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Dark Ride Paradise - Wild Bill's Nostalgia Center

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  • 1 month later...

First off Happy Father's Day to all fathers out there. Chuck Burnham also asked that I publicly extend these wishes to Wild Bill, a man that Chuck respects and loves as a father.


I was lucky to spend 6 hours with Chuck Burnham and some of the key members of his team today. I got to experience a real crazy day filled with problems that go along with big projects that are financed with tight budgets. But progress continues to move forward. As far as timing, which many of you care about. All principals fully expect the first Phase of the Funhouse to be open for business sometime this summer. The vast majority of the structure and facade are complete. Many stunts are ready to be installed, however inspectors are reviewing details room by room before Chuck installs anything (to prevent potential damage is changes to electrical and fire suppression need to be done. Shortly thereafter the first Pretzel dark ride will be reborn. Sometime in August is the time frame being mentioned for the Pretzel dark ride.


I got to speak to two valuable members of Chuck's team today. One has been there since the project was resurrected 85 weeks ago and the second has recently come on board. Alex moved on to Chuck's crew 85 weeks ago and does pretty much everything necessary. He started by generally using his carpentry skills, under the watchful eye of master carpenter Steve, but over time has taken on more responsibilities in learning all aspects of the project. In speaking with Alex about his greatest accomplishment on the Funhouse, he could not point one specific but seeing a chronological overview of the progress gives him great sense of proud. Alex pointed out how they use a lot of recycled merchandise in the construction: old wooden pallets, sides from aluminum pools and old gutters ripped straight off of Wild Bill's Nostalgia Store.


Tabitha is a recent addition to the team. She lives in the vicinity but only become aware of Wild Bill's through a friend who traveled through Middletown. Tabitha loved what she saw and as an aspiring artist sent an cold call e-mail to Chuck to investigate working on the project and she was hired. Chuck strongly believes her work has a little Bill Tracy in it, even though months ago Tabitha had never heard of Bill Tracy. So now the former roller derby girl hopes to show off her talent to a wider audience. If you want to view her work it can be found at tabhujar.com.


The last key member of the team is Joe McCarthy. Joe has both a great artistic and business mind and continues to works on the documentary film. He shot over 85 hours of footage.


I just had to recognize some of the behind the scenes stars of the Funhouse before getting to the pictures.


Latest view of the front


I don't think I've presented this side view previously.


Installation of this arched creation over the gate was last week's big project.


The entrance ramp has taken further shape. Not only has it been extended.


Funhouses mirror have been moved from inside the store to the funhouse.


The "Puppet show" room continues to take shape. This is the first room inside the house where a short show will occur. You will be able to see fellow guests that are ahead of you past in the background of the show through the cage.


One of the "to be completed" moving stairs that will lead you to the second level.


That will be housed behind this area of the Funhouse, another place where viewers can watch participants from the outside.


More hand cut shingles await placement on the roof.


When laid properly they create a beautiful and stunning pattern.


This is Alex, who gave me a tour of the roof to get some more photos.


Work is almost totally done on the turret and surrounding area.


Eon stills overlooks the future midway.


Most floodlights hidden from guests on the ground but the effect is stunning


The puppet show room from above


Tabitha is on the left and Jeff Meale (sp?) is on the right. They prepared a BBQ meal of spare ribs and corn on the cob so I stuck around a little longer for dinner. Besides making some mean spare ribs, Jeff is a jack-of-all-trades and volunteers with a lot of mechanical repairs on the project.


Delicious Meal!


Random prop just lying around.


Nine of these lanterns will eventully hang in the front of the house.


Chuck walked me through the first third of the funhouse and I can say there are a lot of tight walkways, uneven floors and darkness. But as you can see emergency exit lights are installed.


A big project for today was to sandblast the old paint off this kiddie ride.


Just as dusk was setting in the equipment was fixed and sandblasting started. In the end only three of the eight cars got sandblasted.


Unfortunately my cell phone doesn't take great night photos. I hope to make it back up to Wild Bill's before the Funhouse opens but if not I know I'll be on the Media Day invite list along with Mr. Bob Backlund.

Edited by larrygator
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Thanks so much for this highly anticipated update! The Fun House looks more spectacular than ever, a real work of art. And they think the first dark ride might be done late this summer, too? That's incredible news.


Continued success, everybody!

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  • 1 month later...

I stopped by yesterday after driving around New England eating lobster rolls and whoring my remaining coaster credits in the area.


There is still not a definitive opening date, but the month of October is the goal. In light of an October opening, plans are to have scare actors on sight one time during the opening month. I didn't take a lot of pictures because to the untrained eye it doesn't look like much has changed from the outside. Many of the indoor changes can not be photographed. For most of the past month indoor painting has been completed, walls have been closed up, some lighting has been installed. So what's left? Minor touch-ups, stunts/gags are ready to be installed, but the fire suppression system has to be completely installed first.


All the while, the crew is working on fixing the flat rides, building a show stage, working out the logistics of the reptils exhibit, digging trenchs for water and power and grading the grounds. They still have a crew of 3 (any volunteers) doing the work of a dozen.


Wild Bill and Chuck continue to acquire rides for their Fun Grove. After the season ends there are plans to drive and pick up a 12 bucket Ferris Wheel. Also, negotiations are being finalized to acquire a unique carousel, the likes of which I have not seen before.


From behind the Fun House you can see that most of the openings have been closed.


And from a distance you might not notice a lot of big changes as there a lot of little details.


As you get closer you can see that the ladder is not a "work" ladder but themeing. Also can you see the cast iron cannons that have been added to the castle roof?


A new turret appears behind Eon the vulture along with additional work on the right side area of the house.


A lot of work has been done in the puppet show room. The roof is now enclosed, lighting is installed, painting is almost done. I can more clearly see Chuck vision now.


Another view of the same room.


The ticket booth is almost ready for pre-sale.


The Jet Fighter (Chuck was sandblasting this on my last visit) is set-up and awaiting work on the motor. In front of the Jet Fighter you can see the footers for the first dark ride. With a mild winter the building could go up in a month and then it would only take another month to install the track and props.


An old trailer is being converted into a stage. When artists aren't performing, Wild Bill is planning on showing classic monster movies on a screen. They will be using a hippied out RV as the projection room.


A look back from the stage area shows the grading that had taken place and an idea of the amount of current cleared land, I believe they have 40 acres.


These pictures of of that Unique Carousel I mentioned earlier. The vehicles are made of enameled wood. The gentleman who owns the rides personally drove a few hundred miles to Wild Bills to finalize the negotiations. The platform the ride sits on is 48 feet wide. The ride was made in Germany circa 1935.


In lieu of a spec sheet I have a Spec Index Card listing details of the 23 vehicles. I can't recall seeing anything like this ride before. I know the Spanish Bambini at Knoebels has unique characters but not completely vehicular in theme.


And just for the hell of it, here is my dinner from last night. It is the X-large mozzarella pie from Roseland Apizza in Derby, Connecticut. It was delicious and huge. That is a regular size pitcher of water to the right of the pie.


I hope to be back in the area in 4-6 weeks for a media preview of the Fun House opening.

Edited by larrygator
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The carousel pictured is pretty reminiscent of a ride that used to exist at Kiddieland outside Chicago:




The magic of family relations and the interests of commercial developers taking out a profitable amusement park so that this ride could disappear into the ether, ladies and gents. Glad to see that something similar might re-emerge.

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^You know that looks exactly like the pictures. I have no doubt in my mind that they are from the same manufacturer, but it's not the the same exact ride. I told Wild Bill I thought I had seen one before but couldn't remember where. I guess I saw one at Kiddieland a few years ago.


Interestingly the subtitle of the You Tube clip says it was built in 1963, but the seller told Wild Bill it was pre-WWII.


EDIT: I just compared the spec card with the video. It doesn't appear to be the same exact ride.


Similarities between Wild Bill's Ride/Kiddieland Ride

1 Trolley

1 Fire Engine

1 Large Roadster (Wild Bills' is Yellow, Kiddieland's was Orange)

2 Jets

6 Scooters



Wild Bill's - 23 vehicles, Kiddieland - 27 vehicles

Wild Bills' - 4 motorcycles, Kiddieland - 6 motorcycles

Wild Bill's - 2 Fire Chief roadsters, Kiddieland - 0 Fire Chief Roadsters

Wild Bill's - 5 additional roadsters, Kiddieland - 4 roadsters

Wild Bill's - 0 bikes, Kiddieland - 6 bikes

Edited by larrygator
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Here's the ebay listing for its sale:




There's no doubt that it is post-war IMO. It is still a very rare ride given how few were imported in the US. I think it's also a different attraction: it looks like there's a bus "chariot" in your pictures in place of the fire truck on the Kiddieland one.


Oh, hey, I should be asleep but I'm posting about german kiddie rides on the internet. This is the life?

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I spent most of yesterday evening and some of this morning reading through this entire thread. I haven't really been around much the past 2 years so this completely blindsided me with it's awesomeness! What an amazing project and what awe-inspiring commitment to awesomeness. And what a fantastically cool job!!


Thanks heaps Larry for such great reports and keeping us all updated. I can't wait to hear more!

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  • 4 months later...
Has anyone heard anything on this place? I was hoping to hear some stories from Halloween, but this thread has been quiet since the summer....


The project is still moving along. They were not able to complete work soon enough for the Halloween season. But remember this is first and foremost a Fun House, albeit with a haunted theme. So while getting the Fun House open in October was the ideal, it was not a necessity. The complex did have a well attended Halloween event showing two Horror movies from the 1950's on their new stage.


If a recall correctly the license they are applying for is seasonal and only allows for the amusement area to operate 6 months out of the year, so if the plan is the operate continuously through Halloween I wouldn't expect an opening before the end of April.


I was supposed to visit in December but got caught up in work and grad school. I hope to get more details shortly. In the meantime, I'm not going to post speculation. I'll only post about what I see in person or hear directly from the project leaders.


I know some of you might view this as the never ending project, but I've seen it in person, even volunteering there, and progress is being made.

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