As we'd expect, 30 years ago, Thorpe Park was a very different place. In fact, it wasn't really until 1983 that the park saw investment in 'theme park rides'; until then, the park was a more educational/leisure area. One attraction which opened in 1983 saw Phantom Fantasia - the first incarnation of what many knew as Wicked Witches Haunt. The ride was rethemed into WWH in 1994, before its untimely closure in 2000 due to the infamous Thorpe Park Fire.
Whilst I never got a chance to ride the original Phantom Fantasia (would be a bit difficult considering I hadn't been born then ), I've heard / read a couple of accounts of the ride, and it seemed to be a very British attraction - it had that eerie / scary tone, yet had humour to it as well. It was a ride which sounded fun for everyone, and was just spot on. When we remember that at this time, Thorpe was a small business, and the idea of a theme park wasn't really around in Britain (something which Wardley discussed about so well in his autobiography I thought), it's - in a way - an astounding achievement.
Here's a few photos of the original Phantom Fantasia, from either 1983 or 1984 (put in spoilers to save on space and such):
The queue line (I assume!)
Some scenes from the ride:
Unfortunately, I can't really offer much explanation into the scenes and such. However, Neilfever added a brilliant video of the ride onto his Youtube account a few years ago...
One final Phantom Fantasia photo to leave you with is this one...
Anyone recognise him?
You walk past him as you exit Nemesis Inferno! I think after the fire, he appeared in MHFS, and now keeps guard of the now abandoned area...
Wicked Witches Haunt
I did get a chance to go on WWH, however. Several times. My memory of it is rather hazy, seeinghow the last time I went on it I was barely 6, but there are some scenes that I remember. I think that in itself speaks volumes of this attraction - for me to remember it 13 years after my mind shows that it was an attraction that stayed with you. It might not have been the best dark ride, but that doesn't mean it didn't affect you.
My personal memories of the ride was that it was one of the attractions you 'love to hate'. Not in Storm Surge way, but in a way that it always left me scared or spooked out, I'd have to close my eyes really tightly or cover my eyes and I'd sometimes let out a scream. As a child, it was ride that scared me, but that's why you like it. The best way I can word it is that it's the child-equivalent of a scare maze, or watching a horror film.
The witches didn't scare me really. I guess at that age, you're introduced to stories that split opinions on witches - some seem horrible, but are actually nice and vice versa. The thing was though, it did give me a 'feeling'; something bad could well happen here. The scenes that never failed to scare me were the ones with spiders - there were big, fair, ugly hairy spiders. They jumped out at you and stuff. I was petrified. I think the finale, or a scene very close to it, involved the carriage turning to face a wall, and then the biggest spider there was jumping out at you. Scary stuff. For the family audience the park had at the time, it must have been a huge hit.
So, that's really all I have to share. Whilst the ride was not 'iconic', it certainly played its part in Thorpe's history, and is probably something that will be mentioned for years to come. I do doubt that the ride would have stayed at the park much longer anyway, due to the shift in target market, the age of the attraction and such, it is a true shame it burnt down. But c'est la vie.
A couple of links which show of PF/WWH really nicely -
Would be great to hear others' memories of the ride too!