When the rotating cars came on the scene, it wasn't practical to use stunts that were activated on the car's approach. The stunt might be out of view if the car's spinning caused riders to be facing the wrong way. Pretzel's "Illusions" made for use with this ride were figures that were constantly lit and in continual motion so that they were always "on" and more likely to be seen. Built into black plywood boxes, this package of stunts included a skull, a bull or cow character, "Annie the Witch", or "Spirit Hands" (a ghostly face moving forward and back with two hands gyrating below), a gorilla peering through a bamboo curtain, various faces turning left to
right or nodding, a rotating hypnotic spiral disk, and a grinning animated dancing
skeleton who went by the name of "Shimmyin' Skeleton".
This set of stunts could be found in many parks during the fifties.

" Fun Stuff "
Here are some of the stunts or "Illusions" that Pretzel furnished for its rides.


Top left: the Cow or Bull character with a motorized up and down jaw motion.

Top right: Al E. Gator, a popular Pretzel gag which actually goes back to the thirties. Car activated, the barrel would tip forward and the gator would roll out on roller skate wheels.

Upper left and right: two faces with continuous side to side movement, mounted in black box enclosures.

Lower left: Skull and Witch figures with up and down jaw movements, originally mounted in black boxes.

Right: "Shimmyin' Skeleton", dancing in the dark.


We asked Mr. Cassidy a few questions about the stunts. He recalled that the ghostly figures that were used in the boxed stunts were papier mache masks purchased from the American Mask and Wig Co. of Finley, Ohio.

Laff In The Dark:  Did Pretzel later acquire the assets of American Mask?

Mr. Cassidy:  " Well, I bought their molds…yes I guess we did. Then Stevenson Engineering in Indiana is where we bought the little motors to run those things, little fractional horsepower motors. They went out of business."

Laff In The Dark:  Did Pretzel then begin making its own masks for the stunts?

Mr. Cassidy:  "Yeah, we made a few, but not too many. That was in the latter days. We made some out of papier mache. But we subbed them out to Bill Lawrence to make. They did it in their cellar, his wife and his family. Elmer Lawrence was his father. His sons Bill and Paul worked for us. I set Paul up in a pizza store for 17 years. First, it was just open nights and he’d leave our place at 3 p.m. to go work there. But then he had to be out there all day. It turned into a big-time business, made money from day one. In fact, Elmer’s wife worked in the sub shop. "

Laff In The Dark: When did black light start to be used for stunts:

Mr. Cassidy: "That was probably in the early fifties. We had small incandescent black light bulbs at first. Those burned very hot, though. Of course, later we had the fluorescent tubes.

Laff In The Dark:  How long did you keep using noise makers like the cymbal and noise trough?

Mr. Cassidy: "Well, we used those up until we started the double decker rides in the fifties. Then we started using tape machines with eerie sounds. Those came from Mackenzie Electronics in California.