Trimper's Haunted House
The Haunted House is a dark ride and one of the flagship attractions at Trimper's Rides & Amusements, in Ocean City, MD. Built by Bill Tracy in 1964, and expanded in 1988, it has resided on the southern end of Ocean City's boardwalk strip ever since.
In 1961, Granville Trimper was intrigued by a dark ride at Glen Echo park near Washington DC. He attended an amusement convention not long afterward, where he met Bill Tracy (at the time, the best dark ride builder in the industry) and discussed building a dark ride on the site of the former Windsor Theater. After numerous proposals, Granville settled for the one-level "Haunted House" dark ride package. Construction began in 1963, and the ride was ready for the 1964 season.
The ride was a hit, and Granville added to his new dark ride whenever possible. During the 1988 season the ride was given a major overhaul, adding a second floor to accommodate gags and tricks from a ride called "Ghost Ship" at Playland Park, which had closed. The ship was a Tracy-built ride also, and the stunts fit in perfectly with the ones from 1964. The addition required an enlarged loading area (to make room for some extra cars) and added a balcony, which the cars would travel across during the trip.
In current years, the park has been gradually phasing out the Tracy tricks, which consist of wood, papier-mâché, and day-glow paint. This fragile building has led to numerous incidents, including being the target of vandalism, and constant repairs. The park has been adding newer, modern dark ride stunts to replace the older ones.
The ride begins after climbing into a wooden coffin-shaped vessel. The Haunted House has a total of 11 cars, three of which came from the ghost ship. The cars are currently in the process of being refurbished over the off-season, in groups of three. They are hauled off to Trimper's warehouses where they are given a complete overhaul, with new wood paneling and parts.
The lobby area where the cars are boarded is decorated with antique chandeliers, a number of scary portraits, and two animatronic barkers. The first of these is Count Wolf Von Vinderstine, a headless specter who gives a three-minute looped spiel about what riders will see inside the attraction. The stunt, added in 1995, is run by both air and complex electronics by which the count's mouth and facial movements are synchronized with the looped spiel for a more realistic effect. The second barker is a gargoyle. Hung right above the doors through which the cars enter the attraction's interior, the air-powered stunt gives a short dialog in which he dares the riders to enter.
The car enters a set of double doors (sometimes known as light barriers) and enters the first room. Two of Tracy's gags occupy the space: A large rat perched on a tree stump, and a staircase covered with spiders whose bodies resemble skulls. The rat lunges forward toward the car while the spiders spin back-and-forth on the stairs. The room is used frequently to house cars which have broken down. The entrance to the main workshop is also located in the room.
The car goes through a single set of doors and enters a crooked hallway. Bill Tracy's rides often included a crooked hallway or two. As the vessel moves forward into the room, it is tilted to an angle, giving the feeling of falling. This is achieved by placing a raised tire-track on one side of the car's path, while leaving the other side flat. The guide-rail hinge allows for the body of the vessel to tip to the side while safely maneuvering the uneven grade. This room also takes the vessel up a small incline, which is crucial in allowing the next gag the proper floor space. After coming through a set of doors at the end of the hallway, the vessel enters a spinning tunnel. At the end of the tunnel is a full-scale replica of a coffin-shaped vessel, just like the one the riders are in. This replica spins 360 degrees in sync with the tunnel; along with another crooked grade it gives the illusion of being pulled into a swirling vortex. The cars are actually heading through an elevated bridge-like tunnel, with the barrel surrounding them. The barrel itself was installed by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company.
The cars turn to the right, and head toward a stream of green lights upon the wall. Suddenly, a light turns on, revealing a bedroom turned upside down. A woman is situated on a bed stuck to the ceiling. The car creeps through this room, maneuvering another crooked grade. The car then picks up some ample speed, and heads down an incline past a variety of gags and non-animated characters, such as: a family of Trolls; a hippopotamus; a discarded dummy from the electric chair gag on the second floor, missing its hands and feet; a birthday party where a group of evil Clowns pull a severed head out of a birthday cake; and a werewolf figure. Nearing the end of the incline, the cars pass the Tracy gag known as the Old Mill. The gag involves a scantly-clad damsel chained to a piece of wood. When the gag is activated, the platform on which the wood rests is tilted and the wood slides forward, feeding the damsel into a spinning saw blade.
The cars maneuver a slight inclined turn, where they pass by the Knit-Witt, an original 1964 gag; a set of three wall-mounted busts; and a witch, who lunges toward the car. The car makes yet another rapid descent; this one leads through a graveyard-themed room. The cars pass through a number of hinged door-like graves, which are knocked aside as the vessel speeds downhill. Hanging above is a ghoul, while a demonic looking entity rises from behind a gravestone. The car finally begins an ascent upward. As the car climbs up the incline, a bat flies toward the car from overhead. After reaching the top of the incline and crashing through a set of doors, the car passes a coffin bathed in a bright red light. The car makes a sharp left turn and heads up a steeper incline. This one, which includes another crooked grade, is located inside another crooked hallway. Nearing the peak, one of the overhead beams cracks. The cars enter a set of doors and level out into darkness.
A light turns on revealing a set of barrels which fall toward the riders. The car then heads into a room where the tipping grade is the gag's main aspect. The room, which is known as the "Wave Room", is decked out with neon wave patterns across the walls. The grade pushes the car back-and-forth as though it were out at sea. Another set of doors leads to a room which is occupied by a Frankenstein who lunges at the vessel, and a Vampire lit by strobe lights. The car then heads out onto the ride's second story balcony. This portion was a major addition in 1989's expansion. The cars leave the interior scenes and emerge into the light of day. The riders get a better view of Tracy's detailed facade while passers-by and riders' families and friends can see them mid-ride. The bat which adorns the facade is another 1964 original. It's taken down during the winter and placed inside to avoid the grueling ocean weather, which helps ensure its survival. The bat received a complete facelift for the 2010 season.
The car re-enters the interior through a set of double doors; these doors in particular have become plagued with a rider tradition of placing used chewing gum on the doors. They are usually covered in gum, giving them the nickname of "The Gum Doors") The cars enter the main location of the ghost ship additions. While the majority of these stunts are gone now, the backdrops and parts to the stunts are still strewn about. The cars pass by a mummy, a group of skeletons and a moving coffin which makes loud crashing noises as it tips back and forth.
The next gag, Tracy's torture chamber, involves a man being stretched on a device by a torturer; a man hanging from the ankles suspended from the ceiling above a pit of hot coals; and a chained female, whose animated breasts heave in terror. A rat situated near her toes is from a former stunt which resided across the track at one point; this spot is now occupied by a Giant Skull.
The car ventures into a room, where they first meet a toxic waste monster and a mermaid. Then, a corpse leaps from the darkness toward the car, screaming. The car then trips a switch, and a Distortions Unlimited Electric Chair prop bursts to life. The animated figure thrashes back-and-forth in the chair while letting out a terrible moan of pain, (in recent years, this moan has been able to be heard throughout the entire second level of the ride) while strobe lights accompany the scene. The prop was originally intended to run for Halloween purposes, and wasn't built to bear a constant state of use. The original motor was at a speed which caused the dummy to thrash so violently, its latex skin would tear. The motor was replaced, and until a recent 2009 replacement body, the prop had run with the same one since the new motor was installed.
The cars turn a corner and head into a train tunnel. The vessel is shaken back-and-forth as it maneuvers a set of train-track style planks on the ground, while a bright floodlight shines up ahead. As the car struggles to get off the track, the train horn loudly sounds as the light gets brighter. The vessel then passes another Tracy oddity, "The Last Drop" as it was called by his company, which features a pair of hands creeping out of a toilet basin. The room is dirty, and the toilet leaks water all over the floor of the gag. The cars then turn to begin their descent to ground level. They creep slowly down a hall lined with neon slates. A Distortions Unlimited hanging man kicks and struggles to get free. Nearing the end of this corridor, the car jerks left and meets another giant Tracy rat, and an elderly vampire. The car speeds down a set of smaller ramps; these lead to a neon Grandfather Clock from which a deranged bird pops out. The cars pass an alien, and then round a bend toward the exit doors. The vessel hits a switch causing a waterfall to form over the track. It appears to riders that they are about to get wet, until the car hits another switch that shuts it off just in the knick of time. The car goes through a set of doors and re-enters the lobby. Riders disembark from their coffins and head around the backside of the lobby toward the boardwalk.
- Official Trimper's Rides Web Site
- Trimper's Haunted House Online - Historical Attraction Archive
- The Bill Tracy Project
- An Article With Memories, Photos, and History of the Haunted House
- "Trimper's Haunted House P.1". Laffinthedark.com. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
- "Trimper's Haunted House - Quick Facts". Ochh.net. 1964-01-21. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
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- "Trimper's Haunted House P. 2". Laffinthedark.com. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
- "Trimper's Haunted House - Blueprints". Ochh.net. 1963-04-19. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
- "Trimper's Amusements Haunted House - Upside-Down Room". Ochh.net. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
- "Trimper's Amusements Haunted House - The Sawmill". Ochh.net. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
- "The Knit Wit - Trimper's Haunted House". Ochh.net. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
- "Trimper's Haunted House P.3". Laffinthedark.com. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
- "Trimper's Haunted House ONLINE - FORUM - Facade Refurbishment progress". Notlmpresed.proboards.com. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
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- "Trimper's Haunted House P. 5". Laffinthedark.com. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
- "Trimper's Haunted House - Updates". Ochh.net. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
- "Trimper's Haunted House P. 6". Laffinthedark.com. Retrieved 2012-05-18.