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.
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.
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".
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 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.