Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Morbid Manor, Ocean City MD

Today’s post is about a special place in time and a Haunted House called Morbid Manor that has become a Holy Grail of my youth. For me it was the first haunted house I’d ever step into. And to this day the visuals are so burned into my mind that I only need to close my eyes to be transported back to that time. It was a summer ritual for me and the only attraction on the pier that I couldn’t live without when my family went on vacation to…

Ocean City, MD in the 70’ and early to mid 80’s was really something else. It was a great beach to vacation at as a kid. Part of the appeal was the amusements. On the pier  you had shops, food, roller coasters, games and then there was, Morbid Manor!

 It was a real, 2 ½-story Victorian Haunted House that first opened in 1975. It was decked out with skeletons and monsters and even had a crashed plane on one side! Eerie organ music would lure you towards the house and up to the front doors, where a creepy looking host would usher you in to your doom. The manor was designed by the great Fred Mahana who was responsible for many similar attractions along the northern east coast. (http://www.fredmahana.com/EarlyYears.htm

This wasn’t your typical Haunted House, which for the time  usually meant sitting in a cart and riding along a rail through various scenes. Morbid Manor actually was a walk through Haunted attraction that used actors to scare guests as they made their way through dark corridors, up creaking stair cases and down into foreboding dungeons.

My mom tells me that she first took me to the manor when I was about 2 or 3. So it was around the time it first opened. She and my grandmother debated about taking me in, but decided it would be OK. When they got out, mom says, "I was white as a sheet and didn’t speak." I was traumatized by the things I had scene! I was quiet for some time to the point my mom whispered to my grandmother, “I really think we damaged him.” She was genuinely concerned they broke me. Then apparently I looked up and said, “I want to go again.”

Guess I knew a good thing when I saw it! I remember bits and pieces of that first visit like sitting in a room next to my mom as a guy dressed in black robes came out and talked to the crowd. Then the crowd of people was split into groups to go through the Manor. I remember hugging my mom’s leg and a guy dressed as Frankenstein talking to me and trying not to be scary. But the one room I remember most was, the Hallway.

The group moved into a room with a long corridor painted all white with checker pattern on the floor. A strobe light effect disoriented everyone. Then from the other end came a hideous looking figure. Her hair was horribly messy, her eyes were dark and hollow and she wore white. She moved slowly towards. The movements she made looked jerky and quick. The strobe created this eerie effect as she crawled down that hallway, again SLOW. The group was terrified, screaming and huddled up in the corner of the back wall. At the last moment, just as the creature was about to get to all of us, another door opened and we escaped. It was one of the scariest things I’ve seen to this day in a haunted house. I don’t know why this technique is not implemented more. I guess in today’s world "slow" just will not work.

 Morbid Manor was one of the most popular attractions on Ocean City's amusement pier for 20 year s until 1995, when sadly it burned to the ground in a winter fire. That beautiful Victorian facade would never dot the skyline of the pier again. There have been new Haunted Houses since then, but none of them could ever compare to the original. It was one of the moments in time that “you had to be there.”  

I mentioned at the beginning of this post this is my Holy Grail of Haunted Houses. The reasons start with; it was scary and fun at the same time. It had great art direction and a theme. It's actors were good at scaring you. When there was a section without an actor you were still scared of what was to come. It had multiple floors! You would take a stair case up and around a corner into new areas or descend down into a crypt. It was claustrophobic at times and pitch black in other parts. The sounds were classic. The music was reminiscent of the Haunted Mansion but with more edge. They played around with the types of scares like the slow moving creature in strobe vs just a guy jumping out at you. And the facade was a full 360 Victorian Manor! It really doesn't get better than that! 

I loved Morbid Manor and still miss it to this day, but it’s a fond memory of my childhood and family and that can never be burned to the ground. 

"Morbid Manor - Ocean City, Maryland" by Paul McGehee

 Tonight's movie is The Possession


  1. 'The Holy Grail of Haunted Houses' indeed, at least in our neck of the boards. I loved that place. But you forgot to mention the intro rm where guy I think would conduct mock seance in circular rm which would start spinning & your chair would rise & the cloaked speakers head lower & get deeper. Then there was the guy w/ chainsaw at end of tour which scared the #!* outta me but the intro part was best/awesome/thx for posting pics. Russ

  2. I knew a few of the originals that worked there when it opened..as a matter of fact I still talk to one of them regularly...he loved working there as much as people loved coming. Every so often I would get to hide in the forest part and jump out and scare people..I was 15 and a local and loved every minute of it!!