Over the years, Nick Trahanas and brother Jim got more involved in their father’s business, eventually taking the reins. Toward the mid-1980s they reassessed Flying Witch and decided that it was time to add more stunts.
      “The ride was designed for just the original European stunts, so we had to improvise quite a bit, building a platform here, or utilizing a crevice there,’ recalls Nick. “Then there was the issue of getting new stunts.”
      At the time, there were still many companies producing stunts. But Nick had his own vision of the “cast of characters” he wanted to inhabit Flying Witch. Over the years, he had paid close attention to animated displays exhibited at the annual IAAPA trade show. From this, he literally began sizing up what could fit the ride’s available spaces. For instance, Nick said he was impressed by a displayed figure that could rise from a seated position by compressed air. He didn’t want the exact same stunt, but visualized three different stunts, repeating the same motion, at strategic points in his ride. He purchased the framework for one and used it as his guide to create two others.
      One of Nick’s “seat-risers,” the character Pinhead from the Hellraiser  movies, appears early in the ride. The second, a creepy old man, taunts riders just before they made a rapid descent from the top floor. And a third, a decaying corpse, rises from the ground midway through the ride.
      Nick’s other vision - a man struggling to free himself from the inside a sarcophagus - also came to life. After he purchased a sarcophagus, he created the victim using the foam torso from a T-shirt display.
      ‘’I figured that the thrashing motion would really tax the apparatus, so why not use light material to create the victim,” recalls Nick.      
      The showpiece of the ride, in this author’s opinion, is the third-floor graveyard scene. It consists of a skeleton rising from his coffin, another popping out of the ground, a corpse wiggling free from his grave and a decomposed soul rising from the dead. The lighting effects are superb, as is the sound bite, which I’ll touch on later.
      For other new displays, Nick continued to be resourceful. He resurrected the guillotine scene, which had been put in storage by his father years ago. He redeployed the pistol-shooting brigande as an executioner, hanging a man in a three-piece suit. He situated his man-in-the-sarcophagus stunt in a torture room, which included an original European-made mummy, two victims in cages and a disemboweled man on a torture wheel.
      Most of Nick’s new stunts would be animated by an air compressor, hidden in the first floor workshop. Next on the agenda were the sound bites. Nick had purchased some early model digital sound repeaters would proved to be troublesome during the recording sessions. But in the end it all worked out.
      “We used my youngest brother Phillip for most of the sound hits,” recalls Nick. “He always loved doing voices, so this was his 15 minutes of fame.”
      Phillip recorded a dead-on impression of actor Collin Clive’s famous, “It’s alive! It’s alive!” line in the original Frankenstein movie. The sound hit plays over the graveyard scene. For the guillotine execution scene, Phillip voiced the bony executioner’s scream of “Off with it!” He then bit into a carrot for the sound of the blade severing the victim’s head. In providing the taunts for the creepy old man, Phillip simply said, “Bye-bye!” and cackled at the riders as they descend into the unknown.      
      And there were some guest appearances during the recording sessions. When asked to say something scary into the mike, Nick’s employee John Jones yelled out, “I need your brains, ha, ha!” This proved to be a perfect sound bite for the corpse that appears midway through the ride, giving riders the impression that he’s a brain-eating zombie from Night of Living Dead movie series.
      This year (2003) Nick and his older brother Jim added some sound bites once used in the older rendition of their Zombie Castle dark ride (formerly Laff In The Dark) across the midway. They replaced most of the wooden panels along the sides of the track and they replaced the old compressed air trunk lines with galvanized pipes. Finally, they replaced the power trains and brakes on the entire fleet. A year earlier they had replaced every car motor.
      “It’s not all fun and games, especially when it comes to maintenance,” admits Nick. “You won’t believe how much time I spend on the phone and online trying to find parts.” But with hard work comes comic relief. “When John Jones said his line, he had us in stitches,” Nick recalls.
      And Nick is quick to mention the day he brought back some of his stunts from upstate New York where they had received some finishing work.
      “I had them in the back of a pick-up with a sheet covering them,” recalls Nick. “When we stopped at a gas station a corner of the sheet folded over, so quite a crowd gathered around, thinking I had corpses back there.”

Editor's note: Don't be too concerned about our stalwart investigators. They were found unharmed, exploring another dark ride and wondering where they'd left their gear. But that's another story.

The author would like to thank:
"The Super Trahanas Brothers", Nick and Jim, for allowing us full access to Flying Witch
and for operating not one but two of the finest dark rides in America.
All photos by Bill Luca, George LaCross and Nick Trahanas.
© laffinthedark.com

© Laff In The Dark/www.laffinthedark.com