The Building of Crystal Beach Park's
“Laff in the Dark”
Page 4

By Richard Doan

brochure1Throughout the winter quotes for the motors came in and a letter dated May 8th 1936 from the Northern Electric Company discusses the order of 12- 1 HP motors and that they are doing everything possible to make the shipment of the motors on May 16th.

On May 13 1936 Chambers writes " You have no doubt, received the Canadian invoices for the Laff in the Dark stunts. I shall come up sometime this summer and take pictures in the ride.


The Balance (Invoices) on the stunts and the second payment on the Caterpillar tunnel were included in the draft sent with the bill of Lading." A letter sent May 23rd 1936 from Chambers has on the return address Traver Engineering Company Beaver Falls PA. The Traver Engineering having one stroke through it and R.E Chambers Company written above this.

The letter discusses adjusting the magnets. And at the end "We feel sure that you are going to have a very fine ride and we know that it will be a profitable one for you."

Harry Traver, who built brochure2Crystal Beach's Cyclone and Tumblebug built the amusement manufacturing plant in 1919 at Beaver Falls PA. and sold it to Chambers in 1932. Traver invented the dark ride Laff in the Dark in 1930

The last letter from Chambers is dated May 29th 1936. "There is a point which I have neglected to mention to you and that is that the Laff in the Dark track should have some grease put on it in order to minimize the wear on the wheels and the trolley shoe."

 

brochure4 brochure5

I have been told by the Park's retired electrician Ron Huffman, that the cars were actually built in nearby Ridgeway Ontario, by a local blacksmith with parts from both Chambers and what Hall had, made.

On one of the blueprints from Chambers, information is printed about the "wiring diagram" for the stunts: Clown, Cemetery, Dragon, Mules, Lion, Girls, Cats Coffin, Dog, Devil.  The light goes on  momentarily before the stunt begins to operate, on the dancing girls, the light goes out and the stunt continues to operate.

brochure6Another blueprint also has a wiring diagram for stunts listed as: Rats, Siren, Thunder, Lightning, Dancing Skeleton and Tunnel. One saying sheet #6 has diagrams of the bumps that were in the track. It also has "Details of the ceiling stunts",  "Balloon stunt frame made of Oak strips and black balloons suspended from staples. Strings  holding balloons should be about 3 1/2 to  4 feet long. Frame to be suspended from ceiling  of such height as to cause balloons to strike passengers in the face".  Another diagram on the same blueprint shows "Frame for Cobweb, Rope Ribbons, Rubbers made of oak strips. For Cobweb, light strings about 4'0 long.  For Ropes 5/32 or 6/32, clothes line about 4'0 long.  For Ribbons  1/2 black ribbons at abt.  4'0 long.  For Rubbers,  1' strip rubber sheeting.

Also, another stunt was called the "Blower".  "Blower should have about 36' propeller direct connected to the motor shaft at  1800 RPM. Should throw a strong blast of air into the passengers face!"  "Mirror Stunt" " 1 plate glass mirror 60x72x4" thick fastened to the wall . Electric light to be located as to shine down  on a car (Not on a Mirror). 

It appears that the original stunts and paintings had a cartoon theme with characters such as Maggie and Jigs, Popeye, Wimpy etc. Sometime later, the Chinese Theme was added.  In talks with Ron Huffman, he tells that in the middle of the loading platform, at the back, there was a well dressed Skeleton  who shook and laughed at the beginning. He doesn't recall when Laughing Sal'  was put into  the  left  tower, and Charmin Charlie  to the right., but estimates that  sometime during the 1940's to 1950's. The ride stayed  pretty much the same for the  next 53 years it was there.

In the early 1980's, some of the stunts from the closed Jungleland ride ( formally The Old Mill) were installed. Some of the existing stunts were painted over with fluorescent paint, and backlights were used to light them. In 1987,  two years before the park closed, an article in the Buffalo Evening News  reported that "5 Teens escape un-injured  in collision of 2 cars on ride at Crystal Beach".  The article about the "Laff In The Dark" goes on to say about the two cars that collided, a wire shorted out, sparks flew over the car, and hit the ceiling and the building filled with smoke. They felt lucky to have gotten out. Firefighters were called to the scene. "Crystal Beach Manager  Rudy Bonifacio said apparently a car came off the rail and a wire in the floor shorted out  causing some insulation to burn. Rudy  said "The rail is electrified but is not grounded and there was no danger of electrocution".  Park management offered free passes for the teens involved, but were turned down. 

In Talking to Ron Huffman  about this, he stated that the Media way over blew what had happened and, as a result of the collision, a wire had shorted out, and the insulation on the wire had burned and that was all.  The ride lasted for 53 years until the park closed in 1989. At the park's auction, the high bidder of the LITD  paid $8,000. in US Funds. I was lucky enough to buy a car as they were tearing it down and have a few artifacts such as a Trick Track, a fluorescent head and some of the roof materials including one of the sculptured corners. One of the great Icons of Crystal Beach, Laughing Sal' (originally made by the Old King Cole Paper Mache Company and marketed in  PA) went to Buffalo. After being stored for a number of years, she was sold for $5,000 to someone in  PA who restored her. She was coin operated until a few years ago when she was sold off for  $10,000 and shipped off to California.  The Laff endured all those years and was a family favorite, spanning several generations of park goers!


Let's Go Inside “Laff in the Dark”
and see some of the Original Stunts
Stunts!


  the History... the Stunts...      
Intro         Page 1    Page 2    Page 3    Page 4    Page 5  Final    


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