Dracula’s Castle

Opened: 1974
Designed By: Bill Tracy
Manufactured By: Amusement Display Associates, Inc.
Cost: $125,000

View of the south side of Patio Gardens two years before Dracula’s Castle opened there. Photo courtesy of Deseret News

When Dracula’s Castle opened in 1974, it was the third haunted attraction that had been added to Lagoon within an eight-year period (following the Haunted Shack and Terroride). It occupies a portion of the Patio Gardens building which was one of Utah’s top venues for world-renown and local performers from 1954 until about 1970. The rest of the building had been transformed into the Penny Arcade by the time Dracula’s Castle was built.

In its opening season, Dracula’s Castle was advertised to “scare the yell out of you” and was the third most popular ride at Lagoon.¹

Photo of a live Dracula on top of the castle from a 1976 park brochure.

Just like Terroride, many changes have been made to the ride since its opening. One contributor remembered the ride this way:

“I visited Lagoon several times over the summer of 1977 when the attraction was three years old. I recall it was one of the first rides I ever enjoyed that used strobe lights and I seem to recall there were two rooms with strobe lights flashing. One room was brightly colored with striped wallpaper. The strobe lights made the room almost seem to be alive itself. The second room with strobes was filled with mirrors. The strobes made it difficult to focus on your own reflection but the effect was entrancing nonetheless. I also remember that at that time there were live characters standing in those rooms that would make a move towards your car as it passed through the room. I don’t know how long the live individuals were used but I remember being startled at the sight of a real person moving towards me in those rooms. They were not there every time I visited Lagoon.”

“I seem to recall that they were dressed in outfits that blended in with the striped wallpaper. That made them hard to recognize until they made a move. In the mirror pattern room it seems like they were dressed in black and there were black spaces between the mirror panels in the room. They would stand in between the mirrors and then as the car approached the exit (into the next room) they would step out. They never really did anything other than make a movement.”

Another contributor added his early memories of Dracula’s Castle:

“When Dracula’s Castle first opened there were three rooms with strobes. The first room was a jail scene that consisted of mirrors painted to look like jail bars. When the attraction first opened this room was fairly lengthy, it had about 3-4 switchbacks. A couple years later it was cut down to a simple pass through. The thing that I remember that was cool about this room is when you were about to leave it, you could see the next car coming in and you could wave at your friends. When they cut it back you couldn’t do this any longer.

This first room occurred after going down the entrance hall and the hall after the first right turn. The second room was a green striped small room. The strobes made you feel that the wall was approaching and distorted your perception. The third strobe room was kinda similar but the effects were not as good. It was a room covered with aluminum foil. It had a little dip that was cool.”

Many assume that the rotating tunnel no longer spins because it broke down and just hasn’t been fixed. But from what has been submitted to me, it sounds like it was turned off for a couple possible reasons. One being that it just made too many people sick and another being the safety of riders (if the cars happened to stop and they tried to get out of the vehicle and walk out without an employee’s assistance). It’s possible that the Philadelphia Toboggan Company built this tunnel along with similar ones in other dark rides, but I’m still looking for more details on that.

Aerial view of Dracula’s Castle in 1980. Photo courtesy of Deseret News

In 2007, Terroride and Dracula’s Castle both received new scenes and features. The additions to Dracula’s Castle included the animatronic Headless Horseman and a large gargoyle among other things. The owl perched above the loading area got an updated recording in 2010. Dracula used to be found in the room after the Headless Horseman, but that figure now stands in one of the towers outside, replacing a smaller Dracula which had been there previously.

When Terroride was renovated in 2017, many of the elements taken out of the ride were moved to Dracula’s Castle. The most noticeable ones being the gorilla and rat which had been used for Frightmares. A werewolf from Terroride was placed in the west tower of the castle where a white one used to be a few years prior.

Dracula’s Castle was given the Hollywood treatment in 1987 when scenes for an episode of the short-lived TV series Werewolf were filmed at Lagoon. Some scenes were shot at the Roller Coaster station and other spots on the South Midway, but the climax was filmed at Dracula’s Castle. The episode aired on Fox in March of 1988. (The video that used to be on this page showed the last portion of the TV show, which also used a different park for establishing shots. It has now been removed from YouTube).

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Browse photos of Dracula’s Castle in the GALLERY

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NOTES

1. The most popular ride in 1974 was Roller Coaster and Sky Ride, which was also installed the same year, took second according to a 1975 Deseret News article.

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LINKS

The Bill Tracy Project

Haunted Shack

Terroride

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SOURCES

Lagoon to open 6-story sky ride. Deseret News, 5 Apr 1974.

Soon…Lagoon can turn a frown upside-down. Deseret News, 5 Apr 1975.

“Werewolf” Blind Luck (1988). Internet Movie Database, accessed 28 Oct 2011.

Bahur, Wayne R. & Brandon M. Seidl. The Bill Tracy Project, BillTracyProject.com. Accessed 3 Nov 2011.

Werewolf TV Series > Blind Luck. Werewolf: The Complete Unofficial Site, accessed 28 Oct 2011.

Old television commercials. Email message to author from Stephen A., 20 Dec 2004.

Lagoon, Dracula’s Castle. Email message to author from Barry, 2 Mar 2005.

Dracula’s Castle. Email messages to author from Stephen A., 16 & 18 Mar 2005.

Dracula’s Castle. Email message to author from Robert J., 22 Jun 2006.

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6 thoughts on “Dracula’s Castle”

  1. If I may, I’d like to clarify some of your facts on Dracula’s Castle tunnels at Lagoon. I can verify that this assumption that the tunnels broke down and were simply never fixed is not an assumption. It is what really happened. I know this because I was a supervisor on this ride the year we decided to do this and had deciding power in this matter. There were a few reasons for this decisions and none of what you present here are correct, except for the assumption.

    The first reason is that they just weren’t cost effective to operate. The second reason is because in a day of growing liability and disrespectful, idiot guests, we decided to turn them off after we found the spinning seemed to act as an invitation to stupid guests who thought they needed to reach out and punch them. It wasn’t exactly cheap to replace these things. We found when the tunnels were turned off, guests stopped punching their wall. To this day, they are still vandalized and damaged from when I was a supervisor over the ride twenty years ago.

    The motors did wear down and rather than replace them, we decided to remove them completely and then secured the tunnels to keep them from running. As to the claim about the tunnels not spinning because of the difficulty to exit guests from that area. That’s not even close to being true. The trackway remains the same width, less than the width of the car itself, whether the tunnels were spinning or not and there is simply no place for a guest to place their foot when exiting the car. They would fall through the tunnel whether it was spinning or not. In case of a break down, it has always been policy to never allow guests to exit their vehicle inside the tunnel. The policy was that the operator would always push this car out of the tunnel and to the exit of the ride, unless there was a fire blocking the path. And let’s face it, if there’s a fire big enough to block the path of a care and it’s too big for a fire extinguisher, who cares about the tunnel getting destroyed by an exiting guest, that thing’s going to get destroyed in much worse ways. The tunnel had been placed at the end of the ride specifically for the reason that it would be easy to help it exit the ride during a break down.

    As to people trying to get out on their own – wasn’t a factor. When the ride stops, three things happen. A back operator starts yelling to stay seated, and you do hear that operator everywhere. Another operator announces over a PA to stay seated and informs them an operator will help them. In case of a power failure, it’s black, no one’s getting out in black on their own and the operators use bullhorns. Also the exiting operator runs straight into the ride and helps the car closest to the exit (the car in range of the tunnel). Prior to the tunnel is a trap door directly at the front of the ride and the loading operator immediately pops his or her head in to announce to stay seated. So this idea of emergency unloading at the tunnels, not even accurate. A car could break down, but there is no way a car could break down where it could not be pushed out on its own, and believe me, I’ve had some insane breakdowns.

    I hope this helps with your history. Use it how you will, but your information is not at all close on this and the one bit you seem to discount is actually the truth. Oh, as to making people sick – never even a consideration. It’s an amusement park. Sick comes with the territory and I’ve cleaned up chunder on every single ride there except in Dracula’s Castle. People getting sick in the tunnels was just an urban legend that operators wished would happen because it would have been a messy vengeance on guests, but it never happened, not once.

    The tunnels were simply shut down because of irresponsible guests who couldn’t keep their arms and legs inside the car and had to go and ruin the illusion for everybody else. They simply vandalized the tunnels more than the worth of the cost to replace their motors or their decorative molding.

    Anyone who tells you other than this is full of crap. I know because I was one of the decision makers on this issue and I was the person who shut them off for the very last time.

  2. Thank you for clearing things up! That was very informative. The reasons you described for turning the spinning tunnels off make a lot of sense. As I noted in the article I’ve only heard speculations and assumptions as to why they were turned off so I’m glad you shared what you knew. Thanks again.

    Do you remember the exact year they were turned off so I can add it to this information?

  3. I’ve always recalled the older Dracula statue in the east tower and the Werewolf in the west tower to have been automated when I was a kid, I have not seen them move for years, so I always wonder if they moved at all or was it my wild 7 year old imagination.

  4. April 23, 2016 Lagoon has a new television commercial (also posted on their Facebook page) that shows the tunnel spinning again! Hoping it’s been fixed and is spinning this summer because that would be false advertising otherwise…

  5. It was exciting to see that split second shot of the spinning tunnel, but unfortunately it still doesn’t spin. It sounds like the motors have been removed so it was probably moved by hand just for the commercial when they filmed it last year. Maybe it will create enough attention for people to contact Lagoon and motivate them to bring the effect back.

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