Important Notice
Since this story was originally posted, Astroland Park has closed and no longer exists. The Dante's Inferno ride was offered for sale. We can only hope it finds a new owner who will put it back into operation for another generation of riders.

What does one of the greatest poets of the Middle Ages, a world-renowned ride importer and a Brooklyn man who once appeared on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson all have in common? The answer is the Dante's Inferno dark ride at Coney Island's Astroland Amusement Park.
Dante's Inferno, moved to Astroland in 1971 by ride importer Morgan "Mickey" Hughes, carries the name of Dante Alighieri's (1265-1321) epic poem. And most of the ride's scenes were created by a veteran animated display artisan Lou Nasti who was a guest on the Tonight Show and other TV shows at the age of 19.
Confused already? Okay, let's start from the beginning. Dante's Inferno is a two-story portable dark ride designed by Italian ride manufacturer Ernesto Soli. It was brought to Astroland by Hughes in 1971 to replace another European-imported dark ride, Flight To Mars. According to Astroland general manager Mark Blumenthal, Hughes operated the ride as an independent concession for a few years before the owners of the Astroland, the Albert family, purchased the ride.
The façade resembled a castle ruled by a large demon holding a victim as well as the tongue of an inverted ape head with rolling eyes. The more liberal European culture was also evident at the boarding area which featured graphic and risqué illustrations, including some unclad femme fatales. A figure resembling the three-headed dogs of hell peered down from one of two balconies.
Despite some reports to the contrary, the original ride was not based on Alighieri's poem nor was it a "trip to hell." In fact, from the descriptions given by sources close to the ride, Dante's original stunts were a varied assortment of single, Fiberglas spooky figures.