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Ride Types

All About the Madhouse

Villa Volta - Madhouse - Efteling

The Madhouse is a highly themed optical and physical illusion found mostly in theme and amusement parks in Europe.

All Madhouses have at least one pre-show room where the guests will be told a story about the house. Some Madhouses will have two or more pre-show rooms, which helps give the riders a sense that they’re doing something and not standing in line.

Once the riders reach the final room, they will sit in one of the four rows, depending on what door they went through. Once seated, riders will be instructed to lift their hands up and a lap bar will come down. Then the optical and physical illusion of being turned upside down will commence.

This attraction is considered family friendly since the riders really don’t go upside down, most of the theming revolves around hauntings or other potentially scary themes. This has been known to upset very young riders.

A Brief History of the Madhouse

Before Vekoma created the first modern Madhouse in 1996, the precursor of the attraction could be found at theme parks through Europe during the late Victorian age. These illusions were known as haunted, diabolic, or witches swings and like the modern Madhouse, gave riders the illusion they were being turned upside down.

The inventor Amariah Lake from New Jersey registered a patent which gives us a glimpse at what the original ride may have looked like. Unfortunately, none of the swings that pre-date the patent still exist.

It was described as “an apparatus that subjects occupants to an illusion that they’re swinging to an extreme height or that they’re going completely over the bar, turning upside down.”

The first haunted swings using this patent were opened in 1894 in the United States. There are sill some of the haunted swings using this patent in existence today.

Haunted SwingAmusement ParkManufacturerDate Opened
Bug HouseArnolds ParkUnknown1930
Dutch Wonder HouseDutch WonderlandUnknown1964
ImpossibleBlackpool Pleasure BeachIn house1955
Merlin’s Mystical MansionClark’s BearsIn house1986
SpukhausTaunus WunderlandSchwingel1979 (as Geisterhöhle)
Verrücktes WaldhausTraumland auf der Bärenhöhle Fa. Dietz Fahrzeugbau1987

For a time, the concept of the haunted swing died out until a Dutch amusement ride designer took interest in this particular attraction. The first modern madhouse was introduced at the Efteling theme park in 1999 by Vekoma and it was called Villa Volta.

How the Modern Madhouse Works

The modern Madhouse is comprised of 2 separate components that can move independently of each other:

  1. The drum: this is the room that you sit in, once you make it through all of the pre-show rooms.
  2. The benches: this is what you’re sitting on when you ride the Madhouse. It swings back and forth, kind of like the swinging boat rides.

While the drum is rotating around the benches, and the benches are swinging, you think that you’re going upside down.

List of the Modern Madhouses

Below, you will find a list of operating Madhouses at amusement and theme parks around the world. While the Dutch company Vekoma has been responsible for turning out most of them, Mack Rides have picked up a few as well.

MadhouseAmusement ParkManufacturerDate Opened
Feng JuPhantasialandVekoma2002
Fluch der KassandraEuropa-ParkMack Rides2000
Haunted House Monster PartyLegoland WindsorVekoma2019
Hex – The Legend of the TowersAlton TowersVekoma2000
Houdini’s Great EscapeSix Flags Great AdventureVekoma1999
Jack the RipperWiener PraterUnknown1997
Le Défi de CésarParc AstérixMack Rides2008
Lenny’s Magic SchoolEverlandMack Rides2019
Le Palais du génieWalabi BelgiumVekoma2001
Magic HouseGardalandVekoma2002
Maison HoudiniMagic LandVekoma2011
Merlin’s Magic CastleWalabi HollandVekoma2000
Noah’s Incredible AdventureNoah’s Ark Water ParkMack Rides2003
The HauntingDrayton ManorVekoma1996
Verlies des GrauensBelantisVekoma2003
Villa VoltaEftelingVekoma1996

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