Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Bill Tracy Darkrides

William "Bill" Tracy was one of the best-known designers of darkrides, or "haunted house" type attractions throughout the 1960s and 70s. From a brief stint designing parade floats, Tracy went on to typify the dark attraction with his characteristic whimsy and recognizable style. (The Bill Tracy Project is a great source to learn more.) Although he designed over 50 darkrides and walkthroughs throughout his career, only six remain in a mostly intact state today. Interestingly, the remaining rides exist in pairs. 
We'll start off our whirlwind tour of Tracy's work close to home, at Waldameer Park in Erie, Pennsylvania. This ride, the Whacky Shack, was built in 1970 and is the most untouched of his remaining darkrides. The front is instantly iconic, despite being so different for this kind of ride - who couldn't forget those whirling eyes?                                                                                    Waldameer also has a nice, Tracy-designed walkthrough called Pirate's Cove, built in 1972. These two attractions are just steps away from each other!
Possibly the most dramatic remaining example of Tracy's flair (especially when seen at night), the Haunted House at Trimper's Rides in Ocean City, Maryland has a typical name, but what's inside this darkride is far from typical. Originally one story tall when constructed in 1964, the ride was upgraded to two stories in 1988. Even though this point was long past Bill Tracy's death, the ride was able to use old Tracy-built stunts, or "spooks" from a neighboring amusement park that had just closed their Tracy darkride. 
Image result for trimper's pirates cove
Trimper's also is home to another Pirate's Cove walkthrough. This one has the bonus of animatronic parrots on its exterior. It has some matching elements,  but it is a bit different than the attraction of the same name in Pennsylvania.

Trimper's as a whole is a very fun place, and since I'll be visiting this summer for the first time in four years, look for more pictures to come soon!

One last thing: there's two Tracy-designed ride-thrus left in Utah at a park called Lagoon, but I have yet to get there...


TokyoMagic! said...

Andrew, these look like a lot of fun, just from viewing the exteriors! Do you have any interior shots? I love a good "walk-thru" haunted house or fun house. There used to be a cool one at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds, but the building was torn down some years ago. Busch Gardens in Van Nuys, CA, also had a great fun house and it was a decent-sized walk-thru. Unfortunately, that entire park was torn down in the eighties. :-(

Andrew said...

Yep, lots of interior shots! Not of many as the Haunted House in Ocean City, but if you're interested, I do have a series on the Whacky Shack: https://bayernkurveblog.blogspot.com/2019/06/a-whacky-trip-pt-1.html

Classic darkrides are few and far between today (especially in the west), but it's good that you got to experience what sounds like some fun examples.

I saw a postcard of the CA Busch Gardens at an antique store recently. How interesting!

K. Martinez said...

Late today. I like the differences between the Pirate's Cove attractions in Waldameer Park and Trimper's Rides. In a way, it makes each one unique.

I think my favorite pic today is of the "Haunted House" at Trimper's. The way you described it as being two-story sounds cool too. I hope the amusement park goers of today understand how truly special these vintage/classic dark rides are and that they remain standing for future generations.

Thanks, Andrew.

TokyoMagic! said...

Oh, thanks for that link. I somehow missed those posts, when looking through your past posts. I like your Wacky Shack interior shots! Again, it looks like a fun ride.....and I love those rotating tunnels that make you feel like your going to tip over!

Andrew said...

Those rotating tunnels are certainly trademarks of these rides! An interesting fact about Trimper's Haunted House is that when they added additional stunts in 1988 from another darkride, the ride they cannibalized also had a rotating barrel. Not to miss out, though, they turned it into a (non-rotating) "train tunnel" and added lights and an "oncoming train" at the end!

Andrew said...

The Whacky Shack is two stories, too. Both it and the Haunted
House have balconies that you emerge from for a bit during the ride. It's a great opportunity to wave to your family as well as a nice attention-getter.

I feel like park guests DO enjoy these rides, especially when they've been around for multiple generations. They seem to usually have a good line. I just hope that the park owners see the value in keeping them, since they take up a lot of space and aren't necessarily immune to fires.

Major Pepperidge said...

Of all the vintage amusement park attractions, it is these Whacky Shacks, Haunted Castles, and other dark rides that fascinate me the most. I just love them.

Andrew said...

They're so different, and they've really captured the imaginations of tons of people over the years, partly because they're so hard to find today.