Prior to Wonka, these were the original events that were dishonest and caused children to cry.

Prior to Wonka, these were the original events that were dishonest and caused children to cry.

By the time 2024 comes to a close, if there’s a more impressive news piece than Willy’s Chocolate Experience in Glasgow, I will be completely shocked.

The story is ideal, with contrasting expectations and a grim reality. The organizer, who has published numerous books seemingly generated by AI, is highly skilled at exploiting people for their money. The company he runs is called House of Illuminati. The police are involved and secondary figures have gained popularity on TikTok. And to top it off, the website is poorly made and makes absurd claims about “catgacating” and “exarserdray lollipops”. It is flawless and could possibly be the ultimate example of something associated with Willy Wonka.

It’s worth noting that the hilariously underwhelming scam event doesn’t exist alone. To achieve this level of utter disappointment, House of Illuminati had to learn from other creative individuals who were not against charging unsuspecting individuals exorbitant fees to explore a minimally decorated warehouse filled with unhappy employees and weeping kids. While it’s fair to give Willy’s Chocolate Experience its moment in the spotlight, let’s also take a moment to think about some of the awful, money-grabbing immersive experiences that have come before.

Virtuoso level of abject dreadfulness … Willy’s Chocolate Experience.

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During this conversation, a majority of those who have committed wrongdoing will most likely be related to celebrations. In today’s capitalist society, Christmas has become synonymous with pressuring individuals to spend excessive amounts of money on unnecessary items. When it comes to organizing Christmas events, it is common for organizers to make extravagant promises and then quickly leave before facing consequences from the community. However, there are instances where organizers may go too far and face repercussions.

In 2020, the Colannades Shopping Centre in Adelaide organized Santas Winter Village, which promised a snowy trail through an enchanted forest, a Santa’s workshop, and a polar express train, to the public. Tickets were priced at A$60 (£31). However, upon arrival, ticketholders were disappointed to find an abandoned industrial unit with poor decorations, including ratty nylon Christmas trees and a grotto made out of unpainted cardboard boxes with visible shipping stickers. To add to the disappointment, Santa arrived in a mobility scooter instead of a traditional sleigh. One guest shared that the poorly dressed Santa, who seemed like an actor, made their six-year-old start questioning whether he was the real Santa.

In 2022, an event took place in East Lothian where attendees were asked to pay an additional £15 to meet St Nicholas. However, they were disappointed to discover that the person dressed as Santa was actually a mannequin in a store outfit. Although there were rides available, one individual who spent £100 on tickets stated that they were not enjoyable. According to him, while his daughter was on the bungee ropes, the staff member responsible for the area disappeared for 10 minutes. When the staff member returned, the man’s daughter was waiting to be taken off the ride.

However, as exemplified by Willy’s Chocolate Experience, it is possible to defraud individuals of their money at any point in the year. In 2019, the Rialto Theatre in Montreal hosted an event for adults that was reminiscent of Harry Potter, charging C$50 (£29) per person. The event boasted offerings such as “alcoholic butterbeer,” “Luna Love’s pudding,” a game called “cornhole snitch toss,” and a recreation of the famous “cobblestone alley.” However, attendees were ultimately disappointed as the “baguette magique” attraction, where visitors could personalize their own wands, was simply a pile of disposable chopsticks on a table. Additionally, the “Platform 9 and 3/4” display consisted only of a cardboard cutout of a brick wall.

In 2018, a Mario Kart event took place in Melbourne that allowed participants to dress up as beloved Nintendo characters and compete in go-kart races. The event included costume rental, a mushroom-shaped appetizer, transportation, up to 20 laps of racing, a DJ and after party, and access to games in a designated room. Unfortunately, the costumes were not well-maintained, the snack only consisted of a lone cupcake, and there were only two Nintendo Wiis available in the games room. The tickets were priced at A$100 (£51) each.

Perhaps my favourite, however, was the unofficial Fortnite festival that was held in Norwich in 2019, if only for its sheer scale. The organisers sold 10,000 tickets at between £13.52 and £22.14, but would charge extra for further attractions. These included a climbing wall that could only accommodate three people at a time, an “ultimate Fortnite battle royale!” which turned out to be small stage upon which children could floss, and a “cave experience”, described by the Daily Mail as “a tunnel through a trailer with a slide”. It’s also worth pointing out the merchandise stand, which sold beanie hats with “cocaine and caviar” stitched on to the front. The first event went down so badly that further events were cancelled, and the company that organised it was wound up after the makers of Fortnite brought a claim against them in the high court.

However, all of this occurred in the past. Willy’s Chocolate Experience has established an unprecedented standard of disappointment for such events. The era of overpriced gatherings has arrived. Brace yourselves with your expired lollipops, ladies and gentlemen.