The Day the Tower Opened: Part I


When I had read about how the upcoming Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 13K is to commemorate the 13th year anniversary of the opening of this attraction, I could not help but think about my first encounter with the Tower 13 years ago.

I remember that July trip back in 1994 and wondering when I took off for Orlando if I’d get chance to experience this much heralded new attraction during my visit.

The following excerpt comes from my trip report that recollects that vacation and especially my first visit to the old Hollywood Hotel.

On that particular day while we were in MGM-Studios we noticed that the Tower was….

…wait a minute…let me share with you the exact written words from my trip report.

Come with me”¦back to July 1994 on a trip with my wife Carol, daughter Holly, and son Mike Jr.”¦back”¦back”¦.

(Insert clouds and wavy dream sequence effects)

We were sitting on a bench along Hollywood Blvd. and I couldn’t help but notice how empty the park was on this day. Little did I know how we would benefit from the lack of guests.

We were thinking about leaving the park but thought about getting something to quench our thirst first and then leave. Holly went off to get a frozen lemonade and Mike & I got a snow-cone near The Great Movie Ride.

On the way back we sauntered over to the board containing waiting times for attractions. I did a double take. The Tower had a wait time of 45 minutes. “Huh?” I should have asked the Supergreeter what that meant but before I got to him I saw a sign at the beginning of Sunset Boulevard….a sign that wasn’t there an hour ago. The sign read something like this: “The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is going through final dress rehearsal. This means that the attraction will be operating intermittently during the day.”

Mike and I hustled back to Holly and Carol and STRONGLY suggested we stroll down to the Tower to see what’s going on. As we approached the Tower we noticed more activity than normal at the base of the attraction.

Sure enough we realize that today as a test day or soft opening day and a cast member in a bellhop suit tells me that there is a 45 minute wait. Carol said she’d sit this attraction out so Holly, Mike, and I took off behind the front wall towards the attraction which may very well become the new icon for Disney/MGM Studios.

As you walk up the front walkway you pass a sign that reads “The Hollywood Hotel.” But don’t look away. The sign changes ever so strangely to say “Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.” As you walk up towards the porch you pass by an unkempt garden filled with weeds and overgrown bushes…haven’t been touched in decades.

As you pass one statue you feel a bit uneasy. Check out the eyes…brrrr. I pull out my notebook and start jotting down notes. We entered the Hotel and saw a musty old lobby. We pass an unfinished chess game in the corner, an old desk (the dust won’t wipe off…try it yourself), some chairs, a sofa with an overcoat draped across it, some old pictures, the front desk with some unsorted mail, and a potted plant that has lost some leaves…hmmm they have fallen on the floor and seemed to have formed a symbol or message…can’t figure it out.

We go passed the “turnstile” that is an electronic eye that counts the visitors. About 20 of us congregate in front of two large doors with the sign “Library” above them. The doors open and we walk into this very well stocked library. The room is similar in size to the stretching elevator in the Haunted Mansion…maybe it’s a bit smaller. Books are everywhere as are knickknacks, a desk, paintings, a window, and a TV mounted high up on one corner.

A big lightning bolt is seen through the window and the lights go out and the TV goes on. We see a young Rod Serling and he tells us what is about to happen. He relates the story of the Hollywood Hotel and tells the story of what happened on that fateful night (Oct. 31, 1931).

On the TV we see the hotel from the outside during a rainstorm (the angle shown is the angle from the base of the hotel…very familiar) and we then see five people walking through a hustling hotel lobby (the same one we just walked through) and these five people get on an elevator. We are then shown lightning hitting the hotel and the elevator shafts. The picture then switches to these five people in the elevator. They glow and begin to fade.

We then see the elevator shafts fade. Rod is back and is standing in front of an elevator. He tells us that tonight we are part of the episode and that we will venture into the Twilight Zone and witness the terror. Thanks Rod.

The lights come back on and we walk into the boiler room. All the while Holly is saying, “Dad I don’t think I can do this.” We walk through an old boiler room. It’s musty, it’s old. There’s junk all over the place. It’s dirty. It’s noisy. We make our way towards one of the elevators. Along the way we see at least a dozen signs warning about the ride.

You can exit just before the elevators if you chicken….erh prefer to bypass the actual ride. We get up to the elevator and we are directed to stand on certain spots just outside the elevator. This is done for loading purposes. The elevator comes and we file in. The elevator contains benches. We sit in the front row and a lap bar is pulled down. Note that the middle seat in the rear row does not have a bar but a seat belt (lap…not shoulder).

Next time it’s Part II: The Ultimate Elevator Ride.

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