Two iconic fun houses, Peter Franke's Fun House and Death Valley Funny House were once located alongside West Haven, Connecticut’s beachfront at Savin Rock Amusement Park... famous, but now long gone.
But the memories laff on!

When I moved to Connecticut in 1971, after marrying a Westie (West Haven resident)... I was intrigued by all the stories I heard about Savin Rock. My husband’s mother and all the aunts and uncles told me stories... and they had many stories! It was uncle Johnny (Cambino)…. more well-known as King Cambo, who told the most colorful stores; he had even raced at the local West Haven Speedway. I’ve heard so many stories through my forty-nine years of marriage, that at times, I've often felt like I had even lived there!

My husband was the last generation to enjoy what had remained, and lucky enough to have
enjoyed his boyhood there, but not in all its
full glory of what it once was

One of the first attractions, that peaked my interest, was the many stories of the “famous” Laffing Lady that sat high above The Death Valley Funny House. Anytime she was mentioned at Grandma Minnie’s kitchen table, you’d hear Grandma's famous “ohhh”, and how she loved listening to Laffing Sal's cackling laugh. Grandma Minnie’s daughter, Catherine, often told of how her father would pile all the kids in the car on Sunday afternoons and head to Savin Rock for ice cream… parking near the laughing lady just so “mama” could listen. From all those stories, it seems Grandma Minnie was the only one who loved to listen to that voice!
The Death Valley Funny House was actually built on-site by Savin Rock carpenters using blueprints bought from the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC). Debuting in 1904, PTC is still in business today as Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters, manufacturing, maintaining, retrofitting, and rehabbing roller coaster trains. It was in 1937 when the Death Valley Funny House first appeared on Beach Street in the upper part of the Grove at Savin Rock.
A dastardly Skull and Crossbones loomed high above when it first opened, but that facade only lasted about a year before being removed, due to many thinking how sinister looking it was for a fun house. 

Harold Hartman, the “chief of maintenance” at Savin Rock, was sent to Messmore Theatrical Products, a theater prop company in New York City, to pick up their new attraction, Laffing Sal, who would soon loom high on the second floor.

Little did they know at the time, that “Laffing Sal” would bring people from far and near to hear her cackling voice... some mesmerized... while many kids cringed in their parents’ arms.
I found no actual money figure listed for the purchase of Savin Rock’s Sal, but I did find that in 1940 another laughing Sal was bought for $360 dollars… so give or take a few dollars, that might have been about the going price of when she was purchased. In regards to what a Sal would go for today in good working condition, one was sold in 2004 for $50,000! Quite a profit, but likely is indicative that many Sals didn’t survive from 1938. I heard that many of Savin Rock's rides were sadly trashed in the local dump.

| Articles | Find Dark Rides | Find Funhouses | Knoebels DVD Waldameer DVD | The Laff Track
Contact LITD | About LITD | The T Shirt Shop | The Laff Achievement Award