Keeping it scary, one haunted house at a time

Keeping it scary, one haunted house at a time
25 March 2024 J.W.H

I clearly remember my first haunted house ride – it was on the local fairgrounds, only in a brief carnival truck, more of a facade than a ride. I should have been about seven or eight years old and insisted on bringing a flashlight. I used to be quite a fearful child; on this case I used to be hoping that the flashlight would cut through the dark illusion and I could get a glimpse of the inner workings of the vehicle. I failed miserably: because the vehicle spun and jerked, my flashlight was all the time a second behind. Monsters and ghouls jumped out before I could predict them; the automotive hit the partitions of faux spiders. My light was of little use.

For much of the twentieth century, dark rides – as these kind of rides are called – offered thrills and surprises, in addition to no small amount of fear, to riders bumping into carts that passed through animatronic stages. But they disappear quickly. Over the course of ten years of my skilled life, I actually have experienced and documented these rides all around the world. I saw many great haunted attractions and nearby parks. Of the hundreds of rides created between 1900 and 1970 only 18 still exist.

Closing Williams Grove, flooding of Bushkill Park, Miracle Strip on the market or destruction of the Spookhouse by Hurricane Sandy saddened hundreds of fans of those parks. But in addition they destroyed a very important record of the history of our popular culture that mustn’t be left at the hours of darkness.

These rides were virtual reality experiences of the time. Far superior to cinema, they’d sound effects, atmospheric effects and an immersive 360-degree space. To preserve them in a way that suits these rides is my job, Dark Ride Projectinvolves capturing and archiving the experience of riding the last remaining ghost trains and haunted house rides using today's digital virtual reality technology.

Recently we visited the so-called Spook-A-Rama Ride On Deno Wonder Wheels Park in Coney Island, New York. Built in 1955, this classic ride was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and has been lovingly restored by the family that owns the park. We will publish on Halloween recent footage recording driving in VRso it should never be threatened again.

The history of dark rides

The earliest dark rides were the “old mill” rides, which started to appear within the twentieth century – there continues to be one in Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh. Participants floated through the tunnel on log rafts, just as logs were transported downstream to mills within the nineteenth century. The buildings were dark inside, reflecting the actual mills that lay abandoned across the landscape.

The “old mill” ride at Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh still operates today.
Joel Zika, CC BY-ND

During these floating rides at the hours of darkness, participants needed to undergo a series of choreographed scenes with electric lights turning on and off mechanically as each raft passed. The winding viewpoint combined with the sequence of images from either side of the track created a posh narrative and spatial experience. This recent way of telling stories engaged all the audience's senses, including the smells of mechanics, the splashing of water, and the texture of hanging props at the hours of darkness. During these experiences, viewers got here into close contact with animatronics and live actors, looking left and right in surprise.

Understanding the importance of dark rides.

It was a really engaging mass medium. Back then, a success book was more more likely to be adapted right into a Journey within the Dark than a movie. For example, in 1901, Jules Verne's novel “From the Earth to the Moon” was published. changed into a dark ride to the Buffalo World's Fair – a 12 months before the legendary one French cinema version by George Melies. This vehicle, built by Frederick Thompson, later toured the country and eventually became its namesake Luna Park in Coney Island.

In the Nineteen Twenties, the Depression, the rise of the auto, and the arrival of the cinema gave the normal fairgrounds a less captive audience. The cities grew, however the fairgrounds where these dark rides were held struggled and commenced to fall into disrepair. In the Thirties, the dark ride we all know today was born – a practical, inexpensive and infrequently ad hoc type of entertainment. Parks could buy carts and construct their very own decorations and stages. The Pretzel amusement ride company was essentially the most prolific on the time, producing over 1,400 vehicles that found homes across America and the world.

Leon Cassidy's patent for the ride that may later be referred to as “The Pretzel”.
US Patent Office

The company's name got here from its patented ride design through which the track bent like a pretzel. Pretzel rides were low-cost to construct and maximized the length of the ride – and due to this fact the experience – inside a given amount of space. The patent drawings show a scripted set of trigger points for sound and lighting effects and will easily constitute level maps in a pc game.

Leon Cassidy and Marvin Rempfer began constructing Pretzel rides in 1928, but even with Cassidy's son making them until the late Nineteen Seventies, there are only 4 of them today left in operation. My adventure with documentation began at Ghost train in Luna Parkbuilt by Pretzel in 1936 and where I tested the system throughout 2015-16 before it went on tour.

How the configuration moves.

Maintenance planning

To date, no attempt has been made to create a comprehensive archive of this vast fragment of American popular history. This presents some difficult technical challenges, the solutions of which evolve because the project progresses. The major goal is to offer a transparent record of what was in the course of the ride and what it felt like.

The Dark Ride Project captures VR experiences by sending cameras in very low light conditions over multiple passes. Then we use computer software to sew the resulting film right into a smooth 360 degree video.

In this manner, rides are recorded as they ought to be experienced – the footage captures the bumps and shakes of the stroller and shouldn’t be afraid of moments of complete darkness.

Accelerometer data enables computer rendering of the route.
Joel Zika, CC BY-ND

Unlike my childhood attempt with a flashlight, we don't need to break the illusion, so we use it a process called photogrammetry to create complex digital 3D models with photographic data. It allows us to record more in regards to the physical space behind the vehicle.

We capture this data along with accelerometer data, which supplies us metric information in regards to the cart's speed, direction, and site. This additional information helps construct a real academic archive that supports two-dimensional media and captures more details about what the ride is doing. Shocks and impacts captured will be recreated using Deakin University's camera universal traffic simulator combined with VR optics.

The universal motion simulator enables a full-body VR experience.
Joel Zika, CC BY-ND

The result’s an experience that’s confusing and disorienting, but exceptionally accurate. This brought tears to the eyes of nostalgic fans.

So far, our work has documented six rides at five parks, from a stand-alone Haunted House in Oxford, Alabama, to a gravity-driven classic in Camden Park, West Virginia. Visitors can see online previews of all parks. That's exactly what we did nearly $14,000 was raised for digital preservation the remaining eight routes remained within the US – including Spook-A-Rama at Coney Island. We will need more resources to accumulate other places all over the world.

Once we achieve this, we hope to expand our work beyond preserving and presenting dynamic VR content. This includes researching and filming the parks that house these attractions, the individuals who construct and maintain them, and the communities that love and appreciate them.

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  • J.W.H

    About John:

    John Williams is a Reincarnationist paranormal Intuitive freelance writer...he is living proof of reincarnation existence, through his personal exploration, he has confirmed its authenticity through visits to the very lands where these events transpired.

    Through guided meditation/s using hemi-sync technology he has managed to recollect 3 previous lives to his own, that go back to the Mid to Late 19th century.

    JWH - "You are the GODS! - Inclusion of the Eternal Light of Love and you shall never die”.

    “Death is Just the Beginning of Life”