How a Willy Wonka Event in the U.K. Ended in Calls to Police and Demands For Refunds

How a Willy Wonka Event in the U.K. Ended in Calls to Police and Demands For Refunds

Children dressed up in Willy Wonka costumes and excited to enter what was advertised as a “full immersive experience… promising a day of pure imagination and wonder” were instead disappointed by a seemingly unprofessional event where they received no chocolate, leading outraged parents to demand refunds for their £35 ($44) tickets.

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“Willy’s Chocolate Experience,” which debuted on Feb. 24 in Glasgow, Scotland, has now been canceled. The event followed the release of the new film Wonka, the origin story of Willy Wonka from Roald Dahl’s classic children’s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

House of Illuminati, a London-based experience company that put on the event, posted on its Facebook page on Wednesday that it understood the cancellation “of something that was supposed to be an artist rendition of a well-known novel has caused disappointment, frustration, and anger—and the money you spent.”

“The process of giving your money back has already started as a number of people can confirm,” the company wrote. “The intention was to genuinely create something special for you [and] that didn’t work out.”

On Monday, the company shared a screenshot showing 850 refunds issued with a message that began “Today has been a very stressful and frustrating day for many and for that we are truly sorry.” 

TIME reached out to the House of Illuminati and the event venue Box Hub warehouse for comment. 

The outrage led to calls to police, with Police Scotland telling TIME in an email that “officers were called after an event was canceled and advice was given.” A Facebook group titled “House of Illuminati scam” had amassed 2,200 members as of Wednesday afternoon.

Actor and comedian Paul Connell said in a series of TikTok videos that he was hired to portray Willy Wonka at the event and felt for anyone who bought tickets. He said he was given a 15-page monologue script of “AI-generated gibberish” and told to give children one jelly bean and a quarter cup of supermarket-brand lemonade.

People who said they attended the event posted pictures and wrote about their experiences on Facebook. One called it an “absolute shambles” on Feb. 24, saying it had been advertised as offering chocolate fountains, but it took “two minutes” to go through. A different poster shared a picture of plastic cups of lemonade lined up on a bare folding table.

One video showed a figure dressed in black with a silver mask emerging from behind one of the mirrors, with kids starting to cry. It’s been widely circulated that this figure was a made-up villain created specially for the event and named “The Unknown.”

Another video on TikTok showed two children entering the warehouse space filled with some decorations, including a gate, bridge and large candy bars, before passing through an exhibit with commonly sized full-length mirrors leaning against haphazardly hung curtains. The children’s smiles as they pose for photos at first give way to confusion by the end of the video.

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