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A dark ride or ghost train (United Kingdom and Australia) is an indoor amusement ride where riders in guided vehicles travel through specially lit scenes that typically contain animation, sound, music, and special effects.
A dark ride does not have to be dark. They are enclosed, so all illumination is artificial, and most use special lighting to achieve theatrical effects. Selective use of darkness helps hide the ride mechanisms and increase the visual drama of the experience. Disney's "It's a Small World" is an example of a brightly lit dark ride.
The first dark rides appeared in the late 19th century and were called "scenic railways" and "pleasure railways". A popular type of dark ride, commonly referred to as an Old Mill or tunnel of love, used small boats to carry riders through water-filled canals. A Trip to the Moon began operation at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition. Leon Cassidy of the Pretzel Amusement Ride Company patented the first single-rail electric dark ride in 1928. Historically notable dark rides include Futurama at the 1939 New York World's Fair and Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland.
Modern attractions in this genre vary widely in their use of technology. Smaller-scale rides often feature the same sorts of simple animation and sounds that have been used since the genre's early days, while more ambitious projects can feature complex animatronics, special effects and ride vehicles.
To improve the effect and give a sense of journey, passages in dark rides frequently change direction. Sudden curves give a sense of surprise and allow new scenes to surprise the rider. The rides may also feature sudden ascents or descents to further the excitement.
Dark rides have a number of variations that are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
The first ride to use the name "ghost train" was that of Blackpool Pleasure Beach. The name came from The Ghost Train, a popular play of the time. Blackpool Pleasure Beach is also home to Valhalla, the world's largest indoor dark ride, known for its many complicated effects.
Notable UK dark rides include: Fifth Dimension, (later rethemed as Terror Tomb, and now a laser ride named Tomb Blaster) and Bubbleworks, both at Chessington World of Adventures; Duel (formerly the Haunted House) at Alton Towers; Valhalla at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
Interactive dark ride
As the name suggests, interactive dark rides feature a component that allows the riders to be involved directly in the story of the attraction. The vast majority of interactive dark rides are shooting dark rides, with a small number featuring different forms of interaction.
A shooting dark ride requires riders to aim and shoot at targets throughout the ride. Each vehicle is equipped with hand-held or vehicle-mounted light guns. Successfully "shooting" a target usually triggers special animation such as flashing lights or moving the target. The more targets a rider hits, the higher their score at the end of the ride. The use of the light guns vary between rides and range from killing alien spores on Justice League: Alien Invasion 3D at Warner Bros. Movie World to calling turkeys on Gobbler Getaway at Holiday World & Splashin' Safari. The ride systems used for conventional dark rides allow for the easy conversion into shooting dark rides. This conversion is evident in Duel: The Haunted House Strikes Back! at Alton Towers and Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin at Disney's Magic Kingdom. The latter uses facilities that previously housed If You Had Wings, Delta Dreamflight and Take Flight.
Aside from shooting dark rides, other interactive dark rides do exist. Etnaland's award-winning Haunted School dark ride has been described by Park World Magazine as "one of the most idiosyncratic dark rides". The ride is themed to a school exam, with riders individually answering multiple choice questions throughout the ride. Riders are graded on their responses, with each receiving a school report at the end of the ride.
Trackless dark ride
Trackless dark rides feature ride systems where automated guided vehicles (AGVs) are utilised instead of those that run on guide rails. Trackless dark ride vehicles have the benefit of being able to cross over existing paths, reverse, and rotate on the spot. Some trackless dark rides, such as the Big Red Car Ride at Dreamworld, rely upon a buried wire for navigation. Others, such as Mystic Manor at Hong Kong Disneyland, rely on Wi-Fi and RFID-based local positioning systems.
Enclosed roller coaster
Enclosed roller coasters or dark coasters are roller coasters that feature heavily themed layouts, special effects (such as animated characters, fire, smoke, and sound/lighting effects), and a dark ride portion that abruptly transitions into a roller coaster-style layout with heavily banked turns, sharp turns, steep drops, and helixes. Some of these rides feature backwards motion as well as forwards motion, and many of them have launches in place of lifts, due to the fact that they are built inside structures designed specifically for the ride. A few of them feature inversions.
Some examples include Revenge of the Mummy at many of the Universal Parks & Resorts which features a launch from the dark ride section into the coaster section; Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom which will feature a ride though the Dwarfs' diamond mine on a tour of their mining operations; Scooby-Doo Spooky Coaster at Warner Bros. Movie World, a wild mouse roller coaster featuring a ghost train section, vertical lift and backwards drop; and Verbolten at Busch Gardens Williamsburg which features an indoor "event building" themed to an escape from the haunted Bavarian Black Forest that includes a free-fall track section.
List of dark rides
- "Ghost Train (Luna Park)". Parkz. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
- "The School". Park World Magazine: 38. August 2013.
- "Alien Invasion on the Gold Coast". Park World Magazine: 13. October 2012.
- "Gobbler Getaway". Sally Corporation. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
- "European Star Award 2013". Gosetto. 20 September 2013. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
- Niles, Robert (9 August 2013). "The Imagineers behind Hong Kong Disneyland's Mystic Manor talk about their award-winning attraction, at Disney's D23". Theme Park Insider. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
- Laff In The Dark: Information and history of the dark ride and funhouse amusement industry
- The Darkride and Funhouse Enthusiasts (DAFE)
- The Haunted Report, blog covering the haunted attraction/dark ride industry
- Autumn Chill, an international directory of dark rides, haunted attractions and ghost tours
- Haunted Attraction magazine, trade publication for the haunted attraction industry
- The Bill Tracy Project: Dark Ride Builder
- Sally Corporation: Dark Ride Builder
- Garmendale Engineering: Dark Ride Builder
- Holovis: World Leader in Dark Ride and Interactive Dark Ride Technology based in the United Kingdom
- Haunted House Canada: Haunted House In Ontario Canada
- Chuck's Dark Rides: This page is for those interested in amusement park dark rides past & present around the country