Legends: A Haunting at Old Town

Lisa Fritscher September 22, 2014 No Comments

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Facade

Legends has great spooky curb appeal!

The Orlando area has long been known for its world-famous theme parks, but through the 1990s and early 2000s, it was also known for something else—its permanently installed haunted houses. While most haunts pop up for a few nights or weeks during the Halloween season, Orlando was one of the few towns where visitors could get scared almost any night of the year. After a long dry spell, haunt fans celebrated when Legends: A Haunting at Old Town opened in Kissimmee.

The History of Legends
The history behind Legends really began in 1991. At the time, Church Street Station, located in Downtown Orlando, was the hub of the area’s evening entertainment. Pleasure Island, Walt Disney World’s now-closed nighttime entertainment district, had opened in 1989 based on the Church Street model, but it had yet to make a significant impact on the Orlando club scene. Universal Orlando was only a year old, and its CityWalk district was still 8 years in the future. Then named Fright Nights, Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights debuted that year as a three-night party.

Terror on Church Street

Terror on Church Street started it all.

On November 8 of that year, a European haunt company completely revolutionized the American haunted house industry, and it all happened in Orlando. Terror on Church Street was the first highly theatrical, fully-immersive permanent haunted house on American soil. Its location at the foot of Church Street ensured instant success. Terror thrived for 8 years until rising rent prices and the death of Church Street Station at the hands of Pleasure Island and CityWalk forced its closure.

Undeterred, some of the original cast and crew of Terror on Church Street moved into the Church Street Exchange building a year later. Without support from the parent company, the troupe managed to scrape together costumes, makeup and props, and create an experience that matched the original in spirit, if not in budget. Now under the auspices of the foreign company that owned Church Street Station, Terror 2 also fell victim to changing times and closed suddenly.

Much of the cast and crew migrated to Skull Kingdom, a permanent haunted house along the International Drive tourist corridor that had opened in 1993 and gained new momentum amid Terror’s struggles. It lasted much longer than expected, but eventually closed its doors in 2006. Meanwhile, a very low-budget permanent haunt called the Grimm House was eking out an existence in the Old Town shopping and entertainment district along Kissimmee’s Highway 192 tourist corridor. Sometimes surviving with only a single actor, the Grimm House was nonetheless the best haunt property in the Orlando area since the death of the original Terror on Church Street at two stories and 6,000 square feet. Grimm House closed in December 2012, and the time was right for a rebirth of horror in the Orlando market.

Electric Chair

The creepiness begins outside.

About Legends
The group behind Legends consists of local haunt veterans, many of whom have resumes that stretch back to the original Terror on Church Street. Their passion and encyclopedic knowledge of the industry are evident at every turn. Opened in October 2013, the haunt is constantly growing and expanding. I visited twice, approximately a month apart, and at least four new effects had been added between my visits.

Legends is located in the old Grimm House building in Old Town. It is open from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. As of 2014, admission is $15 per person for all ages. The experience lasts between 15 and 20 minutes, depending on how fast your group moves. Groups are limited to approximately 10 people, depending on how busy the evening is. An attached gift shop features high-end masks, props and even home décor items.

A ghost tour, which we have not yet had the chance to experience, is offered on Tuesday and Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. The tour explores the Legends building, which many claim to be haunted, as well as a few spots around Old Town. A minimum of four guests must sign up for a ghost tour to be held, and the tour costs $20 per person.

Our Experience
I first visited with a friend, and we decided to go in on a lark during our evening at Old Town. The second trip was planned for Dad’s birthday, and included the same friend as well as another. Two of us had been through the house previously, and the other two had not. We are all adult veterans of the haunt industry. We are not easily frightened, but we thoroughly enjoy a good show.

Gift Shop

The gift shop is packed with high-end masks and props.

My first time through, we were at the back of a small group. The teenage girl at the front was terrified from the moment she entered. Her screams and jumps resonated through the group, creating a heightened sense of alertness and fun in all of us. On the second trip, there were no easy scares in our group. The actors had to work hard to create an amazing experience, and they delivered! We were all impressed by the professionalism and dedication.

The experience begins outside, where actors in full costumes and makeup do an excellent job of both scaring passersby and recruiting them to go inside. Tickets are sold in the gift shop, and you will be instructed to line up outside the haunt door. The tour begins in a relatively small holding room, where the tour guide gives a short back story that sets up the adventure. He leaves briefly, and things begin to get creepy. The first half of the house is escorted, but the guide’s misfortune means that you are left to find your own way out.

The haunt’s high budget is evident in the audio-animatronics, well-conceived props and highly detailed sets, as well as the number of actors. We easily counted a dozen on each visit, and it would be reasonable to expect that additional actors are used during peak times such as the Halloween season.

Street Actor

If you are unsure how your child will react, hang out with the street actors outside for a bit before buying tickets.

Tips for Parents
Legends is self-rated as a PG-13 experience due to the intentional frights and level of gore. There is no nudity, innuendo or other adult content. Children of all ages are welcome with their parents, except for hand-held infants. Children pay the same price as adults, and there are no refunds if you or your child are too scared to continue.

The actors are not allowed to intentionally touch anyone, although incidental contact such as brushing against a sleeve or prop might occur. The attraction utilizes fog, uneven floors, scents and strobe lighting. High heeled shoes are not permitted. Due to the age and layout of the building, the attraction is not wheelchair-accessible. You and your kids must be able to climb stairs and walk along sloped floors. Emergency exits are available.

Only you know your child and his or her tolerance for scary experiences. My 12-year-old cousin only made it for a couple of minutes in the gift shop due to a moving audio-animatronic inside. Another cousin, now 13, has been perfectly comfortable in haunted houses all her life. If you are not sure about your child’s tolerance level, try spending some time with the street actors to judge her reactions before purchasing tickets.

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Lisa is a full-time travel writer. She lives in an RV with her disabled father and writes about their experiences. Although she has no children of her own, Lisa loves being an Aunt to her own relatives and the children of all her friends. You can follow her adventures on her blog, Travel Confessions.

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