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    The Dinosaur Den!  

 

To capitalize on a renewed interest in dinosaurs, Spadola wanted to theme the former  Mystery Ride to one of prehistoric creatures. The track was lengthened and an extension of the upper level was created out over the midway. On either side of the extension, Spadola created two massive dinosaurs. The one on the left was poised with its front and rear legs up, as if it were about to stomp the patrons. The one on the right stood erect with its arms outstretched. Both had red flashing eyes, large sharp teeth and jaws that opened and closed. The rocking masks remained, but the walls around them were repainted to look like a cave.    Spadola also recreated images from the children's book  "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendack. The building itself was covered with lumpy celastic over chicken wire and painted to look like rock outcroppings. Roger Fortin, supervisor at the park for nearly forty years, was the third man responsible for the construction of the dark rides and fun houses. He clearly recalls one day when he was building the rock surface with Spadola. It was November of 1963, and it was bitterly cold. The temperature seemed more extreme because they had to soak the celastic in acetone to make it pliable, Another worker walked over to them about 4:00 in the afternoon to tell them that John F. Kennedy had just been shot. Seven years before that, Kennedy had celebrated his 39th. birthday at Lincoln Park.

 

   

One amusing renovation was to the lettering. The ride was renamed "Dinosaur Den", which had the same numbers of letters as "Mystery Ride". However, the letters aren't spaced the same. Since they were all attached to motors bolted into the building, it would have been too much work to re-arrange them. New lettering was simply placed over the old. So for over twenty years, the name of the ride was "DINOSAU   RDEN." The ride was a big success for the park. In fact, it was so successful that they ordered a seventh car to increase capacity. Spadola used bas-relief on one of the original cars to make a mold of it. Then he re-created the bas-relief in fiberglass on the new car. "On a busy, busy day" said Fortin of the cars, "You could have them all going on the track..... it was timed perfectly".  As far as my memory can recall, the circuit began with the car curving to the right and slamming through a set of heavy wood doors.  The car immediately turned to the left and after a few yards slammed through a set of heavy wood doors. The car immediately    turned left and after a   few yards slammed through another set of doors with a tiger painted on them. The car would then   turn sharply right 90 degrees and begin heading uphill. The first stunt was on the right. The car swung again to the right, about 90 degrees, passing an emergency exit and continuing uphill. Another stunt was on the left. Another right turn, about 90 degrees, was met with the next prop on the right. The car  would then turn 180 degrees to the left. Another stunt would be on the right. Then after turning 180 degrees to the right and passing a stunt to the left, the car  leveled  off.  It would slam through a set of doors, then another set, travel out onto the overhang, pass by a stunt  of a cave type person at the center of the overhang, swing around to the left 180 degrees past a Tiger stunt and then slam back through another set of doors.

    

  

 

After passing through yet another set of doors, the car began its decent. It passed by  a stunt on the left, turned to the right about 180 degrees, passed a stunt on the left and then swung around 180 degrees to the left. Another stunt was on the right, as was an emergency exit down a set of stairs. The car would turn 90 degrees left and pass by an enormous stunt on the right. It was about 20 feet long and dropped down through the floor. Then the car swung 180 degrees to the left, passed by a stunt on the left and leveled off. A 90-degree right turn revealed a stunt on the right.  The car was then traveling at the far right end of the building. Then another 90-degree turn to the right was met with another set of doors. After passing through them, the car was traveling in a sort of tunnel. Looking to the left, you could see the station and the midway. looking to the right, you'd see an animated stunt. Originally, it was a caveman dunking a cavewomen into a big pot. The last operational stunt  was a Frankenstein, which bobbed up and down behind a stone wall. After passing that prop, the car collided with another set of doors, turned left 180 degrees, went through more doors and back across the tunnel area, only this time a little closer to the station. More doors were hit! The car took a sharp turn to the right into the final set of doors and then back into the station.                  

 
 

    

Laff In The Dark Co-Editor George La Cross enjoys the former Mountain Park Dinosaur Den Cars, now running at  Nightmare Manor, Casino Pier, Seaside Heights NJ.

The Former Mountain Park Dino-Den cars  were masterpieces that are still, to this day, fondly remembered for the "Monster" Looking faces on the fronts as well as their comfortable ride!

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