So wow! It’s 1966, I’m age 11 and I’ve just discovered that the Mystery Ride is no more. It’s now the flashy Monster Ride with a red and white color scheme and an extended overhang on the second floor balcony. There are no sound effects being piped outside. By now, I’m used to hearing the screeching jungle birds and the maddening pounding of the drums when I enter the park from the side parking lot. The silence is rather unsettling. The jungle scenery has been replaced with a faux cave setup both on the balcony and the in the loading area.
The façade is now inhabited with Spadola’s bizarre interpretive renderings of the classic Universal movie monsters. Quite frankly, these are the classic monsters of an alternate universe, not the Universal creatures I grew up loving. Spadola’s Mummy has werewolf-like nails and wore suspenders. Frankenstein’s Monster is more reminiscent of a space alien with it’s claws and tentacles. Being a huge fan of the Creature of the Black Lagoon, I find it rather disturbing that there wasn’t an accurate rendition of the Gill Man. He is presented multiple times in the loading but most illustrations seems to portray a real life person or an alien.
Fortunately this is one illustration that was somewhat on the mark, otherwise it could have been a pivotal moment in my childhood.
The rest of the “cast” was simply nightmarish! Not one was in my circle of favorite monsters.
Getting in line with friends from our church parish, I notice that the ride cars have remained unchanged. Despite the unsettling vibe the façade gives me, I’m still excited and eagerly await new thrills behind the entrance doors. You can imagine my shock when I realize the interior is unchanged!
I feel betrayed! My 11-yeard-old mind is questioning the integrity of what I hold sacred about amusement parks. How could they not fulfill what they promised?
After about a dozen or so rides, I start to rationalize – hey, it could be worse – at least the Mystery Ride is still intact.
When I spoke to Dom Spadola in 1977, he told me that he wanted to convert the interior to a monster theme to match the façade, but park management opted not to. The kicker is that Lincoln Park’s sister park, Mountain Park, also converted its Mystery Ride façade to something new with Spadola at the creative helm — Dinosaur Den.
As I recall, there were no dinosaurs inside it, BUT – there was an accurate rendition of Frankenstein’s MONSTER! Go figure!
There were also some scenes that wouldn’t fit in a jungle or the Jurassic period, like this one below.
So ask yourself this — given a choice would you have taken the Monster Ride or Dinosaur Den at Lincoln Park? Of course, I preferred the Monster Ride!
Looking back on it, Lincoln Park’s Mystery/Monster Ride was probably Dom Spadola’s best surviving example of his work. Regardless, my admiration for Dom is unsurpassed. He brought so much joy to New England parks with his creativity, among them Whalom Park, Crescent Park, and Salisbury Beach.
During some of my visits to Lincoln Park, the original Mystery Ride sound effects played inside and out of the Monster Ride, making it a delightful experience. But after May 1982, the ride became a shell of itself. According to The Herald News (Fall River), a fire was deliberately set in the Monster Ride. Dartmouth Deputy Police Chief Kenneth Barry said he believed a rider stepped out of a slow-moving car inside the darkened building and set fire to papier mache wall coverings among the various monster displays. Barry believed the rider then stepped back into the car and exited the ride before the fire was noticed.
Ironically, four years after Lincoln Park’s 1987 closing, fire destroyed the ballroom and seven buildings, including the Monster Ride. Two years later another fire destroyed the pavilion and some food concessions.
Fast forward to 2000 and I get to ride in a former Mystery/Monster Ride car! Here I am below, right. And to be honest, I don’t recall a single thing inside the ride — all I remember is feeling like I was a kid at Lincoln Park again!
Here’s how it happened: shortly after 1987, the cars and track from the Lincoln Park ride were transported to Seaside Heights, New Jersey where they became the rolling stock for the Nightmare Manor dark ride at Casino Pier. The circa 1961 Lincoln Park cars were painted and retrofitted with restraints for their service in Nightmare Manor, which like the former Lincoln Park ride, had a brief trek over the balcony.
The transportation hardware from the double-decker dark ride was a perfect fit for Nightmare Manor, which like the former Lincoln Park ride, had a brief trek over the balcony.
Unfortunately, Nightmare Manor has since vanished from the Casino Pier midway, thus ending the long, exciting reign of Lincoln Park’s mysterious Monster Ride!
Members of Things That Aren’t There Anymore: Southeastern Massachusetts Edition
To see a short video of Lincoln Park past and present, go here:
To see the sights and sounds of the Mystery/Monster Ride, go here: