1970 ... And Beyond
The dark ride landscape at Paragon Park remained remarkably unchanged for the next few years with both the Kastle and Cruise always in top form. During this period, Ralph Lopez Jr. created a psychedelic rock-type walk through named “Magical Mystery Tour.” I never experienced the interior because of its long lines and the pungent smell of people smoking something illegal to pass the time. The attraction had a loud rock music track blaring out onto the midway and its trippy façade and candy-cane-type signage was an attention-grabber. Lopez Jr. was once quoted as saying that he installed a twisting hallway, spinning disks and black-lit tilted rooms, and despite its popularity, he was confused about why park management frowned on it.

By 1975, the Magical Mystery Tour had hit the road. The walkthrough building was stripped of its ornamentation, resembling little more than a boarded-up storage building. But exciting new arrivals to Paragon included two Mickey Hughes-imported portable rides: the two-story Allotria funhouse and the Broadway Trip indoor coaster. Both rides had separate admissions not covered by the park’s POP, suggesting that Hughes operated them as independent concessions.
Allotria fun house
Allotria (shown at left at the former Williams Grove Park, PA) had the appearance of a German beer hall with very lifelike figures of musicians, dancers and a barkeep on the second floor overhand. The interior was a well-lit obstacle course with moving and static catwalks, an abundance of air-brushed illustrations and a revolving barrel at the exit. The Broadway Trip (shown below at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair) was a mild indoor coaster ride aboard a small Wild Mouse car through a darkened building with no stunts inside.
Fun House
Research suggested that Hughes operated the very same two portables at New Jersey’s former Palisades Park and moved them around frequently after that park closed in 1971. (The Broadway Trip eventually found a permanent home at Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, NJ where it was renamed the Love Bugs, then Wizard's Cavern before being dismantled in the early 2000s. Allotria took up residence at the Hughes-owned Williams Grove Amusement Park (Mechanicsburg, PA) and entertained patrons until that park closed in 2006.
Broadway trip
Bermuda Triangle Paragon Park
The year 1977 saw a major change at Paragon. The venerable Congo Cruise was re-rethemed to the Bermuda Triangle. The ride remained a Mill Chute but the exterior and interior were completely remodeled. The redo was designed and installed by Jim Melonic, a Bill Tracy disciple and owner of JMM Studio. He replaced Jumbo the elephant with the head of a sinister long-haired sea giant. Inside, the jungle scenes were ousted for the likes of a giant octopus, a sea serpent and mythical beasts that coincide with the legend of the Triangle where both sea craft and aircraft allegedly vanished. Melonic used bright colors and lighting, doing his very best to create whirlpools and tidal waves with various imagery inside the small stage houses. But the ride remained a slow cruise through a narrow tunnel of murky water that was anything but a tropical ocean. Despite Melonic’s best efforts, the palate he was given just didn’t look or smell Bermuda.  
The bright spot was an installation of a Hughes portable that had already become a cult classic, the double-decker Flight to Mars ride. It sat on the footprint of the Allotria, and like other Hughes portables, was a separate-admission attraction. This ride quite possibly operated at Palisades and made multiple stops before its Paragon stint.
Flight To Mars dark ride

And along the way, it picked up an array of lunging and/or grasping mammals including a polar bear and a large wolf. Since I rode with a date, the small cars and the startling stunts made for an enjoyable ride…if you get my drift. Despite the façade illustrations of extra terrestrials and the distant planet’s surface, the ride was anything but a flight to Mars. I always wondered if that was just a random name for a ride that never did have a theme.

Regardless, the ride, with its incredible compact layout and strategic spaces for stunt placement, has earned its reputation as one of the world’s best portable models.

A year later the Flight to Mars had been renamed Journey to Center of the Earth (seemed the sign was being repaired) but the outer space facade artwork and all the interior stunts remained the same.

On a mild August day I turned 30 years of age. This was 1984 and the park's final season before closing forever. I was there with a date, and the weather was glorious. I got to experience the two dark rides and the coaster for the last time. As if Mother Nature was foretelling the park’s future, a coastal thunderstorm swept in, sending my date and I scampering into the carousel pavilion for cover. We boarded one of the chariots and took about a dozen repeat rides, simply chilling out as the storm transformed the midway into a raging river, racing by the carousel building doors. An hour later, the skies cleared, followed by a PA announcement that the park was closing early due to the soaking from the storm. I had no regrets. I had experienced everything I wanted to at Paragon Park that day and dozens of other days dating back to 1961. We followed about 100 other patrons trudging cautiously through the rain-slicked midway towards the entrance/exit. Back at my car parked across the street, my date and I looked at the AAA road map to decide if we wanted to drive to the Boston area for dinner. I quickly glimpsed back at the park to see an elderly security guard sliding the park gate closed. The gate was shut. But my fond recollections will always be open.

Paragon Park's magnificent 4-row Philadelphia Toboggan carousel, beautifully restored by James Hardison, continues to operate at Nantasket Beach just a few minutes' walk from its original location.  
Wurlitzer band organ Paragon Park Paragon Carousel
  The 1926 Wurlitzer carousel organ was previously in the collection of creative director Bill Luca before being acquired by the Paragon Carousel.

Paragon Park entrance gate

Our Thanks To:
Elaine Nardo
The Paragon Carousel
Gail Emmons

Images and text ©2014 www.laffinthedark.com

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