A Rhode Island teenager acquires and lovingly restores a ride car from a Bill Tracy attraction that operated before he was born

Admit it. Haven’t you longed for a specific piece of memorabilia from an amusement park;
a park that went defunct before you were born?

Perhaps you wanted a car off a train from the Cyclone Racer coaster in Long Beach, California? A Pretzel car from Casper’s Ghostland at Palisades Park? Or perhaps a car from Euclid’s Flying Turns coaster?

Well, Sean McCarthy of Warwick, Rhode Island had that dream come true earlier this year. Sean, a high school senior, scored a circa 1963 ride car from Rocky Point Park’s Castle of Terror dark ride. Sean was born in 1999. Rocky Point Park, also located in Warwick, closed following an abbreviated 1996 season. Not only did Sean purchase the car, he restored it to mint condition.

When the Castle of Terror debuted in 1963, its cars were graced with illustrations of scenes inside the ride.  Seen here are cars sporting the Giant Bat and a custom Tracy stunt that was in the ride's graveyard scene. The sides of the cars also had illustrations.

Some of you might remember the Castle of Terror as the House of Horrors. That’s because then new park owner Alvin Cohen changed the ride’s name when he purchased the park for the 1970 season. And what’s unique about the Castle/House is, that with the exception of the stunts and the sound system, it was built entirely in-house by the park staff. So yes, the fleet of cars was fabricated completely in-house. Bill Tracy’s Outdoor Dimension Displays designed and installed the stunts and MacKenzine Sounds supplied the shrieks, moans and groans. But when the ride opened to the public in 1963, it was one of Rocky Point’s crowning achievements. And once he became aware of the ride’s legacy, Sean was determined to own a piece of its rolling stock.
“I’ve been intrigued and amazed by the ride ever since learning about it from a fifth grade teacher,” says Sean. “I became determined to research it and acquire or recreate as much of it as I can.”

Fascinating Flashback
So, before we chronicle Sean’s immaculate restoration of the Castle/House car, here’s a little history about the ride. It was installed in the park’s former Fun House building which dated back to 1948. Most of the work was done during the 1962 season and when it opened in 1963, there was some unfinished business, most of it centered on the ride’s ascending and descending ramps that took the cars by motorized chains to and from the second floor. The cars were designed to be slow-moving, allowing riders the opportunity to get a good look at Tracy’s dioramas which included the Torture Chamber, Old Mill, Jack The Ripper, Hanging Man, Giant Bat, and Mad Doctor.

The front and rear of every car had hand-drawn illustrations of scenes within the ride but it’s not certain if Tracy or a park artist illustrated them. The cars were painted over sometime in the 1970s with various generic horrors. And in the early 1980s, they received the treatment most remember – illustrated images of Universal and Hammer movie monsters as well as other creatures of that timeframe, such as Darth Vader and one of the antagonists from Planet of the Apes.
The second treatment to the cars featured generic horrors in the fronts, although a new attempt was made to illustrate scenes inside the ride as evident by the side of this red car (above right).  In the 1980s, the fleet received its final paint job as seen in this collage of the cars.
In April 1996, the House of Horrors was purchased at the park’s closing auction for $1,000. Amazingly, not a soul surfaced to claim the ride system and stunts. The park was eventually demolished and was converted to Rocky Point State Park in October 2014. Ultimately, two of the cars ended up with the City of Warwick and another two with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. The remainder were seized by “private collectors,” creating a mystery of their whereabouts for more than 20 years. Enter Sean McCarthy earlier this year.

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