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Dark Ride Paradise - Wild Bill's Nostalgia Center

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The third week of July, I was in New York City and I set aside a full day to rent a car, drive up to Middletown, CT and check out Wild Bill's; couldn't be that close and NOT get up there. I sent an email in advance, letting them know I was coming, how much I've been enjoying the simply incredible updates Larry has posted here, how excited I am for the "Dark Rides Paradise," yada, yada, and was hoping I would be able to say hello to Wild Bill, take some pictures, maybe just chat for a bit.


Long story short, while my friend and I were there, a massive thunderstorm swept through the area, with pounding rain, hail, lightning, etc., and the power went out. Wild Bill ended up giving us a tour through the store, their poster print shop, the Haunted House, and the rear property for several hours. We got to meet and talk with Chuck and some other members of the team, and were able to soak up the passion and excitement they all have for this project. It was mindbendingly cool, and I cannot thank Wild Bill, Chuck and everyone else enough for their superlative hospitality and for granting us so much time, all very much unexpected and undeserved.


I will be posting a trip report and more photos up at ThrillRide, later today or tomorrow, I hope, but for now I did want to add some photos here, as a small way of giving back to a thread that has been a source of great pleasure to me since Larry first started it. Thanks again to everyone at Wild Bill's and to Larry for turning us all on to what is undoubtedly going to be one of the most kick-ass amusement parks ever.



Very jazzed to be here!


The artwork all over this place is an explosion of color and awesome.


I couldn't believe I was seeing this with my own eyes. Yep, it's really happening.


The power outage turned a walk through the store into a sort of dark ride/fun house experience.


This is the portal through which we pass just beyond the front doors. SWEET.


If you are not already afraid of clowns, seeing this thing in person will do the trick. It's going to look so wicked as part of an attraction. "Mommy, kill the clown! KILL IT WITH FIRE!!!"




Wild Bill shows us just a tiny selection of the beautiful "show prints" and posters that his company produces, on a rare Heidelberg printing press adjacent to the store.


I'll take both of these, please. (When I win a lottery, the first place I'm going to shop for myself is this store. Mark my words.)


Something else I don't need, but want to possess badly.


Must have. MUST.




Walking back past the clown silo, to the Haunted House. Feeling a little woozy with awe.


There's a lot of visible progress that's been made.


This new tower looks righteous!


I love this so much.


Another shot with foreboding clouds in the background.


Left to right: Dennis, Chuck Burnham, Wild Bill, Greg and John. Steve is seated in front.


Dave and Wild Bill. These people all ROCK.



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I love that you were able to take a trip out there and show us some more progress. The facade looks amazing, me and my girlfriend can't wait to walk through the haunted house this fall! From one dark ride fan to another, thank you Wild Bill! This is going to be so awesome to have closeby!

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Great news! I just got a text from Chuck Burnham. Tonight the city council granted approval to open the haunted fun house. The crew will be partying tonight, but working double time from now to opening.

Edited by larrygator
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Great news! I just got a text from Chuck Burnham. Tonight the city council granted approval to open the haunted fun house. The crew will be partying tonight, but working double time from now to opening.


Awesome news!!! Please give them our sincerest congratulations!!



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Great news! I just got a text from Chuck Burnham. Tonight the city council granted approval to open the haunted fun house. The crew will be partying tonight, but working double time from now to opening.


Excellent news! I look forward to visiting his haunt in the future.

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Of course, rides today are awesome and very in your face, but older rides were built for fun. We have amusement parks because we like to have fun. I discovered a suspended coaster recently in China that had a track design that recalled early suspended coasters and while it was not an in your face thrill, it was a lot of fun.

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Great news! I just got a text from Chuck Burnham. Tonight the city council granted approval to open the haunted fun house. The crew will be partying tonight, but working double time from now to opening.


This is truly great news; can't wait to see the Haunted House in action. Great to finally meet you, Larry, at the DSB and looking forward to your first "post-opening" update!

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^Nice to meet you also.


It's a shame I'll miss the opening, as I'll be in China. However, I'll try to organize a TPR meet-up during a weekend in mid-late October. I've already talked to 4-5 people on TPR who are interested.

Edited by larrygator
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  • 2 weeks later...

Since I still have some spare time on my hands, I'll be at Wild Bill's next Wednesday. I don't know how many pictures I'll take as I volunteered to join Chuck's crew for a day. So it's manual labor and painting for me.


This will be my last time visiting Wild Bill's before the opening of the Fun House, as I'll be in China with TPR. If anyone is interested in doing a group meet-up on Saturday, October 6th, let me know via PM. While I'm up there next week I'll ask about hours and the logisitics of visting with a group on the night of October 6th after Lake Compunce closes.


Here is my tentative plan for that Saturday.

Arrive at Quassy around 3-3:30 to take a couple of laps on Wooden Warrior

Leave Quassy by 4:30

Arrive Lake Compounce at 5PM (when Haunted Graveyard admittance starts)

Reserve a time for after dark (hopefully around 8:30PM) to do the Haunted Graveyard

10PM leave for Wild Bill's

10:30 arrive at Wild Bill's (Wild Bill and Chuck confirmed they will stay open for our group)


People are free to meet up with others from TPR for the whole day or just a portion. Everything is pay as you go, I'm not collecting money from anybody, only setting a suggested schedule for everyone to follow.


This leaves the opportunity for those visiting the area to go to SFNE on Sunday.


Again this is all tentative and while I generally appreciate input I had to make this convenient for me.

Edited by larrygator
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On Wednesday, August 29th, I had the extreme pleasure of volunteering in the construction of the Fun House at Wild Bill's. While Chuck has two primary helpers in his crew, Steve and Alex he relies on others that he trusts to pitch in when necessary. Therefore, I was honored last month when Chuck asked me to pick a day to help him out. Most of my work that day consisted of painting, but I also assisted Steve in framing a wall in the pre-show room and pitched in when the centerpiece of the facade, Chuck's voracious bat was hoisted onto its perch.


The documentary film maker Joe McCarthy was also there and just posted an excellent video of the days work HERE


Before I get into the pictures from this trip I want to give everyone an update on the opening. Chuck works with a few outside contractors and there will be slight delays. On September 15th, the Fun House will not be functional, but there will be preview tours where guests can see the inside with the lights on. Until the fire suppression system is complete, it would be unsafe (and illegal) to operate to Fun House. Also, in order to not half-ass any of the project when the fun house does open (most likely for all of October) it will be a truncated layout, but in order to compete with seasonal haunts, there will be scare actors for that first month. Lastly, Wild Bill and Chuck are negotiating with local traveling amusement companies to bring in a few rides and local vendors to bring in food.


If anyone visits Wild Bill's please feel free to mention my name and/or Theme Park Review to Wild Bill, he loves to hear from those of you following the project.


Here's how the house looked when I arrived in the morning.


The old placeholder fence has been replaced by this one made from rough hewn Cedar planks. They will remain unpainted to add smell to the visual and audible experience.


Stucco rock work in the building foundation and the turret is new since my last visit.


Most of the work I did today involved painting. Here is a before picture of some unpainted planks.


And an after picture. So much detail want into making these have a weather look. It was second nature to Chuck but it took me a awhile to get the hang of it. Along with the use of rough hewn planks favored by Bill Tracey, Chuck is also following Bill Tracey's preferred color palette.


During a break Chuck took me to the back of the property to see the milling operation on site. Cedar, Maple, Elm, Pine and Oak pieces are all curing waiting to be used.


These storage trailers in the lumber yard hold the parts and props for the forthcoming dark rides. Not shown are 4 VW buses that Chuck will eventually paint to different 60's musical icons: Janis Joplin, Beatles, Doors.


In the future this area will host a haunted hayride and a corn maze.


OK, I'm done painting, what else is there to do.


Let's hang the voracious bat head.


The bat head is now ready to greet those who dare visit.


Next up was getting some plywood and helping Steve, the lead carpenter, build a wall. I scribed some lines for cutouts and made a few cuts with the circular saw. And I still have all my fingers.


I put in about 7 hours work, which is nothing compared to the estimated 12,000 man hours that Alex, Steve and Chuck have put into this project.

Edited by larrygator
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Everything is looking SWEET! Very, very exciting. It'll kill me not to be there on Oct. 6th, but to all who do attend, have a great time! The first reports from an actual visit to the functioning House are highly anticipated.

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Excellent update! Curious how many actors is he planning to staff the house with?


That is TBD, the best answer I can give is "a few". Remember this is not a true haunted house, it is a Fun House incorporating a lot of forced persepctive but with a haunted theme. However, knowing what people expect during the Halloween season Chuck is making accomodations to adjust.


The Fun House will be mostly tight walkways. Opening entering 4 guests at a time will be lead into a show room, all I'll say about the :30 second show is it will incorporate puppets. After the show green lights will appear directing guests to the proper walkway where a door will automatically open.


Also, this will not be a conga line style attraction, just four people per group with groups ideally spaced 400 feet apart


The first dark ride that is expected to open in April/May will be the old Staten Island Pretzel cars brought back to life but with sinister clown theming.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...

Sorry about the lack of updates as I was in China for 3 weeks.


Joe McCarthy - the documentary film producer recently sent me a few new photos and an update on the Haunted Fun House


It has not opened yet due to a few unexpected delays. The funhouse is going through the final stages of approval with the state fire marshalls, planning and zoning board and wetlands commission both gave thumbs up. The next 14 days will bring major construction as the roof joining all the pieces is constructed.


Here are some new photos.


The crew in front of the Haunted Fun House, you may notice that "Fun" was recently added.


Side view of a newly added room.


An ominous area to walk through.


A look inside shows the necessary EXIT signs/lights have been installed.


One last photo, I beleive this is for one of the dark rides, but could be used for atmosphere for the Fun House opening.

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  • 2 weeks later...

^You know, I don't know for sure. My speculation is that they did not have to make a change, but the change was made to avoid confusion.


In this day and age so many Haunted Houses have scare actors. In speaking with Chuck Burnham on numerous occasions he has pointed out that this is NOT a haunted house, even though the facade said "Haunted House". Actually every time talked to me about the structure he called it a fun house. Yes, it is confusing and I think the addition of "FUN" is to manage visitor expectations.


I'll ask next time I make a visit.

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