In the Twenties a 192'8" x 56'8" structure was built for a ride Dudley H. Scott brought to Euclid Beach Park called the Witching Waves. The floor for this ride was made of sheet-metal, under which were a series of cam-like devices. The surface of the floor moved up and down in sequence and it was up to the rider to "catch a wave." Catching a wave was difficult so a ride attendant would need to assist. To overcome this a battery-operated motor which powered the front wheel was placed on each car. The ride survived till 1931, replaced by the Laff-In-The-Dark using the former ride cars from the Witching Waves.
Note: Witching Waves was invented by Theophilus Van Kannel and was first introduced at Luna Park in Coney Island in 1907. He is best known as the inventor of the revolving door patented in 1888. Although born in Philadelphia and dying in New York City, according to Wikipedia, he is buried in West Park Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio.
References: "Euclid Beach Park is closed for the season" & Wikipedia
Postcard Image to the left is of the Witching Waves at Coney Island, NY. Postmark 1924.
Reprint of an article that appeared in The Arch, Euclid Beach Park Now’s quarterly newsletter: Laff-In-The-Dark Memories, Volume 13, Issue 3, Summer 2002.
Authored by John Waite; Former Euclid Beach Park employee and Euclid Beach Park Now member.
Growing up during the thirties and forties in Cleveland, Ohio, a favorite family outing and a special treat for me was a trip to Cleveland’s famous Euclid Beach Park. Although I was fascinated with the “high rides” I was intrigued and frightened by the LAFF-IN-THE-DARK ride.
Despite the fact that the park closed in 1969, the memories of its food and rides is kept alive today through a club called “The Euclid Beach Park Nuts” (Note 1), several excellent books and videos (Note 2), and mall shows (Note 3). Their famous popcorn, popcorn balls, candy kisses, and frozen whip are still being made and sold today. (Note 4)
Photo to the right shows the facade of the Laff In The Dark. A Euclid Beach Park policeman stands under the overhang of the Dodgem building. Photo courtesy of Chuck Russell.
The LAFF-IN-THE-DARK building did not start out as a dark ride. Back in the 1920’s it was an open-sided building housing the new WITCHING WAVES ride. Although Euclid Beach Park was always introducing new and unusual rides, this one apparently was a mechanical nightmare. It was removed in 1931, the building was enclosed, and the cars were equipped with motors and a guidance system that could follow a twisting track. The building was huge measuring 192’-8” (L) x 56’-8” (W) x 17’-8” (H). The twisting track according to the drawings measured 1112 1/2’ in length. (Note 5) I thought I’d been told they could run 40 cars on the track, but that sounds a bit crowded. I noted that the drawing indicates a storage area of 26 cars and that sounds a bit more realistic. I do know that when they were running full tilt, the cars were dispatched very close to each other.
On the left a couple exiting the Laff In The Dark. Photo courtesy of Euclid Beach Park Now.
Euclid Beach Park was noted for innovation. They even had a very good R&D department that came up with many items that are used today. One of those was the use of ultra-violet light (black light) developed by chief engineer Dudley Humphrey Scott for use in their dark ride to make it scarier. They also might have been one of the first to use the revolving barrel stunt in the dark ride. (Note 6) When I worked at the park during my college years I had heard that one of the members of the family that owned the park nearly died when he was overcome with fumes from painting the inside of the enclosed building black.
As a small child I had a hard time with this ride as the paintings on the façade were scary and then there was that small black hole that the cars entered and disappeared. I usually made it as far as the first stunt and then it was closed eyes and hanging on for dear life for the rest of the twisting journey. That first stunt appeared to be a pile of cloth, but as the car approached it became a ghost that came toward you. In later years when I got past that point, it was fun and laughed all the way to the end of the ride.
The large interior was divided into two areas so that at times in the dark you could easily hear other sounds and screams. As I recall there was a dragon near the ceiling that you could see at different times during the ride. Many stunts just suddenly appeared such as a gorilla, spider, eyes, lighting, etc. and near collisions with mirrors and posts. I recall a doctor’s office door appearing and as the car approached it quickly opened revealing a skeleton. One of the more startling effects for me was riding in the dark, hearing a train whistle, and then the front of a train would swing into your path to be hit by the car as the light went out. I don’t remember seeing that stunt in later years. Perhaps it was too difficult to maintain.
Photo on the right shows a ride car preparing to enter the Laff-In-The-Dark. ". . . that small black hole that the cars entered and disappeared." Photo Courtesy of Euclid Beach Park Now
The ride used crash-thru doors very well disguising them as brick walls, rocks, or just blackness. There were several enclosed scenes. One I recall as being a cave where a lion would jump out at you. The ride used many sudden sounds such as crashing cymbals, horns, clatter blocks, and of course sirens. The most famous stunt right up to the park’s closing in 1969 was the revolving barrel. The barrel was about 24’ long painted black with phosphorescent stars painted on it. Under the track were bright lights that would excite the paint until a car approached and the lights went out. Now all the rider saw was this disorienting field of stars revolving around him. As most people know, riding or walking through such a stunt leaves one convinced they are turning upside down. During my college years, I worked across from the LAFF-IN-THE-DARK on the FLYING TURNS, one of the park’s famous coasters. I was curious about the dark ride and more than once went over in the morning while the lights were on and walked the track. The operators tried to get me to walk through the barrel with the lights on and I couldn’t make it. Of course there were no handrails, so it was very easy to lose your balance within the barrel.
Photo on the left is of the Revolving Barrel Stunt. Photo Courtesy of Euclid Beach Park Now
Image above, from the Unites States Patent and Trademark Office is for the Revolving Barrel, filed June 16, 1931, Inventors, Dudley H. Scott and Howard D. Stoneback.
As I mentioned before, the ride had a high capacity for a dark ride. When they had all the cars running it took two operators, one at dispatch and one stationed at the unload position to speed up the unloading as riders were likely to sit there laughing and talking about the ride. As I recall both dispatch and unload positions had steel runners that held the car secure during load and unload and could prevent a following car from bumping the loading one. They also used a transfer platform much like the coasters to add or remove cars from the main track.
I understand that some of the stunts still exist in private collections. I’ve always wondered what became of all those cars? Surely there must be one or two around in someone’s garage. In the near future the Euclid Beach Carrousel will once again be in operation in downtown Cleveland, and I hope that a proposed museum will also be built as part of that complex. (Note 7) If so perhaps more memorabilia will appear from the famous LAFF-IN-THE-DARK ride at Euclid Beach Park.
Note 1: The organization was founded in 1989 as the Euclid Beach Park Nuts as members were “Nuts” about Euclid Beach Park. When the carousel returned to Cleveland, after the auction, the organization applied for 501(c)3 non-profit status and changed its name to Euclid Beach Park Now.
Note 2: Point and click on “Park History” and scroll down to see books available on Euclid Beach Park. The books still being published can be purchased at the gift shop of the Cleveland History Center as can the videos.
Note 3: The organization held an annual memorabilia show at Euclid Square Mall every September which got referred to as the “Mall Show”. The mall opened in March of 1977. Euclid Beach Park Nuts first “Mall Show” was held September 29 & 30 in 1990. Euclid Square Mall fell on hard times and saw the anchor stores and other stores vacate. Amazon announced in 2017 plans to build a fulfillment center on the site. The mall was razed and the fulfillment center was completed and opened in 2019.
EBPN participates in Euclid Beach Park Days, held annually at the Cleveland History Center and the old “Mall Show” is now “Remembering the Sights and Sounds of Euclid Beach Park” held at the current Euclid Beach Park managed by Cleveland Metroparks. Due to the Covid-19 virus both events have been cancelled for this year, 2020.
Note 4: To learn more about the current Humphrey Company and where to buy their product click on this link. https://www.humphreycompany.com/scroll. Weber’s Premium Custard & Ice Cream advertises that its vanilla served is exactly the same that was available at Euclid Beach Park. https://webersvintageicecream.com/
Note 5: In the first book, Euclid Beach Park is closed for the season, on page 117 illustration 136 shows a floor plan and track route of the Laff In the Dark. The illustration also appears in the second book, Euclid Beach Park - A Second Look, on pages 173 and 174 Illustration 250-B.
Note 6: The website for Dark Attraction & Funhouse Enthusiasts has this same article on their website. http://www.dafe.org/articles/darkrides/laffInTheDark.html
Note 7: Originally planned for a site in Cleveland’s Lakefront, Voinovich Park, the Euclid Beach Park Carousel opened to the public in November of 2014 in the Cleveland History Center of the Western Reserve Historical Society. https://www.wrhs.org/explore/exhibits/euclid-beach
Reprint of an article that first appeared in The Arch, Euclid Beach Park Now’s quarterly newsletter: Volume 4, Issue 4, August 1993 and again in Volume 13, Issue 3, Summer 2002. Notes from 1934 by Doris Humphrey Mackley (1910-2002).
Rudy Nagode, Euclid Beach Park Now board member made the article available from his archive collection.
Doris Humphrey Mackley's Grandfather, Dudley S. Humphrey II founded the Humphrey Popcorn Company in 1893 and in 1901 the company became owner and operator of Euclid Beach Park. Doris and her brother Dudley Humphrey III assumed important roles in the operation of the park in 1959 with the passing of their father, Harvey.
The Laff-in-the-Dark is a ride through a fun house. Two people get into a little car and embark on a journey through darkness dotted with short flashes of light that bring out entertaining spectacles along the route.
The most intriguing thing in the ride, is the revolving barrel. When it was being built, nobody realized that it would provide such a startling illusion. They built the barrel and connected it so that it would revolve around the track. The ribs that marked the joining of the strips of wood ran around the barrel in spiral shape. It was decided that it might be a good idea to decorate the spiral with luminous stars and have the inside of the barrel dark when the car went through. So men went inside the barrel to pain the stars, using a lantern to get a little extra light inside the barrel. The job was competed quickly.
The men set the barrel in motion and stood inside on the track to admire their handiwork. Quite by accident somebody kinked over the lantern and then suddenly everybody that was inside the barrel began to feel as if he were falling. The stars seemed to stop moving and the track seemed to be turning over. They were all starited and then highly elated; they had hit on a splendid illusion without aiming for it at all.
There are lots of people who insist when they come out of a ride on the Laff-in-the-Dark that the track turned up on at least a 45-degree angle when it went through the barrel, while, in reality, the track remains absolutely flat and only the spiral of the stars move.
The thrills and laughs in this ride are the product of some of the most recent scientific discoveries. Polarized light is used to create the living jewel; luminous paint and the ultra-violet ray are used to cast a weird atmosphere around many of the displays.
It is one of those rides that allow for constant remodeling. Nearly everybody in the Park has at least one bright idea to contribute and many of these ideas have been installed just recently. There are people that ride this amusement every three weeks religiously to check up on any changes that may have been made since the last ride.
The content of the Laff-in-the-Dark, while it was originally quite adequate, is still changing all the time. The latest developments in luminous paints have been used to create some very pleasant effects. The old tendency of ride builders to stuff their tunnel rides and fun houses with things rather unsuccessfully calculated to frighten people is completely eradicated in the Beach and instead the emphasis is on amusing illusions or sights that please the eyes.
The barrel illusion in the Laff-in-the-Dark was developed and patented at Euclid Beach and remains one of the intriguing features of the ride. As the car passes through the dark rolling barrel around which spirals of stars are painted, you see, at first, only the motion of the barrel over you. Then, if you focus your attention on the opening of the barrel at the other end, the stars, which you are able to see in the periphery of your vision seem to stop moving.
The MILL CHUTE was a water-gravity ride with a climactic splashdown at the end of the ride. A product of the Philadelphia Toboggan Company that arrived at Euclid Beach Park for its 1921 season. A similar water ride was the Old Mill, which like the Mill Chute had boats which float gently through a dark tunnel, but with no splashdown, also a product of PTC. A popular ride which operated at Cincinnati's Coney Island; Merrimac Park, Lawrence, MA; Lakeside Park, Auburn, NY; Riverview Park, Chicago, IL; Idora Park, Youngstown, OH and still in operation at Dorney Park, Allentown, PA; Hershey Park; and Lake Winnepesaukah (Lake Winnie) Rossville, GA.
In 1937 the ride underwent extensive changes designed and built by The Humphrey Company. A drawing of the new channel bears the name of P. Killaly and another series of drawings bears the name of Howard Stoneback. Perce Killaly was married to Dudley S. Humphrey II's daughter, Mabel. Howard Stoneback was head carpenter then head of maintenance. The hill on the MILL CHUTE had an elevation of 30 feet the elevation was now 37 feet. The decent was increased from 20 degrees to 50 degrees. With the changes to the channel and the hill came a change to the name OVER THE FALLS
References: "Amusements for Parks, Philadelphia Toboggan Company" brochure reprinted by Amusement Park Journal. "Euclid Beach Park is closed for the season."
Photo to the left shows THE MILL CHUTE's drop on the right and the enclosed tunnel winding among the hills of the roller coasters in the middle Photo Courtesy of Euclid Beach Park Now.
Reprint of an article that appeared in The Arch, Euclid Beach Park Now’s quarterly newsletter: Over The Falls Volume 11, Issue 1, Fall 1999. Reprinted in Volume 28, Issue 4, Fall 2017.
Authored by Jim Wise; Former Euclid Beach Park employee and Euclid Beach Park Now member.
Greetings to all the Euclid Beach Nuts. My name is Jim Wise and I once worked at Euclid Beach Park. As many of you, I also carry some wonderful memories of that great park. Let me share some memories of a very special ride.
It was June of 1957. I had graduated from high school and was looking for a summer job and planning to start college in the fall. Having no luck finding a higher paying factory job, I decided as an after-thought, to try Euclid Beach. I went into the park office one day about a half hour before the park opened and was told to join a half dozen other fellows sitting on some park benches near the Miniature Golf course. Soon the park personnel manager, Mr. Don Johnson, met with us and began walking us up through the park.
Photo to the left shows the entrance and exit to OVER THE FALLS. Photo Courtesy of Euclid Beach Park Now.
I was assigned to work Over-the-Falls? It was a five minute boat ride, much like a “tunnel of love”, in which riders rode in two seat, four passenger boat. The boat floated through a narrow channel into a dark tunnel, passed several “scenes” and plunged down the steep hill into the water below.
Perhaps you can remember watching the boats come down the hill, and then after working up the courage, paying your tickets to go onto the ride. After waiting, it was your turn to climb into the boat. Then, your boat was floating past some pine trees and into a dark tunnel.
Soon you heard the sound of falling water. The boat rounded a turn and lights revealed a “curtain” of water pouring down in front of you. The bow of the boat came right up to the falling water when the lights went out and the falling water stopped. The boat passed under and the passengers did not get wet. Moving on through the dark tunnel, you soon heard the sound of water again. Your boat was approaching the “big waterfall scene”. Lighted by ultra-violet “black” light, this scene was a city at night. It looked like Niagara Falls. There were little houses, stars, clouds, the moon, all painted with a florescent paint that glowed in the dark. Gallons of rushing water (treated with a special florescent dye) poured over the falls. It was a very impressive scene. Continuing through the dark tunnel, you soon approached a scene that looked as if you were looking out through a cave. Beyond the cave, you saw a snowcapped mountain range. (Later this scene was repainted with fluorescent paint and lighted with ultra-violet light to look like an active volcano spewing fire and flames at night).
On the right, ". . . you boat was floating past some pine trees and into a dark tunnel." Photo courtesy of Jim Wise.
Moving past this scene, you now continued through a long period of darkness before coming to the last scene. This three-dimensional scene was made up of rock and mountain formation formed out of plaster or Paris and framed with oak tree branches. Colored light bulbs hidden behind each tier of rocks and hills gave the scene a vibrant color of reds and yellow in the foreground and blues and purple in the background. (In the 1960’s a new scene was added between the last two scenes just described. You may recall the “jungle scene” complete with jungle sounds and a hippopotamus and crocodile that came up out of the water as you passed). Now your boat rounded a curve and you were ready to exit the tunnel.
Photo on the left shows a boat in the channel from the top of the hill." Photo Courtesy of Jim Wise.
An attendant sitting at the end of the tunnel would stop the boat to allow adequate space before letting it onto the chain. (Many a frightened person asked to get off the ride at this point but that was seldom permitted). Now the slow climb up the 35 foot hill. (Many people thought the slow movement of the chain was to add to the suspense – which it did, but actually the chain simply moved at the same speed as the water current that had pushed the boat through the tunnel). Finally, the boat is at the top of the hill. It appears to teeter there for a moment. Then, whoosh, the boat is at the bottom of the very steep hill and skipping across the water. What an ending!
As the boat entered the narrow channel, the attendant with “boat hook” in hand hooks the boat and eases it into the unloading break. Your ride was over. Sorry, no repeats.
Photo on the right shows a boat in the channel and the red, paddle wheel on the right. Below a young Jim Wise celebrating a birthday with an Over The Falls cake. Photos Courtesy of Jim Wise
Reprint of an article that appeared in The Arch, Euclid Beach Park Now’s quarterly newsletter: Volume 12, Issue 2 & 3, Winter & Spring 2001. Author unknown.
That bright red paddle wheel next to the Over-The-Falls hill did not push the water along in the boat channel as might be assumed. The wheel could not develop enough inertia in the water to overcome the friction caused by the long concrete channel walls and bottom. The paddle wheel actually lifted the water over a weir (Note 1) wall that divided the upstream and downstream sides of the channel, causing a differential in water level between the two sides of the wall and since water seeks its own level, it flows readily, moving the boats through the channel to the base of the lift hill.
Note 1: Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Weir; a dam in a stream or river to raise the water level or divert its flow.