The Palace's Castle-themed Fun House is very fondly remembered by enthusiasts as being one of the greatest of the walk-through attractions ever built.

Located in the newer section of the palace, and built in 1956, this fun house contained a great "miss-mash" of props and stunts from various companies including "Old King Cole", "Animated Display Creators" as well as props built by both Mr. Nickels and Ralph Lopez Sr. and Jr. . But, alas..... this was not the first fun house built in the palace. A much simpler fun house was located in the original building, near the carousel, as evidenced by this photo of the Barrel near the horses. This fun House, as it was first called, was said to be built of ride materials and laugh makers, including the: Barrel, Lilly Pads, shifting boards and crooked steps, that were bought from a defunct fun house located at the amusement resort town of Salisbury Beach, MA . Later on this very open and plain facade attraction was also called the common name of: "Bug House". When the great Palace expansion of 1956 was constructed, it is said that parts of the old Fun House made their way into the newer version, under the supervision and guidance and vision of George Lange. What was then built may have very well been one of the best ever, ranking right up there with other Fun Houses at Palisades park, Coney Island and Riverview. The facade was rather large and spanned the whole western wall of the new section of the Palace. It contained various animated creatures as well as scenes over the years it was opened, and these props were changed every few years, to give the facade a new look. Before we "go for a walk", lets examine all the notable history located on the outside and facade of this lost treasure. While most of the features of this walk through didn’t change over the years, this attraction towards the beginning  of it first contained a "Jail Cell"at the exit, which was made up of rubber bars, that patrons had to transverse to get out of the fun house. This was a feature that was created in concept by George Lange upon his request, as well as the huge and glowing and animated facade. In the later years, this section was replaced by a very hard to navigate "Mirror Maze".

The whole concept of this facade was to feature a rather silly and comical looking "Castle Motif" with chaser lights outlining the entire top section of the front. Looking at the top left section was a "Devil getting chased by a woman" prop.  Very Funny Stuff, and his was created in-house by the Lopez Team. Next up was some artwork created by the whole Lopez family, then the classic "Old King Cole Giant" Head, that once graced many a traditional Fun House facade, that was both marketed and sold by PTC, a historic company known for traditional fun hoses and roller coasters. Old King Cole also was the creators of the revered "Laffing Sal’s" as well as "Giggling Gertie" figures that the Palace had rented by a New York based company, probbably  Messmore and Damon, as they had built the two giant hands that graced the face known as the Giant.

Toward the left of the Giant was an "Animated Gorilla", another prop bought from New York City, and animated by Ralph Lopez Jr. More chaser lights were located below the Ape, who... was both bought and saved and now lives in the state of New Jersey. Past him was another very electric artwork scene, over the later day Mirror Maze that had futuristic look at a man raising a lady from a bed. Past this was a rather large collection of three now very famous animal figures that were, again, bought from a New York City company, and again, now reasoned to be Messmore and Damon, that consisted of an "Gorilla, Rhino and Elephant". These three props were static (I.E.: did not move) until Ralph Lopez Jr. built a simple cam and lever mechanic into them to give them life. These 3 props were to be found over the years in almost each and every section of the Palace. I give credit to Pete Szikura for both saving as well as restoring all three of these animation’s as well as the Old King Cole Giant Head that was above the facade.

They all now, among other palace props and stunts, have a safe and good home in Western New Jersey. One of the most talked about stunts though, located on the facade, was a Hippie-Style band called "The Beatniks". To match the hippie 1960’s, drug culture, Ralph Lopez Jr. created and animated a whole woodstock Hippie band that consisted of a 4 piece musical group, complete with Go-Go Girls Dancing in cages! Later on, the Drummer would soon find himself separated from his band, to forever "play his drums" in the inside of the Haunted Castle Dark Ride. Like most everything else inside the Palace, prop and stunt wise, animation’s would get moved, replaced and rebuilt on a yearly basis. Last but not least was also an insider and fan-favorite, a large headed figure that was made to look like: "Mr. Monopoly", or "Mr. Moneybags". This was a trait of many a figure or prop that was created by an older employee simply known as Mr. Nickels, who, beside living in the old apartment that was located behind where the Ferris wheel was, and later  site for the first Dark Ride called:"Ghost Town". Mr. Nickels would be employed at the park for a period of time, along with the Lopez Team, and was responsible for a great many creations that had a custom look of rather large heads including the after mentioned "Mr. Moneybags" as well as the "Giant Bee’s" and many others. While he is long gone, his fantasy and whimsical creations are not forgotten. OK, enough about the wonderful outside look at the Palace’s Fun House, lets step up to the ticket booth located at the entrance of the Barrel, do you have your 6 tickets ready?!? Then lets go inside!

 

After we hand over our tickets, we are "Unleashed" into a complete and total fantasy world unlike no other. First, there is the classic revolving barrel to grab our attention. This is said to be one of the original parts from the older fun house, that was located in the old building. Next up, is another classic prop, slip boards, then onto a spiral staircase that rocked up and down, complete with a final kick in the ass with an ait jet! It was great fun watching first time walkers transverse this section on the journey through the Fun House! After this came another old stunt, shaker boards, again, said to come from the defunct fun house in the Palace. Into the building and into darkness we would go, as things began to take on a much more sinister look and feel!

Walking toward the right, in a half, semi oval, there were three dark halls to navigate, and.. along the way was one of the Palace’s greatest secrets she keep, until now. At three separate spots were floor activated stunts contained within large back boxes of silly looking creatures! It was here that the palace carefully guarded some of its most important figures, deep within’ the Fun House. And have a history lesson to "boot". These three props were animation’s that were built by the now legendary Ivan Olkon, of Amusement Display Creators fame. Mr. Olkon was one of the great lost designers of both Fun House as well as Dark Ride animation’s and props that the world has never heard of... until now. Ivan started his fine company in the state of Minnesota in the 1930’s. His Props were known for a very silly look with a splash of humor as well as usually being contained within Pretzel Ride Company like Black Boxed displays.

The Palace Fun House had first, a Green Headed Devil, that had large blood-shot stained eyes, complete with a very toothy mouth and grin! Next up, it is thought that another of Ivans classic props was to be seen, the Big and Scary Headed Person, which was one of several that were offered by his company. The third prop is lost in both time, and too many years passing by. Mr. Olkon would move to Florida where, he owned a rather huge warehouse, chocked full of stunts and animation’s from ever company known to have made this stuff, including Old King Cole, Pretzel Rides, Amusement Displays (Bill Tracey’s Co.) and Messmore and Damon. Picture a warehouse filled to the brim with animation’s, this was Amusement Park Nirvana!

Sadly, Ivan passed away a few years ago, his work in the amusement field largely unnoticed until now. We here at www.tunneloflaffs.com salute and remember Ivan Olkon for being yet another wonderful artist and designer. Today, his works still remain at Sylvan Beach, NY, in the Tunnel fan favorite dark ride called: "Laff Land" in the form of the Space Alien Prop as well as a Big Head Girl prop, and, at Keansburgh Amusement Parks Classic 1931 built Pretzel, the Spookhouse with an ADC built Giant figure gracing this wonderful ride into the past! (Not known to patrons, the palace’s fun house contained a large, "back hallway" that was only seen and used by park personal to both keep view on patrons and what they were doing inside those long and dark hallways, and also to scare the hell out of them at times as both George Lange and Ralph Lopez used to do to guys with their girlfriends inside the fun house!)

After the maddening ADC creations, it was back into the sunlight and the seesaw boards, located on the right side of the facade. After this was the one story metal slide, or, if you up for the trip down it, a metal staircase was also located along side. After this, a turn to the right led to a series of fast spinning discs, and going back into the facade and to the left was the entrance of the Old Jail Cell, now the mirror maze. It was again, a fun place to watch kids and older folks try to get the heck out of this frustration machine! Once the secret of the maze was learned, it was out into the Palace main floor again. However, a sudden burst of air coming up from the very last step brough about one last gasp from visitors. Controled by the ride atendant, this burst was usually timed for maximum effect -- raising skirts and hair and shreaks!

Whew!...... did you have fun? I sure did! Lets take a breather on a bench for a short bit of time. The palace’s Castle-style Fun House was the brainchild of George Lange, as he had a vision for a great facade and the Lopez team delivered, among others. Mr. Lange took a real personal interest in this attraction. As fans, we have him to thank for presenting such a wonderful Fun House! ( Today, the Green Devil ADC Prop still survives in PA)



























 
Let's go to the Orient Express


Contents © 2002 Bret Malone unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.

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