can you say about a Pretzel dark ride that's
been running in the same place for fifty years,
especially when that place is Coney Island,
the legendary mecca of playtime and amusement
for as long as rides have turned? Spook-A-Rama
has always had a special place in our hearts
and when we realized it was going to turn fifty
years old this summer, we knew that this was
the time to both celebrate its legacy and to
present our Laff Achievement Award to the Vourderis
family, who have owned, cared for and updated
the ride since 1983.
in a class by itself when it opened during that
summer of 1955. Fred Garms and Paul Kleinstein,
together with Bill Cassidy's Pretzel Amusement
Company, put together a quarter-mile course
for 30 cars in and out of two buildings filled
with animated talking creatures. Competing with
about a dozen dark rides then operating at Coney,
Spook-A-Rama topped them all. In May of 1965,
Garms acquired the Shangri-La Ha Ha ride from
Jimmy Onorato at Steeplechase Park for $3600
and added its cars to the Spook fleet. More
cars from New Hampshire's Canobie Lake later
came aboard. Retiring in 1983, Garms turned
Spook-A-Rama and the Wonder Wheel over to the
late Denos Vourderis who transformed them and
the surrounding properties into today's Deno's
Wonder Wheel Amusement Park.
As the last permanently-installed
dark ride in Coney Island, Spook-A-Rama has
gone through many stages of evolution over its
half-century reign on Jones Walk. It's shorter
now, and confined to one building across from
the Wonder Wheel. Yet it remains, as ever, the
classic Coney Island spook ride experience.
Sights, sounds, smells and perhaps even spirits
from the golden days of Coney can still be encountered
along its twisted track.
Happy 50th Birthday, Spook-A-Rama!
Steve, George, Bill and Dennis
display two of the original
Spook-A-Rama signs which adorned
the first building
in the ride's early days. Three
of these signs, each a four-foot
wide section of Spook-A-Rama
were graciously donated by the
Vourderis family to the Laff
In The Dark archives.
so a thriving Coney Island embraces its glorious past while looking
ahead to a vibrant future. Saluting Deno's with our Laff Achievement
Award continues our long-standing admiration, support and recognition
of Coney and its time-honored amusement heritage. Spook-A-Rama's silver
anniversary celebration came on the heels of the Wonder Wheel's 85th
birthday in April, and just three weeks before the announcement of
the city's purchase and preservation of the Surf Avenue B&B Carousel.
2005 has indeed been a very special year for Coney Island. Laff in
the Dark is proud to have been a part of it.