying the foundation for the Haunted Hotel: invoke a sense of real fear, allow actors to interact with guests, create spectacle for guests who come to be wowed.
Another attraction design pillar for experiences like this one: Build in moments of comedy and relative calm, thereby giving guests enough down-time so that the next scare results in peak fear.
The nickname for this haunted establishment is The Nightmare Hotel. It’s the subject of urban legend. Two brothers ran the place back in the early 20th century. Scott and Jack Donovan always sought gruesome ways to entertain themselves. Eventually, the stories of their malevolence and misdeeds spread far and wide. When people stopped checking into the hotel, the business fell into a state of disrepair.
Of course, normal humans leisurely strolling down IMG Boulevard probably don’t know this history, which could explain why they allow a seriously sun-deprived, dead-eyed bellhop to entice them into exploring the old building. Sure, why not? The lobby looks inviting enough from a distance. Besides, it’ll get them away from the creepy gargoyles who are peering down on them from a few floors up.
As guests enter the lobby covered in cobwebs, creepy music and disturbing sounds fill the room. Some of the paintings on the wall appear to be watching the guests. A bellhop ushers them into the foyer and announces that their masters will see them now. Scott and Jack Donovan, dressed in suits from the 1920s, walk out from the halls and appear at the top of a grand staircase. They’re in a chipper mood, which is probably not a good thing for the guests. They speak of the hotel’s history and harvesting nightmares.
As if their speech isn’t disturbing enough, spectral aberrations begin to appear down the halls, a consistent drumming sound can be heard, and lights begin to flicker. Ghastly noises and a woman’s unsettling laughter pierce through the foyer. The brothers morph into undead versions of themselves, and their spectral shapes fade out in dramatic fashion as the rhythmic drumming grows louder and louder. The room suddenly plunges into complete darkness.
The tour guide escorts the guests into an elevator and flashes a quick, sadistic smile at them, telling them to enjoy their stay. The possessed lift gives guests a frightening ride, as audio, lighting effects, and floor shakers make it appear as if it’s out of control.
Once the elevator doors open, guests must navigate through a maze of corridors and several uniquely themed scenes. They will closely encounter costumed characters whose sole purpose is to scare the living daylights out of them.
First up is the room of possessed souls. Sounds awful, but it might be the tamest room of all. The Hanging Room is next. Corpses and individual body parts hang on meat hooks or lay on shelves. Exiting this room and entering Zombie Camp is likely a welcome relief, but guests have to cross sewer junction while trying to avoid the reach of undead beings. Their reward on the other aside? An old library. What could go wrong here? Many, many things. Here’s a tip. Don’t try to grab a book.The next room, Gothic Terror, is filled with menacing creatures, including one of the most menacing characters of all time – the Grim Reaper. If you can make it out of this room without the assistance of a defibrillator, congratulations. The last challenge is navigating the Graveyard. It’s dark, dank, and foggy, and some things here are probably not 100% dead. If guests can hold their nerve, they’ll reach the relative safety of the little gift shop of horrors.
Falcon’s Treehouse and Falcon’s Digital Media left no headstone unturned to create this immersive, haunted adventure. For starters, the design team drafted plans for the course, crafted the themes and stories for the rooms, conceptualized the detailed props, and designed the costumes that the actors would wear. They outlined the individual elements that would be included in each of the scenes, such as fake blood, shaking tables, flickering lighting effects, glowing cauldrons, and many other show elements.
The media team had their hands full creating sound effects, gobos, projected fog curtain effects, and especially believable ghostly images, like the Donovan Brothers. High-end video projection and audio systems were utilized throughout the space. Falcon’s sound designer had a blast putting together all of the eerie musical themes and bone-chilling sound effects for each zone.
The Haunted Hotel was more of a dream project than a nightmare for the Falcon’s team. The permanent attraction operates year-round and continues to be one of the most popular and talked about attractions at IMG Worlds of Adventure.