he Staten Island Fun House has a long and rich history to talk about. Originally located down near the beach  and boardwalk area, it is thought that this Pretzel Amusement Company ride was installed sometime during the late 1940's. It once graced a now defunct Amusement Area and was called back then by a working name of Laff In The Dark a name that many Dark Ride owners seemed to use. In 1956 Mr. Seligan, the rides owner , sold the ride to Virginia and Paul Hajostek who operated it along with Virginia's brother Anthony Mancino, as well as several games along the old amusement strip. Laff In The dark was now moved to a new area further up the hill and was now called Fun House and  had a new building as well as a home. A small amusement park peacefully operated across a side street containing a Tilt-A-Whirl, Scrambler and other kiddy rides while next to the Laff, the Hajostek's family operated a nice arcade. Times were good for all as the local amusement park thrilled those who didnt want to venture to nearby Coney Island or to fight the city's crowds. While not big in size, there were enough rides to make for an enjoyable family outing. The Fun House contained six Classic Pretzel cars with five in operation with the sixth used as a spare. Props from these days were simple. The ride contained a Witch Stirring a Pot gag as well as a Dancing Hula Lady. A PTC Built Dead Dan coffin stunt thrilled patrons. One of the best props still operates on the Fun House and is revered by those who know this ride. Sitting in a funny looking Tiki style Hut in the rides front, is an old Laffing Lady stunt from the rides older years. While not an Old King Cole built Sal', it is however just as old and works much the same as a classic Sal'. A laffing sound track  heard throughout the ride completes the festive mood. But soon these simple gags would begin to tire as those who ride demanded more sophisticated  things to scare and startle them. In the fall of 1977, West View Park, near Pittsburgh PA was closing for good and a new, Bill Tracey designed and built dark ride was for sale along with the parks other rides. Paul and Virginia decided to update their current ride into a more scary version of it as they set out to visit West View with the intent to purchase the two-story 1963 built Haunted House and its contents. But by the time they had arrived at West View, they missed getting the ride as it had been sold one day before to  Erieview Amusement Park in Ohio. But, West View park manager Jack Hickey then stated that a second, less known dark ride was indeed also for sale. Years ago, West View contained a dark ride built by the R. E. Chambers Company called Ride-N-Laff, built sometime in the 1930's. Later on, this ride was remolded into Land of The Giants and finally got its last remake when a new facade was built for it in the parks last years of operation as it was last called Davey Jones Locker. This last facade had also been sold, but the contents were still available and this is what Paul and Virginia bought back to New York to update their own ride. To the right is a rare photo of several of the Dinosaur stunts getting moved down the now defunct West View ride midway. These would replace the old props like the Dead Dan and Witch Stirring a Pot, but, almost lovingly, the Laffing Lady would still be retained for use in the revamped ride. Staten Island was about to get hit with a big dose of Jurassic Fun! Paul, Virginia and Anthony now had a sure fire thriller that would please its patrons for many years to come. Almost too soon though, a funny thing happened. The area in which the dark ride, arcade as well as the amusement park began to become a prime area for residential homes as well as condos and upscale housing. A close trip and commute to New York  City as well as a wonderful view of the bay  led a great many to purchase these new homes as fast as they were being built. And while it was thought that the new family's moving into the area was a good thing for the survival of the amusement area, in the long run, it was not. This was now a time where those seeking fun went to area Theme Parks for thrills. The Amusement Park, now surrounded by housing on its sides, did not have the space needed to expand, and gradually, things began to sour. The park got less and less visitors as its simple rides were not enough anymore. The land it sat upon became increasingly valuable  and the writing was on the wall. In a day and age when kids were into Computers, the internet and playing video games at home as well as other complicated thrills, the small amusement park couldn't compete and saw less and less patrons each new season of operation. Finally, the parks owners gave way and sold to developers who built a large Town House complex on the former site of the ride area. Sitting across the street from this currently is the Arcade and Dark Ride operation. Paul commented to me that after the park closed, a good deal of locals came up to him and asked: "What happened to all the rides?!?" Paul would then harshly counter with: "Why do you care so much now? If you had been here in the past, maybe the park would have held on!" Now faced with no amusement area, the family decided to go at it alone, with the  Fun House now the only ride operating along with the arcade. But this would prove to be hard to do. While the arcade still has a steady of kids that visit,without other rides to draw patrons to the dark ride, it soon was known that the ride wouldn't get enough customers to make it worth operating. Paul also stated that it was a headache trying to keep kids from vandalizing the Dark Ride. Kids would try to bring large rocks or bricks into the ride to try and destroy the stunts. So bad did things get that steel fencing was installed in place of the conventional chicken wire to protect the props. Paul even told me that a few weeks before my visit, he had heard a loud banging noise in the arcade. When he investigated the source of the noise, he saw a young man punching on one of the video games. Paul then asked the man: "What are you doing?" The man replied: "Getting out my frustrations".  Paul then asked him: "  The quarter you spent only gives you permission to play the machine, not to own it!".  The man then replied back: "Like I told you, I/m venting my anger." Paul then told him: "Then why don't you hit your girlfriend instead?" The man responded with: "I cant do that, Id go to Jail" Paul then in a rather funny way stated: "No, it wont be You going to jail but me  as ill get arrested after I  beat you up if you don't stop hitting  my machines!!! Needless to say, the man left the arcade, but this is just one example of the frustrations in trying to operate an amusement business in this day and age. Virginia also told me through sad eyes that the Dark Ride didn't do even enough business to pay for the  operating expenses and even stated that to sell the ride was very much like loosing a family member for good as, they had  owned it for so long. But they plan to sell it as one complete package with the hopes that it will once again have a chance to thrill a new generation of fun seekers. But ,what about the ride now you ask? Is it closed for good with never a chance for us readers here at Laff In The Dark  to have one first and last spin inside?!? Let me see if I can find Paul, yes here he is. Paul, can the readers and I take a final spin through Fun House so we can remember it as how it once was? "Sure Bret, Ill fire her up and you and the others climb inside the cars and enjoy a final ride!. Ill hit the start button once you are seated!" Well, here it is, your one last chance to enjoy a Dark Ride Classic! Are you ready?!?





   
     

 

 

 

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