If you’re driving around the quaint community of Ladera Ranch, California, you may stumble upon the mysterious Mystic Motel, once a booming hot spot in the 1950s and '60s that was abandoned after a secret military research center exploded nearby, causing all the guests to vanish into thin air and the motel to shut its doors.
Just kidding, it’s actually Scott D'Avanzo’s family home where he lives with his wife and six children. For the past three years, Scott and his 11-year-old son have been working tirelessly building their elaborate, homemade Mystic Motel theme park ride in their home.
“Ashton, my son, asked me since he was like 6-years-old, ‘Can we build a ride?,’” Scott, 40, told ABC News of how the attraction got started. “Since about 2010, he’s asked me if we could build a ride and I always said no because I don’t know how to do that kind of stuff. I said, ‘I can’t build a ride. Are you crazy?’”
But eventually in 2013, the doting dad gave in to his son’s wildest dreams, agreeing to build a “basic ride in the garage.”
“I told him, ‘We’ll just do it for fun, you and me,’” he explained. “Then I realized how lame it was because the ride was so short. Once you have the ride in the garage you think you’re going to ride it all the time and then you don’t. Then we decided to let other people try it out so we opened it up for Halloween.”
Each Halloween since, the family has opened the eerie, dark ride to the public. Last year, roughly 3,500 people showed up to their house to wait in a two and half hour line to ride the 35-second themed attraction. This year however, they’ve gone bigger and better than ever, adding a more complex walk-through portion in the courtyard of their home where visitors can mingle with the motel’s “guests,” before riding the now minute-long mechanical ride.
“The reason it became Mystic Motel is because my wife said it can’t have blood and guts and gore,” said Scott, who brands ideas for a living working on games for casinos.
“I have experience with artwork and story lines, and we can up with the idea of Mystic Motel where the people weren’t dead, they were just living in this hotel stuck in time,” he added. “There’s this government plant high above the hotel and it blew up one night while they were working on a bomb that would freeze people in time. Something went wrong and that massive energy came down the valley and all these people playing cards in the casino and in the diner went ‘boom!’ Now these people are on a permanent vacation. In 2015, there’s sightings of these people because the chemicals are wearing off and that’s how people walking through the attraction can see them.”
The D'Avanzo’s ride, which features specials effects like explosions, collapsing ceilings and tons of props, lights and fog, opens tonight for the first time this season.
And as for what Scott’s wife thinks about all this, his answer was simple.
“She thinks it’s crazy and wants to be normal. But I say that’s boring,” he quipped.
The family does think this year will be the last year the Mystic Motel is actually located within their home, however.
“I’m pretty sure this is our last year,” said Scott. “My goal is to get it out of my house and do something commercial with it. This is such a cool story, though. You can literally start in your garage. Then you can end up in a theme park or on your own piece of land. It’s certainly been a heck of a ride.”