Witch’s Dungeon : Haunting the Halls of BHS this season!

Witch’s Dungeon to host new frights

Friday, September 19, 2014 9:56 PM EDT

By BRIAN M. JOHNSON
STAFF WRITER

BRISTOL —— The Witch’s Dungeon Classic Movie Museum will scare up a host of new frights at the Bristol Historical Society starting Oct. 3.

The non-profit Witch’s Dungeon, a long-time Bristol treasure, is also the longest running Halloween attraction in the U.S. Founded in 1966 by resident Cortlandt Hull, it features his hand-sculpted replicas of characters from classic horror, fantasy and science-fiction films including Dracula, The Creature From The Black Lagoon, The Abominable Doctor Phibes and Planet of the Apes.

The museum will be open at the Bristol Historical Society at 98 Summer St. from 7 to 10 p.m. Oct. 3 to 5, Oct. 10 to 12, Oct. 17 to 19, Oct. 24 to 26 and Oct. 31 to Nov. 2. Film screenings will be held on the same nights as museum tours.

Hull is the great-nephew of Henry Hull, who played first werewolf ever on film in the 1935 Universal film “The Werewolf Of London.” He first ran the museum when he was 13-years-old out of his family’s home on Chippens Hill and then later inside of a trailer at his home on Battle Street for many years. Last October it appeared that the museum would be forced to relocate to New York, where Hull’s friend Bill Diamond lives, due to strict state fire prevention codes. However, last month Jim Albert, president and CEO of the Bristol and Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, came to Hull’s aid and connected him Tom Dickau, president of the Historical Society.

“I didn’t want to leave Bristol,” said Hull. “Thankfully Jim talked to Tom and the members of The Bristol Historical Society and they wanted to have us here. We all thought it would be a great combination that will be beneficial to us both.”

“As the president of the Bristol Historical Society, we are very pleased to be hosting The Witch’s Dungeon this October,” said Dickau. “We hope to form a long relationship and we are thankful to Jim Albert for bringing Cortlandt to us. We have been doing a lot of joint advertising, so expect large crowds.”  Hull said that The Bristol Historical Society would be completely re-vamped during tour nights. It will be re-decorated with looming black archways and other props, donated by Bill Diamond. The front lobby and dining room will be set up like a wax museum featuring numerous life-sized replicas, many of which have yet to be seen in Bristol. Guided tours will be conducted in a theatrical P. T. Barnum style with atmospheric music and lighting. The back lobby will also be converted into a mock graveyard,

“Vincent Price was a good friend of mine and he recorded an audio introduction for the old walkthrough,” he said. “We haven’t been able to re-edit the audio to fit the new layout but it should still be a very exciting tour.”

Hull said he learned to create the replicas from Hollywood makeup and effects artists who he met because of his great uncle. He also took art classes at the University of Hartford. Today, Hull is friends with the families of Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, who he said appreciated his tributes to their relative’s work. He is also a friend of Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars trilogy and is now shooting Episode VII. Hamill congratulated Hull when he heard of The Witch’s Dungeon’s move.

“What a fantastic venue this will be,” Hamill said of the new location. “The 1890s building looks like something out of an Edgar Allan Poe story.”

Those looking for a preview of what’s in store at The Witch’s Dungeon can check out their float Sept. 28 at the Mum Parade on Memorial Boulevard.

Tickets are $5, with proceeds split between The Bristol Historical Society and The Witch’s Dungeon. One ticket is good for one tour of the Witch’s Dungeon and one same-night film screening at the Bristol Historical Society.