Following the publication in 2004 of "Fear And Fantasy"
and "Send 'Em
Out Laffing", Laff In The Dark's Premiere
Presentation trilogy now draws to a dramatic conclusion with
what is arguably the last great chapter in dark ride history:
the life and work of artist, scenic designer and troubled
genius William Tracy, a fabricator of demons reputedly
beset by many of his own. Nearly four decades after his death, Tracy
remains the most controversial yet enigmatic figure in the funhouse
and dark ride amusement realm, haunting us to this day from the faint twilight that flickers between
fact and legend.
For authorship of this installment
we turned to Ralph Grassi, lifelong resident and devoted historian
of Wildwood in Cape May County, the New Jersey resort town where Tracy crafted his legions of surreal creatures. Driven by vivid memories of the Hunt's Pier Skua,
Whacky Shack, JungleLand and Golden Nugget, Ralph relentlessly sought to illuminate
the obscure past of the long-departed creator of those celebrated rides. All the while, Tracy's ghost roamed a twisted trail grown ever-colder, beckoning from the dark corners of rumor and speculation, only to mockingly evaporate when confronted by the glare
Public records document Tracy's birth, death, immediate family and commercial enterprises, but the riddle of who Bill Tracy really was stubbornly persists. Details of his early life and the factors that informed the uniquely unsettling qualities of his work are still veiled in mystery. The
more we contemplate Tracy apart from his legacy,
the more he eludes us, fading further into the irretrievable past - his final dark ride to eternity.