The safety bar drops as my heart pounds. The car lurches forward crashing through the doors into the darkness as the sounds of the Wildwood Boardwalk quickly fade behind me. My white t-shirt is set aglow and like a fluorescent ghost I begin my journey into the nether world. My crippled car twists and turns its way through askew scenes horror, leaving toppled tombstones in my wake. This is not a nightmare, nor a spooky bedtime story. This is a dark ride like the many that dotted the Jersey shore amusement areas and beyond. I must find the man responsible for these twisted memories but this will not be an easy task, for he remains as mystifying as the images he created.
The man is Bill Tracy, who with his company created and re-themed dark rides and haunted houses throughout the United States and Canada. And Tracy also designed façades for numerous dark rides throughout the country.
Many involved in the amusement industry know his name, yet very little is known about the man himself. Since his passing in 1974, Bill Tracy has become almost mythical. The work that was created from his illustrations would be considered crude in comparison to today's
element that makes his work so unique. A few Tracy-themed attractions can still be experienced in older parks throughout the country, but in recent years, several Tracy rides have vanished with the closings of their host parks.
Today when I venture into a Tracy- themed ride, I can honestly say that my level of excitement is that of when I was a child, for I know now that I am truly staring at a ghost - a relic from my past. All of those wonderful ingredients are present to
take me back to the time of my youth, growing up with the Wildwood Boardwalk in my own backyard. As children, these spooky rides soon lose their effect after all and become almost hokey and laughable. But as the young dark rider grows, so does his desire for those days of his youth - and to learn more about the rides that made such a lasting impression… the attractions that produced such horrible pleasantries I cannot seem to shake off. A large portion of the Tracy legend remains a puzzle - with a lot of missing pieces. I'll attempt to fit some of them together to provide a picture of the man, his company
and those he employed.