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Saturday, June 11, 2022

50 Years of the Pirate's Cove at Waldameer Park

One of my favorite day-trip escapes is Waldameer Park in Erie, Pennsylvania, a small amusement park that is home to some of my favorite rides anywhere. One of those attractions is Pirate's Cove, a walkthrough funhouse that opened in 1972. I did an in-depth post a while back about the Waldameer Pirate's Cove and its sister ride in Ocean City, Maryland, so for now, I'll just leave a video clip of the walkthrough's greatest scene. It speaks for itself. 
I visited Waldameer with the Dark Attraction and Funhouse Enthusiasts (DAFE, pronounced like "daffy"), and we got to hear from two people who worked at the park when the dark rides were built.
The day's lunch not only included hand-peeled potato salad from the park's GM, but it also had a custom cake for the Pirate's Cove.
From right to left is Paul Nelson, owner of Waldameer; Perry Duncan, who helped build both the Whacky Shack and Pirate's Cove; Steve Gorman, Waldameer General Manager; and Randy Skalos, who takes care of the rides' scenes now. I got a picture with Mr. Nelso, who at age 88 is still very enthusiastic about his job. He said that he gets up at 5:00 AM every day to come to the park and that his wife has to tell him to come home. 

Having a picnic with the park owners is a really cool feeling that you don't get at any corporate park.

The Whacky Shack is a classic ride-through
Waldameer deserves praise for keeping and maintaining two dark rides, something few other parks can claim. Even better, Pirate's Cove and Whacky Shack were built by the greatest dark ride designer of the 60s and 70s, Bill Tracy.
No DAFE event at Walameer is complete without a lights-on, guided walkthrough of the Whacky Shack! Above, you can see club members storming the ride in pursuit of a hidden $1 million. There were two tour groups, and one started from the end of the ride.
After traversing a spinning "vortex tunnel," riders make a U-turn and see some skeletons lit in blacklight attached to the spinning barrel's exterior. The above picture is of that scene. I found it quite humorous to see a bunch of gawking dark ride enthusiasts (the tour group that started from the end of the ride) wedged between the metal scrim and the spinning barrel. I had no idea how they got down to that level!
Later in the tour, we walked through the maintenance area, and I got to take some close-up pictures of my own.
Here are a couple more pictures I got on the tour. The room above has a tilted floor like a "mystery shack," so the cars really speed through it.
It is incredible that all the spooks in Whacky Shack have been preserved practically as-is since 1970! 
Halfway through the ride, the cars navigate a gentle dip in view of the midway.
I love Whacky Shack and Pirate's Cove, but I can't forget about Waldameer's most thrilling ride, the Sky Ride! ...or maybe I'm thinking of the Ravine Flyer II wooden coaster. ;-)
The setting of Ravine Flyer II right on Lake Erie is hard to beat. That breathtaking first drop is only surpassed when you instantly bound over the four-lane highway adjoining the park.
I have posted on the second weekend of each month for a while now, and the second Sunday of July is my birthday, but I'll also be at Disneyland! I probably won't have a post for next month, but I look forward to sharing California trip reports very soon.