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This post was originally scheduled to come out in May. It’s a little late! It is part two of the summer series about amusement parks. The last one being about roller coasters.
Summer for me has a smell, hot asphalt, diesel, and oil from roller coasters, cotton candy, corn dogs, and chlorine, all the smells of the amusement park and pool. Mix that with a hefty dose of horror and out comes my other favorite amusement park feature and my other favorite Tobe Hooper movie, The Funhouse. This movie has grown on me over the years. I love to watch it now. I used to be meh on it because I was expecting Texas Chainsaw at a carnival, but I think Texas Chainsaw was such a fluke and one-of of gritty horror genius that it won’t happen again. That’s fine. Once I accepted that I really enjoyed The Funhouse, which is much more polished Hollywood than art house.
After conquering the roller coasters I moved on to the dark rides, which was a little more difficult for me. Frontier City, my local childhood theme park, had a log flume dark ride. You went into a long tunnel and at every turn there were horror scenes with skeletons, loud horns, car wrecks, flashing lights, oh, it just about did me in. I had nightmares about it but knew I must conquer this fear too. Again, my Dad was there, and sometimes my mom too! I eventually embraced it as well and learned to love dark rides. (Later they tamed this ride down A LOT- I think they got complaints!)
My only dark ride regret was not riding the Bill Tracy Whacky Shack at Joyland in Wichita, Kansas the day we were there. I ran out of time and tickets having spent the day riding their old wooden roller coaster named Nightmare (just like Frontier City). I didn’t care at the time, but I do wish I had ridden it now. Joyland has been closed a long time and it now abandoned. Recently vandals burned the Whacky Shack.
Thankfully you can “ride” a dark ride with Youtube! And Waldameer Park has a Whacky Shack too!
I also never made it to Bell’s in Tulsa to ride Phantasmagoria, (another great Bill Tracy dark ride) or the Zingo. I did hear Bell’s might re-open in Broken Arrow, OK so maybe I will get a chance after all.
This original, and aging Pretzel ride (one of the first dark rides) in Sandy Lake Amusement park was kind of sad when I rode it in 2017. A lot of the tricks weren’t working, but it was freaky because it was absolutely pitch black most of the time.
All this funhouse/dark ride fun generated a lot of art!
My favorite “dark ride”! The Weebles Haunted House!
Frontier City also sports a dark ride about an abandoned mine train that is fun, not that scary (it used to be though). Then there was the time My friends and I snuck into an “abandoned” motel by the parking lot and discovered that it had been used for Frontier City’s Hallo-Scream. It was so weird. I was freaked out for a long time because we didn’t know that was what it was used for until later. We thought is was a Satanic ritual site or something!
Well, with all this fun house fun on my mind I just want to urge you to visit one if you ever have the chance.
With dark, scary fun to you from Kansas Street,