“It was a spool of black thread. We had them hanging down from the ceiling, hitting your face. In the dark, psychologically, we had them. They get hit in the face with this thread and they're saying ‘What’s this?’ For ten cents or whatever it cost, it was effective. We used to put 2 or 3 sets of them up in a ride. We always got a kick out of that.”  

 'Fun Stuff' was Mr. Cassidy's term for what we call 'stunts', the spooks. When it came to the fun stuff, Pretzel was 'low tech'. The primary thing was always the ride in the dark. The spooks were simple, sometimes funny, almost quaint by today's standards. Pretzel would often just supply the ride system and the park hired their own craftspeople to populate the interior with scenes and creatures. Pretzel never forgot the "Tunnel Of Love" aspect of their rides, that the darkness was the major element. But they were also sure to break up any romantic interludes with a crashing cymbal, a gaggle of cowbells or the jarring rattle of ball bearings tumbling in a metal trough.

     It reminds me of my first dark ride as a kid, Treasure Island at Revere Beach. The ride was mostly just dark; very little in the way of stunts. But that darkness got to you, especially when
the car would go over a bump and then hit the cymbal or noise box. The effect was that your car had crashed into something and jumped the track; that something had gone wrong and you were in real danger and could be stuck in the dark for a long time, if not forever. Now, that was scary.

 

An array of Pretzel's earliest "Funmakers". Photo at left shows the treadle in the wheel path hinged to the iron thrust bar which pushed the rod forward to activate the stunt in the box. The action was totally "car-powered".
At right: Papier mache skull in black stunt box. The push rod was positioned to enter the bottom front of the enclosure, then linked to a lever which raised the skull upward. Pretzel had several such stunts, offered with different heads, lit by a small light fixture at the top of the opening.
 
The 'Noise Trough', a metal box filled with large ball bearings which was tipped to make the balls roll to one end and then rocked back again; this was a track-activated device intended to make an alarming noise.
 
A simple string of cow-bells connected by cable to a track lever. The bells would be given a vigorous shaking when the car rolled by.
 
Stunt known as the "Jersey Devil". This was another papier mache pop-up similar to the skull. The heads were impaled on a vertical rod that kept them aligned as they ascended.
 
Another basic but effective device that startled riders: an iron rod would be raised when the wheel rolled over one end and then dropped forcefully on the cymbal when the car passed and released the lever..


From the beginning, right up through the late forties, Pretzel was using 'car-powered' stunts; hinged cast-iron bars set into the floor and positioned so that the car wheels would roll over them, throwing a linkage to cause a devil's head to pop up, or the emergence of "Al E. Gator" from his barrel just ahead of the passengers. No motors, no relays, no air cylinders... low-tech.
They would use similar means to trip the noise makers, gadgets that would set up such a racket that riders would think the car had knocked over a trash barrel.