Western Hotel Funhouse Crescent Park

It was October 1963. It had been several decades since Crescent Park hosted a walkthrough attraction, so park ownership thought it was good a time as ever to build one. With Tracy’s new Riverboat dark ride enjoying success during its debut year, Simmons did not see the need for two dark rides. So, the management shuttered the Laff In The Dark and commissioned its staff to build a two-story Western-theme funhouse.

The track, stunts and cars were removed from Laff In The Dark and were possibly sold to Whalom Park according to Serowik. The dark ride’s 29-year-old façade was stripped of the animal heads and Minor’s artwork, and were converted into game stands. The only trace of the former Pretzel ride were the impressions in the wood floor of the Grocery game building left by thousands of voyages by the ride’s 500-pound cars.

The Western funhouse’s entrance would be through an extension to the left-hand side of the dark ride building. A small section of second-floor was added to overhang the funhouse façade.

The Hotel wasn’t just a place of lodging; it was multi-purpose facility including a jail cell, a judge’s chambers and an apparent bank. There was activity in every window: a couple embraced in kiss in one. A bank robber, his heist in hand, leaped from another.

Two cowboys appeared in the front windows engaged in a pistol shootout unaware that a Native American was poised on the roof, ready to pounce on them. To the right, the jail cell could be viewed inside and outside the attraction. Two wax heads salvaged from the Rivers of Venice where returned to service, becoming the noggins of either the sheriff or his prisoner in the jail

A year after the Hotel was installed, the park gave the area a Wild West theme. Two years earlier it had purchased an Iron Horse train ride from the Allan Herschell Company, and in 1965, stunts were added along the track and inside the train’s tunnel where the ride concluded. The tunnel, which contained an assortment of in-house stunts and some purchased from Bill Tracy, included skeletons, a mining cave-in scene and a frustrated miner breaking his shovel over his knee.

Left: This head of wax, once on display in the carousel museum, originated in the Rivers of Venice and found new life in 1964 as the head of the sheriff or prisoner stunts in the Hotel.

Below left and right: Crescent Park's Iron Horse train gave riders an escape into the old west as they passed an Indian village entered a gold mine.

The Hotel was a showpiece for a continuous line of detailed day-glo wall illustrations by Dom Spadola and Len Minor including a cattle stampede and a dessert. It also featured several stunts created by Spadola and Serowik. One of them, a bed with several occupants, covered by a blanket, raised a few eyebrows. No, it wasn’t a wild western orgy, says Serowik.

“It was nothing but a bunch of legs in the bed,” recalls Serowik. “It was supposed to be the Hotel’s flop house room, nothing else,” he laughs.

There was also a very elaborate poker table scene where one of the players appeared rather ornery.

“Well, he was going to raise his gun and shoot as you passed by the table,” recalls Ed. “Dom and I planned to put down a floor pad that would activate him. We ran out of time and couldn’t finish it.”The funhouse also featured two titled rooms, alternating planks (aka shuttle boards) on second floor overhang and several blow holes. The lobby had a well-dressed man and woman laughing at those who passed them. Spadola created the two figures and Serowik animated them with gear motors salvaged from junked soda vending machines. A very eerie loop tape of howling winds, screeching cats and other ghost town sounds was piped inside and outside the building. In the later years, the funhouse was renamed “Laff Inn” as a metaphor for the then-popular TV comedy show “Laugh In” and a heavy-set laughing lady replaced the laughing couple.
Right: Another artifact from the Hotel: the sign from the “chambers” of Judge Roy Bean.
A Wild West round-up: The Crescent Park gang gathered in the park’s former roller rink to put the finishing touches on some western figures for the Iron Horse train ride for 1965 season. From l to r is Lester Walkden (Zephyr coaster manager, groundskeeper and winter watchman), Dominic Spadola, Ed Serowik, and Ed Leis. Dominic crafted the male Indian figure using his son as the model and he used Ed Serowik as the model for the prospector. A female CP employee modeled for the squaw. The fiberglass dragon and the skeleton were purchased from Bill Tracy. The dragon was placed in an outside waterfall and the skeleton supplemented a host of in-house-made stunts inside the train’s tunnel. Crescent Park benefited for several decades from the construction and mechanical skills of Ed Leis, who worked for National Amusement Devices, as he did two former Massachusetts parks: Lincoln Park in North Dartmouth and Mountain Park in Holyoke. Leis gained international acclaim in 1964 by designing and building the Montaña Rusa coaster with Aurel Vaszin at La Feria Chapultepec Magico (formerly Juegos Mecánicos de Chapultepec ) in Mexico City, Mexico.