Thursday, October 15, 2015

Movieland Wax Museum - Haunted House & Frankenstein

Since Halloween is just about two weeks away, I thought we would do a SCARY post (sort of) today. Does anyone remember when Movieland Wax Museum in Buena Park had a Haunted House? Well, they did!

Movieland's Haunted House sat on a dirt lot that was adjacent to their parking lot...pretty much right next to where the photographer stood to take this postcard shot of the Movieland sign.

Today, The Courtyard by Marriott sits on that property.

Here is what the property looked like back in the Spring of 1979. The Movieland sign and the driveway into the parking lot would be behind us in this shot. Notice how it is mostly adults that are going into the Haunted House.

The entrance was underneath the pitched roof in the center of the facade and the exit was underneath that turret on the far left. As for what was inside the Haunted House, I only recall lots of dark hallways and "monsters" jumping out and making loud noises. I don't remember there being any specific rooms or sets. I also remember that the pathway through the structure slowly sloped upwards, making the exit at a slightly higher elevation compared to the entrance. You can just make out a stairway that was outside the exit.

Oh, and incidentally, this was an "unseasonable" attraction since it was not specifically set up for Halloween.

Here's a close-up of the sign.

Now we will go inside Movieland and take a look at the museum's Frankenstein figure and examine how he has changed over the years.

First up is this postcard of a photo-op inside the museum, where visitors could purchase a souvenir photo of themselves with "Frankie". Note the three sample photos on the table in the foreground.

A friend of mine was kind enough to allow me to post his family's souvenir photo, which was taken in the early seventies. It appears to be the same figure as in the shot above, but the color of Frankenstein's skin has been changed to green.

During a childhood visit, my brother actually posed with this same figure, while I posed with the Wolfman figure. Unfortunately, my brother can't find his Frankenstein photo, but I have my Wolfman photo and I'll include it in a future post about Movieland's "other monsters."

This is what the back of the paper photo frame looked like.

Next we have this postcard of the museum's Frankenstein set. What I can't remember is if this set existed at the same time as the "photo-op" and there were two Frankensteins in the museum, or if at some point they moved the photo-op figure into his own set. I do remember that the "Monster Gallery" photo-ops were gone by the end of the seventies.

Here's another postcard shot. By this time, the set had been changed to an "outdoor" scene.

I took this next photo back in 1979, on the same day that I shot the Haunted House pic.

And I took this one in October of 2005, which was the last month of operation for the museum. By then the set had been changed back to an "indoor" scene. If you look at the details on Frankenstein's jacket (the rips, the blood, etc.) and compare them to the two previous photos, you can see that it is the exact same jacket.....over a span of more than 25 years.

So Movieland has been closed now for exactly one decade. Starbuck's still exists out front in what used to be the museum's "Starlite Gifts" souvenir shop. And a couple years ago, something finally moved into the main building. It is a dual exhibit of "Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition" and "Bodies: The Exhibition".

Both of these exhibits however, are scheduled to leave in January and a "butterfly pavilion" will be moving onto the property, along with a movie theater complex. The following article about the old museum sign and the current and future exhibits appeared in the L.A. Times earlier this year. It doesn't state whether or not the existing building is going to be reused for the new attractions, but I spoke with an employee in the box office and was told that it will be demolished.

I love how the towering sign has managed to survive since the Museum's closure in 2005. I understand how it might be confusing for tourists, but the article mentions how some people end up visiting the new exhibits because of the old sign. I hope the city does decide to keep it. In my opinion, it is a work of art and it should be preserved!

I wish they would also get the lights running again. From what I remember, the diamond shapes not only lit up, but they "twinkled" too....very vintage "Las Vegas"!

If anyone has memories of Movieland's Haunted House or any other memories of the museum that they would like to share, I would love to hear about them. Feel free to leave a comment below!


Chuck said...

Still kicking myself we never visited this place...

outsidetheberm said...

Nice post, Chris. So many good memories of Movieland Wax Museum. When the auction was held after the closure, we were lucky enough to rescue some of those 'Movieland goodies'. You'll see them again one day at Liberty Ranch!

TokyoMagic! said...

Chuck, sorry to hear that you never got to see Movieland. It really was unique. It's too bad they were no longer able to compete with the big guys like Disney, Knott's, and Universal.

OTB, I'm glad that you were able to rescue some items from Movieland. I can't wait to see what you have!

Major Pepperidge said...

As a kid I loved going here, as weird as it was. I still remember the Keystone Cop posted like a wax figure, suddenly moving to scare the crap out of people. Many of the movie scenes didn't mean anything to me at the time ("PT-109", "Dr. Zhivago", and... something with Sophia Loren?). But MAN did we love the monsters! That was our thing. Even though I admit that they kind of scared me - "I hope THEY don't move!".

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I forgot all about the Keystone Cop! I don't think we ever saw him in person, but I do remember him from the TV commercials. Thanks for the memory of that! My brother and I didn't know many of the movies either, but we knew enough of the stars to enjoy going there. Some of our favorite sets were from The Little Rascals, Three Stooges, Beverly Hillbillies, Star Trek, Wizard of Oz, Poseidon Adventure and of course, like you mentioned....all of the movie monsters!

Major Pepperidge said...

Was there an H.R. Pufnstuf scene? Or am I mixing the Wax Museum up with Universal Studios?

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I never saw an H.R. Pufnstuf scene, but that doesn't meant there wasn't one. My first visit to the museum was in 1976, so it's possible there could have been one prior to that. They did swap scenes out....which I don't think was right. Imagine being represented in the museum, but then one day you're not as popular so they take you out. I was very upset when I visited and realized Tony Orlando & Dawn had been taken out!