Image via Joel Zika/Dark Ride Project
The click, click of the rails rings ominously in your ears as your cart approaches the foreboding doors of the entrance. The doors creak open, and you enter a spooky realm where darkness and dim lights permeate every corner of your surroundings. Over the course of your ride you will encounter a motley of ghouls and spooks that will elicits gasps and shrieks; ghosts jump out from behind walls, monsters lurk around corners, vampires emerge from coffins—all part of the dark rides of amusement parks.
Once a cornerstone of amusement parks around the world, the number of haunted house rides has drastically dropped from the 1,700+ rides that existed globally in the mid to late 20th century; currently, only 18 of those original rides exist, with many more closing each year.
Australian university lecturer, Joel Zika, who has studied amusement park dark rides for the past decade, and is working on the Dark Ride Project, employing virtual reality to capture these rides all around the world. Using a 3-camera rig mounted to the carriage, Mr. Zika has filmed historic haunted house rides in Australia, Florida, West Virginia, Alabama, Maryland, and Delaware—thus allowing people to experience these rides through the wonderful technology of virtual reality.
Up next on Mr. Zika’s list is the Spook-a-rama at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park on Coney Island.
Built in 1955, Spook-a-rama is one of the last remaining ghost rides created by the Pretzel Company, an prominent manufacturer of dark rides in the early to mid-20th century. Spook-a-rama, which at one time held the record as the longest ride on Coney Island and the longest dark ride in the world, underwent renovations in 2013 that modified many aspects of the ride and reduced the length of it. Nevertheless, Deno Vourderis, from Wonder Wheel Amusement Park says, “It’s an amazing ride with a rich history and new technology will help us to show it to the world.”
Image via the Dark Ride Project
Mr. Zika hopes to continue his campaign of utilizing virtual reality to preserve these traditional dark rides as part of the amusement park culture, thus allowing current and future generations to enjoy them, even if the iconic rides themselves are rendered inactive. A crowdfunding campaign, with the goal of raising $20,000 by the end of September, has been launched in order to fund his project.
Image via Joel Zika
Donations to the Dark Ride Project can be made at https://igg.me/at/darkrideproject
Examples of the VR dark ride films can be found at https://www.darkrideproject.com
You can follow Joel Zika’s project on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/darkrideproject/
Next, discover 27 Secrets about Coney Island, the most bizarre attractions that have been on Coney Island and the secrets of Nathan’s Famous hot dogs.