The story of “Don” – a stunt from Paragon Park’s Kooky Kastle dark ride, and how it found an appreciative young collector from Warwick.
Standing 7-feet, 10-inches tall and weighing in at about 150 lbs., the wiry green man from Nantasket Beach, MA is ready to rumble in his new home. Made of wood, metal, and plaster, Don startled riders in Paragon Park’s Kooky Kastle from 1964 to 1984.
While the locals nick-named him Obie in the park’s later years, it’s apparent that his name was originally Don as seen in the inscription above. As of yesterday, he’s one of the many prized possessions of 19-year-old Sean McCarthy, an avid collector of amusement park memorabilia, most of it relics from Warwick’s former Rocky Point Park.
So what influenced Sean to venture out of state to purchase a piece not of Rocky Point Park?
In 1964, Paragon Park ownership commissioned dark ride designer Bill Tracy to convert a single-story dark ride named the JigSaw to the two-story Kooky Kastle. Here are three frame grabs from 8mm home movies I shot of it in 1968.
The ride included some of Tracy’s most popular stunts of the early 1960s, including an “interactive” graveyard scene where the coffin-shaped ride cars pushed aside the graves – plywood cutouts on springs and hinges. It’s in the graveyard where Don originally resided, startling patrons who were more focused on the wooden graves they were “defacing”. With the assistance of compressed air, Don popped up to reveal himself through a large crack in the lid of his upright coffin. He was painted a ghastly off-white and gray.
In 1969, the Kooky Kastle closed for a rehab, with Bill Tracy and crew repairing old tricks and adding new ones. It reopened in 1970 as The All New Kooky Kastle.
Sometime between 1977 and 1984, Don was moved out of the graveyard and onto a protected staging along with assorted static odds and ends from other locations in the ride. I don’t recall if he was animated at the point, but clearly he was painted over in day-glow as seen in this 1984 photo shot inside the dark ride.
Following Paragon’s 1984 closure, the park’s attractions were auctioned off, including the Kooky Kastle which was cleaned out. Many of the Tracy stunts were stored and neglected for decades as seen below.
In 2017, an auction was held for some of the stunts, including Don.
A Weymouth, MA couple purchased Don and kept him in their garage, until a few weeks ago when they put him up on eBay. This is where I came in. I received an email from my website partner Bill Luca. Bill and I operate laffinthedark.com.
Bill’s email contained a link to the eBay item, which I immediately forwarded to Sean. The two of us studied photos of Tracy’s pop-up stunts to make comparisons to Dom, including Tracy’s Wall Ghoul (below) which resided in the circa 1963 Castle of Terror/House of Horrors.
We determined that Don was a mix of the Wall Ghoul, and Tracy’s Joe Ghoul and the Hermit; the later two as seen below in dark rides at Waldameer in Erie, PA. The fact that Don came from a Tracy dark ride was a deal-clincher for Sean.
Fast-forward to yesterday and Sean, his dad David, and I were off to Weymouth in the McCarthy family pickup truck to retrieve Sean’s purchase. Upon arrival, the seller was amazed by Sean’s enthusiasm over the stunt, and the measures Sean took to insure it had a dry and safe ride to its new home. It had down-poured that morning, and skies were still dark.
Suddenly the heavens threatened to open up again, so Sean and company made haste to get Don under wraps.
The ride back to Warwick was without incident (Don was quiet as a mouse) and it was exciting to get Don unpacked and settled in.
Upon getting Don upright, Sean was thrilled to see that his hardware was still intact, suggesting it could still be capable of compressed air animation.
Another great discovery was the name “Stone” etched on the coffin. The Stone family owned Paragon Park when the Kooky Kastle was installed in 1964.
And finally, Sean discovered a number 43. Could that have been Tracy’s catalog number of the Don stunt?
The hidden treasures uncovered, it was time to see if Don would rise to the occasion. David McCarthy applied the compressed air to the original hardware.
Annnnnnnd… it works!
There were smiles all around — including me and Sean, and maybe even Don!
And it’s no surprise that Sean couldn’t wait to give Don the blacklight treatment later that evening.
So there you have it folks! Not a Rocky Point stunt, but one very close to it. And it was created by the same guy who made all of the Castle of Terror/House of Horrors original displays!
So what’s in-store for Don now that he’s arrived? Sean is keeping his options open for now. One thing for sure, Don found his final resting place in Sean’s home.