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2 Days Until Halloween

Buckle up, folks. Today's countdown post is a... well, it's a ride.

I posted earlier this month about my hometown, vampyres, and how both are related to one of my current writing projects. Well, in my online rambles connected with this I've come across a few more links and thoughts I'd like to share that seem fitting for the Halloween season.

If I had heard the news before, I didn't really take it in, but now I realize at last that Bell's Amusement Park has closed after fifty-five years in Tulsa. This place was the setting of many of my father's company picnics, my friends' birthday parties, and spillover fun from the state fair. Being both introverted and acrophobic, I'm not the first person you might think of as an amusement park type of gal, but nonetheless I have many very fond memories of Bell's. Fortunately, it sounds like the owners are planning to relocate in the area and rebuild. Here's the latest news.

I feel tremendous gratitude and affection for the times I had at Bell's. And I realize it all comes down to my favorite ride there, a place that's taken on near-mythic proportions in my memory.

I'm referring to the Phantasmagoria:

When other children begged to go on the rollercoaster or the water slides, I was lining up for the Phantasmagoria. Over and over again. (On a similar note, when my elementary school would host its yearly fair, we students would get tickets to use at the dunking booth, fishing pool, etc. I used up all of mine going through the "Haunted House" -- really, our library decorated as such -- repeatedly, until the good-natured mothers with their bowls full of "eyeballs and organs" and the kind fathers dressed up as axe murderers went wildy "off script" just to see if they could really spook me on my fifth trip through. Good times.) Ah yes, it explains so much, doesn't it? *grins*

Born only two years after I was, the ride (designed by the legendary Bill Tracy) was meant to disorient and then, of course, to terrify. One of my favorite parts included descending slowly down what seemed like a mine shaft with only ghostly pale wooden beams visible bracing the walls. As you neared the bottom, one of the beams appeared to crack above your head and then collapse, threatening to bury you alive. In another section, you rode on in absolute darkness until, suddenly, an oncoming bus appeared a mere arm's length away, blaring its headlights blindingly and blaring its shrill horn. Of course, giant skulls, lunging mummies, and large rats played their roles, as well. The key to the ride was the fact you caught only glimpses of things (except that bus); everything around you was pitch black. Just about the time your eyes began to adjust, the car wheeled you out into the daylight for a few seconds, only to plunge you back into the blackness. When you're five years old (okay, or fifteen, or fifty), that's awesome.

The last time I rode the Phantasmagoria was on a trip back to Tulsa when I was in college. I went with a high school pal of mine, and as I recall, we made it our first stop and then rode it several times in a row. At that point it had been a constant in my life, visited several times a year, for at least fifteen years. It was like seeing an old, dear friend... you know, complete with a few screaming skeletons.

Today I'm remembering it, not saying goodbye. Thanks for helping me.

Here's a picture of the Phantasmagoria's debut in 1973 from the Tulsa Tribune:


Related Links Well Worth Visiting

Text of the Day: Today's text is a Halloween favorite of mine, "Oil and Blood" by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939).

In tombs of gold and lapis lazuli
Bodies of holy men and women exude
Miraculous oil, odour of violet.

But under heavy loads of trampled clay
Lie bodies of the vampires full of blood;
Their shrouds are bloody and their lips are wet.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 29th, 2010 01:48 pm (UTC)
::shivers:: I've always loved that poem.
Oct. 30th, 2010 06:01 pm (UTC)
Me, too!
Oct. 29th, 2010 01:52 pm (UTC)
I have similar fond memories of a haunted "dark ride" at the Cook County fair in Texas. First time I rode it, my mother screamed in terror when she felt something touch her, and suffice it to say, I was also in tears at the end. They had people in the ride area with feathers they'd use to touch the arm or neck of the riders. Next year I came prepared with a flashlight and caught them. They were NOT happy I had done that LOL. While Disney's Haunted Mansion is of course far superior, that was something I didn't experience until I was 30. It was the cheesy carnival dark ride that had the most impact on me.
Oct. 30th, 2010 06:03 pm (UTC)
Ha! That's hysterical that you caught the feather-wielders with your flashlight the next year. ;)

While Disney's Haunted Mansion is of course far superior, that was something I didn't experience until I was 30. It was the cheesy carnival dark ride that had the most impact on me.

Yes! That was my experience exactly. I loved the Haunted Mansion, but the Phantasmagoria is what I remember most.
Oct. 29th, 2010 01:57 pm (UTC)
Loved the memories of Bell's and Phantasmagoria!!
Oct. 30th, 2010 06:04 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad! :) Some of the links are fascinating; I particularly enjoyed the "Secrets of the Phantasmagoria" behind-the-scenes report.
Oct. 29th, 2010 03:01 pm (UTC)
Think Bell's will become an Amusement Park of Doom?
Oct. 30th, 2010 06:05 pm (UTC)
Oh, man, it would make a great setting for one! It would be like turning the whole park into an extended Phantasmagoria. :) Ah, those great cliches, how I love 'em.
Oct. 29th, 2010 03:21 pm (UTC)
LIfe's been pretty busy lately, so I am waiting until I have a bit more free time to catch up with all of your October lit and vid posts. You are doing a great job!

And... eeeee.... watch your mailbox.
Oct. 30th, 2010 09:21 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! :)
Oct. 29th, 2010 03:21 pm (UTC)
Lost Attractions
This brought a tear to my eye because there are so many wonderful attractions (mine are Brigantine Castle and the Haunted Mansion at Long Branch) that have gone by the wayside. I am so glad that these videos were posted so we who will never be able to ride the Phantasmagoria, can at least get a glimpse of how it was.

That darn horn made me jump in my seat. So much for trying to be stealth at work!

Oct. 30th, 2010 06:11 pm (UTC)
Re: Lost Attractions
Isn't it amazing how some early influences stick with you? I looked up Brigantine Castle and the Haunted Mansion, and I immediately found this and this. Both must have been so much fun to visit! I loved the pictures of the actors and their elaborate makeup for Brigantine Castle, especially.

Even when I knew that bus was the next thing coming in the Phantasmagoria, I still jumped every time the horn sounded and those headlights came on!
Abbie [wordpress.com]
Oct. 29th, 2010 04:14 pm (UTC)
Favorite post thus far. I love it when you get personal. ;) I was squeeing at the part where elementary school Amy used all her tickets on the haunted house/library.

And I LOVE rides like this!! I'm definitely not an amusement park ride person, but experiential, story-driven rides like this one and the all of the ones at Disney are my faaaavorite!

There's a little amusement park near Dallas called Sandy Lake that has a small ride similar to the Phantasmagoria. It's called The Pretzel. I know, not as exciting. Sandy Lake hosts a lot of band and choir competitions for the jr. high level kids, so I went there a number of times. I rode The Pretzel every time we went, yet to this day I have never kept my eyes open the entire time. Bahaha! I remember waiting outside for some friends as they rode the ride once, and I watched as the ride operator, an old man, put on an ape mask and then jumped out at them as their cart exited the ride. It was priceless.
Oct. 30th, 2010 06:13 pm (UTC)
but experiential, story-driven rides like this one and the all of the ones at Disney are my faaaavorite!

Yes, exactly! I feel the very same way.

I absolutely loved your story about The Pretzel. The mental picture of the old man putting on the ape mask and jumping out at your friends is priceless. :)

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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