Children left in tears over pathetic £35-a-head Willy Wonka event with just a bouncy castle and one Oompa-Loompa

Children left in tears over pathetic £35-a-head Willy Wonka event with just a bouncy castle and one Oompa-Loompa

Ticket holders would have hoped for the magic of 2023's Wonka for their money

GB News/The Drew Barrymore Show
James Saunders

By James Saunders

Published: 27/02/2024

- 14:58

‘What an absolute farce, two upset kids… Cowboys’, said one parent

Visitors to a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-inspired pop-up event in Glasgow were left furious, and children pushed to tears, after discovering the attraction did not live up to expectations.

The experience, marketed as “a place where chocolate dreams become reality”, turned out to be a sparsely decorated warehouse with a smattering of decorations, one ‘Oompa-Loompa’ and “uninterested” actors.

Stuart Sinclair, 29, from Douglas, South Lanarkshire, took his three children to the attraction, and said: “There was a guy wandering around apparently dressed as Willy Wonka but he didn’t seem interested… You then got inside and there were a couple of props and a plastic chocolate thing.

“In the next room, they had test tubes with jelly babies. I said to the kids at least they would get a bag of sweets, but they gave them one single sweet each,” Sinclair told the Courier.

Photos from the event showed a small bouncy castle and a single Oompa-Loompa

X/Facebook/Willy's Chocolate Experience

Another parent said on social media: “What an absolute farce, two upset kids. Cowboys.”

Eva Stewart, of East Kilbride, said: “It was basically advertised as this big, massive Willy Wonka experience with optical illusions and big chocolate fountains and sweets.

“But when we got there, it was practically an abandoned, empty warehouse, with hardly anything in it,” she told BBC Scotland.

The promotional website for Willy’s Chocolate Experience contained no actual photographs – just AI-generated images of what resembled a scene from Roald Dahl’s classic novel.
Promotional AI images from the event website

The expectation: a chocolate wonderland straight out of the pages of a Roald Dahl book (or a ChatGPT script)

Willy's Chocolate Experience

The site promised an ‘Enchanted Garden’, ‘Imagination Lab’, ‘Twilight Tunnel’ and ‘Captivating Entertainment’ – but a number of AI imaging gaffes meant the ads were riddled with nonsensical errors, with “exarserdray lollipops”, “ukxepcted twits” and the ominous “dodjection” and “emprety” on offer.

The event had been slated to last two days, but was cut short halfway through its first – with police called to placate the baying crowd, who were furious with the event’s failure to meet expectations and justify its £35-per-person ticket fee.

A closer look at organiser House of Illuminati’s website reveals more AI images and promises secret soirées and enchanted retreats to punters.

House of Illuminati director Billy Coull, a self-described “rising star in the literary world”, has written a series of conspiracy thrillers on Amazon, most of which feature AI on their covers, and said on his (now-deleted) YouTube channel that he had a degree from the University of Sedona, which is part of the “world’s largest metaphysical university system”.
Photos from the pop-up event

The reality: A sparsely decorated warehouse with a few decorations


House of Illuminati previously reassured customers that the event was “legitimate” after concerns had been raised that it was a “scam”.

Posting on Facebook, it said: “We understand that scepticism can arise with new events, but we kindly request refraining from using terms like ‘scam’ and instead, extend a little trust in our operation.”

It later apologised for the event, and said it was in the process of issuing refunds for over 850 customers.

One social media user said: “Have we not learned from all the winter wonderland experiences that these short lived full immersive experiences are usually a con/rip off!”

House of Illuminati Facebook post, founder Billy Coull, and his books

Billy Coull's House of Illuminati said it would be issuing refunds to disappointed customers


Matthew Waterfield, operations manager at Glasgow’s Box Hub, where the pop-up took place, said the events space had been approached by House of Illuminati a few weeks prior with a plan which “sounded great on paper” but “looked incredibly underwhelming”.

He told the Scottish Sun visitors “were very unhappy with the amount of money House of Illuminati had been charging for admittance” and said: “Things started to get quite aggressive.”

Glasgow City Council said its trading standards department had received one complaint and directed customers to first contact the organiser for refunds.

GB News has approached House of Illuminati for comment.

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