The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Dark Rides Day *

* (restored/Halloween countdown post #6)

* interview taken from Collectors Weekly


How did dark rides get started?

George LaCross: The forerunner to a single-rail dark ride was an “old mill,” a boat ride that went through a tunnel. When the old mills started cropping up around 1900, they were the first type of ride where you’d sit in a vehicle—a boat passing along a narrow channel—and see scenes or figures, called “stunts” in the industry. Some parks wanted these rides to be scary; others wanted them to be a trip through history, or a cruise around the world, that type of thing. These used mannequins—I think they were made out of wax, actually—to show the signing of the Declaration of Independence or Columbus landing on American soil. Some had dark areas for smooching, which is which why they got the nickname, “Tunnels of Love.”

Old-mill rides were very expensive because you had to have a tunnel with some type of a canal system, and then a wooden water wheel continuously spinning to push the water through it. And they were difficult to maintain. You had to constantly look for leaks in the wooden canal and patch them up during the off-season. I can’t even imagine what a nightmare it must’ve been re-boarding that stuff. Now, the ones that are still around have been converted to concrete canals, which are treated with special chemicals so they don’t leak. Back in the day, only the parks that were doing really well could afford to have old mills.

And the earliest dark rides only had sound effects?

LaCross: Yes. These rides were all in pitch darkness. Pretzel patented many of the first sound effects, which were actually floor devices. You’d go over a lever on the track, and it would strike a cymbal, creating a sound like glass breaking. When the car would run over another lever, a container holding a bunch of ball bearings would get tipped up, and it’d sound like trash barrels tipping over. They had a string of bells hooked up, and they would just make a big clang when you went over that lever, which sounded like you were derailing.

Some of the earliest visual stunts they had—and some of them are still in operation—were motorless effects, lifted by the weight of the car. The sound effects weren’t necessarily right near these figures; those were usually positioned in the dark so you couldn’t see them. You’d be riding along in the Pretzel car in the dark, you’d hit a relay switch for the light, and then a lever for the figure itself. A small incandescent spotlight just focused on that black box would light up, and the cable would lift, say, a skull out of the bottom of the box.

For example, in the stunt called the “Jersey Devil,” you see what appears to be an empty box, and then the weight of the car forces a papier-mâché demon head to pop up inside it. For “Al E. Gator,” a lever on the track would tip a papier-mâché alligator on roller skates, and he’d lunge out at the riders. Some early stunts had limited gear motors, animating a head or hands going from side to side. Those would just go on, move for a few seconds, and then go back off again.

I read one of the earliest Pretzel stunts was just thread that hit your face.

LaCross: That was really innovative. It seems so simple, but Bill Cassidy—the second owner of Pretzel, the son of Leon—told us before he passed away that that was one of the gimmicks that he was most proud of. It was just a spool of thread. It would hang from a rafter in the ceiling, and it would rub up against people’s faces and creep them out. It’s supposed to be cobwebs, I guess, but it wasn’t an actual web. It was just a string, but you couldn’t see it. You weren’t expecting it. That got a real rise out people back then. It seems to me that just about every dark ride I rode in the 1960s had that. If it didn’t come factory-installed, I’m sure the park owners themselves would tack it up.

Who were Pretzel’s first real competitors?

LaCross: A couple of years after Pretzel rides were introduced, Harry Traver, who’s more famous for his roller coasters, came up with the idea to undercut Pretzel. He called his rides Laff in the Dark. Even though he patented a lot of stuff, he never patented that name. And Pretzel started naming their rides Laff in the Dark after a while. Traver came up with wood-frame cars with metal joints and a metal undercarriage, which were cheaper to make than the all-metal cars that Pretzel was using. Instead of having papier-mâché stunts, Traver and his crew made these one-dimensional plywood cutouts with a little motoring for various scenes such as cats fighting on a fence or a mule that would kick at you. These motors would just barely work, but they gave the figure a little animation. Some parks went for that.

As time went on, other companies started making figures for dark rides, funhouses, and old mills. If park owners brought a Pretzel or a Traver ride, they could enhance it with other more sophisticated animation that other companies were providing. Traver went out of business in 1932, and he sold his company to Ralph E. Chambers, who successfully marketed and sold Laff in the Dark rides. Because they were cheaper to purchase than a Pretzel, they were in quite a number of parks. But Pretzel rides, as best we know, were a heck of a lot more durable because many of them are still operating. Those metal cars have survived floods and fires.

How did dark rides evolve over the years?

LaCross: First, they started making magnetic switches that they could put in the track to trigger stunts, and these were less likely to break than the mechanical levers. The most recent triggers used in dark rides are photo sensors called electric eyes. Some are set off by the motion of the car, but some are even more sophisticated, using light from reflectors on the car so the stunts are set off at the exact right time.

For sound effects, Pretzel had the noisemakers, but then some companies started producing 78-speed records that were just recordings of screams. You got a whole stack of them, and when one was done playing, the record player would drop down another one, so that you heard continuous screaming. When the eight-track came out, dark rides switched to one-track cassettes called “sound repeaters.” It would just be a small amount of tape that played the sound of a ghost or whatever that would coincide with the stunt itself and then stop at a particular point. And it would automatically be rewound for the next car that came by. The problem with those cassettes is that, again, if you’re continually playing a tape, stop-and-go, stop-and-go, it breaks. Plus, the atmospheric temperature had to be right. If it got too hot, the playback machinery would go crazy and start playing the sounds at high speed. Since then, those tapes have been replaced with digital cards.

How did they use wind for effects?

LaCross: Wind and air have been used to good effect over the years. A 1960s tornado-themed ride in the Bronx’s Freedomland U.S.A. did quite a bit using big, industrial-strength fans. The final scene of the Riverboat dark ride at the park I grew up near—Crescent Park in Riverside, Rhode Island—was a hurricane simulation featuring a suspended A-frame house that you rolled underneath. That stunt had industrial-strength fans blowing in your face from all different directions. The house had pots and pans tacked up to its walls on fishing line, which would bang up against the oscillating A-frame. Now, some of the newer figures shoot compressed air out of their mouths to scare you. The newer figures from the modern stunt company Scare Factory often have that. A figure rises up out of a coffin, and it blows people’s hats right off their heads.

When did the dark rides start to get specific themes?

LaCross: Sometime in the early ’60s. The most popular early themes that we’ve found through our research were jungles and pirates. A company called Marco Engineering did a themed ride after the poem, “The Wreck of the Hesperus,” at Pleasure Island, a park in Wakefield, Massachusetts, from 1959 through 1969, and I rode that. You went in on a boat on wheels and journeyed into the oceans deep. You encountered nautical creatures as sharks circled overhead and met up with King Neptune in the end.

The Western theme was also popular at the time. You’d ride between a gunfight, come face to face with a locomotive, and see a bull charging at you, things of that nature. Pleasure Island had one of those called the Old Chisholm Trail. Freedomland U.S.A., which was an American-history-themed park that ran from 1960 to 1964, even had a ride by Marco Engineering based on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, more and more of the dark rides started getting themed. But the best ones, in my opinion, are those that don’t have a theme because you don’t know what’s going to pop up next. Whereas, say, if you’re in a Western ride, you know you’re going see a gunfight and you’re going to see a bull. Yeah, it will impress you, but you’re already in a pre-established comfort zone. A dark ride with no connection between the various stunts is more like a nightmare to me—a train-of-thought type of nightmare where, say, you see a laughing clown, then a devil, and then a witch. All of a sudden, an alligator pops out at you. To me, that puts you more on edge.

Do you think the increasingly graphic violence in movies and television influenced these rides?

LaCross: The boom to make these things really scary took place in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Maybe after the “Friday the 13th” and “Nightmare on Elm Street” series, darks started pushing the envelope a little more. The rides that are loved the most are somewhat scary, but not totally terrifying. The 1970s Pennsylvania dark rides we did documentaries on—Whacky Shack at Waldameer Park in Erie and the Haunted House at Knoebels Amusement Resort in Elysburg—give you a couple jokes, but there’s nothing horrific in them, nothing like scenes in “Saw,” no Jasons from “Friday the 13th,” or anything like that.

People have told me that if you’re scared by something that’s not that scary, it has more of an impact on you. You say, “Wow, I can’t believe that thing made me jump out of my seat.” Compared to what I’ve seen on TV, on video games, or at an IMAX theater, if this little thing makes me jump out of my seat, then I guess it’s pretty good. That’s what I’ve always admired about the older rides, that the creators really had to be thinking out of the box to come up with these elementary devices that get a rise out of people.

How did the opening of Disneyland in 1955 affect dark rides?

LaCross: Three dark rides debuted at the opening of Disneyland—Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, and Peter Pan’s Flight—all in Fantasyland. But the outdoor Jungle Cruise in Adventureland was probably the most influential on dark rides. Shortly after that, you started having various jungle land rides opening up, whether they were indoors or outdoors. The indoor jungle rides were pretty creepy because it’s so dark in them, you felt like you could’ve been going down the Congo River and you didn’t have any sense of being enclosed. Bill Tracy took advantage of that. His jungle dark ride was called Lost River, and old mills were sometimes converted into Lost Rivers. But they’re all gone now, for one reason or another.

The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean came later on. There are ongoing arguments around Pirates of the Caribbean, because there were several pirate single-rail dark rides that came before it opened in 1967, and it has many of the same type of scenes as the older rides. Disney’s defenders say, “Well, those designers must have gotten ahold of Walt’s sketches somehow because it was in the making for a long time.” There are always debates online about who stole whose ideas. But I’d say that after Pirates of the Caribbean debuted, a lot more pirate rides cropped up, and the best ones came out in the late 1960s.

Why don’t we see as many of these old dark rides today?

LaCross: There was one pivotal moment in 1984, when a walk-through dark attraction called Haunted Castle caught fire at the Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson Township, New Jersey, and eight teenagers, who were trapped inside, died. Most parks had perfectly safe funhouses, walk-through scary houses, and single-rail dark rides, but after this fire, park owners grew so afraid of something happening. All kinds of new restrictions were put on these things; from then on, they always had to have sprinkler systems, smoke alarms, and emergency exits.

In the past, many dark rides did end up burning down because they didn’t have sprinkler systems. For the most part, the fire started at another attraction and just happened to sweep into them. Some dark rides did catch fire themselves. There was one situation where one of the ride operators tried to circumvent the fuse by putting a penny into it, and that caused the fire in the control panel and set a big blaze off.

But I don’t think the tragedy was reflective of most operating dark rides and funhouses in the 1980s. Yet a lot of parks did purge their rides shortly after. At this point, that tragedy seems pretty much forgotten. All of the operating dark rides that I know of have sprinkler systems, partially because these rides are so valuable now and they’re such attention-grabbers. Not only do the park owners want to protect their patrons in case a fire breaks out when the ride is operating, but they want to make sure that it’s protected when it’s not in operation, because the vintage ones can’t be replaced.

The older devices have been retrofitted with new insulated wiring and motors, which are pretty much fireproof. That doesn’t take away from the age and charm of the stunt. It does put a little bit of a bogus slant on the ride when you see that emergency exit sign in the darkness. But they have to do it. You never can tell what might happen. If the rides didn’t have those, they wouldn’t be operating.



32 portables



The Dark Ride Project

‘Since the 1970s, hundreds of ghost trains and haunted house rides have closed across the USA and they are now an endangered species. The Dark Ride Project captures the last of the world’s dark rides using virtual reality, sharing their history to promote and save them.

‘In the 1930s, the Pretzel Ride company built nearly 1,700 rides for amusement parks across the United States, but today only three of those rides still exist. The Spookhouse in Keansburg, NJ was one of those rides but it was decimated by Hurricane Sandy and has struggled to re-open. Whether it is the Trimper family of Trimper’s Amusements or the three generations of Fasnacht family who run Funland, DL these types of rides are an important part of the community. Despite being part of the American psyche there have been no substantial efforts to record the insides of these rides.

‘Until now, there hasn’t been a secure way to record and share this type of experience. But the growing popularity and uptake of virtual reality technology is a perfect fit.

‘The Dark Ride project uses ultra low light cameras on a special rig attached to a cart. The 360-degree setup allows the capture of the ride experience from every angle. Whether a ghoul jumps out from the side or a bat swoops down from above, everything is captured — apart from the smell of fear.’ — Hypergrid Business



22 Dark Rides

Out of This World Mountain Park Holyoke MA
An Outstanding Dark Ride. Mountain Park Holyoke Ma. Lincooln Park N. Dartmouth Ma. Old dark ride from the 60’s and 70’s. It was not in the park after 82 when there was a fire and it burned down. It was also dismantled and made into an arcade in 82.


Horror House Jin Jiang Action Park
Horror House. Waiting in line was a noisy experience. “Bam! Bam! Bam!” went the metal walls. Cackle. Scream. For some reason, there were two nude female mannequins inside, perhaps to cover both “horror house” meanings. Some people had severe breakdowns after the ride. Women had to be lifted from the car seat. People stumbled about. Some were crying. Others looked like all the blood had drained from their bodies. I imagine that many of these people were riding a dark ride for the first time.


Haunted Mansion Knoebels
Inside Knoebels Mansion, the stunts come at you fast and furious, and with the way the lighting is done, it actually makes the gags seem worse than they are. A prime example is the creature inside the clock early on in the ride. As the car approaches, the creature suddenly lunges out of the clock and heads right towards the car. But just as it gets “too close”, the lights go off. To me, that little touch completely enhances the effect. When the lights go out, you start to wonder if the creature is still coming at you or not. Other gags use the lighting to their advantage also including the “hands” and the scenes prior to the clock at the ride’s entrance.


Pleasure Garden Hitachi Kaihin Park
It’s not exactly a haunted house and there’s a Japanese serpent woman and a cat meowing in the background nearly the entire ride.


Scream in the Dark Rick Murphy’s Garage
Rick’s dark ride, “Scream in the Dark” was built in his 2-car garage over a few years. The kids that went though the ride were genuinely scared, but that made the kids in line even more curious – just the reaction Rick wanted. The build is for the most part completely modular. The track is made up of 4-foot square panels that have either a straight track or 90 degree bend. The modular design means Rick’s garage doesn’t need to be a dark ride the entire year. The cart rides on this curved, raised track with the help of a few gear motors and 12 V battery pulled from a Power Wheels.


Nights in White Satin: The Trip Hard Rock Park
Even though Hard Rock Park was only open a few months, this dark ride was their crowning achievement. The Trip referred to acid trip, even though top brass at the park never admitted to it. Instead, they called it a “psychedelic experience” and the results are both bizarre and soothing.


Mystic Manor Disneyland Hong Kong
Here at Disney, we are blessed with the top of the industry. The very best lighting designers, colorists and special effects people. And our ride guys really outdid themselves with Mystic Manor. Those engineers made use of some proprietary software — not mention the more than 200 RFID tags that we buried in the concrete floor of our Mystic Manor show building — to create this trackless ride system which can then dispatch four vehicles at a time. Not only that, but these ride vehicles — Mystic’s Magneto Electric Carriages — actually reinforce our story. We now have the ability to program each individual vehicle so that it can go up to a particular prop or effect in a show scene and then direct the Guest’s attention at that specific vignette. Then after this show scene plays out, this trackless vehicle is programmed to move the Guests to the next vignette. So that cumulatively — going from scene to scene to scene — we can then treat Hong Kong Disneyland visitors to a complete story. Which climaxes with Albert frantically trying to close that Balinese music box before its magical music dust actually tears Mystic Manor apart.


Miniature Dark Ride Kevin Karsten’s house
Though I cannot afford to build or run an actual dark ride, nor even set up a Halloween yard (my wife and I live in an apartment), I have wanted to create a dark ride inspired by Disney’s Haunted Mansion since I was about eight years old. My kid sister and I used to create “rides” in our backyard — complete with fully operational animatronic figures, powered by record players, audio on cassettes, and black light effects — which we pushed neighborhood kids through in a wheel barrow at 25 cents a head. I am currently creating a haunted house theme in miniature, via CGI and models, which I am filming to demonstrate how the actual attraction might play out. I have created several fully operational miniature scenes from a concept/script that I came up with, and filmed them with a full soundtrack.


Vi Pa Saltkrakan Astrid Lindgren’s World
Based on a popular Swedish television series, this dark ride follows the adventures of the Melkerssons on Sea Crow Island.


Gremlins Invasion Adventure Warner Brothers Movie World Germany
The original Gremlins movie (1984) seemed perfect for a theme park attraction, and they created a one in Warner Brothers Movie World Australia. They duplicated it for their park in Germany, with one major change – it starred Alf. Yes, Alf from the Planet Melmac, i.e. the popular sitcom from back in the 1980s. Apparently he is huge in Germany.


Lumalusion State Fair of Texas
This is the now gone version of the State Fair of Texas’ remaining dark ride, Lumalusion. This was when it was in full on acid trip mode with Pink Floyd music, and lots of funky lights. Not scary, just weird.


Magical Powder Lagunasia
The final dark ride was Magical Powder. The name refers to the contents of paint cans with labels indicating the special effects they are supposed to cause, such as enlargement, shrinking, etc. The connection between this powder and the animatronics within wasn’t immediately obvious.


Droomvlucht Efteling Theme Park
In Dreamflight, the visitors fly through a dream world of forests, castles, fairies, trolls and other fairy-tale-like creatures and scenes. The visitors are seated in small open cabins hanging from the ceiling. The ride takes them past five different scenes in about six minutes: the Castle Realm, the Wondrous Forest, the Fairy Garden, Heavenly Strongholds and the Squelch Forest. The speed and height of the individual cabins vary throughout the ride, with a climax in the troll marshes at the end, where the cabins come to a seeming free-fall in a spiral downwards from 13 meters of height. Efteling wanted to present Dreamflight in 1992, for the 40-year anniversary of the park, which coincided with the opening of Disneyland Paris. However, due to problems with the seating cabins it was not ready until 1993. Due to this problem, the ride cost €4.5 million more than was estimated, bringing the total costs up to €12.5 million.


Black Diamond Knoebels
Just came back from Knoebels and i rode the new Dark ride “Black Diamond” and i must say, it is VERY well done. very well themed and just a very well remade ride. It was originally at Morey’s pier in Wildwood, NJ as the golden nugget, a mainly western themed ride designed by Bill Tracey who is a Dark ride legend. The golden nugget was three stories and the top floor was outside and desert themed then you went down into the mine settings on the second and first floor. Eventually tho the ride fell to disrepair and eventually closed and sat idle for several years until December 11, 2008 when it was announced that the golden nugget would be demolished and Morey’s pier would have a celebration. However a few days before the demolition “somebody” purchased all of golden nuggets track and ride vehicles. It wasn’t publicly announced who had purchased it except that it was a park that “loved to rebuild and preserve old rides”. then on Jan 26, 2009 it was announced that Knoebels had made the purchase and, while having the exact same track layout, the ride would be re-themed to acknowledge the areas anthracite mining history. Changes made have been, enclosing the entire ride, new effects, a Centralia section with collapsing house and “mine fire” hole, and re-built cars. I know it is labeled as a roller coaster but i wouldn’t call it that per say, its mostly mild speeds with a few surprise and quick drops and turns. It IS NOT a “wild mouse” either. It;s not a scary haunted house either so little kids might be a little iffy to enter the place because it is very dim inside and there are a few dark moments but there is nothing scary about it! Knoebels really went all out with this ride and i will go as far as to say this is the most “themed ride in the park”.


Terror On The Butte Eric’s Garage
This is a video of the haunted house ride we built in our garage. The ride can take 2 people around, and we shuttled around 120 people on 90 trips through the haunt during our 2007 Halloween Party. The ride was geared towards 4-7 year olds, so its not supposed to be too scary.


Hollywood Tour Boat Ride Phantasialand
Imagine Disney’s The Great Movie ride, in water. Now add in scenes from Universal properties like Jaws, King Kong and even Alfred Hitchcock. Now cut the budget in half.


Bermuda Triangle Alien Encounter Movie Park Germany
At Movie Park Germany, there are aliens in a volcano who seem to be ticked off.


Zombie Small World Suzhou Amusement Land
This Chinese boat ride is a near-complete rip off of Disney’s It’s A Small World, but look a little closer and the dolls seem to be possessed. You may also spot Ninja Turtles and Transformers.


Brer Rabbit Rap Party Oakwood Theme Park Wales
1988: Nutty Jake’s Gold Mine (Family Dark Ride). 2001: Nutty Jake’s Gold Mine, already closed since 2000, is now transformed into Brer Rabbit’s Burrow. 2011: Brer Rabbit’s Burrow is rethemed for October half term in to ‘Scare Rabbit’s Hollow’. 2012: Brer Rabbit’s Burrow is rethemed as Brer Rabbit Rap Party. 2013: Brer Rabbit’s Rap Party is closed, demolished, and replaced with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Ride.


Don and Scott’s MegaCreeper Las Vegas
This is a documentary of this years Haunted House my son Scott and I made for our backyard. Come ride the Museum of the Weird! This year was very cool. Next year will be insane!


Davey Crockett Ripley’s San Antonio
This ride was part of the Ripley’s attractions in San Antonio across from the Alamo. It was definitely a dark ride aimed at kids. And the fact it immediately went down a long tunnel underground probably freaked out a lot of those kids. It only lasted a few years, and was replaced by a scary dark ride.


Whacky Shack Waldameer Park
The Whacky Shack dark ride at Waldameer Park in Erie, Pennsylvania was built by Bill Tracy in 1970. Bill Tracy is considered a legend in the dark ride business and sadly there are very few of his attractions left. The Whacky Shack at Joyland Amusement Park in Wichita, Kansas is another Bill Tracy creation that closed along with the entire park in 2006. A fire was started inside the ride in April, 2007 and was put out by a Park employee.




p.s. Hey. ** Sheree Rose, Hi, Sheree. I’m sorry you’re so upset about this. (I heard your rant on the Zoom event last night, obviously, and I’ve seen your comments on Facebook). I made that post years ago. In my searching for samples at that time, I didn’t come across any information or images of the Bob inflatable, a piece I either didn’t know about or didn’t remember. The post was just a random assemblage made for fun. It wasn’t intended as some kind of scholarly thing or a hierarchical ‘best of’ thing. There are lots of wonderful inflatable artworks not included, the Bob piece surely among them. I’ve had your and Bob’s work in at least a few of these thematic posts, and I’m sure I will again in the future. You and I being very old friends, I’m kind of bewildered by why you’re taking the absence of Bob’s piece as a personal slight. It wasn’t in the post for the reasons I just mentioned and for no other reason. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Yes, of course. As usual in these posts, I try to stay away from works I think will already be widely familiar. ** Steve Erickson, Your report on his novel makes it sound like pretty exactly what I imagined. Hm, I would need to think about your question about an essay on those subjects. Nothing springs immediately to mind, although if I had time to wrack my brains, I might have ideas. I’ll message you if I come up with something. That does sound both very interesting and tough to sort out, but doable. I’m interested see to see/read where you land. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi. I have wondered that about some of your show’s sonic goodies. Great, very happy you’re feeling fired up to write and that you have the right kind if support system! ** Dominik, Hi!!! I hope a good night’s sleep was a zombie antidote. Ha ha, nice love, sleepy head, thank you. Love making that ‘I want to die of shame, horror, and misery’ face that Leonardo di Caprio makes when he’s getting a blow job in ‘The Basketball Diaries’, G. ** Jamie, Hi. Oh, wow, so I woke you up to Tiny Tim. Your life will never be the same again. I saw you intermittently at that online event thing, and that was a nice thing to see. I guess it seemed okay. It’s really hard to know how things are or go from that side of the event. But, yeah, it seemed like it did what it was supposed to do, no? Oh, cool, if you can come to the event thing. It still hasn’t been announced, very strangely, and I don’t even know the start time. I would guess 7 or 7:30, but that’s a guess. Remind me again if you really do come, and I’ll put on the list once there’s a list. I think it’ll be cool, although it’s not finished being made yet, so I’m not 100% sure that it will be. That parade sounds amazing, almost kind of Herzogian or something. My weekend? That guy Paul K who does the great Wake Island podcast is in Paris, and I’m going to hang out with him a bit today. Tonight I’m going to the last ‘Kindertotenlieder’ performance. And there’s bunch of work to do on the ‘video game’ haunt, so that’ll mostly be it, I think. I want to see the new Bond, I guess mostly because I seem to have seen all of the other ones for various reasons. Is it fun enough? I hope your weekend is more ‘Thunderball’ than ‘Skyfall’. Love, me. ** Bill, Hi, B. Glad you dug those. If your ears had strange burning sensation yesterday it’s because Maryse and I were mutually singing your praises. A Bill gig! Great news! When and where, and, duh, will it be uploaded for us deprived-by-distance types? ** Okay. I’ve restored an old post dedicated to the history of the dark ride with examples for you via Halloween because I love dark rides enough that I think their existence deserves a whole weekend. See you on Monday.


  1. Misanthrope

    Dennis, Yay! Halloween! I think I told you, but we’re probably doing that corn maze thing again this year. Not sure yet. So a probably/maybe. I know Kayla’s already got the Halloweenfest at King’s Dominion planned with her friends.

    Thanks for the good vibes. They’re much appreciated. David started the job yesterday and seems to like it. Fuck, he better like it! Hahaha. Seriously, though, he seemed to be okay with it. Looks like they’ve got him working something like 7 straight days. Like I told him, “What else are you gonna do?” He pretty much does nothing; even the friends have all kinda gone way except a stray popping in every once in a great while.

    I have a 3-day weekend because of Columbus Day. I’m not going to talk about what I’m going to do/want to do over these 3 days because every time I do, shit pops up and plans get all fucked. I’m not jinxing anything. Of course, I’m sure you know what I want to do/get accomplished.

    Have a good weekend, Big D!

  2. Bill

    Interesting overview of dark ride history, Dennis. Is there something like a Stonewall Riots ride?

    Blush. Hope you and Maryse are enjoying hanging out in Paris. By the time I got on the eventbrite for the event, they had just stopped selling tickets, ARGH. And the organizers were not responding to email. I think you mentioned a recording will be available?

    The little gig is on Nov 5 in SF. I hope there’ll be documentation. More soon.


  3. Dominik


    I’m all unzombified and can give my undivided attention to important things now. For example, your weekend post, which was highly educational. Thank you for sharing/reviving it!

    Haha, why is it that the face he makes then simply cannot be forgotten? I haven’t seen the movie in ages, and I can still see that scene in front of me right now. Thank you for your love – even if the exchange made him feel quite uncomfortable. Love whose only dream is to become a ghost in an old-school dark ride, one way or another, Od.

  4. _Black_Acrylic

    There’s a cool TV show on Netflix called The Movies That Made Us and they look at how Hollywood blockbusters got made and became successful. So the new series starts on Tuesday with the John Carpenter-directed Halloween and I’ll wager it will be interesting.

  5. T

    Hi Dennis. I gotta admit that, in my ignorance, I thought that the “dark” in dark rides referred to, like, dark as in scary, but now I’m enlightened as to the reaches and potential of their majesty, so thanks for that! I haven’t been on that many at all, but I have pretty visceral memories of the ‘It’s A Small World’ ride, plus another one where your cart went into a cage and was rotated at the very end (I think maybe Snow White-themed, but I can’t remember any cages in that, maybe Pinocchiol) at Eurodisney 15 years ago. How was your weekend? Mine was ho-hum, was invited to see a concert at the town hall (or some adjacent building) here, a guy from Memphis who’s doing farm work in the area, he was very astoundingly beautiful but unfortunately all his songs were kind of trad-folky, which is not my thing, but some of his stuff had its moments. Otherwise I just hung around the house, played with my landlords’ cat and read.

    Incidentally, whilst I remember, was gonna ask whether you’ll be in Paris and around this coming weekend? My friends have invited me out on Thursday night, so I think I will be around on Friday daytime for sure, and maybe Saturday if I can crash for a second night. Anyway, hope your coming week reveals its belly to you in an affectionate but still slightly guarded way, for you to scratch if you so desire, without getting clawed. xT

  6. Corey Heiferman

    Hi Dennis, good to be back here.

    Just the mental image of the stack of 78 recorded records producing a continuous scream gives me goosebumps.

    Felt inspired to Google the haunted house I frequented as a kid in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Has a rare suspended car design. First video is a ride-through and the second is a heartwarming portrait of the guy who maintains it.

    Belated congrats on publishing your book, and happy Halloween season. I get a vicarious thrill through the blog since there’s basically no Halloween here in Israel.

    I’ve been feeling strangely calm lately, even (or because of?) the grief of losing my dad and the concern about my eye condition even though it’s treatable (seeing another specialist next month). There’s a lot going on around town and I’ve been forging Mumblecore-ish friendships. It’s a good frame of mind for writing.

  7. Steve Erickson

    I was expecting a cyberpunk dark ride. I second Bill’s recommendation for a Stonewall riot ride!

    I’ve been feeling rather depressed the last few days, to the point where I can barely get out of bed. Unless things turn around very quickly, I will have to cancel or postpone several writing assignments, which makes me feel even worse.

  8. G

    Hi DC! How was your launch/ conversation with Maryse? Sadly, I only managed to get the first 15 mins of it, and even then, I was doing the last minute things before leaving for my launch, so I didn’t actually get much of it [crying emoji]. Was it recorded?

    Aiming to catch your conversation with Rachel Kushner tonight, but this will be tricky, too [sighing emoji]. But at least this is a sign that now I’ll have to read The Mars Room – it’s been on my list for ages, and it seems like now is the time. Sending you love, and hope to catch you & Kushner later. [kissing emoji]

  9. Jeffrey Coleman

    Dennis, just read I Wished and loved it. Also watched Todd Grimson’s show Brand New Cherry Flavor, did you know they had made a show based on his book? Take care.

  10. Andrew

    Hey Dennis,

    Glad you had a chance to meet up with Paul K! I think he just got back to New York and I’m picking him up at the airport in Minneapolis on Friday, so he’s getting around 😉

    Thanks for the support and encouragement, both with 11:11 and my writing. I’m excited to make it a priority again. Without structure, I can see my creative side turning into a Henry Darger case with 15,000 pages stashed away for my friends and family to find after I die. Hopefully I’ll have some good news to report in the next few years.

    The haunted house collaboration with Zac Farley, Sabrina Tarasoff, and Puce Mary looks super interesting. (Puce Mary’s music is incredible!)

    Best wishes on the week ahead!

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