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Dark Ride Paradise - Wild Bill's Nostalgia Center

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^^They have at least a half dozen kiddie flats that are being restored. The ride you mention is their Jet Fighter. Also I mention at the tail end of that update a German Carousel that Wild Bill bought last year, it was recently delivered on site. It is similar to the one that used to be at Kiddieland in Chicago.


If what you said is true, then I can think of two things: either Wild Bill is restoring the classic kiddie rides in order to sell them, OR Wild Bill is planning to add those kiddie rides to his own park.


Whatever his reason - WHAT TO GO, WILD BILL!!!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Since today was the last possible day for me to activate my 2015 SFNE season pass at the discounted rate from Labor Day weekend, I added a quick side trip to Wild Bill's to check out the progress of the pretzel dark ride. I saw Wild Bill post some picture earlier this week and had to see it in person. From the exterior the ride building is made to look like a circus tent. All the heavy lifting work is done, so from here on out the majority of the work will be done solely by Chuck. He'll still have carpentry help twice a week and some other volunteer help, primarily it will one man making his vision come to life.


Chuck and Wild Bill in front of the circus tent building. The Facade is up in paint right now but will be converted to raised letters.


Inspiration for the ride, Lake Compounce's former Laff in the Dark


Authentic cages from a long closed zoo line the exterior of the building, allowing viewers to catch glimpses of the caged riders experiencing Chuck's dark take on a circus.


I was blown away at how these cages (not fake plastic stuff) will be integrated into the ride.


These is even an old lion cage from a traveling show.


Now let me take you on a walk through. Here you approach the ride with the entrance ramp on the right


The entrance ramp you walk up is on the left and you load directly behind the organ


You go through the first set of slam doors


You turn left encountering some stunts


Through another set of slam doors and you will encounter lots of painted characters on the right. I love the cutout for each doorway cut in the shape of a circus tent entrance with bunting.


Some of Chuck's great artwork is on the right. Sorry it is out of focus, you'll have to see it in person


Make another right through more slam doors and encounter more evil clowns


This next room will pay homage to these Pretzel cars recent installation as the Staten Island Fun House with decorations and signs preserved from that location.


Completed props and stunts still need to be put in place in the back half of the ride.


This second half of the ride will include a vortex (spinning tunnel)


More original artwork




I'm taking this picture from the unloading area.


You will exit through this huge gate.


The building has been wired for electricity and more lights are going in next week. Black lighting and flood lights throughout the ride. Lighting will be key to creating the mood along with hiding, revealing and highlighting each successive scare

Edited by larrygator
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  • 1 month later...

The dark ride is looking amazing, Larry!


The facade alone is brilliant. I wish more dark rides had facades like this as well designed and built,

as this is going to be. The use of the cage walls is another awesome re-use of materials, too.


Great update Larry.

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My family is gonna be visiting New England this summer.... what do you think the odds are that some of this stuff is up and running by that time? I would really love to experience the fun house and Laff In The Dark.



I'm confident the Laff in the Dark will be operating next summer.


Last photo I was sent

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  • 5 months later...

Snow prevented me from making a drive to Wild Bill's during the previous two school breaks, but I'll be driving there tomorrow to check out the progress of Laff in the Dark.


Wild Bill posted the following photo on March 31st saying, "Chuck's crew completes the last quadrant wall inside the dark ride, now on to the tricks and spooks!"


I hope to return tomorrow night with more information.


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It has been too long since I visited Wild Bill's Nostalgia Center to check on Chuck and his crew. Lots of progress has been made. The biggest obstacle remaining is the installation of the costly fire suppression system. Final touches need to be made to the pretzel cars along with an electrical modification on the cars. Interior woodwork is almost complete. Most of the slam doors are in place. I helped with some of the interior painting today. The 27 Mannequins need to be brought in from storage and set-up along with the lighting and props. The amount of track and twistyness combined with the number of rooms is staggering for a small operation.


This picture is from a few months ago when the track was temporarily put down without permanent walls in place


First an introduction to today's work crew. From left to right Frankie Baixauli, myself, Alex Alvandian and Dennis Owens. Frankie is training to refine his painting, Alex has been on board from practically the beginning as he refines his carpentry skills and Dennis has been a huge help of late as the lead carpenter.


This is Stephenie Berube and her son Stephen. I had met Stephenie's husband (David) working on site in previous visits. Stephenie has been a huge emotional support for Chuck as he struggles to achieve his dream. She is working on local PR efforts to make Chuck name more prominent in the arts community beyond just his dark ride work. She is developing a new t-shirt which I will reveal later in the post.


Heavy rope his been added to the decor to further simulate a circus tent.


One thing I was not aware of before, the sails above the structure will have fans underneath blowing on the them to add ambiance to this being an outdoor circus tent.


Just in case you forget the name of the ride, here is the unfinished logo placed on the final set of slam door that will be visible from the midway.


Although the main dark ride in Chuck's early life was Lake Compunce's Laff in the Dark he is recreating/resurrecting parts from all dark rides he rode as a child including Riverside Park and York Beach.


There is only one mannequin correctly in place, I believe this one is the only piece came from Lake Compounce.


Just to prove that I did some work today


This is one of the walls I painted. From within this cutout, something will pop out at you. You have been warned.


More of my wonderful painting skills and I already warned you about what these cutout walls mean.


There is not a lot of straight track in the ride


The constant turning will keep your eyes where Chuck wants them to set up his surprises.


Slam doors will have circus bunting painted above to carry the theme throughout.


Another example of the bunting over the doors


These photos are from the final quadrant of the house, the animal infested area. You will encounter a lion and some escaped monkey out of their cages. I think this will be my favorite part of the ride.


Will see another cutout wall. Perhaps a cage that monkeys are escaping from?


Although it is hard to see from this picture, the curved wood above the track (since painted) continues the theme of being in a circus tent where everything has gone wrong.


The ride will be modified after it opens to leave the main building (through this wall) and take a covered bridge through a vortex (spinning tunnel) before entering into the animal room.




Props lying around


More props


Chuck will pay homage to PT Barnum's "Fiji Mermaid" in this area.


Lastly this wonderful image drawn by Dennis Owens' daughter Savannah Owens. Inspired by Chuck's childhood dreams, that's young Chuck holding his teddy bear entering into his dream home. Apropos since he is practically living in this building right now. Chuck's dream, a terrifying nightmare for others. This is the design that will grace the front of t-shirts being created to promote Laff in the Dark.

Edited by larrygator
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Thanks so much for the update, Larry! I hope hope hope more than anything that come end of July when I am in Connecticut, the Funhouse and/or this are open. It would be like a dream come true. Either way, I plan to make a trip to the Nostalgia Center. Did he suggest any new timetables to you?

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Thanks so much for the update, Larry! I hope hope hope more than anything that come end of July when I am in Connecticut, the Funhouse and/or this are open. It would be like a dream come true. Either way, I plan to make a trip to the Nostalgia Center. Did he suggest any new timetables to you?


Taylor, that's a timetable they are hoping for regarding the Laff in the Dark but unexpected delays can come at any turn. The Fun House will take longer due to legal proceedings.

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One thing I was not aware of before, the sails above the structure will have fans underneath blowing on the them to add ambiance to this being an outdoor circus tent.


That's a very clever touch. Laff in the Dark is looking good.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Another fantastic set of updates, Larry, thanks again! And another standing ovation to everyone at Wild Bill's for doing all this incredible work. I can't wait to get back East and make another visit.

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  • 8 months later...
  • 1 year later...

Wild Bill passed away on Tuesday. I visited the place a few years back, after having followed this page for years. Though he wasn't there, we talked on the phone for a few minutes and he offered me a free bobble head of his likeness. It's sad that he'll never have realized the vision he set out on with the fun house and dark ride.I'm hopeful that the people he worked with can rally around his memory and work with his family to continue on the projects. The store truly is a gem of a place and is a direct representation of his personality. I still highly recommend anyone who passes within an hour of the area to check it out. This article does him more a lot more justice than I could ever.



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That is truly sad. I had a chance to meet him once while passing through Connecticut, and I've never met someone with so much passion for what they do. The man was a walking encyclopedia of nostalgia, and as the family's post on Facebook said, "there was no one quite like Wild Bill, nor will there ever be another". Hopefully his legacy will live on through the store.

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First: (ahem) http://www.themeparkreview.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=1662135#p1662135


Second: I thought "maybe he wore it ironically." So I did reading. No. Matter of fact, I get the feeling that he's a poser. Whatever though, he created himself some sort of empire in Connecticut and we'll see what happens to all that litigation now that he's gone.

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