We’ve seen a lot of home haunts in our travels, but none have ever been like Mystic Motel in Ladera Ranch, California. Located in a quiet, master-planned community just south of Mission Viejo, Mystic Motel has sprung up in a neighborhood that looks more like Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives than a boardwalk midway, where dark rides such as Mystic Motel have existed for more than 100 years! Yet, there it is!
The creation of slot machine game developer Scott D’Avanzo and his family (primarily his 9 year-old son), Mystic Motel came from a love of dark rides and Scott’s desire to have one in his home. The most likely spot was the family’s 20 x 20 garage, and that is where building began, with the promise to Scott’s incredibly patient and understanding wife that the attraction would not be “permanent”.
The story of Mystic Motel is that it was an old establishment along Route 66 that closed, but its visitors remained – not to harm any passersby, but perhaps to spook them once in a while. The “basement tour” allows guests to check out the eerie old motel, while having a close encounter with the building’s maintenance man and some of the more… spirited inhabitants of the place!
With a custom ride vehicle built from scratch and a bus bar-like track, the dark ride system is completely legit, and Mystic Motel is an honest-to-god traditional spook house attraction, complete with tight turns, crash doors, and pop-up props along the way! Of course, like most dark rides, Mystic Motel is short but sweet. The neighborhood kids and their adult companions don’t seem to mind however – they just jump right back in line to do it again! And again! And again!
When we first heard about this, we were completely intrigued. There are folks that build roller coasters on their property; you can find them all over YouTube. However, the idea of someone building their own dark ride in the home – that was a new one to us, and something we had to check out for ourselves. We weren’t disappointed! Scott has created something wonderful that the entire community loves and has benefited from. Families come and spend time together hanging out and riding Mystic Motel while socializing with one another in the D’Avanzo’s front yard. It’s become kind of a community hangout, and that is really great to see.
Scott’s long-term goal is to partner with a company or a theme park and create a branded dark ride experience out of Mystic Motel. We believe he can do it, and likely with a small mom and pop park or perhaps a family entertainment center; it’s a great brand! At the end of the day, most of us love scary little dark rides – Mystic Motel is just that, and it’s been created with a ton of love and incredible enthusiasm, making it one of our favorite haunt surprises of 2013!
Mystic Motel is set to return bigger and better for Halloween 2014! You can bet that we’ll be there, and we will support Scott and his family in their efforts! Halloween needs more families like the D’Avanzos!
– Rick West