You would think something as simple as two little words describing a shopping outlet would not elicit such strong and bewildered emotions – but that is exactly what happens when I hear the words “The Mercado.” Rex and I experienced some bizarre stuff in this little shopping village.
I should say from the outset that Rex and I felt a weird “Ghost Town” presence about the entire plot of land from the first time we stepped foot into the doomed array of storefronts in the early 2000’s. We knew this place was destined to be shut down and demolished, which is exactly what happened. But oh boy, am I glad we were able to experience some of the whacked out stuff we did during those remaining few years of its existence.
So, let our story begin.
It was in 2003 that Rex and I decided to give the recently opened “Hard Rock Vault” museum a try. We had heard a good bit about it and the structure of an inverted pyramid looking thing from the previous failed attraction, The Guinness Book of World Records Museum, looked enticing. As soon as we walked into the lobby of the Hard Rock Vault, we were thrust into a world of cheesiness primarily because the staff were apparently trained and instructed to be as annoying as possible. One staff member, who would end up being our tour guide, learned I played guitar and promptly asked me to give him a quick “air guitar” demonstration. Rex and I looked at each other in disbelief. The tour was unthinkably lame, comprised of rock history artifacts that you can find at any Hard Rock restaurant, but more importantly the script from the tour guide was simply too forced (interestingly enough, we would be back in this same spot 3 years later with another forced script, but more on that below). This was one of those areas where less information and more time to look over the museum pieces would have been helpful, but the tour attempted to “lure” us into rock lore by using the most ridiculous wording for the tour. We were left convinced that our guide knew nothing more about rock history than we did, but that he had just memorized a lame script. Let me provide the ultimate example…
In what can only be experienced to be believed, we were led into a room called “The King’s Chamber” where Elvis was placed up on a wall as a shrine. Seriously, this was veneration at its best. All around Elvis were various historical pieces connected to The King, but the music pumping through the room was one of Elvis’ slower songs and the guide told us, and I kid you not, that “we will stop here for a few minutes in case any of you need to cry and grieve.” I think the guide noticed mine and Rex’s expression of disbelief because he promptly said, “oh I’m serious, we have people break down in this room and we have to help them out.”
Needless to say, the Hard Rock Vault was out of business the following year. However, it wasn’t until 2006 that Rex and I were able to be a part of something so surreal and bizarre that we still talk about it to this day. Nights of Terror.
In 2006 Rex and I were in the 3rd year of our annual Halloween Horror Nights trip and we had been reading about a seasonal haunted attraction that promised to “actually scare you in Orlando.” We thought this was a clear smack against HHN at Universal Studios, so we were rather excited to check it out. There were 4 houses, one of which was called “7 Deadly Sins” and it was an adults only house. After picking up our “Terror Pass” earlier in the day for entrance into all 4 houses (we were afraid the line for tickets would be unmanageable at night), we made our way toward the Mercado on October 13, 2006. We were impressed to see a huge construction LED sign lit up for special “Nights Of Terror Parking.” We pulled into the designated parking lot, which was located east of the Mercado on Universal Blvd., and was promptly told that “you don’t need to park down here; there’s all kinds of room in the Mercado parking lot.” That surprised us, but we were glad to park right next to the event, which is exactly what we did.
Well, I don’t want to go into all the brutal details of our Nights Of Terror experience, that is for another article and podcast, but the atmosphere of that night was the most perplexing, and in some ways, unsettling I have ever been in. It was just hard to believe this was actually an Orlando, FL haunted event taking place – it was opening weekend and the Mercado was deserted. There were a few roaming employees walking around who looked as befuddled as we did. A “band”, comprised of some high school students and their parents, were doing a sound check of what sounded like some depleted form of death metal in the center of the Mercado. When we finally made our way to the first haunt of the night, 7 Deadly Sins, we were underwhelmed with its substandard redolence. Not only did this haunt ignore all rules of reality based smells, it just stunk in every conceivable category, and this was supposed to be the extreme “adult” house. The tour guide was using a script even more forced and cheese-filled than her Hard Rock Vault predecessor three years before and the whole experience created an eerie blending of time whereby we became convinced of the Mercado’s short lived future.
As always, Rex and I are looking for people who actually visited and experienced “Nights of Terror” in 2006. If this is you, please write us.
After the incredible failure of Nights of Terror, the Mercado was on its last leg. In 2007, a green construction fence was placed around the property to prevent anyone from going inside. By 2008, the entire property had been bulldozed. You can see Google Street View images below showing the 2007 and 2008 images of the Mercado.
Today, there is excitement in the air as the old Mercado land is being transformed into the I-Drive 360 Orlando Eye experience. With a huge observation wheel that will tower some 400 feet in the air coupled with the legendary Madame Tussauds wax museum and a Sea Life Aquarium, it appears the land destined for doom will actually become a place of tourist support and excitement once again. You can read all about the forthcoming Orlando Eye right here which is scheduled to open in 2015.
But RexandtheBeast.com will never forget what once was. Our first ride on the Orlando Eye will be in memory of The Mercado and the incredibly fun, if not perplexing experiences we had at her location. These are the reasons RexandtheBeast.com exists. Join The Journey!