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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): 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 - http://www.memoriesofthorpepark.co.uk/phantomfantasia.html http://www.baffles.me.uk/features/tpg/features/wwh/index.html Would be great to hear others' memories of the ride too!
After trawling through the planning portal again, which is always interesting I find, I came across the original plans for Colossus. Much like with the http://forum.maniahub.com/topic/151-tidal-wave/page-30#entry164771]original Tidal Wave plans, they are quite different. But before I divulge into that further, let's look at how a new coaster came about in the first place... As is well known, in 1997, the Tussauds Group took over Thorpe. Prior to that, as you'd expect, it was hard for the park to get serious funding for any major development or investment into the park. In the 10 years prior to that, there had only been two 'major' investments - Canada Creek and X:\NWO. Due to the otherwise low investments, and local competition from Chessington and the newly opened Legoland Windsor, guest numbers were declining and the park was not making profits. In fact, the park themselves describe it as a "spiral of decline", and between 1993 and 1998, visitor numbers had dropped from 1.35million to 0.8million; quite a significant drop really! This shows the number of visitors, in millions. This was made sometime during the 1999 season, so any figures for 1999 and after are predictions / hopes (with a coaster opening in 2001). Thought this might be of interest too. Attendances at the Tussauds parks and Windsor Safari Park on a similar timescale. The introduction of Pirates 4D and Tidal Wave was aimed to be, if anything, a 'quick fix', to boost visitor numbers in the short term. Pirates had the intriguing tagline of 'the UK's first 4D cinema', and Tidal Wave could pretty much sell itself, so those investments spread over two years would help attract some people to the park. However, more is of course needed, especially as Tussauds aimed to turn the park into a profitable, year-round business. Of course, as it is, Thorpe still isn't a year-round park. The aim was, just after the turn of the century, to introduce two big, huge new rides. This would, essentially, be the first step in truly turning the park around. Tussauds noted that, following the introduction of Nemesis at Alton Towers, that park turned around, and it was hoped the same could happen with Thorpe. Two rides were applied for in 1999, to open in 2000 and 2001 - what is described as a "45m elevator ride" and a 40m coaster respectively. Both plans were withdrawn following discussions with the council (and, as such, plans for the rides are not available online). Despite the council advising the best location of the coaster - the current location of Colossus - it was said to be difficult to get approval for the coaster. Whilst it was probable they could have gotten approval for the 45m ride, they decided to withdraw that application too to help with the approval of a revised, 30m tall coaster - what we now know to be Colossus. I can't quite figure out where this elevator ride would have gone, but by the sounds of it, the area would have been close to the coaster, and were to be developed soon. So, I'd guess we'd be looking at where the Lost City flat rides are (which makes sense with rumours I've heard of Detonator originally being planned for Lost City). So, the park didn't just want this new coaster, they needed it. Without it, the park would struggle and continue its spiral of decline quicker than a helter-skelter. It was projected that an additional 200,000 people would visit the park thanks to the new coaster; a quarter of their current visitors. Can you imagine a ride now where the park hoped they'd get almost an extra 500k visitors thanks to it? So, it was a huge risk in one way; if they didn't get the visitors, it was huge amount of money pretty much chucked down the drain. So, that's enough background I reckon. But, with all that in mind, what sort of ride do you go for? Well, the park's first choice was, interestingly, a LIM coaster (just to be clear, this coaster had a maximum height of 30m. As I mentioned earlier, the plans for a 40m coaster aren't anywhere online, unfortunately). A brief outline of the coaster itself: The actual launch mechanism was to be inside a tunnel, for protection apparently. After the launch, the train would dip down slightly, and then enter a cobra roll, which would be the high point of the ride, and a vertical loop would follow. Some strange, twisty meandering in the air, an airtime hill and another weird twisty bit and the ride ends. It covers almost the exact same area as Colossus I believe, though a bit shifted about of course. A side on view of the coaster. A view from where, I think, Rush or Quantum is now situated. Looks...interesting. However, for reasons I can't find, the plans changed, despite approval of this coaster. I'd assume one reason the plans changed to what we now know to be Colossus is to get the world record inversion count. If you're gonna do something big, you may as well do something massive, right? Personally, I think I prefer what we have now. Colossus really was, and always will be, the ride which 'put the park on the map'. Whilst it might now be uncomfortable and not highly rated - especially amongst enthusiasts - it did the job, and still does to this day. A couple of badly-edited pictures showing the difference of how the coasters would have looked. As some may know, and as I mentioned to earlier, Colossus was intended to open for 2001. However, due to this change in plan, the project was pushed back a year. Perhaps this was fortunate for the park; 2001 brought instead 3 new attractions, bringing in more guests, and adding to people knowing of the big, brand new coaster coming next year. So, we now have the coaster we know and 'love' as Colossus applied for and approved. Yet what we have today is still slightly different to what was originally planned! The entrance was is a completely different place to where it is now - though the cobra roll. The queue would start there, go down into the pit (similar to Smiler's entrance in a way I guess), and then meander around in a similar, but shorter, fashion to as it does now. The shop also bordered directly with the station, instead of its current location. I've - badly - shown the queue layouts; black is ordinary, red is Fastrack (then known as Virtual Q). Interestingly, approx maximum queue times were 40mins and 15mins respectively! This is a RCT screenshot made by John Wardley, where you can see the entrance through the cobra roll. (Photo taken from Thorpe Park Guide Archives). I'd guess the changes to the queue line and shop location were more cosmetic more than anything else. Again, I think I prefer what we have now, specifically the pit, than what we could have had. So that's about it really. If you read through all that ramble, I hope it made sense. I just thought I'd share the wondrous history of Colossus which I've pieced together - from the initial reasons and vision, to design and to what we have got today.