At Lake Compounce in Bristol, CT, the midway enjoyed an R.E. Chambers Laff In the Dark ride from 1938 to 1979 going through several changes along the way. It featured the usual Chambers sheet metal stunts such as the Fighting Cats and the Kicking Mule. Unlike most Mules, Compounce’s had a starburst or explosion symbol at the animal hind legs, rather than a clown. Some lifelike skeletons, a devil and other three-dimensional stunts were later purchased from Mangels.
But getting Laff in the Dark in operation was no laughing matter back in 1938. The ride was set up for cars to enter from the left side, whereas Chambers cars always enter on the right. So the park had to make adjustments to the track and the cars’ trolley attachments to make this conversion.
 


  17 year-old Howard Behrendt stands outside the Lake Compounce Laff In The Dark in 1946.The original Chambers ride system had been replaced with Pretzel art-deco-style cars. The frontage was painted in yellow, orange, tan and brown with decorative art by Bud Norton. A green fibreglass awning was added in the early sixties.  


 
For the first ten years as WWII came to an end, Laff In The Dark prospered with silly characters beautifully painted on the stage wall by Bud Norton. Morning after morning, Howard Behrendt, the ride’s first operator, would grease the track on his hands and knees taking pride in his work until one day, when two pranksters threw
Also because of the lumber used (10 inch x 16 inch oak beams), the Laff In the Dark was the strongest framed building they had ever worked on. This was because of the fact during the depression years, contractors would make profit on the bulk materials used. When the 60’s arrived, Peter Rasulo, the locally famous sign  
 
the power switch on, knocking him out instantly, he recalled in later years. Around 1943, the original Chambers cars were replaced with Pretzel art-deco model cars. However, as the 1950’s rolled in, age and mechanical problems occurred which called for a change to the façade and an upgrade to the interior, as the original 12 stunts being either vandalized or stolen. Joe, Richard,

Peter Rasulo and his Wild Cat coaster logo sign - 1998.
artist, retouched the stage area paintings I describe in the story, as the spooky theme of the ride did not match the happy faces of the figures from before. Even the letters themselves advertising the ride changed from crooked multi colored to a uniform red. At night the letters were silhouetted by a red neon glow giving an eerie presentation and the stage area  
 
and their father, Walt Swenton, were carpenters who helped the Norton family every day for general maintenance. They relayed to me in an interview that constant repairs were needed all the time as grease from the track would rot the flooring making the ride treacherous.
being lit by fluorescent tubes colored by yellow lenses to keep mosquitoes away. Ironically, the late 1960s ushered in the return of Chambers cars, all bright red, and believed to have been acquired from nearby Savin Rock, which had just boarded up its own Chambers Laff In Dark.  


  Map of Laff In The Dark layout drawn by Mike Dudko (ride operator from 1974-76) with assistance from Howard Behrendt. Mr. Dudko recalls the control box stamped R.E. Chambers, and that there was no straight track in the body of the ride. He also remarked that the ride duration of 2 minutes and 30 seconds was excessive for children.