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Nov. 23, 2022

The Haunted Hotel Dark Ride comes to Funtown Splashtown in Saco, Maine

The Haunted Hotel Dark Ride comes to Funtown Splashtown in Saco, Maine

Set to open in 2023, Funtown Splashtown USA in Saco, Maine, has partnered with Sally Dark Rides to add the Whispering Pines Hotel to their property (AKA the Haunted Hotel dark ride). Four-passenger ride cars will move guests through 14 scenes...

Set to open in 2023, Funtown Splashtown USA in Saco, Maine, has partnered with Sally Dark Rides to add the Whispering Pines Hotel to their property (AKA the Haunted Hotel dark ride). Four-passenger ride cars will move guests through 14 scenes concluding with a final visit through an otherworldly dimension. Guests of the Haunted Hotel will play a key role in the story. Sally unveiled the new Dark Ride during this year’s IAAPA Expo, and we stopped by to learn more from Drew Hunter (Vice President of Creative Design). Subscribe:


Drew Hunter: My name is Drew Edward Hunter, I am Vice President of Creative Design for Sally Dark Rides located in Jacksonville, FL, and here we are in Orlando at IAAPA. 

Philip Hernandez: It's day one!

Drew Hunter: I love it.

Philip Hernandez: We can still talk, that's why we're doing the interviews on day one, right? 

Drew Hunter: Oh yes.

Philip Hernandez: Right, tell us about this, the Haunted Hotel.

Drew Hunter: Haunted Hotel is a brand new interactive dark ride going into Funtown Splashtown, USA in Saco, Maine. The southern part of Maine on the coast, family run park, and they are transforming an old building they had into The Haunted Hotel. The whole story of the Haunted Hotel is very interesting. Very quickly, 150 years ago this old crone lived on the spot where they would eventually build a beautiful old hotel called The Whispering Pines. But she was a conjure woman, as you could obviously see, and she had a little frog that she enhanced with wings, his name is Croakie Wewing, and she had another familiar cat, Cat Batkicus, whose picture is right up there, who also had wings. But the townspeople didn't like her, so they told her to leave, and she did. She just disappeared, but not before she put a curse on the land. What a curse it was because after they built this beautiful hotel, things began happening in the hotel. Eventually, and fairly recently, guests who've been staying in the hotel have been being sucked into some other dimension. So, they've called in a curse eradication team, which we will help with as guests, to go in, dispel elements of the curse, and enter the dimension and rescue the guests. That is the quest of the ride, and it's going to be a beautiful ride. Practical sets with a lot of special effects, some video enhancements, and some wonderful animatronic characters, just like Miss Lilith right here, that's her name.

Philip Hernandez: Tell me a little bit about the decision to go with practical sets, because I think you can see it evidenced here, just look at the detail that's in just one sliver we have here. We have the familiars, the frog you mentioned, we have all of the writing, the bottles, and the trinkets. So, I can tell it's a very practical experience, but I feel like it's in an age where we're seeing not as much practice stuff, so tell me about that decision.

Drew Hunter: Yeah, well, whichever way you handle a ride like that, if it's done well, it can be very entertaining and really good. In this particular situation, you will be in the hotel, you will go into Grand Lobby with a staircase, and you will go through various hallways, you're going to go into one of the guest's rooms, you go through the lobby, et cetera. So, you are there, it will be surrounding you. Then when you go into this mystic dimension, that's another whole ball game, but things will be enhanced with video effects, but it's not all video. You are there, the sets are practical, we are building them now in our facility in Jacksonville.

Philip Hernandez: That's phenomenal, so it's going to be maybe a mix of screens and also projections, that we're thinking?

Drew Hunter: Yes, and it's integral projections.

Philip Hernandez: So, mapped onto the experience, basically?

Speaker 2 Right. There will be some projection mapping, there'll be video screens, various things like that, all custom made, and is a custom dark ride, there's not another one like this.

Philip Hernandez: That was going to be my next question, I don't remember seeing any of this anywhere.

Drew Hunter: There's not another one like this, no, no. Now, there have been other haunted hotels.

Philip Hernandez: Of course, of course.

Drew Hunter: But not one like this.

Philip Hernandez: So exciting. One last thing, tell us a little bit about the client and whatnot, because it just seems interesting to me that it's a custom dark ride, very practical, integrated, high story, high theming, I mean, this seems like it's a Disney/Universal level quality but we're going into a regional area. That's very exciting.

Drew Hunter: It really is, and it's super exciting for them. They've been here this morning getting to know the witch, and they are so excited about it. It's a family, it's a family-run park, and Violet, the older lady who is kind of the head of the family and so on, she is so excited about this ride. She is so excited, and the whole family is, everybody is into it. Everybody is into it and they've been fabulous to work with. From a design standpoint, when we write them and they say, "well, how would you like this to look? What about this? What about that?" And so on. We get answers right back, we don't have to wait, we get answers right back. So, it's been really exciting.

Philip Hernandez: It kind of sounds a little bit too like they're giving you a little leeway to be able to tell the story.

Drew Hunter: Oh yeah, they trust us.

Philip Hernandez: Last question, are there any Easter eggs that guests might find in this attraction?

Drew Hunter: There will be, there will be.

Philip Hernandez: Oh, can you give us a hint?

Drew Hunter: They'll be in the ride.

Speaker 2 OK, well I would hope they'd be in the ride.

Drew Hunter: Truthfully, we're still developing that.

Philip Hernandez: OK, so stay tuned, right? 

Drew Hunter: Stay tuned. 

Philip Hernandez: There's more to come 

Drew Hunter: Yeah, there's more to come.

Philip Hernandez: Well, thank you so much for your time today.

Drew Hunter: Thank you so much. It's been a pleasure.

Philip Hernandez: Congratulations, of course, this looks phenomenal. 

Drew HunterProfile Photo

Drew Hunter

Vice President of Creative Design for Sally Dark Rides

Drew Hunter leads Sally Dark Rides design department in creating characters and stories. He is a fine arts graduate of Centenary College of Louisiana with post-graduate studies in Rome. Some of his accomplishments include designer for Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museums, wax museum creative director, president of Vorta, Inc., and even television’s Bozo the Clown.

Drew's experience in the haunted attractions industry includes being a founding member of the International Association of Haunted Attractions, and he came to Sally Dark Rides as a specialist designer in haunted attractions.