Blackpool’s Ark In Dry Dock
Rumors have been flooding in about the future of the Noah’s Ark fun house at England’s Blackpool Pleasure Beach. The Ark, installed in the park in 1922 by Dentzel’s Noah’s Ark Corporation, is still rocking but the entrance pay booth and exit turnstiles are gone according to our friend Paul Beesley, author of Laff In The Dark’s “Raiding The Last Ark”.

“I would guess they could still open the ride by placing these (the turnstiles and pay booth) elsewhere, but at the moment it looks closed for good,” reports Paul. “It's not even on the park map anymore.”
Likewise the Ark is not listed in Blackpool’s ride line-up on its website. Although the Ark has been renovated several times over the decades, it still retained two original features: a whale’s head entrance and the Lilly Pad obstacle in which visitors had to navigate their way from one wooden disk to another without stepping in thigh-high water below them.
Both these components debuted with the very first Noah’s Ark, designed and installed by Leroy Raymond at Venice Pier, California in 1919. Hopefully this historic fun house, a signature attraction at Blackpool for over 85 years, will welcome visitors aboard again soon. We’ll keep you posted.                                                                   Photos, taken in early 2010, are courtesy of Paul Beesley

Oldest Running Pretzel Hitting End Of The Line
Owner's retirement puts Keansburg’s Spook House dark ride on the block
The world’s oldest known operating Pretzel dark ride, the Spook House at New Jersey’s Keansburg Amusement Park, is up for sale. The ride was installed at the park in 1931, a few years after the Pretzel Amusement Ride Company of Bridgeton, N.J. invented and patented the single-rail dark ride.

A spokesperson for Al Recht, whose family has owned the Spook House as concessionaires since 1952, told Laff In The Dark that the ride is being sold "due to retirement." Recht is also selling his bumper car ride featuring vintage Lusse Brothers cars.

"We've long since come to feel like this ride is part of our own family", the spokesperson said, adding that five Model A cars, the first rolling stock manufactured by Pretzel, are included as are "several original gadgets from the early thirties".

A 2001 visit inside the Spook House by Laff In The Dark showed two vintage floor-mounted Pretzel "noisemakers" - car-tripped devices that the company used for sound effects well before the introduction of taped sound. A full feature story on the Spook House can be viewed here.

Al's father Clarence Recht purchased the dark ride, then known as the Mystery Ride, from the Demontreux family in 1952. It quickly became a family affair for the Rechts. Al’s mother Rose ran the ride for quite a while and his grandmother Mary Hand was the ride’s ticket seller until she was 77 years old. In 1953, the ride’s original aging channel iron track needed to be replaced, so Recht and his father headed to Bridgeton, New Jersey to purchase new Pretzel standard T-rail, as well as the company's "Al E. Gator" stunt from another father and son: Leon and Bill Cassidy of the Pretzel Amusement Ride Company.
Above: Early Pretzel floor-tripped gags in Keansburg Spookhouse. Left to Right: Noise Box, Jersey Devil and Al E. Gator
When the new track arrived in Keansburg, the Rechts reconfigured the layout to make the ride longer. In 1955 new "old" cars were put in service. The previous owners had purchased four Model A cars in 1935 from Belvedere Beach’s Pretzel dark ride after that park shuttered. The cars had been stored inside the Mystery Ride.  "I had four original cars on the ride that I ran for a few years and the Belvedere cars were stored inside the ride for a while till I got them running," recalled Al Recht in 2001.
Above left: Heppolyte Demontreux operates Mystery Ride in the 1940s.    Right: Model A cars parked in the same spot over 60 years later.
"They had one-piece motor, axle and gear assembly housings while the originals had two-piece housings. I put those four (Belvedere) cars into use about 1955 and kept one of the originals for a spare." With the Belvedere cars and new track in place, the Rechts changed the ride’s façade lettering to “Spook House” — the name park patrons had been calling it for decades. The reported asking price is $29.000. Inquiries can be made at:
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