Professional illustrator Kevin Karstens has pulled off a pretty remarkable piece of ‘home-imagineering.’ Inspired by the Haunted Mansion, Kevin created an attraction called Daark Valley Orphanage – a creepier, more horror-oriented, FX-based omnimover.
He came up with an elaborate backstory, a scene run-down and illustrated storyboards for the ride. Then he built physical models of each scene, put together an audio soundtrack/narration and filmed a ride-through with a mini camera, complete with working special effects! How he accomplished all of this can be seen in detail on his site.
When I came across this project, I contacted Kevin to see if he wanted to collab on a schematic for the ride, specifically an illustrative scenic ride layout. He did, and what follows is my interpretation of the attraction:
And here is a scene-by-scene description, paraphrasing Kevin’s much more detailed synopsis.
QUEUE 0: COURTYARD: Exterior of the attraction is the once grand, now abandoned Victorian Orphanage, weeds choking the fountain, gate falling off its hinges, old gazebo.
QUEUE 1: PATH DOWN TO CELLAR: I imagined the path winding down past the rockwork cliff towards the cellar entrance.
QUEUE 2: EXHIBITS & ARTIFACTS: In the dank cellar, the fictional TV show ‘Spectre Seekers’ has put together some exhibits and original artifacts from the tragic history of Daark Valley.
PRE-SHOW 1: SCREENING ROOM: Here the full history of the Oprhanage (discussing murderous Headmistress Sally) is set up, as is the Spectre Seekers TV tour.
PRE-SHOW 2: SERVICE ELEVATORS: Moving through narrow, cave-like cellar passage, visitors will board old elevators for a disquieting FX journey up to the main level.
SCENE 0: LOADING: Straightforward.
SCENE 1: DARK WELCOME: Pitch black; intro narration; walkie-talkie chatter from TV crew.
SCENE 2: PARANORMAL PORTRAIT: Hall with grand portrait of Miss Sally… shadow hands stretch up from the darkness below as the portrait changes into a demonic face, howling in rage.
SCENE 3: SHADOW PEOPLE: An impossibly endless corridor... within the shadows on the floor and walls, figures rise and fall, their red eyes staring out at the living... whispers and mumbling can be heard...
SCENE 4: HAUNTED HALLWAY: Lightning flashes at the opposite end... along the sides of this hall, small hands can be seen attempting to 'push out' through the walls...they grow out a ways, but then retreat, defeated, as the cart slides along its path... visitors swerve to face the bay windows, long free of glass panes, their shredded curtains rippling inward from the wind of the storm outside...
SCENE 5: ATTACKING APPARITION: A long deserted hall which offers a turn to the left about 20 feet ahead... far off down the corridor a ghastly phantasm appears, roaring down the passage, arms outstretched, its shredded petticoat flapping in the breeze... the cart swerves into the opening, the ghost vanishes, cheated of its prize:
SCENE 6: VALLEY OF DESPAIR: Three bay windows provide a view outside... visible is a seemingly 'bottomless' mist-filled valley next to the Orphanage... streaming ghost orphans can be seen flowing endlessly up out of the valley into the night sky, as lightning flashes and bolts illuminate the heavy clouds hanging over the valley.
SCENE 7: FORGOTTEN NURSERY: The cart rounds the corner, out of the blackness, and visitors have a clear view of the highly-haunted Nursery come to life. Dirty, dusty old toys are scattered about, three rusted beds are lined up under the windows. Situated on the floor in the center of the room, two transparent orphans roll a physically-real ball back and forth between them.
The bed on the far right shows two alternating 'depressions' that rise and fall, as if two orphans are bouncing up and down on the bed...which they are, to an extent...
Bloody hand prints appear on one wall, letters spell out 'HELP US'...a framed painting, directly above these manifestations, changes randomly from a cherubic-faced Humpty Dumpty to a spiked-toothed nightmare.
SCENE 8: SOULTAKER SALLY: Rounding the corner, visitors can see an open doorway (on the door, 'MISS SALLY MAPLE - ORPHANAGE HEAD MISTRESS' is visible)… lightning flashes and thunder bellows, as we see a Team Member gasping and his body lurching upward... the ghastly spectre (the same torso ghoul previously seen in the hallway, but now more clearly defined) of Sally Maple flickers into existence above him, seeming to 'pull' his body up...
SCENE 9: THE BONEYARD: Broken French doors lead onto an outdoor landing, where the heavily clouded night sky gives birth to a raging thunderstorm. The cart moves along the landing, where we can see the former playground down below. A rusted 'merry go round' sits broken, but this doesn't prevent the ghost orphans from endlessly revolving around in the air, slightly above the shattered device, as they chant a musical nursery rhyme...
Further along we see a battered swing set, a teeter totter and a sandbox...the swings rock back and forth endlessly, devoid of any visible riders, as the teeter totter moves up and down... a hopscotch game takes place…
SCENE 10: DOORWAY TO HELL: As they re-enter the orphanage, visitors find another TV Team Member slumped over a pile of debris on the floor... the wall behind him cracks and breaks apart... a swirling green blue VORTEX can be seen, as pictures on the wall start to 'swing in' towards the rift, and hanging lights are pulled in that direction, flickering, then going out... The fallen Team Member's head rises to stare out at the passing visitors, his eyes turn RED, and his jaw unhinges to emit an angry, evil roar… The cart seems stalled, unable to resist the power of the portal... To make matters worse, the ghastly visage of Miss Maple emerges from the vortex, and she speaks for the first time, her attention now on the trespassing visitors...
She cackles a mad laugh, triumphant in her victory...Until multiple small, blue orbs burst forth from the walls surrounding the edges of the scene, swooping towards the evil Mistress. The lights swirl around as we hear orphans' laughter. They then converge on the ghost of the old spinster, as she is dragged wailing into the vortex... with a shudder, the cart is free!
[SWW: Since this scene required the cart to feel as if it were stuck or getting drawn in (tilt forward) - and have an important, somewhat lengthy SFX sequence unfold directly before the rider, I put in a carousel system (akin to something like those used on Imagination, Horizons or Harry Potter), where multiple, identical FX sets/screens rotate in sync with each individual cart, giving the illusion of no longer moving. In retrospect, I think it would be much easier to accomplish this with the rotating set on the interior, rather than on the exterior (as shown) of the ride path, but I hope the idea gets across.]
SCENE 11: TV LOUNGE: Epilogue… An old television, sitting on a broken table, claims the Orphanage is safe for tourists... We know better.
SCENE 12: UNLOAD
POST 1: RETAIL: At ground level (pre-show screening room shown below).
And for the grand finale, here is Kevin’s video ride-through (work-in-progress, shows through Scene 8) of the model he built for the attraction: