Thank you to everyone who has followed this series or voted for it's creation. I'm glad you've enjoyed it and I'm always happy to spread the important history of the amusement industry, especially pertaining to the place that inspired me to go into the industry. For parts 1-4 scroll back in this sub or click my profile.
In 1989, Welland Securities, who owned the entire south-west side of the Hill, would develop the final portion of unused land on Clifton Hill. They would become HOCO (Harry Oakes Company) and gain ownership of almost all the attractions on land they leased out. This included Movieland, The Space Spiral Tower and the Cliffside Motel. The only attractions that would continue being leased were Ripley's and Circus World, meaning HOCO not only owned all the land on the South-West side of the hill, they now ran everything between Circus World and Ripley's, as well as the Fudge Factory (in its original spot) and an ice cream stand immediately down the hill from Circus World. They planned to keep everything that was on the hill but build on it.
Movieland was remodeled and the outside was given a more noticeable Egyptian theme to match the lobby. This meant large lion statues and Costello's talking pharaoh. The lobby was remodeled as well. Rather than a cameraman and a director filming Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra, they would now be filming Costello's Indiana Jones figure, who lowered up and down on a rope above a fogging pit with a cobra rising out of it. Many of the early talkie-era stars in the hall immediately after the entrance (along with Elizabeth Taylor) were moved to 2 large display cases in the middle of the attraction with multiple figures, instead of each one having their own scene. In their original spot just inside the entrance an intentionally scary scene was created to match the popular Indiana Jones series. Many of the figures Costello had added since he became the museum's artist were slightly frightening, like a lunging alligator or a startling Joker scene with a machine gun sound effect. The museum had been expanded at the end, and a large horror section had been added, with many figures like the mummy being from the same mold as the House of Frankenstein/Castle Dracula mummys. Unlike when it would move to it's current location in 2005, the old location's chicken exit was placed before the horror section rather than the haunted house portion. In fact, there was no haunted house section, many of the figures that would end up in the haunted house section of the new location were simply scattered throughout the museum. Many of the figures in the horror section of the original museum were actually less scary and less animated than the Jurassic park scene or the alligator encountered earlier in the museum. To prevent unsuspecting parents who had no clue what kind of attraction this was dragging their children in and expecting static figures of washed-up movie stars, getting the living daylights scared out of them, then end ending up filing complaints with HOCO's customer service department, an intentionally scary scene was put at the beginning. This let people know what they were walking in to, an experience rather than a museum. Costello designed figures behind plexiglass such as a man upside down in a cocoon thrashing around, a skull that popped up from the floorboards in a scene full of snakes, a man on a bed of spikes that fell towards you, and a scene with spiders on fishing line "jumping" all over a rotting corpse.
The Cliffside Motel was amalgamated into a wing of the Quality Inn, and the driveway into it off the hill was removed as it was no longer necessary because it could be accessed from the Quality Inn parking lot. In the driveway's place was now a large empty space between Circus World and Movieland, with the Space Spiral Tower (with a relatively small footprint) stuck in the middle. HOCO called upon attraction design and layout firm White Hutchison Leisure Learning Group (WHLLG) to design an attraction around the Space Spiral that would use the final undeveloped land on Clifton Hill. And so WHLLG designed Dazzleland Family Fun Centre. Dazzleland was a courtyard of buildings arranged in roughly the same layout as the Great Canadian Midway (for reasons we'll get to later) that sits on the land now. The buildings around the outside of the courtyard were long and narrow, picture a courtyard of carnival game trailers but permanent, appealing buildings. These buildings included a Skee-ball building, a sports game building (basketball games, football toss etc.), a racing game building, a pinball building, a funnel cake shop, and the prize counter. In the back corner, roughly where the XD Theatre now is in the midway, was a larger building: an arcade housing video games and more pinball machines. In the middle of the courtyard was a small carousel, and a small building housing games that dispensed their own prizes (claw machines, prize egg games, etc.) and coin-op kiddie rides.
The Space Spiral was incorporated into Dazzleland, still being accessible directly off the hill. As mentioned in part 3, the tower was exactly where the Fudge Factory now is, as the circular store was once the loading area for the tower. At this time the snack bars beside the tower right on the hill were constructed: a pretzel/hotdog stand and an ice cream stand, both of which are still there. The Wendy's was built on top of Circus World, replacing the mini golf that had formerly been on the attraction's roof. Across the entrance to Dazzleland's courtyard from Wendy's was a Domino's Pizza, roughly where the photo booth just to your right is when entering the Great Canadian Midway now. Between the Space Spiral and the Dominos was a fortune teller machine built right into the wall: "Ask the Brain". The brain still lives on inside Movieland, except now he wants a loonie instead of a quarter. Just up the hill from the Space Spiral, on top of the hot dog and ice cream stand, a small sports bar was built. Very little is known about this sports bar, but obvious remnants of it still exists. The area of Boston Pizza closest to the hill (the back corner near the kitchen, the bar area, and the raised dining area) was the originally the sports bar. It featured a small coin-op bowling lane, arcade games, and food. The stairs in the Midway up to Boston Pizza beside Ghostblasters is the original stairs up from Dazzleland to the sports bar. Additionally, the Boston Pizza entrance closer to the hill (not the one with the big bowling pin, other one) was the main entrance to the sports bar. Little is known about the bar, including it's name. It may not have had one, simply being part of the Dazzleland complex. Many of the areas in Dazzleland didn't have a name, simply having signs heralding "Arcade", "Sports Games", "Skeeball" rather than naming the areas like the "Game Factory", "Sports Zone" or "Strike! Rock 'n Bowl" like in the Midway. For this reason, the bar may have been nameless, simply being part of the Dazzleland complex, but it's unlikely a dining establishment geared at adult nightlife wouldn't have a name.
Because the mini golf on Circus World's roof had been operated by the Cliffside Motel operators, HOCO acquired all the assets from it when they stopped leasing the land out. When the aforementioned Wendy's was built, the mini golf was moved just up the hill from the sports bar. It's entrance was right on the hill, but the course wrapped around the sports bar and ran back behind Dazzleland, between the back of Dazzleland and the parking lot of the Quality Inn. It would now be dinosaur themed and heavily landscaped. WHLLG designed the course and HOCO contracted Costello to build all the fiberglass dinosaurs. It's unknown what it's original name was, but in the early 90s, with the smash hit of Jurassic Park, it was renamed Dinosaur Park and given a similar logo. Up until the 2018 remodel, Boston Pizza had a patio. This patio was the exact location of the entrance to the mini golf, and the reason the restaurant's building curved in such a bizarre way surrounding the patio was originally to accommodate the course. Underneath the sports bar and mini golf and was an underground building accessible from a back corner of Dazzleland's courtyard. This area housed all of Dazzleland's miscellaneous ticket redemption games and 2 shooting galleries. The low-ceiling area of the Midway called the "Game Factory" is this original building. The Bonanaza Company shooting gallery is still there albeit heavily remodeled, but Blasteroids, an early project by arcade game company Lazer-Tron, was removed in 2016. Interestingly, the chase lights along the back wall of the Game Factory are Dazzleland holdovers. Between the shooting gallery and where what's left of the racing games now are is a bank of maintenance doors. If you get lucky and see them open, you'll see a stairs that was originally an entrance to Dazzleland from further up the street, beside Dinosaur Park. This now lets out somewhere in Boston Pizza's arcade (although I haven't been able to figure out where) and is used by staff to get from "a" to "b" faster.
Dazzleland has been the hardest to dig up information on in my research on Clifton Hill. Although I now know what was in each of the buildings around the outside of this "courtyard", I haven't been able to find which one was where. The only things I've confirmed is where the video game building was, what was in the building in the middle, and confirmed that the Game Factory was originally part of Dazzleland. The rest is beyond me and my memories of it have long faded. If anyone worked here or visited it frequently and has any answers, they would be greatly appreciated. Additionally there was a small pool near the front with a Costello dragon figure in it that spit water out it's mouth. I've heard conflicting reports that this was just a fountain, and others saying it was a small bumper boat or RC boat attraction, but my guess is it was just a fountain as it seems like a pretty small pool. The same year, fiberglass dragon waterslides were added to the Quality Inn pool. Although bearing striking resemblance to Costello's dinosaurs and Dazzleland dragon, at least one more of each of the dragon slides exist, all the way down in Texas. It was originally thought this Texas waterpark bought them off HOCO when Quality Inn closed, but one of the Quality Inn dragons appeared on an episode of shipping wars going to Kansas and the other was recently found abandoned on a private residential property in Niagara, proving they are in fact not the ones at the Texas waterpark. This is evidence they may have been mass produced.
By the time Dazzleland opened in 1989, it was the 8th arcade on the hill (after Circus World, Q-Balls Billiards Pub in Quality Inn, the arcade in Ripley's, the arcade in the Foxhead, the arcade in Castle Dracula, Funland in the basement of the House of Frankenstein, and an arcade that had recently opened in the Pilgrim Motel in their gift shop.) These were just the large-scale, dedicated arcades right on the hill. Many others could be found nearby in Maple Leaf Village, the Skylon, the Seagram, Pyramid Place and the Imperial Hotel as well as many mini golf courses and family fun centres along Lundy's Ln. and the QEW. Also, virtually every gift shop on Clifton Hill and Victoria Ave. had a game or 2.
The mix of arcades, haunted houses, fast food, nightlife and stores selling t-shirts and posters had started a well-known rock culture in Niagara Falls among Southern Ontario youth. The epicenter of this was "Rock World", a rock-themed gift shop that had opened in 1983 on Centre St. (the street Clifton Hill becomes just above Victoria Ave.) They would later add a second story and build Rock Legends Wax Museum above it, with all the figures sculpted by the store's owner Pasquale Rammuno. In 1996, Maple Leaf Village was replaced by Casino Niagara, and many of the attractions found new homes on Victoria Ave., including Screamers and Nightmares. The Elvis Museum, Antique Auto Museum, 50s diner nightclub, and arcade all moved to Pyramid Place adjacent to the IMAX pyramid. Screamers prospered on Victoria Ave., and 2 "sequel attractions" were built in the early 2000s: Creatures of the Night on Victoria Ave. and Horror Manothe Zombie Zoo Nightclub on Centre St. Another attraction, Alien Encounter, would open at the corner of Victoria Ave. and Clifton Hill beside the Criminals Hall of Fame. This slightly thematically darker "north of the hill" area with the Screamers chain, the Criminals Hall of Fame, Rock Legends, Nightmares and Alien Encounter became a "main strip" all in it's own.
As mentioned before, since the cabin courts were all town down in the early 50s, nothing had been torn down on Clifton Hill. The only exception was the Houdini Hall of Fame that burnt to ash in 1996. Some of Houdini's Last Words were claiming that anything revealing his secrets would perish in flame, and even though the fire completely leveled the museum, the plywood and fiberglass paneled House of Frankenstein only separated from it by a 2-foot wide alley was completely untouched, leading a lot of Houdini's fans to believe he was conducting some kind of post-mortem practical joke. The metal objects like handcuffs and the water tank could be saved, and were bought by David Copperfield. Ripley's Moving Theatre was built in it's place. Over the 30 years from Tussaud's opening in 1959 to Dazzleland in 1989, Clifton Hill had expanded and filled up the land. However that didn't mean it was time to tear things down. Things were simply moved around or remodeled to keep them fresh, not out of an unwillingness to change, but because these things had become ingrained in the landscape. Examples of this were Tussaud's moving to its current home in the old building of a restaurant that had since moved on Victoria Ave., rather than the attraction shutting down, or the Adventure Dome Theatre oepneing in part of the Honeymoon City's gift shop. In Tussaud's old place was built the MGM walkthrough/store, Pink Panther ride and 4D Ride in 2002. The beer garden beside it was replaced with the WWE building and the Piledriver ride, but the beer area was moved to between the 2 attractions. In 2004 the Foxhead's arcade was expanded and re-themed into the Marvel Superheros Adventure City.
Another great example of re-freshing an existing attraction was Dazzleland. A simple realization was made, more games = more money and higher guest enjoyment. The outdoor courtyard style with it's room for walkways between the buildings was re-designed, and HOCO again called upon WHLLG. WHLLG designed not only a remodel of Dazzleland, but an incredible 5-step plan that would have made Clifton Hill financially on par with a major theme park. Steps 1-3 came to fruition. Step 1 was remodeling Dazzleland into the Great Canadian Midway in 2002. The level, concrete foundation Dazzleland was built on was kept as the foundation of the Midway, hence why it has the same layout. The former video game building at the back became the FX Ride Theatre (now XD Theatre/Wild West Coaster) in the Midway. The funnel cake shop was kept where it was in Dazzleland except now it was in the Midway, between the FX Ride and the Prize Counter. The area housing Dazzleland's ticket redemption games became the Game Factory. The middle building housing the claw games and kiddie rides was demolished, as it was no longer needed because the Midway was fully indoors and there was now a massive space to put games. The sports bar was expanded and became Boston Pizza, so Dinosaur Park was moved to in front of the Comfort Inn. Under the expanded Boston Pizza, Sally Corp. was hired to build the interactive Ghostblasters dark ride. All of Dazzleland's old games made the transition into the Midway, however very few are still around.
With the Midway making serious buck, HOCO went ahead with phase 2 of WHLLG's plan. Movieland was moved to Circus World's former location in 2005, and Circus World's owners moved the attraction to what was then the popular Victoria Ave. area. In Movieland's old home, Cosmic Golf, a blacklight golf was temporarily set up. 2 years later in 2007, the golf moved to it's permanent home in the basement becoming Galaxy Golf and the gift shop that had been formerly in the basement was moved upstairs. Movieland retained all the figures and sets they had at the time of the move, moving them all into the new space. All the scary elements were put in the new "House of Horrors", a small optional haunted house at the end of the attraction.
Phase 3 involved beginning to demolish the only thing that WHLLG's 5 phase plan would have torn down: Quality Inn. In it's place an amusement park would have been built, anchored by Canada's largest ferris wheel. The wheel would be phase 3 and the amusement park phase 4. Though both WHLLG and HOCO recognized the historical value of the hotel, it had reasons to go. The hotel may have been full of your usual hazardous mid-century building materials (however Comfort Inn built by the same firm the same year was found to have no hazardous materials when it was torn down in 2015, so who knows) but the main issue was elevators and the amount of space it took up. Comfort Inn only had 2 wings, one on each side of the lobby, and only 2 elevators would have needed to be installed. This wasn't legally necessary, as no law states that buildings of age absolutely have to be 100% accessible, it was more something HOCO wanted to do. Quality Inn had multiple wings that weren't accessible from one another, so an elevator would need to be installed in each wing. In addition to the elevator issue, Comfort Inn was chosen as the hotel to keep because the building was integrated with Kelsey's, Rumors Nightclub, Ripley's, and Dinosaur Park, all of which wouldn't have been touched in WHLLG's 5 phase plan. Finally, Comfort Inn's land wasn't big enough for an amusement park whereas Quality Inn's was. 2 things would justify the demolition of Quality Inn. One, it's sister hotel, Comfort Inn, would have been kept. The other reason justifying the demolition would be phase 5: a skyscraper hotel and indoooutdoor waterpark in the field between Clifton Hill and the Skylon Tower. The dragon figures from Quality Inn's pool were kept in HOCO's storage for a time for this waterpark. The final vision can be seen here
Phase 3 would go ahead in 2006, with the lobby, Golden Griddle and Q-Balls Billiard pub of Quality Inn being torn down and the Skywheel built in it's place. For the last year Quality Inn was open, you would need to register at Comfort Inn's lobby. The same year, the Space Spiral was torn down, as 2 observation attractions wouldn't be needed on the hill. However, a new spiral tower would have been constructed during phase 4 in the theme park. The reason the tower would be demolished rather than moved was because a tower manufactured by the same company in Wildwood, NJ, had begun to sway a few years earlier, resulting in it needing to be removed entirely for safety reasons. Phase 4 was set to go ahead in 2010, so in 2009 the remainder of Quality Inn was demolished. It seemed as though everything would fall into place, and with the exception of Quality Inn making it's sacrifice, everything on Clifton Hill that had been there for 20-60 years would be there forever, just greatly expanded on.
Unfortunately, this came at a turning point for Clifton Hill, when the recession was in full swing and tourism had declined since 9/11. Changing technology and interests, but no real nostalgia trend yet, created a perfect storm, and the idea was scrapped. Especially now that there would be no amusement park, a lot of area attractions closed. HOCO now needed to find a new design company to completely re-design the project. The problem was, Quality Inn was already torn down to make way for the amusement park. HOCO reluctantly found a new design company who had no projects under their belt yet, IDS. HOCO was hopeful the Canadian company could help give them a similar vision to their previous 5 stage plan, that would help them re-use many of the already implemented stages and despite scrapping the amusement park, would simply scale down and redesign the hotel. This was done in hopes that the city would be much more likely to approve just another high rise hotel than an amusement park as well. IDS' new plan was much different than what HOCO was looking for. It featured tearing down Ripley's, Comfort Inn, Kelsey's, and Rumours Nightclub and building a Titanic Museum shaped like the boat. It also featured building a large mall within the hotel rather than a waterpark and relocating and expanding Dinosaur Park into Dinosaur Adventure Golf on Quality Inn's old land. While HOCO thankfully chose not to go ahead with the mall and Titanic Museum, they would build Dinosaur Adventure Golf and work with IDS to make a more feasible plan that better suited Clifton Hill.
The new plan featured Dinosaur Adventure Golf and Strike! Rock 'n Bowl as phase 1. It also included removing a lot of the thematic brand identity elements WHLLG had implemented to coincide with their final amusement park vision and replacing Galaxy Golf with Wizard's Golf as phase 2. Phase 3 would feature tearing down Comfort Inn (that never got it's elevators due to it no longer being planned to be kept), building Niagara Speedway in it's place, and removing Rumors Nightclub to accommodate the new Kelsey's bathrooms and Zombie Attack. Phase 4 would feature remodelling Wendy's, Boston Pizza and Kelsey's. Phase 5 would feature a mall (no hotel) in the field between Dinosaur Adventure Golf and the Skylon, but this final phase will likely never come to fruition.
Multiple attractions have closed since the late 2000's, such as the entire Screamers chain, Circus World, The Criminals Hall of Fame, Funland Arcade and Alien Encounter. The Hilltop Motel became the current home of the Upside Down House, and the Pilgrim Motel became Captain Jack's. Ironically, the only part of the building that's not part of the entertainment centre is a Mini Mart at the back that was the original arcade in the Pilgrim. Virtually everything in the Falls. Ave. complex other than Rainforest Cafe and the 4D theatre is gone. Marvel Superheroes Adventure City lost its license after Disney bought Marvel, and it simply became Adventure City. The Hulk Mini Golf became jungle themed, Spider-Man references were (poorly) removed from the dark ride, and X-men referenced were (also poorly) removed from the bumper cars. References to Marvel can still be found in the arcade, such as Spider-Man's face on a tree that was only covered up a few years ago. The WWE Store, after being abandoned since 2012, was turned into the Niagara Brewery Beer Store in 2016, fitting considering the land's history as a beer garden. Planet Hollywood on Falls Ave. closed around 2014, and is still abandoned. The MGM walkthrough was abandoned for over 10 years before becoming a barbecue restaurant in 2019.
The changes in the Falls Ave. complex are an example of good change, replacing abandoned attractions with ones that if anything are closer to what used to be there, such as Adventure City becoming an unthemed arcade again or the Beer Store being where the Beer Garden once was. Another example of this good change would be the long abandoned (and burnt) Adventure Dome that had briefly held a Lego attraction being turned into the Amazing Big Top Mirror and Lazer Maze in 2017. However a perfect example of negative change is the Rock Legends Wax Museum being forced out of business because a YouTube video of the museum was flagged for copyrighted music by YouTube's algorithms. This lead Sony Music to investigate the museum and shut it down last year if it wouldn't pay ridiculous licensing fees, which it couldn't afford.
Another example is IDS' redevelopment plan. HOCO is now locked in a contract with them, even though they obviously have very different ideas on the direction of Clifton Hill. Phase 1 was implemented in 2011, with Boston Pizza expanding their arcade to include Strike! Rock 'n Bowl and Dinosaur Park moving to where Quality Inn was and being renamed Dinosaur Adventure Golf. All of Costello's original dinosaurs (with the exception of the original Pterodactyl) would "migrate" to the new location where they would be joined by dozens of new mass-produced dinosaurs. Interestingly, foundations were built back in 2011 for the original 2 Brontosaurs to appear as if they were coming out of the ponds, but they wouldn't show up until 2019 when they were brought back out of storage to be installed, only to lay on the ground for a few months before going back into storage. Although it didn't use new hand-made figures, this attraction was a change that fits the spirit of Clifton Hill and was a good replacement for the empty plot of land that had once housed Quality Inn, even if an amusement park would have been better. The same cannot be said about the rest of IDS' plan. Many thematic elements installed throughout the hill by WHLLG (especially in Movieland and the Midway) were removed in phase 2 in 2013 simply to fit with IDS's image better, costing HOCO a lot of money. Phase 3 went ahead in 2015, and the 60 year old Comfort Inn was demolished, along with the old HOCO offices in it that if you remember from part 1, was the original nearly 200 year old stable building for the Zimmerman estate. Niagara Speedway was built in it's place, and if you look at the prices to drive it, then watch how many people do, you realize just how much they're making off it. Rumors Nightclub, originally the Queen's Door Nightclub in 1956, was gutted and turned into Zombie Attack and the new Kelsey's bathrooms, as the old ones had been in the Comfort Inn building. Phase 4 in 2018 extensively remodeled Wendy's as well as Boston Pizza, removing the patio.
Ghostblasters is now the final untouched WHLLG era attraction on the land. This is made even more troubling by the fact the signs for it were just removed and replaced with temporary ones, as I said in the post that started the entire discussion on whether or not I should do this series. If the attraction does go, we can only hope that a new interactive dark ride utilizing artistry, dimensional scenes and props much like Ghostblasters does is built, however that likely won't be the case. Triotech is the lead designer of ride through shooting games, that feature a dark ride car that travels through a hallway with screens on each side of it rather than real props. Triotech has dealt with HOCO before, building both the Wild West Coaster and Zombie Attack, so all signs point to one of these attractions replacing Ghostblasters if it closes.
There is still hope that Clifton Hill can retain it's spirit, but it stands at a crossroads. The House of Frankenstein for example, while retaining many original scenes, has had many removed and replaced with nothing, and many areas of the museum taken out entirely. Castle Dracula on the other hand hasn't updated a thing, but hasn't cared for the original scenes either, leaving them to fall into disrepair and only having 7 or 8 of the original 70 still lit, and none of them still functional. There are 2 directions Clifton Hill can go. With many attractions like the ones on HOCO's side being demolished to make way for whatever is trendy and lucrative, and many hanging on by a thread like Castle Dracula or Ghostblasters, the Hill is in real danger of becoming an endlessly overturning and developing area. However, with money recently being poured back into attractions like the Haunted House, Ripley's, and Guinness and attractions being redeveloped like the Falls Ave. complex or the Big Top Mirror maze, there is hope. If people, including the companies that own them, can recognise the historical value of attractions like Castle Dracula, The House of Frankenstien, Movieland, Tussaud's, etc., this can be promoted and the recent nostalgia boom can create large profits if this is played up. Additionally, future developments can still be more in the vein of what WHLLG envisioned for Clifton Hill, or what the Burlands recently did with the well done Big Top Mirror Maze. This is both profitable and economically sensible, as repeat customers that make memories and come to the area for generations with occasional new updates/re-themings (like what Clifton Hill did from the 50s-2010s), is far more profitable than a constantly turning over wave of new developments that cost millions to build that changes with each generation.
Thank you to everyone who has followed this series. Sorry for the length of this, but I promised this would be the last installment, so it has to be longer. If you have any information pertaining to Dazzleland or anything you know that I didn't cover in this series, let me know. Additionally, if you would like me to dig up photos on anything that I mentioned in the series, let me know, as unless it's the Dazzleland dragon, I probably have a photo of it. I will likely post many of them here anyway in time. Thanks again.
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