Witch’s Dungeon History - since 1966

The longest running Halloween attraction in the country

All web pages, photos content

copyright 2014 - Cortlandt Hull/Witch’s Dungeon

all photos: © 2014 Cortlandt Hull/“Witch’s Dungeon” Collection


"THEWITCH'S DUNGEON" is a registered trade mark

"ZENOBIA THE GYPSY WITCH"

name, image & logos - copyright/tm: 2014 Cortlandt Hull

"CLASSIC MOVIE MONSTERS" - copyright/tm 2014 Universal Studios

Karloff Enterprises,  Chaney Entertainment,  Lugosi Enterprises

“Oscar” statuette - copyright AMPAS

                                     

    “IT ALL BEGAN WITH A WITCH, NAMED - ZENOBIA”

                              For years, there has been a bit of controversy 
                              over the origin of the name, “ZENOBIA THE                   
                              GYPSY WITCH”®, our hostess of “THE WITCH’S                                  
                              DUNGEON”® - Our old “crystal ball gazer” 
                              thought it was time this was cleared up!  She
                              was designed & sculpted by Cortlandt, at just
                              12 years old, in 1965, only a year before the
                              museum first opened.  The dear girl looked a
                              bit crude, in her early years, as did some of 
                              the other figures.  But as Cortlandt’s artistic
                              ability improved through his college years, 
                              and his association with makeup artists, JOHN 
                              CHAMBERS & DICK SMITH, “Zenobia” and the
                              other figures greatly improved. She was named   
  “Zenobia The Gypsy Witch”®, from 
  the very beginning, this is docu-
  mented by a “Bristol Press” article 
  in the mid 1960’s.  The name had
  originated from a former obnoxious 
  classmate of Cortlandt’s Mom, as she 
  felt the name fit for a witch!  The 
  controversy has come from fans of 
  the classic film by Ray Harryhausen, 
  “Sinbad & The Eye Of The Tiger” 
  (1977), which involved a witch 
  named “Zenobia”.   Since this film 
  came 12 years after the creation of 
                               our “Zenobia”, it had no relation to our witch.         
                               Her voice was originally to be done by MAE
                               QUESTEL, best known as the voice of “Betty 
                               Boop”, she was also the voice of the “Sea Hag” 
                               in the “Popeye” cartoons.  But, Mae believed
                               her friend, JUNE FORAY did a far better “witch
                               voice”, as June had done it for Disney, Warner 
                               Bros, and other cartoon studios.  June has been
                               highly supportive of the museum ever since, 
                               and a great friend.  June, as “Zenobia” will be 
                               heard inter-acting with “ZACHERLEY” in the 
                               new opening segments for “THE WITCH’S                     
                               DUNGEON - LEGENDS OF FILM AND 
                               FANTASY”.

                               The name, “THE WITCH’S DUNGEON”® has also
  been a victim of rumors, as to it’s origin.  Like “Zenobia” herself, the title
  of the museum, began with it’s creation in 1966, by Cortlandt Hull.  It 
  has been documented in several newspapers of the time, as well as in 
  “Famous Monsters Of Filmland” magazine.  Many years later, in the 1980’s 
  Salem, Massachusetts opened a museum 
  on the Salem witch trials and called it 
  “The Witch Dungeon”.  This attraction 
  has no relation to our original “Witch’s
  Dungeon Classic Movie Museum”
  
  “The Witch’s Dungeon”® is a registered
  trade mark, and has always been non-
  profit, since it began in 1966.  For the 
  first few years it was free, then in the 
  1970’s it was 25 cents, in the 1980’s - 
  50 cents, and from the mid 1990’s it 
  has been $1.00 - until 2010.  The intention was never a money-making
                                       venture, but to create a loving tribute 
                                       to the classic fantasy films.  In 1992, 
                                       with the help of Vincent Price & Mark 
                                       Hamill we were granted the rights from 
                                       Universal Studios, which owns most 
                                       of the classic movie monsters, to 
                                       keep “The Witch’s Dungeon” open.  
                                       Cortlandt helps fund both the museum
                                       & documentaries.  We also hope to     
                                       attain corporate sponsors.  Proceeds 
                                       from the documentaries, and “The 
                                       Witch’s Dungeon” events go toward the 
                                       museum fund.  We are fortunate to       
                                       have many volunteers that assist with 
                                       “The Witch’s Dungeon Classic Movie 
                                       Museum”.
 
                                       written by John Bartucca
    
NEW DATES FOR THIS FALL COMING SOON

The unpredictable

JOHN ZACHERLE

( and the hands of Cheryl LeBeau )

"ZENOBIA THE GYPSY WITCH"

- copyright/tm 2014 Cortlandt Hull

actress, JUNE FORAY, the voice of

“Zenobia The Gypsy Witch”®

please go to our “Dates” page

for full details on 2016 event dates

“Zenobia The Gypsy Witch”®

“The Witch’s Dungeon”® featured in

“Ripley’s Believe It or Not” - 1987

The original “WITCH’S DUNGEON CLASSIC MOVIE MUSEUM”® opened in Bristol, Connecticut in 1966, a tribute to the actors & effects artists who have given us a legacy of classic fantasy films.  The Witch’s Dungeon features highly accurate life size figures based on the classic films of Lon Chaney, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price and others from the golden age of horror & sci-fi cinema. The museum is considered the longest running exhibit of its kind in the country (stated by “Entertainment Tonight” in 1996 during our 30th anniversary).


It began with a 13 year old, CORTLANDT HULL. Being ill during most of childhood, he occupied some of his time by building the Aurora monster model kits, inspired by the vivid color artwork of JAMES BAMA on the box covers.  Cortlandt was fascinated with the art of movie makeup, and how an actor could be transformed into a fearsome creature. After visiting several wax museums, as a kid, he was disappointed by their “Chamber Of Horrors” lacking the classic movie monsters.  At that point, Hull’s 8” monster models were not enough!  He began creating his own life-size character, “ZENOBIA THE GYPSY WITCH”® as a hostess for his own “Horror Museum”.


So, in 1966, Cortlandt’s dad, ROBERT HULL helped him build a swiss chalet-style building to house Cortlandt’s full size versions of his favorite classic creatures, which became “The Witch’s Dungeon”. Being a painter and decorating contractor, Hull’s dad helped him build all the background sets.  Hull’s mom, DOROTHEA HULL, was a costume designer, she re-created many of the elaborate costumes & capes.  Hull’s uncle, LOUIS GAGNON, became the electrical engineer, and with Cortlandt designed & wired unusual laboratory gadgets for the sets. Being only thirteen, Cortlandt’s early sculptures were a bit crude - but it was a start, and a unique concept.  At the time, there were no Halloween attractions, except for neighborhood costume parties. Other early supporters of the museum were mask maker, DON POST SR. VERNE LANGDON, & “Famous Monsters” magazine editor, FORREST J. ACKERMAN.


As Hull’s artistic abilities developed through college, and his career in art, so did his accuracy in re-creating life size figures for “The Witch’s DungeonClassic Movie Museum”. Thanks to Oscar winning makeup artists: JOHN CHAMBERS (“The Planet Of The Apes”) and DICK SMITH (“The Exorcist”), Cortlandt learned some of their techniques, and due to their generosity, acquired life casts of the actors to work from.


By the 1970’s, into the 1980’s the small museum had doubled it’s size.  It was beginning to achieve national attention, due to articles in “THE NEW YORK TIMES”, ‘NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC”, ‘RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT!” even “PLAYBOY”! Network TV shows - “TO TELL THE TRUTH”, “KIDS ARE PEOPLE TOO”, “ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT”, “GOOD MORNING AMERICA” and others, featured the museum.  Actors VINCENT PRICE, JOHN AGAR & MARK HAMILL provided special recordings for the “Dungeon” tour.  Leading voice actress for many Warner Bros. & Disney cartoons, JUNE FORAY became the voice of “ZENOBIA THE GYPSY WITCH”® - the official hostess for the museum.


Visitors to “The Witch’s Dungeon”, beginning in the 1990’s were greeted by very special hosts, such as SARA KARLOFF (daughter of actor Boris Karloff), BELA G. LUGOSI (son of actor Bela Lugosi), RON CHANEY (grandson of Lon Chaney Jr.), Oscar & Emmy award winning makeup artist DICK SMITH and several others from the film community, who donated their time to support the exhibit.  As Cortlandt’s dad, Robert said, “Who would believe, when you were a boy, and we began the “Witch’s Dungeon” - 30 years later, we would have the actor’s families here to host it, with people visiting from all over the country!”  Cortlandt’s dad passed away shortly after the museum’s 30th anniversary in 1996.


In the years that followed, the museum became involved with the U.S. Postal Service - promoting their “Classic Movie Monster Stamps”, featuring portraits of Karloff, Chaney & Lugosi in 1997. The museum figures were displayed at several post offices in the New England area.  Plus a special screening of Lon Chaney Sr’s “Phantom Of The Opera” with a live orchestra performing the original 1925 music score, hosted by RON CHANEY, co-sponsored by “The Witch’s Dungeon” and the U.S. Postal Service.


The life-size monsters began to travel - as many major film conventions requested displays of our classic chillers and original movie props at shows in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, even California! Locally, the renown “HARTFORD STAGE COMPANY” requested a major lobby display in connection with their stage production of “The Mystery Of Irma Vep”.  Plus each year, the Connecticut State Tourism has asked “The Witch’s Dungeon” to have a major display in the Connecticut Building at “THE BIG E” in West Springfield, MA. in September.


Due to the success of the “Dungeon” and the accuracy of the figures, UNIVERSAL STUDIOS FLORIDA commissioned Cortlandt to create a figure of Lon Chaney Jr. as “The Wolf Man” for their “Classic Monsters Cafe” in Orlando. The project was a combined effort, involving two of Hull’s talented collegues PAUL DAY CLEMENS and DANTE RENTA.


Shortly after Cortlandt’s mom, Dorothea, passed away in 2004, it was decided we should honor everyone involved with the museum, including the actors & makeup artists which had inspired it’s creation.  Plus in 2006 we were approaching the 40th anniversary.  A very visual two hour documentary was produced by the museum and it’s talented volunteers - “The Witch’s Dungeon 40 Years Of Chills”.  Not merely about the creation of the museum, but a history of classic horror, told directly by those that were involved in creating these films with exclusive interviews. This film has been acclaimed by critics and fans alike, shown theatrically in the U.S. Canada, England and Australia. Our special thanks to all involved that volunteered their work and talents.  This started a series of documentaries called “THE WITCH’S DUNGEON LEGENDS OF FILM & FANTASY” with the support of Bill Diamond Productions.


Hull always had respect for the movie making arts, which was the inspiration for creating the museum.  Many people he knew in the film industry had given him original props or makeup appliances, from various films, which he has preserved.  These pieces are not only part of movie history, but are fine art, and American icons. Like film itself, it is important to preserve them in a new museum for future generations. The not-for-profit expansion of “The Witch’s Dungeon” would include “The Silver Screen Movie Museum and Archive”, plus a theater to screen film classics. We hope sponsorship will make this a reality soon.


written by John Elton Floyd






Our “Ghost Host” in “The Witch’s Dungeon

Graveyard of Classic Ghouls”

CORTLANDT HULL  1966

Aurora artist JAMES BAMA

with our figure

“Zenobia The Gypsy Witch”

(click photo for clip)

ROBERT HULL

Cortlandt’s dad

Mask-maker DON POST SR.

with Cortlandt

FORREST J. ACKERMAN

with Cortlandt

Actor MARK HAMILL

with Cortlandt

RON CHANEY with

Witch’s Dungeon “Wolf Man”

Re-creation of Lon Chaney’s

“Red Death” from the museum

BELA LUGOSI JR. with museum

figure of Bela Sr. as “Dracula”

Makeup artist DICK SMITH

with Cortlandt

Dungeon “Creature” figure

VICTORIA PRICE with

“Dr. Phibes” from the museum

“ELVIRA” with our figure of

“Werewolf Of London”

Some of the sights to see at “The Witch’s Dungeon”
Dates.html

“The Witch’s Dungeon Movie Museum”

Celebrates it’s 50th season in 2016


WE MAY BE MOVING - DETAILS IN SPRING 2014
DON’T MISS IT THIS YEAR!
NEW DATES WILL BE LISTED SOON
BE SURE TO JOIN US IN OCTOBER
FOR OUR 48TH SEASON!
evenings only - 7:00p.m. to 10:00p.m.
WE ARE A NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION

Makeup artist JOHN CHAMBERS

with Cortlandt