Closed: 2002 (converted into Scooby-Doo and the Haunted Castle)
Location: Hanna-Barbera Land (today known as Planet Snoopy), current location of Boo Blasters on Boo Hill
Manufacturer: Morgan Manufacturing. Theming by R&R Creative Amusement Designs, Inc. and animatronics by AVG, Inc.
Model: Omnimover-style ride
Duration: Four-and-a-half minutes
Cost: $3.5 million
Vehicles: 55 ride vehicles, seating four guests each
Description: Phantom Theater was an Omnimover-style dark ride through an abandoned theater. The attraction was filled with 38 ghost-like images and animated figures divided between 17 different scenes.
The attraction’s façade was at the corner of the building and depicted a decrepit theater with boarded-up windows. Once inside, guests were entertained by an animatronic of the ride’s star, Maestro. Maestro was perched on a balcony and playing an organ, occasionally turning around to taunt guests below. The walls of this room included posters of the theater’s performers, and instead of typical metal railings the queues were divided with velvet ropes. A pair of chandeliers were suspended overhead.
Queueing guests would next pass through a short hallway adorned with busts on either side. The busts would appear to turn their heads and follow the guests. Afterward, guests board their vehicles from a turntable loading platform. An additional pair of chandeliers hung overhead, as did ornate curtains.
The first scene had the ride vehicles passing under a curtain and pass the second Maestro figure, standing atop a wooden platform. He’d taunt riders once more. Next, the cars passed in front of a series of portraits that depicted performers as they appeared in their lively state. Three-dimensional figures of the characters would then be illuminated from behind the portraits, each with their own audio track. These characters were Hilda Bovine, Lionel Burymore, Willard Warbler, Maestro, and the Great Garbonzo.
After the portraits, there was a roman statue with a projected face and a floating usher reflected in a mirror. Then a series of doors, each opening to reveal additional performers. These included Willard Warbler, Houdelini, The Great Garbonzo, and then The Mighty Bosco, who ironically could not manage to open his door.
The vehicles then entered “backstage” and into a dark room. A beam of light pierced the darkness and briefly crossed in front of riders’ faces. A moment later, overhead lights were illuminated and the beam, which riders could now see was from a flashlight, was extinguished. A stagehand was holding the flashlight and at a large lighting board. He told riders that they shouldn’t be backstage.
Around the corner was another set of stagehands, one tangled in ropes and suspended upside-down. The other held the opposite end of the rope.
A pair of the theater’s performers were practicing their acts in the next scenes. Houdelini stood in front of a hat and pulled a demonic rabbit out of it. Next, Hilda Bovine practiced hitting a high-note and shattering a nearby mirror. After the rehearsals was the same floating usher from before, alerting the riders that the show was about to begin.
What followed was the attraction’s biggest scene: the theater itself. Using the same Pepper’s Ghost effect found in Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion ride, characters appeared as ghostly apparitions that could fade in and out of view. In reality, the characters were placed above or below the guests, out of sight, and reflected off large panes of glass.
From left to right, the scene included a pair of audience members, Houdelini floating above a large crate, Hilda Bovine singing atop a small tower, The Great Garbonzo launching himself out of a cannon, and additional audience members. At the bottom of the scene was Maestro, his back to the riders as he played at an organ.
The attraction then entered its final act, starting with the penultimate appearance of Maestro and then exploring more backstage areas. After Maestro was the prop room, which included a vegetarian gargoyle, a mummy in a sarcophagus, an oversized rat scaring a cat, and a statue of a centurion who warned riders that they had come too far and seen too much.
The final scene was the boiler room, where two stagehands opened and closed the doors of a large furnace. Every time that the furnace’s doors opened, riders were blasted with hot air.
After returning to the loading station, guests exited the vehicles onto the rotating platform and proceeded down a short hallway to the outside. Maestro made his final appearance, albeit only in audio form: he taunted riders yet again, and predicted that they’ll be back.
History: Phantom Theater opened in April 1992 as the third incarnation of “Dark Ride” (the first two being Enchanted Voyage and Smurf’s Enchanted Voyage). The ride replaced the Smurf’s ride, replacing the boat ride manufactured by Arrow Development with a new Omnimover-style ride by Morgan Manufacturing. It included thematic elements created by R&R Creative Amusement Designs, Inc., who had worked on Adventure Express the previous year.
The ride remained relatively unchanged during its run at Kings Island. It was included as one of the attractions for the final Winterfest in 1992, and was transformed into Museum of Horrors for the first FearFest in 2000. Museum of Horrors was a scarier overlay of the attraction, featuring the addition of ten live actors and intensified scenes. Only half of the ride’s vehicles were loaded to improve the quality of the show.
Plans to close Phantom Theater were announced only a few days before its July 14, 2002 closure. It immediately begun its transformation into Scooby-Doo and the Haunted Castle afterward, which retained the same ride system with some modifications. 28 of the 55 ride vehicles were removed, the remaining 27 were modified with new interactive elements, and the orientation that the ride vehicles pivoted was changed in some scenes. The content of the scenes was also replaced with very few elements of Phantom Theater remaining.
Many Phantom Theater props and animatronics were recycled for use during the FearFest event and later Halloween Haunt. This included in Paramount Action FX Theater’s queue line, down the Coney Maul midway, outside the park entrance, and on the International Street bandstand. The last year that the characters were used as props was in 2012, and they were reportedly almost all trashed afterward.
Some other props from the ride remain and are permanent installations in Halloween Haunt attractions. This includes the sarcophagus and cannon in Madame Fatale’s Cavern of Terror and the furnace in Slaughterhouse. One of the chandeliers from the loading area was also repurposed after it was donated to local Fairfield High School and used in their production of Phantom of the Opera.
The 28 ride vehicles removed from the ride originally remained on property too, with a few being used as FearFest or Halloween Haunt props. Almost all of these were ultimately scrapped in the early 2010s.
Prop Photos at Haunt