California Adventure’s version of Tower of Terror closed on January 2, 2017. It was a sad day, but Tower of Terror’s “Late Check Out” (also known as Tower of Terror's “Final Check Out”) was unforgettable.

Tower of Terror “Final Check Out”

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror was a staple attraction at Disney’s California Adventure Park. It opened in 2004, which is three years after the park’s initial opening. The extremely popular ride was a duplicate attraction from Disney’s Hollywood Studios Park in Walt Disney World. Although, the two sides had some major differences. California’s version lasted from 2004-2017. Disney fans and cast members alike were heartbroken to learn that Tower of Terror would be replaced by Guardians of the Galaxy–Mission: BREAKOUT!

One thing that helped soften the blow was the announcement of the Tower of Terror “Late Check Out” experience. Around Halloween time at the Disneyland Resort, the company announced that guests who rode the ride after dark during the Halloween season would get a whole new experience. How so? Well, once the sun went down at Disney’s California Adventure, so did the Tower of Terror lights. Yes, that means guests got to experience the ride in complete darkness!

Disney really went all-out for this experience, even adding new elements and photo opportunities that you could participate in both day and night. First of all, props of Hollywood Tower Hotel-style luggage were placed in front of the attraction which was perfect for pictures.

Also right outside the queue entrance were signs indicating what “Late Check Out” was: a ride on the Tower of Terror in complete darkness! If you were hopping in line during the day, these signs would urge you to come back for another, unique ride at night. You could ride it both times if you wanted, and either was amazing. Trust us, we did both…many times.

Although, everyone was still bummed to see the tower already under construction. The “Hollywood Tower Hotel” letters were removed almost immediately after the closure announcement.

Once in line, the queue was nothing out of the ordinary for the attraction. Smooth jazz music played as guests walked through the dilapidated lobby filled with cobwebs and unclaimed baggage. At the front of the lobby was something new, though. It was a sign advertising the live performers known as “The Silver Lake Sisters.” The sign specified that they would be performing at the “Tip Top Club,” but that was crossed out and rewritten to instead say “Live at the Lobby.” The Silver Lake Sisters really did come out to the lobby to perform every couple of minutes. They performed 1930’s-1940’s jazz and honestly, they did really well.

The Pre-Show in the haunted library was the same as usual. Guests were led into the library by a bellhop to await their freshly cleaned hotel rooms. You could look around at the many authentic Twilight Zone television show props in the room. Once the doors closed, lightning flashed, and the lights went out, but the TV mysteriously turned on by itself.

On the screen was a video of Rod Serling speaking about this particular episode of the show, the one that we are starring in. He tells the story of Halloween night in 1939 when five people disappeared in the hotel elevator during a lightning storm. And history is about to repeat itself, but this time, with us. Then the library doors open again and we are brought into the basement and await our turn for the elevator.

Guests board the elevator and strap in. The bellhop checks everyone’s seat belts before giving the usual safety spiel, then closes the elevator doors.

Rod Serling starts his voiceover, “You are the passengers of the most uncommon elevator, about to take the strangest journey of your lives. Your destination: unknown. But this much is clear: a reservation has been made in your name, for an extended stay.”

At this point, fans of the ride would expect the doors to open and reveal a hallway mirror before Serling says, “Wave goodbye to the real world.” But that never happens. Instead, the doors open to reveal complete darkness, and our narrator remains silent for a few seconds before continuing, skipping the mirror portion completely.

“What happened here to dim the lights of Hollywood’s brightest showplace is about to unfold once again.” Normally, guests would then see the ghosts of the missing five people from so long ago as they are struck by lightning and sent to the Twilight Zone. Instead, this time it is pitch black. But the sounds of electricity, terrifying music, and mysterious singing from the voice of a child can still be heard.

Then the narration continues, “One stormy night long ago, five people stepped through the door of an elevator and into a nightmare. That door is opening once again, but this time it’s opening for you.” Anybody who has experienced the ride before is now grabbing on for safety as they get ready for the first drop. Instead, there is nothing. Just darkness. Then the music fades out. It is completely silent and pitch black. The only noises you hear are the sounds of the other guests starting to get freaked out.

This eerie, dark, silence lasts for around 10 seconds, building an almost unbearable feeling of anticipation…before…DROP! The elevator is pulled down 13 stories, faster than the speed of gravity itself. Then, we are pulled up to the top again. The drop sequence continues with abnormal silence and darkness, except when your picture is taken at the top. Finally, your elevator crash lands on the bottom floor. The bellhop opens the door and you walk out safely.

The Tower of Terror “Final Check Out” experience was one of the coolest and most fun. Not only did the darkness add to the thrill of the attraction, but it also felt like experiencing something behind the scenes. It was like we got to ride this unique, secret experience like an Imagineer or cast member might get to when they sometimes make small tweaks.