Classic Terror In The Lone Star State:
The Ride and Laff At The State Fair Of Texas
by William Rutledge III
NOTE: This ride is no longer in operation at this location.
The ride has been acquired by the author who plans to reopen it at a later date.
I was about eight years old. My mouth was dry, my heart pounding. As I stood with my small sweaty palm resting in the grip of my fathers assuring hand, the sweet aromas and exciting sounds of the midway had dwindled away; no they had been absorbed in a mixture of curiosity, dread, fear and intimidation. The moment of truth had come and the more I wanted to rise to the challenge of going through the haunted house to prove that I wasnt scared, the more I wanted to wait until next year. "Next year I will be ready", I told myself as I chickened out and headed once again for kiddy land. Little did I know then, that the "haunted house" is named Ride and Laff and is a working piece of amusement history hearkening back to an earlier time.
Built in 1941 by Mr. and Mrs. Fred McFalls, Jr., the Ride and Laff is a journey into a past when thrills were produced with papier mache, painted card board cut-outs, even sheets blown by fans for ghostly forms. The ride was built upon technology and innovation provided by none other than the legendary William Cassidy of Pretzel Amusement Ride Company of Bridgeton, New Jersey. The Ride and Laff was the only dark ride in the State Fair of Texas until the early 1970s when the fair was briefly visited by an attraction known as the Flight to Mars. It was during this time (1973) that the ride was purchased by its current owners, Amusements, Inc. The Ride and Laff remained virtually unchanged inside and out for many years, but in 1982 the ride was moved to its present home further down the midway. In 1983, the new building equipped with six emergency exits was granted a sprinkler system and smoke detectors. The same year saw the track voltage lowered from 110 to 28 volts AC, as well as the introduction of two new tricks, a flying pterodactyl and the classic collision with and on-coming truck stunt. While waiting in line, guests are treated to a classic scene of the macabre. A witch (the same one which terrified my parents in the 1950s) is stirring her brew with the help of her sidekick, a knife-wielding monkey. All around them are creepy companions such as rats, snakes, severed heads and a vulture. Viewing this scene, one feels as if they are spying on a midnight party deep in the castle. The ride also sports its own animatronic three-piece band, the Boo Band, which plays classic spooky tunes such as the Monster Mash for onlookers outside. A witch and jester also beckon from the tower windows on each side of the castle facade.
While the ride will continue to use the original car and track system, it will see updates in the coming years. Animatronic figures are going to continue replacing some older static props and the ride will become more ghoulish in nature. The Ride and Laff has haunted the State Fair of Texas for half a century and preservation/maintenance efforts will ensure that new generations of patrons will have the chance to visit this gem of dark rides.
NOTE: Please be aware that this ride is
A very special thanks to Charles and Jan Noland, Doug Mortenson, John Currey, Robert Bennett, Miguel Munoz, Norman Morrison, and Bobby Harrison for providing information for this article.
This Article ©1999 William
Rutledge III. Used with permission
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Laff In The Dark unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.
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This page was last updated Sunday, January 16, 2000