The Dark Rides of Conneaut Lake Park
Conneaut Lake Park, Conneaut Lake, PA

By Rick Davis

Dr. Moriarity's Wild Ride 1999

That the century old Conneaut Lake Park, PA still has one of the few remaining Pretzel dark rides, should not come as much of a surprise. The park has a long history of dark attractions dating back to when the park was known as Exposition Park, at the turn of the 20th century. One of its first dark illusion rides was the HAUNTED SWING, a rather simple, but convincing, device that caused it riders to slowly swing back and forth until the swing rotated them upside down through a 360-degree arc, or so it seemed. The reality, of course, was that the room and its furniture (nailed down) rotated around its stationary "riders".Rules and token sign on Dr. Moriarity's Wild Ride in 1999

F.W. Pierce and Son erected the OLD MILL ride in 1905 about where the Fascination game and Skeeball are located today. It stayed at the park for over 30 years, when it was rebuilt into the park’s first Pretzel (Laff-In-The-Dark) ride in the 40’s. The Pretzel ran until about 1960.

The turn of the century brought the first of a long line of fun houses, too- The GIGGLE HOUSE and the CASTLE OF FUN. The CASTLE OF FUN building became the CRAZY MAZE from the 50’s until the 60’s.

The park’s last true fun house began its life in 1909 as the second bowling alley, replacing the building that burned the previous year. In 1961 the building became a dark walk through style fun house featuring a slanted room, mirror maze, slide, moving floorboards, pop up stunts and other traditional gags.

Despite a capacity of 720 guests per hour, the public lost interest in such an "old fashion" attraction, so in 1975 it closed for good. The park used the building to come up with a rather unique and thrilling dark ride concept of a totally different nature. In 1976 they gutted the fun house and installed mirrors, black light, strobe lights, LOUD rock music, and a SCRAMBLER to come up with the ULTIMATE TRIP. Dracula's CaveThis ride continued until 1990 when the SCRAMBLER was returned to an outside area and the fun house was used for storage. This year (1999), however, the ULTIMATE TRIP returns!

The park still has a fun house of sorts- the KIDDIELAND FUN HOUSE.

In 1973 an electric Pretzel returned to the park. Known as both the PIT OF DEATH and DRACULA’S CAVE this ride had a capacity of 200 per hour and occupied the old CUDDLE UP building from 1973-1985.

Devil's DenBy far the dark ride that will eventually have had the longest run at Conneaut is the DEVIL’S DEN/DR. MORIARITY’S WILD RIDE, Featuring The Famous Wall Of Gum! The DEVILS DEN was built in 1968 and other than a name change is still basically the same today as it was then.

Don Schanz, operations manager for Conneaut, describes it as "a carnival style, gravity Pretzel" that "is scarier with the lights ON!" Despite the rather tame creatures you might encounter inside, this ride has a capacity of 350 guests per hour and always has a long line of fans waiting to ride it.

Get your chewing gum ready, jump to the front of the line, keep your hands and arms inside the car at all times and let’s take a virtual ride on DR. MORIARITY'S WILD RIDE!Dr. Moriarity's Wild Ride sign

Exclusive Feature

A Virtual Picture Tour of Dr. Moriarity's Wild Ride

27 photographs of the ride in order from beginning to end.


References:

Conneaut Lake Park

CONNEAUT LAKE PARK THE FIRST HUNDRED YEARS by Bush and Hershey


Photos are Rick Davis and Joel Styer unless noted.
This article is 1999 by Rick Davis. All used with permission

 

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This page was last updated Friday, June 25, 1999