Ashdown and Sons Undertakers has set up shop a few minutes south of Walt Disney World, offering their funeral services year-round to those who visit the all-new “Legends, A Haunting at Old Town” haunted house. But not all is as it seems, as the Ashdowns are having trouble with their dead: they simply won’t stay that way.
Following in the traditions of Terror on Church Street and Skull Kingdom, Legends is the latest in a line of year-round Orlando area haunted houses. Creators Jim Shackelford , Jay Westerman, and Dan Carro are counting scaring up business well beyond the Halloween season.
Video: Inside “Legends, A Haunting at Old Town”
Legends, A Haunting at Old Town replaces the former “Grimm House,” which closed late last year. Though the new haunted attraction’s exterior looks eerily similar, its insides have been gutted, now presenting a completely new show featuring modern special effects and animatronics as well as an enthusiastic cast of “twitchlings” and other creatures who lurk throughout its two-story halls.
Archibald Ashdown is the star of the new show, an undertaker who moved in to Old Town in 1889, having laid thousands of clients to rest since then. Unfortunately, many of those clients were still alive at the time, now forced into limbo, haunting the Legends location to this day. But you wouldn’t know it from Ashdown himself, a personable gentleman who was eagerly welcoming visitors into his establishment on this past opening weekend.
Ashdown is portrayed by co-owner Dan Carro, who started his haunting career as an actor at Orlando’s now defunct attraction Terror on Church Street, later working as Operations Manager of Skull Kingdom, more recently directing Old Town’s own Halloween festivities, now in their third year. His latest role puts him at the center of attention within Legends. Though it’s not clear if Ashdown still inhabits the same world the rest of us do, upon stepping into the funeral parlor, he’s among the first of its residents that visitors meet.
Beginning downstairs, the experience of visiting Legends, A Haunting at Old Town quickly reveals itself to be unlike any other haunt around. It’s a self-paced walkthrough, with groups of no more than six let in at once to offer more personal encounters, departing roughly every five minutes. Guests are welcomed in to Ashdown and Sons, offered a tour by some of its friendly, but somewhat sinister employees.
In an effort to dispel rumors about the parlor, the tour continues upstairs, where guests are invited to explore on their own, assured that absolutely nothing out of the ordinary will take place. Of course, that notion is dead wrong.
The remainder of the surprisingly long haunted attraction takes guests through the haunted rooms of the parlor, including the office, past the embalming table, through the morgue (naturally), into an ongoing funeral, and beyond. Along the way, guests will be surprised by close encounters with many of Legends’ creepiest characters along with startling animatronics and other visual effects.
But nowhere is safe inside this haunted house, as its actors are free to roam where they choose, never “chained” to any particular location. They may jump out of a dark corner or simply stalk visitors from behind. Or they might even gang up to unleash the full fury of fright when guests least expect it.
Shackelford and Carro are quick to note that they aren’t trying to compete with the big theme parks around town, instead offering a different sort of entertainment that complements those experiences. While Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights has tens of thousands of guests shuffling through their haunted houses each night during Halloween season, Legends aims to offer a more intimate experience in which they are happy to learn guests’ names and use that knowledge against them.
Legends, A Haunting at Old Town presents a stunning attention to detail in its environments, a completely believable funeral parlor down to the stale smell of old flowers and bad perfume. The cast of actors were carefully chosen among those who are most passionate about the art of haunting. And the special effects are state-of-the-art, using video projections and screens, moving set pieces, and plenty of advanced animatronics, including some developed by Distortions Unlimited, as seen on the Travel Channel show “Making Monsters.”
But this is just the beginning for Legends, as the team intends on continually updating the experience throughout the years to come. They’re using this location as a “laboratory” of sorts to try out new concepts and scare tactics. And there are plans to develop seasonal versions of the event, infusing a little horror into popular tourist times like Spring Break and even Christmas.
Also opening in November is Legends’ Haunted History Tours, offering a look at what are believed to be the real ghosts that haunt Old Town.
Those looking for extra scares this Halloween season can immediately head to Old Town on 192 in Kissimmee, just south of Walt Disney World near the town of Celebration. But even beyond Halloween season, Legends A Haunting at Old Town will continue to entertain, providing Orlando with more frightful fun throughout the year.
Tickets are just $15 for a trip through the haunted experience, with discounts becoming available starting in November. More information can be found at LegendsOldTown.com.
More photos of Legends, A Haunting at Old Town:
(Photos by Ricky Brigante and Michael Gavin)