His palace was mysterious, yet alluring, set back from the joyful glow of the midway. Those who dared to explore his residence had to first navigate their way through dark caves, not knowing what fate awaited them as they approached the palace gates.
Bluebeard’s Palace was a haunted walkthrough believed to have been installed at Rocky Point in the late 1920s or early 1930s. As did many of the park’s attractions of that era, the Palace met its fate under the fury of the 1938 hurricane. Not much is known about the attraction’s interior or who designed it. But we do know that it was very similar in design to the Bluebeard’s Palace at the former Willow Grove Park (near Philadelphia, PA) as seen in the photo below.
There were lots of other Bluebeard’s Palace walkthroughs in parks throughout the country, even two others in New England, but before we get into that, let’s talk about the man of the hour, Bluebeard. “Bluebeard” is a French folktale, the most famous surviving version of which was written by Charles Perrault and first published by Barbin in Paris in 1697 in Histoires ou contes du temps passé. The tale tells the story of a wealthy man, who lives in a palace and is in the habit of murdering his wives, and the attempts of one wife to avoid the fate of her predecessors. The story has a happy ending, at least for the beforementioned wife. Bluebeard is sometimes confused with Blackbeard the pirate.
Several different themed funhouses sprang up in the 1920s, one of them being Noah’s Ark, another, Death Valley. Bluebeard’s Palace was no exception with one of its earlier installations appearing in 1927 at Playland Park in South Bend, Indiana.
Closer to home in Massachusetts, a very elaborate Bluebeard’s opened eyes at Revere Beach.
While over in West Haven, CT, Savin Rock’s Liberty Pier had one of its own. Installed in 1922, it was destroyed ten years later by a major fire on the pier.
So getting back to Rocky Point, when the Rocky Point Amusement Company (owned by Paul Castiglioni) purchased the park in 1924, it ushered in a new era of thrilling rides and attractions. That included two major wooden coasters: the Wildcat in 1926 and the Flying Turns in 1931.
Here’s a postcard from 1926, the year the Wildcat was erected.
A few years later, the landscape changed as seen in the photo below. The Fun In The Dark (Pretzel dark ride) was added, and the Scenic Railway coaster seems to have vanished…
.. or did it? Seems the coaster’s faux mountains were repurposed as caves for Bluebeard’s Palace.
The new attractions drew droves of patrons to the midway.
And regardless of where you posed for a photo at Rocky Point, Bluebeard’s Palace wasn’t very far behind.
So what do you suppose was inside Rocky Point’s Bluebeard’s Palace? Did patrons see scenes depicting the murderous Bluebeard, or was the attraction a light-hearted obstacle course of tilted rooms, wobbly staircases, and distorted mirrors — typical funhouse fare of that era? That secret may have been swept away with the destructive winds of the 1938 hurricane. But if any of you readers have had stories passed down from relatives who experienced this special attraction, please share them in the comments below!
South Bend Tribune
You Must Be This Tall movie collection