The history of Rocky Point’s dark rides, post 1948 reopening, has as many twists and turns as a dark ride track. So to shed a little light on the timeline, hold onto the lap bar and keep your hands and feet inside the car. Here we go!
Rocky Point’s 1948 reopening debuted two dark attractions: the Laff In The Dark dark ride designed by Chambers Engineering, and the Crystal Maze funhouse designed by National Amusement Devices (NAD). Laff In the Dark (LITD).
Laff In The Dark was a cookie-cutter dark ride of its time that originated in the late 1920s. It was invented by legendary ride designer Harry G. Traver to provide parks with a less-costly alterative to the more elaborate dark rides of that era. Chambers Engineering later purchased the rights to the ride from Traver, and began a more aggressive campaign to get the LITDs into amusement parks. So a Chambers LITD was a perfect fit for Rocky Point which was essentially starting again from scratch in 1948. LITDs had a cast of light-up, buzzer-alarmed plywood cutout figures such as the Kicking Mule seen in this patent page.
Laff In The Dark would continue to be a top attraction at Rocky Point Park for 14 years with only slight upgrades made to the interior.
Check out the crowd waiting in line or enjoying the Laff In The Dark façade at the upper right in this vintage postcard. In the upper left you see the small, Crystal Maze funhouse. That mirror maze attraction lasted through the 1951 season. The following year, NAD was hired to enlarge it into a large fun house.
The new Fun House retained the mirror maze and added a second floor with many floor-pad triggered animated figures such as a floating ghost and a clown rising from a coffin.
The park’s dark ride landscape was about to change in 1962. By all accounts, park ownership wanted to bring a Jungleland boat ride to the undeveloped land in the rear of the property. Junglelands, a poor-man’s Disneyland type Jungle Cruise rides, were being commissioned for many parks including Riverside Park (now Six Flags New England) as seen here.
Junglelands were designed by dark ride icon Bill Tracy who was also developing a Haunted House dark ride package to install in existing rides or for new buildings. My sources tell me the plan was to develop a Jungleland in back of the park and to convert Laff In The Dark into the House of Horrors, replacing the Chambers cut-out stunts with Tracy’s gruesome lifelike scenes made of cellastic, papier-mâché and fiberglas. So the park went ahead and started making changes to the Laff In The Dark façade, renaming it House Of Horrors, installing the dragon holding body parts, and drawing frightening illustrations. But hold that severed limb! Plans fell through for an outdoor Jungleland and instead the ride was to go indoors! And wait! The Tracy scenes were too large for the Laff In The Dark building (now renamed House of Horrors). So the park decided to gut out the Fun House and make it the Tracy horror house. And, as I described in my earlier blog, for the 1962 season, the Laff In The Dark had a House of Horrors façade!
Across the midway, the Fun House was being converted into the Castle of Terror with the park staff doing everything in-house except for the displays and sound effects.
During that off-season, Laff In The Dark/House of Horrors was completely gutted out, and Tracy’s jungle displays were installed inside; the LITD wood ride cars replaced with steel, track-driven Jeep replicas.
Jungleland opened in 1963 but was plagued by the mechanical issues of having an outdoor ride function inside the confines of a medium-size building. The bugs were ironed out in 1964, and in my opinion, it was one of New England’s best dark rides ever.
The Castle of Terror opened in 1963, but it was fully functional for the 1964 season.
The Castle featured many gory scenes – the likes of which most of hadn’t ever seen before in the movies or in a wax museum. But to the best of my knowledge, nobody complained! See the bottom of the page below from Bill Tracy’s 1963 display catalog.
New park ownership in 1970 marked many changes at Rocky Point. The Jungleland building was demolished and replaced with the Sky Diver. The midway was expanded into previously undeveloped land. And the Castle of Terror was renamed the House of Horrors. The 1962 sign, which had been in storage for eight years, replaced the Castle sign, leading to all kinds of confusion. This was a Castle, NOT a House, right? Little did most people know that H of H was supposed to be the name of the original ride! A giant Viking, one of the most impactful displays inside the Castle, was moved to the facade overhang, slaying the dragon which had also been in storage for eight years.
So that’s the “Who’s on first, what’s on second, I don’t know’s on third” timeline of the Rocky Point’s two prominent dark attractions. I’ll elaborate more on them, and on other Rocky Point dark rides, in future posts. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about the work of Bill Tracy, check out the feature story at this link.
And look for this sign in Rocky Point State Park to find the location of the former Castle of Terror/House of Horrors.
(Image credits: Bob Goldsack, Jake Tasho, Rhode Island Historical Society, laffinthedark.com, Anita Cerri Ferla, You Must Be This Tall, Tom Dwyer)