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April 21st, 2005

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I've been a fan of the dark ride fansite Laff In The Dark ever since they started around 1999 or so. Their articles on dark rides and funhouses (disappeared, disappearing and legendary) have evolved from personal recollections to well-researched photoessays, done up with a beautiful eye for layout and design. Of course, some of their features evoke more personal reactions than others -- Jay Ducharme's writeup on the attractions of Mountain Park is not only maddeningly thorough, but also personal, as Jay ran the rides near the end of the park's life, and, well, I rode 'em. He probably yelled at me, the impetuous twelve-year-old that I was, to stop running around the queue from the exit to the entrance so I could ride again.

LitD's latest article, just recently put up, is another personal one for me. It's all about Whalom Park's funhouse. The article's highlights are what makes Laff in the Dark such an enjoyable read for me: not only are there historical pictures showing what the place used to look like, but there's also photos of the place after its last renovation (to "Monster Motel") as well as pictures of what the place looks like today, after the park's closure.

The most recent pictures were actually taken in 2001, but we're told the building is still in good condition. Which just means the vandals and arsonists, who ruined the park's beautiful Ballroom building, haven't gotten to it yet.

Most interesting is the funhouse's mid-90s incarnation as "The Prism," where different rooms and stunts were painted and themed around various colors of the rainbow. Sadly there's no pictures of that incarnation in the article, save for a few shots of the rainbow-colored exterior.

I was also intrigued by the fact that many of the funhouse's original stunt mechanisms remained intact after a renovation got rid of the centralized "Arcade" atmosphere and concentrated on an in-and-out walkthrough layout. The rotating disc mechanism still exists underneath the thing, though it hasn't been used in decades. The inner workings of the rotating barrel are shown in the article, and mention is made of the Controller, an employee who lurked in the building's second story with a commanding view of the entire place, operating the stunts like the rotating disc as well as the airholes that'd blow air up women's skirts. (The last time I saw these blowholes was on a travelling funhouse at the Tri-County Fair around 1995 or 1996. The lurid stunt fell out of favor in the 50s and 60s, mostly due to the fact that women were no longer exclusively wearing skirts. Oh, and there's also that whole harassment thing too.)

It's a damn dirty shame what happened to Whalom Park. And I don't hold out hope that either the coaster or the funhouse will ever be relocated to an appreciative and loving park. But I'm glad the mythos of such attractions are kept and preserved by sites like Laff in the Dark.

(9 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:April 21st, 2005 08:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much for linking this. I love this kind of stuff. Especially the bit about the gentleman who invented this particular brand of ride. You grow up with this sort of thing, and it never even occurs to you that somebody out there had to come up with the idea first.
[User Picture]
Date:April 21st, 2005 11:37 pm (UTC)
after reading this, i must admit to some surprise that the bowens haven't leased out their park (or parts of it) to spooky world...
[User Picture]
Date:April 22nd, 2005 05:14 am (UTC)
Unfortunately, the Bowens don't have a controlling interest in the park anymore. One family member (and that's all it took!) sold his share of the Whalom Park Amusement Company in the 90s. With only a 41% stake of the company, the remaining Bowens don't get the final word in anything. The remaining family members very much wanted to keep the park alive, but the 59% majority wanted to sell after the October 2000 foreclosure and be done with it.

I'd also say, just from my view, that Spooky World probably wouldn't have been interested in the Whalom site as it is a whole lot smaller than their former Foxboro digs. There's also no room for expansion, as the park has had the Lake Whalom area pretty much grow around it. However, they do have nearly ample parking...
Date:April 22nd, 2005 02:36 am (UTC)


I have great memories of the Lakeside funhouse from my visits to Denver in the late seventies/early eighties. Great fun. I miss it. But I also understand why they took it down.
[User Picture]
Date:April 22nd, 2005 07:21 pm (UTC)
Good site that. Thanks for the linky.

And ddo you have link fir your Mt. Park pics? Can't find that nowheres.
[User Picture]
Date:April 23rd, 2005 03:12 pm (UTC)
Just out of curiosity, is there a difference between a merry-go-round and a carousel, do you know? (I know they're not dark rides, but it might be the sort of info one just picks up...)

This is triquetra from WGC, by the way. eeka pointed me here. :)
[User Picture]
Date:April 24th, 2005 07:54 pm (UTC)
Hi, triquetra! I thought I knew the answer to the carousel/merry-go-round question, but when I checked Google for confirmation, I found three different answers, with varying degrees of authenticity:

1. One goes counter-clockwise, the other goes clockwise. This is actually the difference between American carousels, which turn counter-clockwise, and English carousels, which turn clockwise. One etymologist mentions that "merry-go-round" is an English term, so perhaps that's where the association comes from.

2. Carousels only have horses, merry-go-rounds have other animals as well. This comes from an explanation that the carousel was derived from a mechanism used in jousting training. However, I can't get a confirmation on it, and if the English one is supposed to turn clockwise, it'd be tough for those right-handed jousters. And I'm pretty sure the "B&B Carousell" in Coney Island has dragon-shaped chariots as well, unless chariots don't count.

3. There's no difference. A carousel museum website gave me this answer, so I'm inclined to give them a bit more credibility, but hey, that answer's just not as much fun.

So there are three answers, maybe we could just put them in a hat and draw one out and proclaim it The Answer.
[User Picture]
Date:April 25th, 2005 01:12 pm (UTC)
Or a poll! Polls are fun! Have these three answers and then something random, or let people make up their own.
[User Picture]
Date:April 25th, 2005 09:09 pm (UTC)


Just went to Whalom today on my way back from New England Metal Fest. My boy Will should have pics up sometime this week. We met with the guy who looks over the place (he and the dude who was big on the carousel restoration basically have that job) and discussed what the current situation is with everything there. And like I said, we took a bunch of shots. Here's what we've heard:

-Demolition is slated for very soon. I believe the company involved is either named Universal Developments or Global Developments. Searches on either turned up nothing on Google.

-The place is an absolute mess. There's really nothing salvagable. The Flyer Comet, which hadn't seen the best maintenance ever, is pretty much completely done. All the buildings are falling apart. The Funhouse roof has been leaking and is completely boarded up. None of the buildings are safe to enter.

-There aren't many rides just sitting around. The Satellite from Palisades (?) was in a ton of separate pieces, with hydraulic hose and arms everywhere. The Bouncer is sitting looking about the same as ever. Totally overgrown. The Hamster Cages are gone. Most of the Turnpike has been taken apart. The mirrored glass in the bumper car building is all shattered. The Mini Golf is still intact, and if you swept it, you could get to play. But its under about 4 inches of compacted pine needles and soil.

Overall, its pretty much in shambles. With the ballroom burnt to the ground, the rides all sold off or rotting and beyond repair, and the buildings in a state of slow collapse, the chances that the park will be saved are astronomically low. It might as well be put out of its misery.

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