austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Shrouded in a daft disguise

At the end of the Casino Pier is something called Stillwalk Manor, which I learned from bunny_hugger is an example of what are known as Dark Rides. This is a slow, car-on-a-track ride through a Haunted Mansion-type attraction, with the promise of corpses lunging at cars and flashing lights to spook people. The sign out front spins a bit of a legend about the tragic Captain James Stillwalk who abandoned the life of a sea farer to turn to piracy and whose house because cursed and all these instruments of torture were turned against the inhabitants and now you were about to enter.

In looking up the attraction so I could write about it more wisely than I could ride it, I discovered that the ride has a pretty convoluted yet intriguing history. Until a few years ago it had the theme of being a Haunted Hotel, and it's not hard to find pictures of the old design and exposition panels and such. And the ride itself was assembled by taking pieces of similar Dark Rides going back to 1961, so it's good to see that the older rides were salvaged for rides.

Also I learned the ride has a lot of fans, including several rather good tours only one of which seems to be from the ride builders. They're justified. The ride is a tour of very compact rooms, of course, with skeletons popping out at you and ghosts flying overhead and corpses leaping out of chairs. The props are pretty sharply timed -- which actually worked a bit against me since I'd be off looking at some obscure detail (the rooms were packed and it was not too dark, so you could see it) and miss bits of the trigger -- and there's surprisingly little distance between the riders and the props. This is probably why there are multiple warning signs outside that the whole ride is under security cameras and vandalism will be dealt with severely. Vandals to this should be dealt with severely. Add to it a generous use of light flashes, of snapping caps, and jets of air and you have a rather good ride, even before you get the real live attendants striding in and adding extra bits of action to the rides now and then.

Trivia: Fred Lorz, who broke the tape for winning the marathon race at the 1904 Saint Louis Olympics, rode in an automobile part of the race. He was not credited as the winner; Thomas Hicks was. Hicks, during the race, was given strychnine as a stimulant. Source: Encyclopedia of the Modern Olympic Movement, Editors John E Findling, Kimberly D Pelle.

Currently Reading: The Arms of Krupp, 1587-1968, William Manchester.


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