further promote the scare-factor of their attraction,
during the 1960's Rocky Point claimed they had
a genuine nurse stationed by the Castle of Terror.
Necessary, of course, should this horrific ride
cause any fainting or heart problems. One could
imagine several seasonal employees had their chance
to wear that nurse uniform over the years, without
ever attending a day of medical school. The gimmick
worked, for the lines at the Castle were always
long, and the attraction was one of the last to
shut down as the park closed for the evening.
Rocky Point now had two world-class dark rides
gracing their midway, more than any other park
in the region. And each season, Rocky Point would
add a new ride or attraction that only bolstered
the previous year's attendance. But changes were
on the horizon that would forever alter the outdoor
amusement industry as we knew it then, changes
that would also dictate the future of Rocky Point.
the mid-1970's, the amusement park business was
in the midst of what most would call its darkest
hours. Small, traditional amusement parks were
closing across the country, and New England's
fun spots were no exception. Once considered to
be Rocky Point's key competition, nearby Crescent
Park had fallen on hard times. After years of
management changes and desperate attempts at survival,
the gates finally closed for good in 1978.
Park in nearby North Dartmouth, Massachusetts
managed to hang on until 1987, when it locked
its gate shortly after an ownership change and
a series of unfortunate incidents. Realizing the
opportunities at hand, Rocky Point pulled out
all the stops to get these customers out to Warwick
During the next several years, millions were spent
introducing many new rides, including the park's
signature Log Flume. Each year at least one spectacular
new attraction was debuted, with rides imported
from around the world lining the midway, and Rocky
Point never looked better. And as the second oldest
amusement park in America, surely Rocky Point
was here to stay.
most of the changes to Rocky Point were positive,
the Castle underwent a most unfortunate transformation.
In the early 1970's, the name was changed from
"Castle of Terror" to "House of Horrors" - the
same signage salvaged from the former Chambers'
ride. This non-descript moniker could have appeared
on any attraction at any fair or carnival - why
not keep the title that aptly described the one-of-a-kind
architecture and attraction? The Viking, who once
thrilled riders inside, was now displayed outside,
busy spearing a dragon whose mouth and claws held
various blood-spattered department store mannequin
appendages. Both needed a new coat of paint, and
the broken light sockets in the dragon's eyes
told the careful observer these were not new stunts.
Why they were put out front, one can only imagine.
The stunts inside the Castle were also in a state
of disrepair by this time, with some mechanical
stunts inoperable for several seasons. One reason
for the decline of the Castle might be explained
by the appearance of another dark ride during
this period. In 1971, a triple-decker Witches
Mill from Pinfari made an appearance on the Rocky
Point midway. A steel walled, portable dark ride
attraction, it truly paled when compared with
the original Castle. Most riders apparently felt
the same, forgoing the boring ride through darkness
with few generic stunts that did little to elicit
any real terror. After two short seasons at Rocky
Point, the Witches Mill was replaced with a new
MACK Musik Express that remained a Rocky Point
favorite for over 20 years.
Unchanged throughout the 1970's, the Castle went
through one final renovation in the early 1980's.
All but two of the famed Bill Tracy stunts were
removed and replaced by locally made stunts.
Rocky Point was able to postpone its ultimate
fate for a few summers longer than the other local
parks, it could not escape the inevitable.
You've heard it all before - the vintage carousel
sold at auction a few years earlier, bank loan
defaults and overdue taxes. A sad tale too often
heard in the amusement industry.
Unable to survive the constant management changes
and poor business decisions of the early 1990's,
Rocky Point Park gave the last ride in September
of 1995. The auctioneer's gavel fell during the
spring of 1996, and it took only two short days
to unload almost 150 years of memories here on
Left behind were the ghostly remains of one more
shuttered amusement park, everything else having
been sold to the highest bidder.
sixty years after the devastation of 1938, it
looks as if another hurricane has wreaked havoc
on Rocky Point's once magical midway. The graffiti
artists have turned this park into their own art
gallery, covering every square inch of space with
every imaginable quote or autograph. Any object
heavy enough to serve as a battering ram has been
called into service, crumpling the doors of every
concession up and down the midway. A stroll through
the battered remains conjures up memories of where
this ride or that game used to stand. Weeds and
windswept debris fill the voids left by the park's
ride line-up. It is practically impossible to
trace the path of the infamous Log Flume, as overgrown
vines now cover the giant cement footers of the
park's signature ride. The Flume's own reservoir
now harbors several life forms in its murky brown
waters, and bubbles rise to the surface to let
the wary visitor know that someone else has claimed
this park for their own.
the saddest sight of all is the Castle of Terror.
While the entire attraction's contents and building
were successfully auctioned in 1996, the castle
structure was left behind. Eerily standing over
the disarray left behind by years of vandalism,
the Castle stands out as the centrally recognizable
structure on the park's midway.
But the neglect is now taking a toll here as well.
The grainy cement façade is crumbling away, revealing
the wood and webbed-metal supports. The paint
has been reduced to nothing after years of abuse
by the salty sea breezes that blow off Narragansett
Bay. Plywood sheets obscure all openings and the
electric tracks have been torn up, unsettling
reminders that there will be no more rides in
Once lauded as the best dark ride in New England,
the Castle of Terror now sits crumbling in this
The World's Largest Shore Dinner Hall hung on
for a few years after the park's auction, but
finally served its last bucket of chowder and
all-you-can-eat clam cakes. During the summer
of 2000, fire broke out in the former Skooter
building, destroying three adjacent buildings
as well. Local officials have stressed their concern
over the remaining structures, as they see the
park as nothing more than a target for vandals
In late summer 2004, another fire claimed the
"Big House," a former residential building on
park grounds. And the Castle of Terror façade
continues to deteriorate with each passing day.
A beautiful seaside location with breathtaking
views of Narragansett Bay and Newport beyond drew
the summer crowds to this spot on Warwick Neck
over 150 years ago, similar to the beginnings
of most seaside amusement resorts.
But the desirable location will most likely spell
the end for amusements at Rocky Point. Today,
erecting ocean-view residences is much more desirable
to developers than operating an amusement park.
there have been several local efforts to save Rocky Point,
or at least preserve public shoreline access for future
generations, no one knows what fate lies ahead for this
much sought-after piece of real estate. For now, the Castle
of Terror sits quietly, waiting … a haunting reminder
of what was known as the Playground of New England.