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While on business in London recently, I decided to take in one of the city's premiere tourist attractions, Madame Tussands Wax Museum. Located on Marylebone road (just steps away from Sherlock Holmes Baker Street), the museum features hundreds of wax figures of famous people. Ranging Voltaire (the first figure that Madame Tussards actually modelled back in the 17th century) to Michael Jackson (who -- oddly enough -- looks more lifelike as a wax figure than he does in real life), to the British royal family, George Bush Sr, as well as many Hollywood movie stars.
Walking through the various rooms of the museum, guests actually get to be face to face with many of their favorite stars. Upon entering Madame Tussauds, the very first room you venture into is this great lobby filled with wax replicas of various celebrities who are posed as if they were chatting away at some cocktail party. Some of the likenesses in this room are so amazing that you're often afraid to step right up to the figures. Out of fear that you may be invading the personal space of your favourite superstar.
Of course, if you don't like having your own personal space invaded, then I recommend that you steer clear of Madame Tussauds' next attraction, which is the Chamber of Horrors.
What's Madame Tussaud's Chamber of Horrors like? Well, you know you're in for something pretty intensive when -- just after the "World Stage" area of the museum (where guests get to walk past historic figures as President Washington, Prime Minister Thatcher or the Beatles) -- the corridor starts to darken. And signs that read "If you want to escape the chamber, head this way" or "The Chamber is not suitable for children," etc. start popping up.
But what exactly is so scary about this Chamber of Horrors? Well -- for starters -- Madame Tussauds' Chamber of Horrors has a rather grim origin. It's based on a series of relics and waxes that the original Madame Tussauds made during the French revolution. Back in the 18th century, this woman actually founded her fortune on displaying gruesome wax replicas of Marat, Robespierre and Marie Antoinette.
Today's version of Madame Tussauds' Chamber of Horrors has figures that range from Hitler to modern day maniacs. All of which are lovingly displayed in a uniquely-themed dungeon-like like corridor.
Walking down the stairs into the Chamber, the very first figure you encounter is a wax recreation of Vlad the Impaler, the really-for-real historic figure who served as the model for Bram Stoker's "Dracula." This room also features reproductions of history's more infamous torture devices: spiked wheels, iron maidens and the like.
After exiting this area, Madame Tussauds guests then then start walking down a corridor lined with some of the most infamous characters from history. Hitler to Genghis Kahn to Jack the Ripper. All of the world's vilest villains are on display here.
Toward the end of this corridor comes what I consider to be the high point of this exhibition. Madame Tussauds' latest and greatest addition. Something that will keep thrill-seeking tourists coming back to the Wax Museum guests every time they're in London: "The Chamber of Horrors -- Live".
This new addition to the museum is done in the form of a "haunted house" attraction. Something similar to what you'll find at Universal Studios Florida during that theme park's annual "Halloween Horror Nights." Where guests are continually frightened by live actors who come popping out at odd intervals as they move through a maze-like series of room.
Obviously, the Madame Tussards group wanted to go beyond what the typical tourist experiences at a "Haunted House" attraction. Which is why the tension builds before you even enter the "Live" portion of the dungeon. The lights grower dimmer and dimmer, and the wax figures around you grow more and more menacing. And -- just ahead -- you can hear the screams of the guests who are already inside the maze.
So what's going on in there? Well, as you enter this labyrinth of corridors which is themed to look like a prison (with all sorts of gruesome wax figures locked up in the various cells), you begin to realize that some of this jail's cells are empty. Or -- rather -- the doors to these cells have been left unlocked. Which means that the murderer that was occupying this cell must now be loose somewhere inside of this gruesome prison. Perhaps somewhere very close to you.
This is where it gets really bizarre. Where you have live actors posing alongside the wav figures of serial killers ... Who suddenly come to life, lurching out of the darkness to scare you. And the really terrible part is -- due to the dim lighting in this portion of Madame Tussauds Wax Museum -- you're never quite sure what is fake and what is real.
For example: During my recent trip to Madame Tussauds, at one point I turned around and found myself followed by a perfect lookalike for Anthony Hopkins when he was portraying Hannibal Lecter -- complete with his face mask and straight jacket. Meantime, another group of tourists were fleeing in terror from a Jack Nicholson lookalike who -- as he swung his axe -- looked just as Jack did back when he was appeared in Stanley Kubrick's version of "The Shining.
Get the idea? Madame Tussards has taken their wax museum to the next level by adding a live action element to their Chamber of Horrors. So how does this popular new exhibit end?
Sorry, but that would be telling. Let's just say that you need to be ready to take a huge jump and that you'll probably be screaming and/or laughing as your lurch out of the live portion of the Chamber of Horrors and head off the Wax Museum's "Spirit of London" animatronic ride.
I wont go into telling you what happens at the very last moment of your escape but just prepare yourself for a huge jump and for screaming your way out of the Chamber straight towards the "spirit of London" Animatronic ride!
Bar none, this is the best "Haunted House" that I have ever experienced. If you too like a good scare and are heading to London anytime soon, then I strongly recommend that you go to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and check out their new live version of the Chamber of Horrors.
On the downside, you may scream your head off. But -- on the upside -- if you DO scream your head off, you'll then have something in common with Marie Antoinette. So who knows? You could end up dating French royalty.
If you'd like more information about Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in London, I suggest that you visit the company's home page. Which has all sorts of information available about Madam Tussauds' history, the figures that are currently on display in London, the museum's hours, admission prices, etc.
That's all 'til next time,
Andrea "Mickeyfantasmic" Monti