are invited inside for a walking tour of the Spook House. I
push open the doors, separating Jason's white mask. Now inside
among the ghosts and goblins, I feel the presence of Leon Cassidy.
I swear, I can. In this big open room, I can visualize Leon
laying down the track more than 70 years ago. Before I look
at the stunts, I examine the track. It's the typical Pretzel
stock, twisted throughout the oddly configured building. And
there is a section of the building where the incoming and outgoing
rails are very close to one another. This will give riders the
illusion of an oncoming collision. Of that I'm sure.
can't wait to ride, but first, I need to find my pal,
that famous Pretzel stunt, Al E. Gator. The Spook House
has one of two known remaining Gators; the other is in
Sylvan Beach, New York's LaffLand.
LaffLand's Gator, the Spook House's rendition is also
animated mechanically, by the weight of the car.
can easily make Al E. emerge and retreat into his black
barrel by stepping on and off the metal floor pedal. He
is flanked by Frankenstein's monster and what appears
to be a dismembered bride next to a facsimile of Tor Johnson
of Ed Wood movie fame.
it's off to check out an equally famous Pretzel stunt,
the Jersey Devil. This stunt exemplifies the Pretzel black
box legacy: A papier mache devil head, suspended by a
cable pulled to an opening in the box by the weight of
Sylvan's LaffLand also has a Jersey Devil and I distinctly
recall one in the Pretzel at my former hometown playground:
Crescent Park in Riverside, Rhode Island. Another black
box Pretzel stunt is a green goblin; his head turning
from side-to-side, his palms facing outward as if to put
a curse on you.
is the "Giant" stunt created by the former Animated Display
Creators company. This Giant looks like he played one
too many football games at nearby Meadowlands. In reality,
he once resided in a dark ride on Atlantic City's Steel
Pier. Also rescued from the Steel Pier dark ride are four
dazzling illustrations on plywood panels. They include
a fearsome mantis and a sea creature.
quick scan of the room reveals a host of other ghosts,
most of them created by Al from mannequin parts. One of
them, a ghoul in a blue windbreaker, has a disturbing
resemblance to a former creepy next-door neighbor of mine.
A trio of bloody victims is nearby.
a rotund green ghost resembling the gluttonous spirit
in the Ghostbusters movies. And there's a monster wearing
an outfit flamboyant enough to embarrass Liberace. Underneath
the creature is a rat feasting on assorted body parts.
Like the "Phantom" in the loading area, some other Spook
House residents are retired targets from Al's Bonanza
shooting gallery. They include a gooney bird, an owl,
a woodpecker and skulls on a fence.An
alien holding her baby and a spider in a birdcage round
out the cast.
Spook House relies on the Pretzel's old floor-activated
hardware for sound effects: The striking of a cymbal
to produce the sound of broken glass and the tipping
of an oblong box filled with pieces of metal to simulate
the crashing of two cars.