May 31

Boardwalk Thrill Ride

(An Odd Adventure with your Other Father, part 5)


No visual stimulation at all.  Just the jostle of our tiny rail car, the sense of Jack close to me in the dark, a speaker squeak like metal nails down a blackboard.

Then a click and a bright white flash, revealing a giant rat sitting atop a garbage can.  Fluorescent green paint covered the plaster rodent’s body, with blood-red around the upturned snout, dripping from the raised front paws.

Jack and I laughed, as our coffin rode ahead to the next setup.

(Now, Celia, I won’t describe every section, since I don’t want to spoil the fun when you ride for the first time.  They’ve added some new features over the years, but a lot of the scenes Jack and I rode past in the mid-80s — like the torture chamber, and the cemetery — are still part of the ride today.

I’ll just stick to parts that have special relevance to our adventure.)

At one point, we moved through a long tube, the curved corridor walls twisting as we rolled along.  Painted lines on the tube reinforced a strange spinning illusion, making it feel like our car was tipping over on its side.  As a cool added touch, further ahead the painted image of a car just like ours spun completely upside down.

There were no passengers in that car.  I thought of tantrum-boy getting his way and riding solo, only to be dumped unceremoniously from his car and onto the tracks, so we could run him over.

(Yeah, I admit I was thinking like your other father here.  Jack was being better behaved: he didn’t mess with any of the spook-house illusions, preferring to let the ride work its own magic.)

We rolled and clattered through other scenes that wouldn’t look out of place in The Exorcist or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  When the car jolted around a corner, Jack would lean into me, and it was fun to feel close to him like that — the same paradoxical way that watching scary movies can be romantic.

Our car went up an incline to take us to the second floor.  A double door closed over the path ahead, and a small cascade of water dripped from the ceiling.  We’re supposed to worry that we’ll get wet, but there was a click as our car approached, and the water shut off just before we traveled beneath the stream.

The front doors parted as we busted our way through, and I realized, after all the disorienting flashes of light and twists and turns, we’d reached the moment in the ride when the car travels briefly outside, rolling smoothly along a landing in front of the house’s second floor.  A respite in fresh air.

Except it wasn’t.

It was the end of the world.


[…continued tomorrow…]



[Above, the author’s photo of the landmark haunted house ride in Ocean City, MD, that inspired many of the details in this adventure.  For more about this awesome ride, visit the following link:]