Leon Cassidy was here!
The man who invented the single-rail dark ride was here.
The man who forever changed the amusement park industry stood where I'm standing.
Leon Cassidy, the founder of the Pretzel Amusement Ride Company, was here, in 1931 ---
at Keansburg Amusement Park in Keansburg, New Jersey.
Leon installed the ride I'm about to see, Spook House;
possibly the world's oldest operating Pretzel installation.
The loading area, with four first generation Pretzel cars, is behind the garage door.

I can't wait for the ride superintendent to open it.

Heppolyte Demontreux, centert, at the helm of Keansburg’s Mystery Ride in the late 1940s. The Mystery Ride was owned and operated by the Demontreux family until 1952 when Clarence Recht purchased the ride and renamed it Spook House.
Photo courtesy of Ernie Demontreux Jr.

The cries of low-flying seagulls pierce the hot, humid air on this early August morning. It's 10:30 a.m., and several early arrivals are scurrying about the park. But I'm staying put, waiting for that garage door to open. And slowly it rises, its old hardware squealing in unison with the seagulls. With a clunk, it reaches the top, revealing the treasures it has concealed. I am awestruck.

Before me are Pretzel "Model A" cars queued up on the loading area. With the flashy detailing which includes flames and skulls, they look like entrants in a soap box derby race. But I know better. I know that they date back to 1928, and were among the first line of Pretzel cars to navigate the s-curves of the world's first dark rides. Anybody who thinks these cars look old and tacky, be damned. They are sacred relics.

Behind the cars is Phantom of the Opera-type character playing the piano. In an earlier life, he was a Wild West saloon pianist - a target in a Bonanza shooting gallery once owned by the Spook House's current owner, Al Recht. The Spook House façade resembles a haunted cave, with fabricated multi-colored rock formations extending from the exit to the entrance. To the left of entrance is the sign, "Danger, Spooks Ahead." And indeed there are two guarding the entrance: A giant bat perched overhead and a illustration of "Friday the 13th"'s hockey masked serial killer Jason Voorhees on the double doors.