Turn about if thy conscience be troubled, only he who is without sin shall lift this curse…
In 1995, Efteling began construction on another ride designed by Ton van de Ven, which would be built opposite to the Dream Flight. Villa Volta is based on the legend of a gang of robbers called the Bokkerijders (Goat Riders), and this ride takes us inside the luxurious home of the gang’s leader, and allows guests to experience the endless curse that was placed upon him. The ride opened in 1996, and is still high on the list of things to do for guests at the park. Click the image below for a better look!
The attraction is split between 3 rooms, the first of which is very dark, with some very dramatic booming music and village-type objects placed round the edges of the room, with large sections of railings in the far corner. The lights dim as guests hear local people talk about the notorious gang of criminals and their hatred for them. A loud crack of thunder causes a sign to swing from the railings in the corner, showing the leg and hoof of a goat with menacing eyes, presumably the gang’s mascot.
‘Dit huis, dit vervloekte huis…’
Guests are then led through two open doors into another dark room, at the far end of which we can see the Bokkerijders’ leader, Hugo van den Loonsche Duynen, sitting high upon a platform surrounded by elaborate ornaments of gold, which we can only presume are stolen! He tells the audience about the curse which was put upon his house by a mysterious woman after the gang robbed the Abbey of Postel (the same woman who can be seen on the top of the house swaying her arms).
“Nowhere in your house, nor in any other place in the world, will you find peace… Only when a noble man with the clear conscience like that of a newborn child enters your house will you find peace in your home and in your heart…”
I guess this suggests that not one person without sin has entered his house since 1996! Hugo laughed in the woman’s face, unbelieving of the curse, until he returned to his home and realised that the curse had turned it into a living nightmare. After listening to Hugo’s account, he begs guests to ‘enter with a pure soul so that doom leaves this house and my soul will be at peace’.
We are then led through another set of two double doors into Hugo’s living room, which is a long room with benches along either side. The room is well-lit, with chairs and bookcases along the walls next to windows with beautiful curtains and small devil/gargoyle-like creatures holding candles attached to the walls. On the arched, ornate ceiling we can see crystal chandeliers, and stretching down to the floor are tall, dark gothic pillars trimmed with gold.
After taking a seat on one of the four long wooden benches, a lap bar comes down, to ensure you don’t try to escape! Next, a loud, sudden outburst of music flares up, grabbing the attention of the riders, before it dips down again to a low hush. Very slightly, you feel as though you are moving back and forth on your bench, but only a fraction. The music then starts to get more dramatic, and you realise that you are moving quite a lot, in fact, it as though down is up and up is down, as the room turns you upside down! Whilst spinning around in this cursed room, you get to see what was originally under your bench, a black and white tiled floor which is holding back ghosts, who appear as though they are trying to escape! The dramatic music gets more and more tense, until finally your whirling around comes to an end, and the benches gently settle back to where they had started. The lap bars are raised, and guests are free to leave the cursed house.
But is the house still cursed? Who knows, but it would appear that it is, since Hugo continues to invite guests into his home throughout the day to try and break this nightmarish curse. This brings us to the subject of story within the ride. Since the ride is based around an actual legend (the Bokkerijders), it makes the story of the ride more believable, what with the locals giving angry accounts about the gang in the first room, and the leader of the gang telling you about his experiences in the second room. The addition of a curse in the story opened the way for the ride to be built as a ‘Mad House’, which is what is experienced in the third and final room. The only hole in the story (as mentioned above) is that there is no coherent ending, in contrast to a lot of setting the scene in the first rooms. However this is a trend with most mad houses, and doesn’t detract from how brilliant of an attraction this is.
After going through this ride a few times, the pre-shows can get a little tedious, particularly the first room, and particularly for anyone who does not understand Dutch! The room which contains the brilliant animatronic of Hugo however, is a little more bearable after repeat viewings. The animatronic is one of the most complex in the park, with the Troll King in the Fairy Tale Forest being one of the other more lifelike figures. It is this realism which makes Hugo a joy to watch time and time again. As described above, the living room or hall of Hugo’s house is extremely ornate, with clear attention to detail being paid to each object in the room. In regards to the ‘spinning’, of course you aren’t really spinning at all. It has baffled many a guest, but it doesn’t take long to work out that the room is actually able to turn 360°, while the swinging gondola containing the four benches only tips slightly from side to side (30°), enough to give you the sensation that you are actually going upside down. Of course, all the furnishings in the room are bolted down, so that everything stays upright, however to confirm to you that the room is actually spinning around you, you only need look at the tassles on the curtains, which hang freely.
I keep mentioning Ton van de Ven, and if you have read my Dream Flight article, then you will see that he also designed that ride, as well as many more attractions in the park, Villa Volta included. Do you want to put a face to a name? Well, today you can Google the man himself, however, you can also see a ‘painting’ of him hanging at an angle next to Hugo in the second room of this attraction. Villa Volta was built by Vekoma, who also constructed Python the rollercoaster at Efteling.
The music is composed by Ruud Bos, who also composed the music for Dream Flight, Fata Morgana and Vogel Rok. I would describe it as elegant, stirring and dramatic, as well as frantic and at times, frightening. It all helps to build anticipation for the ride, and it works absolutely perfectly along with the theming. In fact, I would go as far as to say that this is possibly some of the best theme park music you will find in the world.
Even though I love theme parks dearly, I have only one other Mad House to compare Villa Volta to from personal experience, and that is Hex-The Legend of the Towers at Alton Towers. I’m sure that there are plenty folks out there who would disagree, however I think that Villa Volta would win this comparison every time. Although Hex is a lot darker in every way, it seems to lack the anticipation that Villa Volta possesses. In fact, the first time I lined up for Villa Volta I was about 7 years old, and the sheer anticipation of the queue caused me to bottle out in streams of tears before I even got into the first room! Hopefully that will help any parents out there who may be toying with the idea of taking their children on this ride. The ride itself is not scary, just a little bewildering, but altogether fantastic and dramatic, and is definitely a ride to do over and over again.
There isn’t much of anything in the way of merchandise for this attraction, however I did pick up this shirt the last time I visited (click photo for a better look), and there is also a very nice Villa Volta mug in my kitchen!
If you hadn’t already guessed, I would list this ride as a must-do attraction!
Duration: 10 minutes (ride time 2:43).
1900 guests per hour capacity.
Cost 10 million Guilders approx.
78 people per ride.
30° movement on gondolas.
First Mad House of its kind in the world.
At the time of writing, Hugo has just received a new mask, since the old one was in desperate need of an update! Click here to see the changes.
Here is the audio from the ride, for those of you who are interested in the music (which is nearer the end), and for those of you who simply want to relive your visit to Villa Volta!