The story of the hotel, adapted from elements of the Twilight Zone television series, includes the hotel being struck by lightning on October 31, 1939, mysteriously transporting an elevator car full of passengers to the Twilight Zone and causing an entire wing of the building to disappear. Disney Imagineers create an atmosphere that transports the guest from the hustle and bustle of Sunset Boulevard to the eerily abandoned Hollywood Tower Hotel in the Hollywood Hills.
According to Disney lore, the Hollywood Hotel opened in 1919. It became a famous place for Hollywood and film star elite. One day, on Halloween in 1939, the hotel was struck by lightning. Part of the building was destroyed and 5 guests who had just entered the elevator disappeared. All of the other guests ran out of the building in terror leaving all of their belongings behind. The Tower of Terror is left empty until 1994 when it mysteriously re-opens. To the bellhops and porters that work the hotel, it’s as if the hotel never closed. While all this is never thoroughly explained during the attraction, you can easily see how the queue and pre-show ties itself into the backstory behind the Hollywood Hotel. It’s quite an eerie atmosphere.
Guests enter the Hollywood Tower Hotel though the main entrance gate. The outdoor queue winds through the overgrown gardens of the hotel. The outdoor queue takes you through gardens of broken stoneware and decaying plants.
An empty fountain and cracked fountain awaits you at the entrance to the hotel. In the background you're listening to haunting melodies from the past by Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Vera Lynn, and other notables from that era. And your eyes haven’t deceived you, that is fog rolling through the gardens. Once inside the lobby, it is dimly-lit and covered in cobwebs and dust. There is a yellowing copy of the Los Angeles Examiner dated October 31, 1939, a table set with tea and stale pastries, several suitcases, and a cobwebbed owl sculpture surrounded by a circle of dead flowers that appears to be the centerpiece of the room.
Behind the front desk is a broken elevator, a sign still reads "Out of Order". Everything in the hotel has apparently been left undisturbed ever since it mysteriously closed decades ago. Guests are informed that their rooms are not quite ready yet. For the time being, guests are asked to simply enjoy themselves in the hotel's library. The library is full of not only books, but exotic antiques, a television, and plenty of Twilight Zone memorabilia. Through the window, you observe that there is a thunderstorm going on outside. At this point, the pre-show starts with a lightning strike and the television coming on, apparently of its own accord. The opening sequence of The Twilight Zone plays, followed by a supposedly "lost" episode.
The attention to detail throughout the queue is amazing here. Even if you can’t or don’t want to ride the attraction, please take time to traverse the queue and watch the pre-show. Don’t worry, there is a chicken-out door for you. Just ask any cast member. As you travel the queue, you’ll feel as if you’ve entered into a hotel that was long since abandoned.