|The Dark Rides of Hunt's
by Anthony Canzano
|Hunt's Pier in Wildwood New Jersey
was home to many custom dark rides. It started in 1935
when William C. Hunt purchased the failing Ocean
Pier, mainly used for ballroom dancing and as a
showcase for popular bands. Mr. Hunt improved the pier by adding many new
amusements such as, a Ferris wheel, roller coaster and a dark ride called
The Witches Forrest . Very little is known about this dark attraction, though. The
photo of the ride was taken for Hunt's Ocean Pier's 1938 brochure.
On Christmas day, 1943, Hunt's Ocean Pier was destroyed by fire. It wouldn't be until the winter of 1956-57 that Hunt would rebuild the pier. The new pier was constructed from a lightweight fire proof concrete to safeguard against another potential fire.
|During 1958, Jungle
Land was constructed. This attraction featured
fourteen passenger boats (constructed out of old trolley cars) that
floated outdoors, as well as indoors and past animated scenes including
charging crocodiles, rhinos, an island of monkeys and even some Gooney
birds. Jungle Land had opened in late June, and by mid-August it had
carried more than a hundred thousand riders!
To browse a photo album of The Golden Nugget Mine Ride, click here.
|Hunt's then contacted John Allen and The Philadelphia Toboggan Company to construct the eight car Golden
Nugget Mine Ride . This 3 story steel track
combination dark ride/roller coaster included both audio and visual
effects. Some of the stunts included a giant water wall, attacking bear
and miners. The Golden Nugget Mine Ride is still on the pier as of this
writing, but its future is in the hands of the Morey Organization.
|In 1962, John
Allen was called on again to build the Skua , also known as the
Pirate Ship . The
special effects were designed by industry leaders Bill Tracy, Messmore and Damon .
The ship rocked and swayed as guests picked their way through dark
tunnels, a mirrored room, a cavern, a maze and a tilted room. Throughout
the ride, guests were accosted by a variety of menacing mechanical
To browse a photo album of the Skua / Pirate Ship, click here.
|Also, in either 1961 or 1962, Keystone "K"ops was constructed out of an existing
kiddy car ride that was enclosed and filled with black lights and little
round headed, big eared "K"ops that weren't meant to scare you, but were
surely there to make you laugh. Around 1980, Keystone "K"ops was moved to
the front of the pier.
|During the 1960's, the Devil's Inn was added. This attraction started
out as a typical trailer mounted dark ride. The front was refaced and
renovated by Bill Tracey around 1970 - while still featuring cars built by the Allen Hershell Company - and
moved to its last location near the front of the pier.
Its cockeyed windows and leaning, jagged-edged front reflected its name well; even the letters that spelled out WHACKY SHACK rocked back and forth as audio provided an erie squeak. The interior included classic Tracey scenes and stunts, including a saw mill, complete with a helpless victim being cut in half and a section with a hall of doors that would open and close rapidly with skeleton hands reaching out for the riders. In the late 1980's, the Whacky Shack took on a new name and was called Hunt's Horrors.
For a look at some of those inside stunts from the Whacky Shack, click here.
|In the 1980's, two more modern dark rides were added:
one, a trailer mounted dark ride the name of which is unknown (shown at
right), the other a huge ride through dark attraction called Sourier Grotte (translated
Dark Cave ). Hunt's
simply named it the Dinosaur Cave
. This ride had an elaborate front with impressive artwork
and featured the rib cage of a dinosaur through which the guests would
ride, and is shown below. (This dark ride might pop up in another park as
it has been recently been sold.)
Hunt's Pier was sold in 1991 and renamed Conkos Party Pier . The new owners had plans of redeveloping the pier, but, in doing so, razed both the Sku (Pirate Ship) and Jungle Land. The pier would sit idle - after an unsuccessful run - until 1995 when the pier was renamed and opened as Dinosaur Beach . The new owners introduced a new dark ride called Escape From Dinosaur Beach , built by the Sally Corporation . Patrons would ride in jeeps through a dinosaur infested jungle with animated dinosaurs and a large T-Rex at the end. Dinosaur Beach closed at the end of the 1998 season and Escape From Dinosaur Beach was dismantled, awaiting a new home.
Now the Morey Organization has control of the former Hunt's Pier and the Golden Nugget Mine Ride and, it is hoped that both may yet live once again.
This is part one of six
articles on the Dark Rides and Fun Houses of Wildwood and written by Anthony
Canzano. The author may be contacted, as all article authors may be through
the Laff-In-The-Dark website. This article © 2000 by The Dark Ride and Fun House
Preservation and Historical Society and used with permission. All Photos © 2000
by the George F. Boyer Museum, Eric Princz, and the Laff Collection and used
with permission. Laff-In-The-dark and The Dark Ride and Fun House Preservation
and Historical Society is not affiliated with the above amusement parks in any
way. Laff-In-The-Dark wishes to Thank Anthony Canzano, Eric Princz and Doug
Ferguson for their help with this article.