Mystery Fun House
For decades, Mystery Fun House delighted, challenged and spooked generations. It sat demure, a stone's throw away from Universal Orlando, dwarfed by the cylindrical tower hotel across from Universal's parking garage on Major Boulevard. Merlin the Wizard, the attraction's perennial icon, welcomed you in with eerie organ classics.
The sad truth is that the landmark shack of thrills could have used a makeover even before it closed its doors forever in 2000. While this may have even added to the carnival charm during the funhouse itself it ultimately didn't hold up the experience that folks got from the Orlando theme parks. Through the years, the addition of a dinosaur-themed miniature golf area and a video arcade complete with laser tag gave the place additional revenue streams. However, in light of the cleaner and brighter offerings around the city, it is hard to deny that Mystery Fun House had been run down in its final waking hours.
Accepting that, tradition was as good a reason as any to stop by Merlin's place. It was an intimate experience and maybe the fact that it was far removed from the pristine Disney and Universal park refinery could have given it a sparkling level of human warmth. Attractions like Gatorland and Green Meadows Petting Farm prove that Central Florida can still welcome a throwback attraction. Unfortunately, Mystery Fun House ran out of Merlin's bag of tricks.
Your journey began in a demanding glass mirror maze. Dim-lit, effect-enhanced, nice. Early on you would also find the best kept room -- a crooked Egyptian tomb room -- which would test your sense of balance and tinker with your perception of space. Along the way you encountered a few glass-enclosed gruesome audioanimatronics. All this as you work your way through the usually darkened rooms full of buzzers, rubber bars, padded bags and a tumbling barrel finale. You did have your funhouse customary spinwheel and mid-house with a standing-room only screening room showing clips of classic horror flicks.
You would exit into the once high-tech video arcade, which had seen better days by the late 1990s, and where food concessions were sold. From there you could have headed onto the putt-putt golf course, the laser tag or a unique gift shop. The entire walk-through of the house was elaborate but shouldn't have taken much more than half an hour, longer if you took refuge in the film room. It was a bargain relative to the major Orlando attractions. And, while you will find plenty of pure horrorfests like Terror on Church Street and Skull Kingdom, this was one for the entire family as even the seemingly morbid robotics were pretty tame and enclosed away from the pathways.
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