Haunted New York
The Transformation of Jekyll and Hyde.
By Kevin L. McCurdy
It was a rainy cold day in the city of New York. A nice day to find a warm cozy cafe and sit down with a nice hot cup of coffee or tea, or perhaps a warm potion where I was going.
The Jekyll and Hyde club uptown has been one of the great attractions of its kind for years now. The four floors consist of the Grand Salon, The Library, The Laboratory and the Attic. All of them have recently undergone a change, like the good doctor himself.
D.R. Finley is the proprietor and creator of this unique entertainment and culinary experience. He opened the first Jekyll and Hyde at 91 7th avenue in 1991. With the success of this pub as well as The Slaughtered Lamb, and Night Gallery, D.R. made the move uptown. In 1995, just four years later, the Jekyll and Hyde Club opened on the Avenue of the Americas.
The "back story" of Jekyll and Hyde is what makes this attraction unique. The back-story is the roadmap for design and creation of any attraction. Its what drives your intent and your ideas. Here is part of the Jekyll and Hyde lore:
Idealist, philanthropist, man of science, Dr. Henry Jekyll was all that and more. His lifetime was spent in service to society and culminated in the good doctor's greatest, and some would say tragic, experiment. Dr. Henry Jekyll was always fascinated by man's two separate natures: good and evil. Using himself as a test subject, he performed bizarre experiments, attempting to control humanity's darker side. Unfortunately, he was seduced by his own malignant nature and on many occasions transformed into a diabolical mad man whom he later named Hyde. In 1931, Dr. Jekyll fled London and traveled to New York City, a city filled with outcasts and wanderers. Continuing his research in the hope of finding a way to rid himself of Hyde, Jekyll formed a close circle of advisors and allies and together they founded the Jekyll & Hyde Club. It soon became a social meeting place for explorers, philosophers, biologists, and other daring men and women whose exploits into science and adventure we deemed too unorthodox by their colleagues in accepted society. Nevertheless, these visionaries shared a common goal, to understand the darker nature within us all.
So what made D.R. choose the theme of Jekyll and Hyde? We asked him just that question.
D.R. I am a big fan of English history and wanted our stories to be based on the classic monsters of old Europe. It also represents everything that man is concerned with including the search for immortality and the struggle between good and evil.
When did you start the renovation and what exactly did you change?
D.R. We have been renovating since September and will continue until March or April. We have all new special effects and characters and a new 4th floor, the Attic.
How often do you change things?
D.R. We change them every year, and the special effects and shows change periodically, perhaps one to two years. A new effect may be added randomly as I feel the need.
Every detail in the club is carefully planned. Only the highest quality props, animatronics and scenic elements have been chosen. New animatronics from Life Formations have been installed on the various floors. The careful design makes it so that no matter where you sit in the restaurant you can experience at least three events close by. Other shows including the main show on the grand salon level can be seen via monitors placed appropriately around the seating areas. The idea here is that " Its always fun and always different". Walt Disney once told his team working on the Haunted Mansion that he wanted so much for the audience to look at that they would have to come back again and again to see it all. That is true here at Jekyll and Hyde’s. The walls are filled with interesting artifacts, heads, antiques, and science gone wrong. It would take you at least four visits to see each of the floors!
One of my favorite shows is in the attic. It is a little doll that stands quietly in her display box. Delilah is her name. Suddenly the box opens and slides off and she starts to speak.
I love you. I love you she says... suddenly she begins to speak and tells us about her uncle needles. He is the psychotic clown in the cage on the other side of the room. She tells us she would like us to meet her friend Mr. Pointy. Suddenly her head spins and her hands raise and turn into claws as a rendition of the Psycho music blares at us. Then as suddenly as she turns evil, she turns back to the delightful little doll again. Very well done. There are other new animations on the attic level including a creature in a crate that sounds like golem. He wants out of his captivity but changes his mind when he sees what’s. I mean who’s for lunch.
The shows were still being programmed the day we were there. We entered the attic; it was closed to the public while they worked on some of the shows. Lying on the floor was the old Frankenstein monster that had just been replaced by a newer version. It looked almost sad lying there with its head and limbs detached. I imagined how many people it had entertained over the many years it had been in service. The new monster is much more elaborate with twice as many movements than the old one. It looks more like the monster in Van Helsing now. DR ran all the shows for us on this floor, he is a perfectionist when it comes to making sure every little effect detail, and sound is in place. I thought they were wonderful. He told us they would be even better once it was all tweaked. Since Jekyll and Hyde’s is open 365 days a year there is no "down" time. They have to install all the new animatronics and show equipment while they're open. Imagine that!
Some of these installs are no little task.
There’s a new band in town too. Replacing the Funny bones (a musical twosome that cracked corny jokes) is the Monster Mash band. A group of five corpses that play a rendition of, what else, Monster Mash.
It’s really amazing when you think about it. Mr. Finley has created a totally believable world inside his clubs. Interaction with live and not so live beings adds the final touch to this believability. The animatronic characters can either run a pre-programmed show or switch to live interaction via the “puppeteers” so to speak. The residents like Fang the Gargoyle, Dr Mad, or Tobias Bloodworth, seem to really exist. Amazingly you can leave reality for a couple of hours and share a drink and some conversation with these interestingly insane characters. You can even become a member of the club and get your membership card and certificate! Whether your a horror buff or not, people enjoy being somewhere that makes them feel special, and that the hosts make them feel special. Live interaction! Someplace where they can forget the outside world. It’s the closet thing to being there so to speak. Remember the movie Westworld? People sign up for a vacation to go to a world of their choice, populated by characters from that world, and interact and live in that world for a time. Well it’s kind of like that, without the robots and Yule Brenner.