The history of Sally Dark Rides’ Ghost Blasters (Part 2)

Introduction

Welcome to the second part of our Ghost Blasters special. We have covered the five classic Ghost Blasters installations in part one, but we are far from done! It’s time to look at its successors: the Scooby-Doo’s Haunted Mansion and Ghost Blasters II line of rides.

In case you have not read the first part yet, you can check it out here.

The History of Scooby-Doo’s Haunted Mansion

Just one year after the introduction of Ghost Blasters, a special version in the theme of Scooby-Doo appeared at Canada’s Wonderland (Vaughan, Ontario – Canada). Back when the park opened in 1981 it was owned by Kings Entertainment Company (part of Paramount Parks starting from 1992), who had the license to use Hanna-Barbera characters in its theme parks. Scooby-Doo is one of Hanna-Barbera’s most popular intellectual properties (IPs), which got its start with the animated television series Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! in 1969. In the series, a group of four teenagers along with their talking dog drive around in their Mystery Machine vehicle, looking for mysteries to solve. While the wooden roller coaster Scooby’s Gasping Ghoster Coaster (known as Ghoster Coaster now) had been representing the IP since the park’s opening, an interactive dark ride would be the perfect fit to showcase the Scooby-Doo IP.

Left: opening title of the Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! Animated series. Right: in clockwise order: Shaggy, Fred, Scooby-Doo, Velma and Daphne (© Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc., via Scoobypedia)

That brings us to George Sells, the Design Director at Paramount Parks at the time (from 1989 to 2005) who had caught wind of the popular Ghost Blasters ride when the first installations opened in 1999. According to John Wood of Sally Dark Rides: “George Sells at Paramount Parks contacted us about the ride and met me up at Lake Compounce to ride it and review it. He recognized we could make a few minor modifications and turn it into a Scooby Doo attraction quite easily. He and Jane McGuire went through our Ghost Blasters ride adding the Scooby-isms, the Scooby snacks and Scooby-Doo himself and brought in a few tried-and-true storylines specific to the license – and voila, we had a Scooby Doo’s Haunted Mansion!”

The Lake Compounce layout would serve as a basis. John Wood expresses his opinion on this decision: “We used the standard Ghost Blasters layout for the first Scooby Doo at Canada’s Wonderland, but it was just a little too small so we had to make some adjustments.” The order of the scenes was changed up slightly as a result. The show’s main characters Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and of Scooby-Doo the talking dog were incorporated into the ride’s story and the ending was altered to include a human villain. Paramount’s design team managed the relationship with Warner Bros. (Hanna-Barbera’s parent company) for approval on Sally’s work. Just shy of a year later the ride was completed and opened its doors on May 7th 2000.

Façade Haunted Mansion at Canada’s Wonderland (© Julie / usroadtripper via Flickr)

The Scooby-Doo’s Haunted Mansion Experience

At most installations we are greeted by a nice lawn, fenced off with a cartoony and exaggerated entrance gate. The queue leads up to the building’s façade where the station is located. Instead of Bleakstone Manor, we enter Ghastley Manor and a 2D representation of the main cast greets us as we are told the safety spiel by Shaggy (replacing the preshow with the professor). Both Shaggy and Scooby-Doo are voiced by Scott Innes, who has been voicing various Scooby-Doo characters since 1998 and continues to do so to this day for most non main-series projects. The vehicles now resemble the Mystery Machine and are called Mystery Pods. They are equipped with two or four (depending on the installation) weapons called Ghost Zappers. The sound it makes when firing is different from Ghost Blasters, almost resembling a classic bouncy spring sound effect.

Mystery Inc at Parque Warner Madrid (© Sally Dark Rides)

We leave the station and from inside our vehicle Shaggy can be heard: “Something’s funny about this money, Scoob!”, kicking off the story. Dr. Ghastley, owner of Ghastley Manor, is secretly printing money in the dungeon. In order to keep his secret and scare away potential intruders, he decides to dress up as the Phantom Shadow, a recurring bad guy from the Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! animated series. As opposed to Ghost Blasters, there is no music playing through the majority of our tour through the manor (aside from the installation at Kings Island). After passing some Practice Targets, we enter the Graveyard as expected. Halfway through the scene is where the first significant difference lies: the inclusion of Scooby Snacks boxes littered about. Shooting it will cause Scooby-Doo to appear. You can expect six or seven boxes to appear on each version of the ride. It should be noted that other aspects of the scenes including the ghosts remain largely unchanged.

As usual, Scooby and Shaggy split up from the rest of the team and we follow them on their
adventures (© Sally Dark Rides)

The following scene is the Tombs, showcasing various fluorescent eyes looking at us (possibly a reference to the opening credits of The New Scooby-Doo Movies cartoon from 1972). It is also where we can find Shaggy for the first time hiding in one of the gravestones as he proclaims: “Like, get me outta here!”

After an unchanged Haunted Garden we arrive at the Grand Hall and it is where another box of Scooby Snacks can be found. The following scene could not be found at Ghost Blasters and it is the Kitchen. When shooting the giant fridge the Phantom Shadow shows himself for the first time, coming from behind it. A Scooby Snacks box can be found in both the following Dining Room and Hall of Mirrors, which have seen no significant changes.

Up next is a very elaborate rendition of the Suits O’ Armor. There is a shield on the wall which when shot reveals a ghost. Armor suits are standing left and right, surrounded by bags of money and a large treasure chest: our first clue. We pass by a grandfather clock before entering the Portrait Hall. Shooting the Scooby Snacks reveals a portrait of Scooby-Doo.

Shaggy on the pipe organ (© Sally Dark Rides)

What follows is the Pipe Organ and it is one of the few rooms accompanied by a piece of music, played by Shaggy on the organ (though it sounds more like a xylophone). Before entering the Bedroom, we pass by two curtains. The first reveals another appearance of the Phantom Shadow when shot at, while the second is a jump scare of a ghost lunging forward. This time, the bed is occupied by a skeleton and Scooby (sometimes Shaggy and Scooby) who rise up when the box of Scooby Snacks sitting on the table is shot at. This is followed up by the Seance Chamber, where we find out the fortune teller is spying on the rest of the gang (Fred, Daphne and Velma) through her crystal ball. Scooby-Doo appears from under her table when the box of Scooby Snacks is shot at.

Scooby-Doo in the Bedroom at Carowinds (© Sally Dark Rides)

The ride is coming to a close as the story wraps up, and finally begins to really differentiate itself from classic Ghost Blasters. Instead of an encounter with Boocifer, we pass by some stairs implying we have finally found the Dungeon. There are some contraptions to be found as well as a ‘’secret formula’’ written on the wall: paper + ink = money. The final box of Scooby Snacks on the workbench reveals Shaggy and Scooby, who have just found the money printing machine. The Phantom Shadow pops up from behind a pile of moneybags but with his evil scheme foiled, he makes his way to the Vault where he is quickly captured and unmasked by our heroes.

The unmasking about to take place (© Sally Dark Rides)

We finally meet up with the rest of the gang, who obviously did not contribute very much in solving the mystery, and Dr. Ghastley is put in a police van while the Scooby-Doo theme plays heroically. But suddenly, the ride ends on a cliffhanger. The window of the police van goes down revealing a skeleton behind the wheel, with a very worried police officer trapped in a crate nearby. The final doors lead us back to the station, where we can compare our scores to the rank table and leave the ride afterwards.

The Installations of Scooby-Doo’s Haunted Mansion

Scooby-Doo’s Haunted Mansion at Canada’s Wonderland (Vaughan, Ontario – Canada) was the prototype and opened in 2000. It being the first version, there are bound to be some minor differences. For instance, the Scooby-Doo theme does not play in the final scene.

Technical specs:
Footprint: 557 m² (6,000 sq. ft.)
Track length: 115 m (377 ft.)
Animated characters and props: 80
Capacity: 400 p/h (two-seater) / 800 p/h (four-seater)
Transport: 8 cars

The ride was a big success and Sally Dark Rides and Paramount Parks received the Best New Children’s Ride award by IAAPA for their achievement. It didn’t take long for other parks owned by Paramount to join in on the fun, as well as eventually parks from other operators. In total, six versions of Scooby-Doo’s Haunted Mansion were built, along with the very unique Scooby-Doo! Ghostblasters: The Mystery of the Scary Swamp.

A reference to the original animated series’ title could be found at the entrance gate. The backside of the sign replaces the Haunted Mansion-part with “Where are you?”

The Carowinds version’s exterior (© C. E. Beavers / thescorpionlair via Flickr)

Six Flags Fiesta Texas (Eureka, Missouri – United States) received their version in 2002 where it is known as Scooby-Doo! Ghostblasters (sic): The Mystery of the Haunted Mansion. Aside from being slightly smaller and missing a couple of scenes like the Seance Chamber, it is very similar to the Paramount versions. The only real difference lies on the outside. John Wood explains: “Regarding the themed facades, the Paramount team did most of the exterior design. Six Flags design team also created the exterior façade of their attractions. We added theatrical components like the van, scary signs, and other tidbits in the pre-show queue areas for most of the attractions.”

Also, Six Flags St. Louis (Eureka, Missouri – United States) received a very special version of the ride. After proving to be unpopular with guests, the park opted to close the free flow boat ride Castaway Kids’ Comic Book Adventure at the end of the 1999 season. Before this, it operated as Castaway Kids’ Jungle Adventure, Legends of the Dark Castle, Tunnel Del Tiempo and originally opened as Injun Joe’s Cave along with the park itself in 1971. The ride system, provided by Arrow Development (later Arrow Dynamics) was the only part not gutted when it opened up again as Scooby-Doo! Ghostblasters: The Mystery of the Scary Swamp in 2002. Some Ghost Blasters scenes were adapted for this version of the ride, though most of it along with the story is completely original. Because of this, it will not be covered in further detail in this article.

Scary Swamp was an entirely different beast (© Sally Dark Rides)

Kings Island (Mason, Ohio – United States) received its version in 2003. The name was slightly altered to become Scooby-Doo and the Haunted Castle and was notable for featuring an Omnimover style transportation system by D. H. Morgan Manufacturing, each providing space for three people. When the park opened in 1972, the building housed a free flow boat ride named Enchanted Voyage, developed by Arrow Development. It featured scenes based on various Hanna-Barbara properties among which, perhaps ironically enough, Scooby-Doo. With the rising popularity of the Smurfs, the ride was rethemed to Smurf’s Enchanted Voyage in 1984, before being completely replaced by Phantom Theater, a haunted house type ride, in 1992. It is at this point the Omnimover system which is still in use to this day was introduced. Well, half of it at least, because 28 of the 55 gondolas were removed when the ride reopened with the Scooby-Doo theme in 2003.

Left: Phantom Theater’s Omnimover system. Right: repainted for Haunted Castle (© Kings Island)

The size of the building brought with it the ability to add a couple of additional set pieces, like multiple appearances of Fred, Daphne and Velma as well as a scene of a monster chasing Shaggy in a circle (an element also featured on Mystery of the Scary Swamp). It was the only version of the ride to feature an on-ride camera. Also exclusive to this version was an instrumental rendition of the Scooby-Doo theme which plays at all times.

Technical specs:
Track length: 173m (568 ft.)
Capacity: 1,000 p/h
Transport: 28 gondolas

The Haunted Castle starting to take shape (© Kings Island)

Kings Dominion received Scooby-Doo and the Haunted Mansion which featured some addition theming around the outside like a replica of the Mystery Machine stuck in mud. This version, which’s building was a repurposed restaurant, had the shortest lifespan of all the Ghost Blasters rides, opening in 2004 and closing again at the end of 2009. One final version of the ride opened in 2005 and it is the first outside of North America. It is La Aventura de Scooby-Doo at Parque Warner Madrid (San Martín de la Vega, Madrid – Spain), which aside from all signage and voice overs (with David García Vázquez portraying Scooby-Doo and Juan Logar Jr. as Shaggy) being translated to Spanish, does not contain any notable differences.

La Aventura de Scooby-Doo’s façade (© Parque Warner Madrid)

Most parks wouldn’t stick with the property for long though, especially after Paramount Parks was sold off to Cedar Fair Entertainment Company in 2006, prompting them to pay a yearly license fee to use the name. Canada’s Wonderland, Carowinds, Kings Island and Kings Dominion were the first to remove all references to Scooby-Doo after the 2009 season, while keeping other aspects of the ride intact. The Six Flags parks took a different approach, with Six Flags St. Louis entirely replacing their Scary Swamp with Justice League: Battle for Metropolis in 2015. Six Flags Fiesta Texas opened Pirates of the Deep Sea at their former Scooby-Doo location in 2018. Currently, Parque Warner Madrid is the only park which still operates a Scooby-Doo’s Haunted Mansion ride.

After the 2014 season the Scary Swamp was completely gutted (© Six Flags St. Louis)

The History of Ghost Blasters II

During the mid-2000s, classic Ghost Blasters found itself pushed to the background in favour of Scooby-Doo’s Haunted Mansion and no installations were built after 2002. This changed in 2008 when Elitch Gardens (Denver, Colorado – United States) decided to open their first dark ride which ended up becoming Ghost Blasters II. The park requested for the ride to be made scarier which resulted in some changes like additional scares and a new musical score. It would become the new standard, as all future Ghost Blasters installations would take heavy inspiration from this reincarnation.

Technical specs:
Footprint: 774 m² (8,330 sq. ft.)
Track length: 130 m (425 ft.)

Ghost Blasters II features multiple improvements like a proper preshow (© Sally Dark Rides)

Conceptually, it is very similar to the original. Professor Phearstruck (now appearing as a fullblown animatronic character in the preshow) once again enlists our help to eliminate the mighty Boocifer from Bleakstone Manor. The antagonist also received a facelift: trading his bushy hair for glowing red eyes and a more realistic skull for a head.

Boocifer’s updated design (© Sally Dark Rides)

Some more small changes were made to the story, like the vehicles now being called Phantom Trackers. The layouts are once again very similar (in the case of the Scooby-Doo rethemes reused) and feature most of the same scenes as the older versions. We are introduced to Boocifer early on, when he makes a friendly gravedigger disappear right in front of our eyes, taking his place right after (a fancy Pepper’s Ghost effect). It should also be noted that at Elitch Gardens’ Grand Hall scene, an old-style Boocifer makes a cameo appearance in the fireplace. Drew Hunter, Vice President of Design at Sally Dark Rides explains: “He gave us many years of ‘dead-icated’ service to the first Ghost Blaster dark rides, so we wanted to be sure to include him somewhere in the newer versions. After all, even ghosts need to have something fun to do in their retirement years!”

The gravedigger character (© Sally Dark Rides)

After passing the Attic and the box with “bad ghosts” Boocifer shows up as a projection. The vehicle passes right through it (via the FogScreen eMotion technology) proclaiming “You want to drive me from my home, Ghost Blasters? Go ahead, try!” At this point all hell breaks loose with skeletons coming from every corner and strobe lights all over. We appear to be leaving the mansion to face off with Booficer in the woods, who pops up from behind an overgrown ruin structure. The background consists of twisted and evil looking faces. By shooting the targets Boocifer is defeated and he disappears in a puff of smoke. The woods light up, vanquishing the darkness and restoring Bleakstone Manor to its former self.

The final encounter with Boocifer (© Sally Dark Rides)

Two years after the first installation of Ghost Blasters II, Cedar Fair decided not to renew their license to use the Scooby-Doo IP. The Scooby-Doo and the Haunted Mansion rides at Canada’s Wonderland, Carowinds, Kings Island and Kings Dominion were closed and retrofitted with the Ghost Blasters II theme. All four opened in 2010 as Boo Blasters on Boo Hill. Generic ghosts take the place of the Scooby-Doo characters and Kings Island now features a tourist running from two skeletons in place of the monster chasing Shaggy. Of course Boocifer now plays the role of villain in all versions and even replaced Shaggy as the organ player. Unlike the fog projection, the Pepper’s Ghost of the gravedigger and the preshow with the professor did not carry over to Boo Blasters, possibly due to space constraints. Instead, Boocifer now appears as a computer generated character on a screen in the Graveyard to introduce himself. Lastly, the former money printing machine has been turned into the Scare Tonic (a soda which supposedly makes ghosts stronger) machine and the new climax has replaced the final two scenes.

Left: the old monster chasing Shaggy at Kings Island. Right: the current situation at Kings Island (© Kings Island, Sally Dark Rides)

The original Ghost Blasters II at Elitch Gardens closed in October 2018 to make way for Meow Wolf’s Kaleidoscape. By this time both the fog projection and smoke when defeating Boocifer had been absent for years already. Also at the Cedar Fair parks the fog projections wouldn’t last long and all that remains of them today at these installations is Boocifer’s haunting voice. Except at Kings Island, were a screen with the animation playing was added into the scene some years later, similar to Boocifer’s appearance in the Graveyard.

Finally, after many years of no new Ghost Blasters, two more were built in the late 2010s. The first of these was Spökjakten at Furuvik (Furuvik, Gävleborg County – Sweden) which opened in 2018. Because this was a brand new installation, the preshow with Professor Phearstruck was included. Some small adjustments were made to the scenes and order they appear in, but it is without a doubt still the same classic ride.

Technical specs:
Footprint: 471 m² (5,073 sq. ft.)
Track length: 110 m (363 ft.)
Animated characters and props: 72 (91 targets)
Transport: 7 four-seater cars

2019’s Mystic Mansion at The Park at OWA (Foley, Alabama – United States) is the most recent Ghost Blasters installation. Here the Pepper’s Ghost effect of the gravedigger has him turn into a skeleton and even the hitchhiking ghosts, who had not been featured since 2002, make their return here.

Technical specs:
Footprint: 769 m² (8,279 sq. ft.)
Track length: 120 m (393 ft.)
Animated characters and props: 73 (91 targets)
Transport: 9 four-seater cars

OWA’s Mystic Mansion (© Sally Dark Rides)

Closing

And with that we have covered all fifteen installations (nineteen variations total) of Ghost Blasters as of 2020. Currently there are no new Ghost Blasters being built but who knows what the future might bring. For quick reference of all the installations, check out the chart below. We would like to thank Sally Dark Rides once again for their cooperation and provided information for use in our article.

Ghost Blasters timeline 1999-2020 (© DRdb)

References

Further reading:
A detailed list of all changes made to Scooby-Doo and the Haunted Castle at Kings Island when it was rethemed to Boo Blasters on Boo Hill
https://visitkingsisland.fandom.com/wiki/Boo_Blasters_on_Boo_Hill
Information on Kings Island’s Phantom Theater
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phantom_Theater
‘’Life without Scooby’’ on the Sally Dark Rides website
https://www.sallydarkrides.com/post/life-without-scooby
Scooby-Doo’s Haunted Mansion on the Sally Dark Rides website
https://www.sallydarkrides.com/dark-rides/scooby-doos-haunted-mansion
Ghost Blasters II on the Sally Dark Rides website
https://www.sallydarkrides.com/dark-rides/ghost-blasters-ii

Images:
Images courtesy of Sally Dark Rides, Lagotronics Projects, Kings Island, Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc., Six Flags St. Louis, Parque Warner Madrid, Julie / usroadtripper (Flickr), C. E. Beavers / thescorpionlair (Flickr)

Special thanks:
Special thanks to Lauren Wood Weaver, John Wood and Drew Hunter at Sally Dark Rides for providing us with information and pictures for use in our article.

©2020 Dark Ride Database
Article by Jim and Quintus