by Paul Ruben
Shoehorned into the maze of attractions on Mariner’s Landing, one of three Morey’s Piers in Wildwood, New Jersey, is the majestic sight of the decrepit, rusting merchant ship, the Ignis Fatuus. That’s Latin for foolish fire or light.
Next to the Giant Wheel, nestled in front of the Raging Waters waterpark, with go-karts below and the monorail Sky Ships and Sky Cycles weaving through the structure, this is Morey’s homage to the great dark walk-through attractions that have dotted the Jersey Shore over the years. This is the Ghost Ship; it’s brilliant. Morey’s Piers has raised the bar for the dark walk-through experience. Morey’s Ghost Ship is the best dark attraction to hit the Jersey Shore in years, perhaps ever. Turn to page 38 for more proof.
It is 150 feet long and 50 feet high. The experience inside is long, about 20 minutes, or 10 times your average amusement ride. It consists of two levels connected by spiral walkways. Upstairs is partially open to the sunlight and moonlight, with occasional views of the amusements below. Downstairs is dimly lit, occasionally dark.
The scenes inside are both grisly and sometimes humorous. There are skeletons, ghostly sailors, malfunctioning ship apparatus, corroding chemicals, even an erupting toilet. The first room contains a video screen that flashes “Lockdown” and points people to the evacuation route. But it leads into the bowels of the ship, and there is no turning back.
You walk down the narrow hallways in near total darkness, or cling to others in your group. But it is the skilled crew of grotesquely made-up live actors that draw the strongest reactions. The appear at the most unlikely moments to startle the guests. They brandish strange weapons as they jump into your path, and screams echo throughout the ship. Warning signs are written on many walls, often lined with rotting drums that look like they contain toxic chemicals.
Scenes include an infirmary with dusty vessels of medicine and gaunt people lying in the beds, a man lying face-down in lime-green slime as he gurgles for breath and another vomiting into the toilet in the crew’s quarters while automated men sit up and bang their heads on the bunk above them. There’s a morgue filled with heavy hanging body bags, which guests must push aside in order to get through. Just when a room appears to be a still life, someone or something turns around and screams. Perhaps most frightening is the dark hole where guests are wedged between heavy columns of vinyl in complete darkness and must push their way through.
Most frightening for others, that is. For me most frightening was when I lost contact with my group, hurried to catch up in the dark, and walked into a wall. Nose first. It bled. Other guests thought I was one of the menacing actors. I wasn’t. I was just a klutz.