When I was eight years old, I went on a big family trip to Disney World with my parents, my aunts and uncle, and my grandparents. For a long time, I was the only child in a family full of adults and was therefore heavily doted upon. Sometimes I was jokingly referred to as the Chosen One.
Being a spoiled child at the happiest place on Earth, we spent our vacation going on all the rides we could. Space Mountain, the Rock n’ Roller Coaster, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean before it was a movie, The Tower of Terror – I was having the time of my life.
We eventually came upon a ride that I would never forget – the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. Going into this, I knew it was going to be a scary ride, but I’d seen Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, horror lite for kids. I’d also gone on some of the scarier rides at the park, like The Haunted Mansion and the Tower of Terror. Whatever Disney was going to throw my way, I was ready. I was tough enough to take it.
For anyone who did not go to DisneyWorld between 1995 and 2003, the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter was an enclosed-theatre experience based off of the Alien movies. It had a soft opening at the end of 1994, but the CEO at the time, Michael Eisner, felt it wasn’t intense enough. They spent another six months developing the attraction before it was officially opened in mid-1995. By the time I arrived in 2000, it was more than intense enough.
The Alien Encounter
Basically, what happened was this:
You go into the attraction under the pretence that you’re at some cool intergalactic conference that’s being held to showcase this new teleportation technology created by an alien organization. Things seem hunky-dory enough. We then entered a circular room with a giant tube in the middle, spanning from the floor to the ceiling, and were strapped into chairs that were arranged in a circle around the tube. At this point, we’re told we’re going to witness a demonstration of this teleportation technology.
The demonstration goes terribly wrong, and a man-eating, terrifying alien is teleported into the chamber instead, breaking through the glass tube in the centre of the room. The lights in the room are flickering sporadically, only giving us flashes of what’s going on around us. The power goes out completely, and I. Lost. My. Mind.
Every logical thought left me. I forgot we were at DisneyWorld in a ride and fully believed there was an actual alien in the room with me. I never said I was a smart kid.
We can see a maintenance worker approach on the floor above us, speaking to us through the grate in the floor, telling us he will get the power back on as soon as possible. Fully believing everything that was happening was real, I screamed at the man, “WE’RE DOWN HERE!”
After I finish screaming for help, he is immediately mauled to death by the alien and his blood sprays in the faces of the audience members, myself included. We can hear the alien approach, the rumbling from its steps shaking our chairs. As it slowly stalked me from behind, I could feel its hot breath blowing against the back of my neck and its drool dripping onto my shoulder.
At the precise moment that the jets of air installed in the seats’ headrests were blowing warm air onto the audience’s necks, my dad took the opportunity to try and prank my aunt by unexpectedly grabbing her leg and roaring loudly. It had the intended effect and she screamed in terror.
I already thought everything happening was real, but hearing my aunt scream louder than anyone else in the theatre only confirmed to me that this was reality. I was hysterical.
I don’t particularly remember how they wrapped up the conflict, but eventually we were somehow saved from the carnivorous alien. As we exited the ride, I was still bawling inconsolably.
My grandfather was waiting for us outside the ride, opting not to join in on that particular attraction. When he saw me, his only grandchild stumbling outside, red-faced from the tears and panic he was furious. He scolded my mother for allowing me to go on such a scary ride, I think he even called her a jackass. (Which was a very big deal for my grandfather to do that.)
For the duration of the Alien Encounter, I genuinely, legitimately, truly believed I was going to die. It was only later when we got stuck on the It’s A Small World ride for 40 minutes that I wished I actually had.
Did you ever go on this ride before it was removed in 2003? Or are there any other overwhelmingly scary theme park rides you’ve experienced?