A Look Back at the Dark Rides of Hersheypark...
and a Revival of the “Dark” Ages
By Harry Michelson


Hersheypark had five funhouses. The first funhouse was built in 1930, designed by James A. Fields, and was aptly named Funhouse. It was converted in the Park’s second funhouse Whoops in 1938 at the same time as the park added another funhouse, Death Valley Fun House. The name change was a good idea – they couldn’t keep the name Funhouse on one when the park was operating two of them. Philadelphia Toboggan Company renovated Funhouse into Whoops.

Death Valley Fun House marked the beginning of an era of sorts for Hersheypark – there would be two concurrently operating funhouses in the park until the end of the 1965 season. Death Valley was developed by PTC again, and was housed in several spare rooms hardly used in the back of Hershey Park Theatre, right along Spring Creek. The theming for Death Valley didn’t fit Hersheypark very well, especially with the world entering the Second World War. In 1940, the park had Death Valley renovated into a new funhouse – Laugh Land.
When World War II ended, it coincided with the final year of operation of a roller coaster, Wild Cat. PTC and Hersheypark agreed to tear down Wild Cat and build a new roller coaster, the Comet. The addition of Comet required space occupied by Whoops. As such, Whoops was torn down. To avoid losing a funhouse entirely, the park commissioned PTC to design a funhouse to occupy land adjacent the station of the old Wild Cat. This funhouse was Funland.
Laugh Land remained in operation through the 1965 season. During that season it became apparent that Hershey Park Theatre was in deteriorating shape and left the park with no choice but to tear it down. Since Laugh Land was part of Hershey Park Theatre, the park was left with little choice but to remove Laugh Land. This ended the era in which Hersheypark had two funhouses. Funland was kept in operation through the 1972 season. With the park undergoing significant renovation, Funland was removed.

The first dark ride Hersheypark installed was Mill Chute, in 1929. It was built over top of the original pool in Hersheypark which was closed after a new pool was opened in a different location that same year. The Mill Chute was converted into a new ride, The Lost River, by Bill Tracey and Outdoor Dimensional Display Company, in 1963. It was destroyed in the flood of 1972, caused by Hurricane Agnes.

The Pretzel was installed in 1931, replacing the first Skooter ride Hersheypark had. This was then converted into Golden Nugget in 1964. Golden Nugget, the name of the ride used by the park, was a Gold Nugget ride designed by Bill Tracey and Outdoor Dimensional Display Company. Golden Nugget remained in operation through the 1972 season. Again, as part of the major renovations in the park, this was converted into a shooting gallery. Now named Gold Nugget Shooting Gallery, this remained in operation through the 1977 season, when it was torn down and replaced by the Fender Bender bumper cars ride.

Hersheypark went without a dark ride until 1986, when the CinemaVision theater (1982-1985) was converted into an Arrow-Huss Magic Room. This ride was Frontier Meeting House, located in the Pioneer Frontier region of the park. The ride was not very popular and was removed after the 1989 season.

This is a description of Frontier Meeting House, written by the website pastrides.webs.com which unfortunately no longer exists:

“A "magic room" ride (like Dutch Wonderland's Dutch Wonder House) constructed in-house by park workers to save money. Cost approximately $650,000 to build and was supposed to open in 1986, but the opening was delayed to the following season. The ride was an illusion attraction where the outside walls of the room would rotate while benches in the center (where riders sat) remained stationary. Themed as a western meeting house of the late 19th century, complete with a piano player, stove sitter, and choir, accompanied by a speaker preaching the evils of gold mining. Eventually an underground mine was seen by riders, where gold miners were attacked by the "demons of greed." Constructed in the geodesic domed building that formerly housed the Cinemavision attraction and that would later house the Double R-cade and Playdome Arcade (which stands today). Removed due to low popularity (many riders believed it was the same thing as the Cinema Vision attraction was) and relocated to a park in China.


Reese’s Xtreme Cup Challenge was manufactured by Sally Corporation and was opened in 2006. Each car is equipped with four laser guns to shoot at targets.

The ride has a sports theme, with each room themed after different sports. You ride in one of two cars, either Team Peanut Butter or Team Chocolate.

In the first year the ride was open, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups with Caramel were handed out at the ride’s exit.

In 2015, Hersheypark opened its newest roller coaster, Laff Trakk. The roller coaster was manufactured by Maurer AG. The indoor theming was designed by Raven Sun Creative. The ride is called a “glow coaster” because the theming appears to glow in the dark. Laffing Sal, a later version made by Funni-Frite, is located in the entrance queue of Laff Trakk.


The Funhouses

The Dark Rides
Funhouse, operated 1930-1937
Whoops, operated 1938-1945
Death Valley Fun House, operated 1938-1939
Laugh Land, operated 1940-1965
Funland, operated 1946-1972
Mill Chute, operated 1929-1962
The Pretzel, operated 1931-1963
Lost River, operated 1963-1972
Golden Nugget, operated 1964-1972
Frontier Meeting House, operated 1986-1989
Reese’s Xtreme Cup Challenge, operating 2006-present
Laff Trakk, operating 2015-present