So, I was visiting Whalom Park in Lunenberg, MA in 2000 – the park’s final year. One year earlier I had written a story about that park for The Providence Journal, but now I was trying to gather information about the park’s former Pirates Den dark ride that had been lost to fire in 1982.
The park staff had little or no recollection of the ride. But I picked up an interesting tidbit. “Salisbury Beach has a Pirate’s Den,” declared a Whalom staffer in his 40s. “Not really the same as the one we had here, but same kind of cars. I haven’t been out to Salisbury in a while, but I heard they changed the name to something else.”
As soon as I got home, I called the only park I knew of that was still operating in Salisbury – Pirates Fun Park. I was fortunate to reach the park’s owner Brian Mulcahy on the first try. I told him I was editor of laffinthedark.com and wanted to know if his park still had a dark ride. Mulcahy seemed pleased that I called. He proudly stated that yes, he operated Kastle Frankenstein – a dark ride that replaced Pirates Den after the 1998 season. He said he bought the Pirate ride from Mountain park in Holyoke, MA after that park shuttered in 1987. And that his Kastle used the very same cars and track as the Pirate ride, but his staff had rethemed the exterior and interior. He told me that he’d welcome me and/or our website’s creative director Bill Luca anytime at this park; just call him a day ahead of time.
Shortly after the phone call, it occurred to me that this was the very last operating dark ride in the state of Massachusetts. I called Bill Luca with the good news as I knew he’d want to write this story; he being a long-time Bay State resident. But I really wanted to get up there and check it out for myself.
So in July 2001, me and my son Evan, then six, headed for Salisbury Beach. Upon approaching the amusement area we spied the miniature golf course that I believe was the Jurassic Mini-Golf — its signature T-Rex looming large over the other displays. Evan LOVED dinosaurs, so I just had to stop and shoot this photo of him near the T-Rex. (And notice the dinosaurs on Evan’s shirt).
After the brief phot shoot, we sought out a parking lot and began exploring the area. Having a camera in Salisbury for the first time, I became more cognizant of the photo opportunities, and captured these two images.
Soon, we arrived at Pirates Fun Park and reported to the office for Brian Mulcahy. Brian welcomed Evan and I with open arms and was eager to start his tour of the park by showing us the vintage photos of Salisbury on his office wall. He was proud to inform us that his park was located on the very same strip once navigated by the Wildcat roller coaster, showing us “then and now” aerial photos that documented it.
From there he led us to the midway which had a descent assortment of rides including a Ferris Wheel and a Tilt-A-Whirl. He gave us a brief history of every ride and how he obtained it. The park had been in operation since 1979.
Of course, Brian knew the main purpose of our visit, and it wasn’t too long until we arrived at Kastle Frankenstein.
For you fans of Knoebels Amusement Resort, Kastle Frankenstein used the same the same model cars that Knoebels currently operates in its Haunted Mansion. They are the late model tub-shaped cars made by the Pretzel Amusement Ride Company, and here are two photos I shot of them in the Kastle queue.
Mulcahy explained to us that a local company Boneyard Productions (www.boneyardproductions.com) had done the lions share of the retheming inside and out, pointing out the attention to detail on the façade as I captured here.
Since it wasn’t a particularly busy that day, he offered Evan and I a short, lights-on walkthrough. It would a first for Evan, and he was thrilled with the invitation. Before we entered through the double doors, I made one request of Brian – could he please mute the horrific soundtrack being looped over PA speakers both outside and inside the ride. The digital loop was that of a male presumably conducting an exorcism or an altar sacrifice ceremony, praying in tongues while his female subject/victim screamed in agony. This was grating on my nerves, so I was quite relieved when he lowered the volume.
Brian gave us a fascinating walkthrough along the track, proudly displaying the props that he and his brother Tim had either created and/or repurposed from Pirates Den. I won’t share anymore details or any interior photos here. Instead, I urge you to read Bill Luca’s outstanding feature story at this link:
We emerged from the exit doors seeing about 10 people waiting in line, and with that, we bid Brian a quick thank-you and goodbye. But before we left, Brian asked me if I had any suggestions to improve his dark ride. “Just one,” I replied smiling. “Replace that gward-awful chanting and screaming with something more relevant to Frankenstein. I’ll email you some MP3 files when I get home.”
After leaving Pirates Fun Park, Evan and I took a quick dip in the Atlantic Ocean, and on the way home, I made it a point to locate and stop at this Dairy Queen, which I think was on Salisbury’s Elm Street.
With a full stomach and a full day of fun under his belt, Evan fell asleep in his car seat as soon as we entered Route 95 South. With that I tuned into an oldies radio station, and the first song I heard was Carole King’s 1971 hit, “It’s Too Late.”
And it’s too late, baby now, it’s too late,
Though we really did try to make it.
Little did I know that was a harbinger of things to come for Pirates Fun Park.
Word came down in 2004 that the park would shutter its gates and that there was apparently no takers for the hardware and displays of Kastle Frankenstein. It was the end of an era in Salisbury Beach, and for that matter, in Massachusetts. The parcel which hosted amusements since the early 1900s to house condos. Hearing that, I considered myself very fortunate that I got to share one last great experience there with my son.
According to “Shaheen’s Fun-O-Rama Blogspot, the former Shaheen’s is now the parking lot of the Pavilion.
To reiterate, of all the New England amusement parks, Salisbury is the one I visited the least. So again, I welcome you to share your memories in the comments below on any and of all of the fun rides and amusements in this famous seaside resort.
Additional Photo Credits:
To see a commercial for the former Pirates Fun Park, go here: