Prior to Wonka: the initial instances of deceitful activities that caused children to cry.

Estimated read time 5 min read

If, by the end of 2024, any news story tops the excellence of Willy’s Chocolate Experience in Glasgow, I will be extremely surprised.

This story is ideal. It follows the contrast between high expectations and disappointing reality. The organizer, who has self-published many books that appear to be written by AI, is highly skilled at manipulating people to give him their money. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that he is the head of a company called “House of Illuminati,” police involvement, and the popularity of ancillary characters on TikTok. To top it off, the website associated with this story is poorly constructed, even claiming to offer nonsense products like “catgacating” and “exarserdray lollipops.” It’s a perfect combination of elements and could potentially be the best thing ever to bear Willy Wonka’s name.

It must be noted that the hilariously disappointing scam event did not appear out of nowhere. In order to achieve such a level of utter disappointment, House of Illuminati had to take inspiration from pioneering individuals who had no qualms about scamming innocent people for exorbitant fees to wander aimlessly around a poorly-furnished warehouse with overworked employees and distressed children. Therefore, while it is only just that Willy’s Chocolate Experience is exposed, we must also take a moment to consider the terrible immersive scams of the past.

Virtuoso level of abject dreadfulness … Willy’s Chocolate Experience.View image in fullscreen

When talking about this topic, the majority of those at fault will likely be related to celebrations. Christmas in the modern era of capitalism primarily involves encouraging people to spend excessive amounts of money on unnecessary items. With regards to Christmas festivities, it is quite simple to make unrealistic promises and then leave before facing backlash from the community. However, at times, event organizers can go too far.

The Colannades Shopping Centre in Adelaide charged a fee of A$60 (£31) in 2020 for visitors to experience Santas Winter Village. The village claimed to offer a “snowy trail through an enchanted forest”, a “Santa’s workshop”, and a “polar express train”. However, once the money was paid, attendees were taken to a deserted industrial unit where they found old Christmas trees made of nylon, a grotto made of unpainted cardboard boxes with shipping stickers visible, and Santa’s sleigh being a mobility scooter. One guest commented, “The person portraying Santa was poorly dressed and my six-year-old even started to question if he was really Santa.”

In East Lothian in 2022, some attendees were charged an additional £15 to meet St Nicholas, but instead were met with a store mannequin dressed as Santa. While there were also rides available at this event, one attendee who spent £100 on tickets stated that they were not very satisfactory. According to him, his daughter went on the bungee ropes, but the staff member in charge disappeared for 10 minutes, leaving his daughter stuck and wanting to get off.

However, as the Willy’s Chocolate Experience demonstrated, it is possible to deceive individuals for monetary gain at any time of the year. In 2019, the Rialto Theatre in Montreal held an adult event inspired by Harry Potter, with tickets priced at C$50 (£29) per person. The event boasted offerings such as “boozy butterbeer”, “Luna Love’s pudding”, a “cornhole snitch toss”, and the infamous “cobblestone alley”. Unfortunately, attendees were left disappointed upon discovering that the touted “baguette magique” activity, where guests could personalize their own wands, was simply a pile of disposable chopsticks on a table. Additionally, the Platform 9 and 3/4 attraction was merely a standee depicting a blank brick wall.

The 2018 Mario Kart event in Melbourne was a popular opportunity for gamers to dress up as their beloved Nintendo characters and race go-karts. The event boasted “costume rental, a mushroom-themed appetizer, convenient CBD transportation, up to 20 laps, a DJ and an after-party, as well as access to a games room with additional activities.” However, attendees were dissatisfied as the costumes were unclean, the snack was only a single cupcake, and the games room only had two Nintendo Wiis. Each ticket was priced at A$100 (£51).

One of my favourite events was the unofficial Fortnite festival in Norwich in 2019, mainly due to its enormous size. The organizers sold 10,000 tickets with prices ranging from £13.52 to £22.14, with additional charges for other attractions. These included a limited capacity climbing wall, a small stage for children to showcase their “flossing” skills, and a unique “cave experience” that was essentially a trailer with a slide. The festival also featured a merchandise stand selling beanies with the words “cocaine and caviar” embroidered on them. However, the festival received negative feedback and the following events were cancelled. The organizers were forced to shut down their company after being sued by the creators of Fortnite in the high court.

However, this occurred in the past. Willy’s Chocolate Experience has established an exceptionally low standard for events of this nature. The era of deceitful events has arrived. Prepare yourselves for an exarserdray lollipop ride, everyone.


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