Fair Warning: Take A Ride To The Dark Side Of The Fair!

The Phantom of the Ville Explores the Spook Houses, Fun Houses and Creepier Corners of the Kentucky State Fair!

Hello again, my friends. It’s the Phantom of the Ville here, reporting in from the Thrillway at the Kentucky State Fair, which haunts the Fairgrounds from August 16th through August 26th. There’s something mysterious and exciting about the Midway at night. The blinking lights illuminate the rides, the sounds of carnival barkers and screaming teens echo on the wind and the smell of corn dogs and elephant ears mixes with the smell of grease and sawdust. Right next door sits the abandoned Kentucky Kingdom amusement park like a set-piece from an old Scooby Doo cartoon. In other words, it’s the perfect place for readers of this website to spend an evening after twilight.

I’ll be your guide to the haunted highlights of the Thrillway this year, so keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times, but let your imagination run wild.

One of my favorite guilty pleasures of any carnival is the Spook House, also known in some places as the Ghost Train, but most commonly referred to as the Dark Ride. The classic Dark Ride has been a staple of traveling carnivals for decades, the first of which was designed and built by the Pretzel Amusement Ride Company in 1928. There are the boat ride variations like the Tunnel of Love and the Old Mill, and there are the single rail electric cars that travel through dark, winding tunnels that are more common at state fairs and regional carnivals.

Dark rides can be as expensive and elaborate as the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland or as cheap and shoddy as those found in rinky dink carnivals, and there are whole websites devoted to the love of both kinds. My favorites are Laff in the Dark at www.laffinthedark.com and the Darkride and Funhouse Enthusiasts at www.dafe.org/. After checking out those websites, if you’re still interested in learning more about the history of Dark Rides, I recommend a book that’s part of my own haunted library called “Scary Dark Rides” by Doug Higley (SEE PHOTO). Higley, an ex-carny himself, spent years driving around in just the kind of trailer rig haunted rides you’ll find at the Kentucky State Fair and has a thousand stories from the road. His book may be hard to find these days, but it’s worth the search. I’ll be referring back to Higley’s folk wisdom as we examine the two Dark Rides you’ll find at the Fair.

The first Dark Ride I encountered while circling the Thrillway to the left is apparently so scary that IT CAN NOT BE NAMED! Even though its facade is quite elaborately covered with garish, grizzly carnival-style art, animated monsters and Axe wielding executioners, it has no name anywhere on the structure. The people lining up for a ride all seemed to refer to it as “The Haunted House,” so that’s what we’ll call it here. The Haunted House (SEE PHOTO) is the kind of Spook House that Doug Higley would speak affectionately about in “Scary Dark Rides.” Even though it’s basically a cheap trailer rig attraction, the ride owner seems to have put a little love into it. The amateur artwork on the facade is charming and the interior is well maintained with clinking skeletons, light up scare gags and a little bit of zip here and there. You enter through the “crash doors,” encounter a couple of spooks and travel across the second floor balcony before hitting the second set of crash doors 60 seconds later.

The second Dark Ride I came upon was near the back of the Midway, and it does have a name. It’s called “Ghost Pirates,”(SEE PHOTO) and it’s the kind of cheap trailer rig ride that Higley wouldn’t have cared much for. It’s obviously taking advantage of the popularity of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise for its creepy theme, but the facade artwork is a little beat up and the theme doesn’t really carry forth inside the ride, which is mostly just dark and only has one gag that I noticed before depositing riders back outside 30 seconds later.

Rounding the backside of the Thrillway and continuing down the right side, I discovered a free attraction that while isn’t specifically horror related, might interest those whose tastes lean towards the Gothic/Renaissance period or just the unusual. It’s called the “Mighty 2000MStinson Band Organ (SEE PHOTO), a mechanical band organ comprised of elaborately carved antique, animated figures playing their instruments in synchronization. Honestly, I think it was the coolest thing I saw all night.

Apart from the Dark Rides, there are also several classic Fun Houses to explore. The first, and best, is Pan’s Royal Palace of Fun (SEE PHOTO)! While Peter Pan seems to rule the roost in the really colorful and fanciful carnival facade art, other fairy tale characters also appear. This two-level maze includes many traditional Fun House gags, including the revolving barrel, the moving floor and other surprises.

Then there’s the Indiana Jones themed, “Raiders,” and the nautical/SpongeBob Squarepants themed, Silly Seas, with its own revolving barrel knocking kids over all day long (SEE PHOTO)! I’m sure all these licensed characters are used with the permission of their original copyright holders, by the way. Lastly, if you’re afraid of clowns, you may want to avoid the Glass House (SEE PHOTO). It’s a mirror maze with creepy clowns and a burned out hippie (?) painted on the facade. That may have been the strangest thing I saw all night.

There are plenty of other scary sites at the Fair, including the gigantic, inanimate, talking Freddy Farm Bureau, who I’m convinced is going to come to life and go on a destructive rampage the next time some kid calls him “Woody,” as well as some of the more colorful fair goers themselves. You may even encounter a genuine phantom like myself amid the strange sites of the Thrillway. So Beware, and don’t eat the deep fried girl scout cookies before riding.

The Phantom of The Ville

Write a Review


Comments are closed.

  • www.dangerrun.com