X-E visits Coney Island.

After the incredible success of the last survey, I think I deserved a week off.

Not much has happened since we last spoke. Oh, I watched some documentary on pet ferret conventions that painted all of these poor, enthusiastic ferret owners as total psychopaths, and then spent the rest of the afternoon pissed that a television production team would go through so much trouble to make people who liked ferrets look nutty. Other than that, it’s just been work and sleep, with a dash of Coney Island.


I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve only been to Coney Island a handful of times despite it being only a short drive from home, but now that the news has spread of the imminent destruction of much of its historic amusement pier goodness, it seemed like the right time to stumble around the wooden planks, taking pictures of seagulls and dilapidated casino arcades.

Coney’s famous Astroland Park, where most of the area’s rides and carnival games have stood for eighty-seven millennia, is on its last season, doomed to be torn down in favor of condominiums or some shit. While this won’t affect every attraction that’s made Coney famous, it’s also true that the whole boardwalk area seems to hang in a delicate balance, with every small, stupid nuance adding up to something much greater than its parts. I just can’t imagine anything shiny and new peacefully coexisting with the near-antiquated charm of these many rides, arcades and eateries, and it’s a safe bet that Coney Island as anyone knows it will cease to exist come the first sign of a bulldozer.

Fortunately, the famous Cyclone will escape destruction. This weekend marked the first time I’ve ever actually gone on the damn thing, and it holds up to its reputation. The old coaster lacks loops or any of the modern technological achievements of most of today’s top-rateds, but makes up for that by instilling a certain sense that it will fucking fall apart while you are heading for your first dip. While you’re walking towards the Cyclone, its comparatively demure size kinda makes you think that you’re going to be riding it only for the attached nostalgic value. Nuh uh. It’s a legit experience.


The main reason I wanted to visit Coney again was for its several “dark rides,” which are just growing rarer and rarer by the day. First up was the “Spook-a-Rama,” which debuted in the ’50s and really hasn’t changed much since. Virtually hidden in a sea of roofed sideshow games and shops, I might’ve walked right past it had it not been for the Alien-esque voodoo demon thing protruding several feet above its facade.


We went on it, of course. I won’t lie and tell you that it’s scary, because if you’re more than seven-years-old, it probably isn’t. Basically, you sit in a little car and stroll around a pretzel-shaped track in a dark room full of screaming, light-up displays, ranging from devils to guys in electric chairs, along with all of the other essentials that are common for rides of this type. Kinda cheesy, but it’s the good kind of cheese.


One of the stranger and most amazing things about Coney Island is how little things seem to change once they’re erected. Facelifts are far from common. Like, there’s a specific wing of Astroland that debuted in the late ’80s and hasn’t changed at all since then, proven by the characters the creators chose to “borrow” for decorative purposes.

While Coney fans insist that a lot of the key attractions will simply be relocated rather than destroyed once those condos go up, I just can’t see anyone going through the trouble of transporting crudely painted Ninja Turtle/Simpsons signs from 1989. Part of me is sad about that, but another part of me is totally itching to be among the looters when the place is finally abandoned. My living room could use a new motif.


Oh ho ho, I am well-versed in the majesty that is “Dante’s Inferno,” mainly because they have the exact same ride in Wildwood. (Or at least, they used to, before renaming it and dumbing down some of the naughtier bits.) Dante’s is a “transportable” ride, meaning they can move it around without totally dismantling every last bit of it first. This means that most of world’s Dante’s Infernos have probably had a number of homes throughout their lives, but it also means that this particular one should survive the coming demolition even though it stands right in the heart of where it’s all going down.

I often forget that my lifelong proximity to several New Jersey shore points gives me an advantage as far as carnival ride knowledge goes, but I have to imagine that a great many of you have seen Dante’s Inferno before — or at least, some version of it. If not, it’s really no different from what I explained about the Spook-a-Rama ride, but this one sort of doubles as a light roller coaster, with twists and dips and such.

Remarkably, this particular ride retained the awesomely demonic facade that all Dante’s Infernos began with. (Many of them have been “re-themed” so the scares are a little less “biblical.”) Surely, it’s more interesting to look at than it is to go on, with everything from three-headed dragons to a gigantic winged Satan warning off potential customers in ways only matched by its bloated five dollar admission fee.


There are a lot of casino arcades in the area, all in varying degrees of disrepair. Now, when I say “casino arcade,” you need to disregard the memories of the many fine casino arcades you’ve wasted money at over the years. These are a different breed. Many are no larger than bagel stores, and most of them are alarmingly bare and unkempt. I’m not even sure if the photo above registers as an entrance to a casino arcade, but that’s what it is. Having seen what’s inside, I can confirm that the sign encouraging parents to host their kids’ birthday parties there is hilarious.

The torn-apart interior, reminiscent of the set from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, hosts a small assortment of coin-op arcade games that are almost universally ready to collapse. A minor Skee-Ball section in the back teams with a sad trio of slot machines — the kind you’d buy from the back page of a novelty catalog — to give customers their only means of obtaining points for prizes. And what prizes they are!


Aside from the typical gamut of plastic spider rings and bamboo finger traps, there’s a series of larger prizes held in window display cases lining the arcade. My God. Horribly organized horrible prizes, lacking even basic signs to let you know how many points it would take to win them. I’m pissed at myself for not just offering the guy twenty bucks for whatever that radio control “Space Patrol” toy shown above is, because it’s clearly from 1978 and I am so obviously destined to own it.

Other window cases held even more life-changing prizes. Take this set of knives, featuring daggers that are one sneeze away from falling from their package, out the open window case, and onto the head of the poor soul playing Street Fighter three feet below. Another case featured a pile of Star Wars bookbags, likely pilfered from a closeout store down the road. Coney Island is incredible.


The “Ghost Hole” wasn’t open when we strolled past, which is disappointing since it appeared to be a lot bigger and three times as insane as the dark rides that were open. Web research tells me that there’s everything from man-eating crocodiles to killer Tiki statues inside, so my current number one priority is to get back to Coney Island as soon as possible.

We were kind of in a rush on this little adventure, so I can only imagine what I’d find if I allowed myself a full day to roam around. The whole place felt a bit like Mos Eisley — kinda exciting, kinda seedy. Plus, with the way so many of the arcades, souvenir shops and whatnot have existed without refurbishment for years or even decades, I know that there’s some serious treasure waiting to be discovered here.

Actually, as far as treasure goes, I did find a little something…


…at the gift shop pictured above. Alas, this entry is long enough. Find out what ridiculous thing I blew ten bucks on for your amusement in the next X-Entertainment blog entry, coming to you sometime in the year 2033.

93 thoughts on “X-E visits Coney Island.

  1. kittymao

    I was just thinking the same thing- it feels so fall-like all of a sudden. I don’t necessarily mind it either.
    Fall means I get to wear sweaters and not look like a weirdo wearing sweaters in 80 degree weather.

    The Closest thing I have to Coney is the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwark. It’s pretty neat-o, but they are revamping too often for it to get Kitschy. There’s some stuff, like the shooting gallery, and some of the old-school claw games that are 100% winners in my mind, but then they put them next to Tekken3 and DDR and make them look like folorn little step-children. I have to hunt down my favorite machines- and I wind up getting all bent out of shape cause I can’t find the damn lucky-charm coin-puncher. I appreciate that they’re trying to bridge the gap between New-and-Awesome and Old-And-Nostalgic- I just wish that they would stop tinkering with the old shit- it’s a winner in my eyes, leave it alone…

  2. gingela5

    kittymao Someone just commented to me today that I must get chilly inside since I was wearing long sleeves (a sweater). I almost told her to mind her own business, but it was the bosses wife. I am DYING for it to be Fall, actually I’ve already skipped ahead to Christmas…

  3. Cameron T.

    We got a cold front today. It’s currently 77 and pouring rain. Awesome!

    Don’t worry, it will be back in the 100s in two days…

  4. Clockwork

    I used to love the Dante’s Inferno ride. My younger brother and I used to get into debates as to what was the better spooky ride, Inferno or the Haunted Mansion ride on the Seaside Heights boardwalk. I preferred the Coney Island ride and he the latter. Of course, there was always Dracula’s Castle but that will only stir up bitter memories.

  5. phunqsauce

    Somebody mentioned Geauga Lake earlier and I was reading recently that somebody bought The Big Dipper for $5,000. They recently auctioned off all the the rides and whatnot from the amusement park (although the waterpark is still in existence). It was a sad day for me when the Geauga Lake shut down. It was a summertime mainstay. The 25 dollar season pass went a long way for someone who was in middle school. It was almost as sad as when Sea World closed down a lil while ago. I felt pretty privileged to to live only about 10 minutes from those parks. I sure miss those days when I would bug strangers to buy me $5 packs of cigarettes (which was actually about a 250% markup back in 1995) and try to pick up girls with my friends. I spent the summer of 1999 working across the lake at Sea World which was never a dull moment for good and bad reasons…its like they threw away a part of my childhood/adolesence. RIP Geauga Lake and Sea World.

  6. The Real Andrew

    This is blasphemy! Yeah, I’m glad they’ve spared Cyclone, but yeah, it won’t be the same without the whole carnival. Also, who would want to live in a condo right next to a noisy, rattling roller coaster?

    So yeah, do go there if you get the chance. Cyclone may not have a lot of modern-style high-intensity action, but it is pretty rough and rocky.

  7. tOkKa

    –>> ..disrepair , un- kept, disheveled , and crumby. Still beyond the nostalgia factor & CHARM .. there is a certain amount of important Americana that will be destroyed once the ‘ bulldozers ‘ come.

    And at that point whatever is lost / or all that lost . it’ll be a pretty pathetic shame.

    Dammit .. >;[
    >v

  8. Lloyd Bleeker

    Gotta love the teal Cryptkeeper in the Ghost Garage…I mean,Ghost Hole.

    “Hmm. I wonder why he’s so eager to go to the garage?”
    “The ‘garage’? Hey fellas, the ‘garage’! Well, ooh la di da,Mr. French Man.”
    “Well what do you call it?”
    “A car hole!”

  9. Hope

    I hope they keep most of Coney Island intact. I still want to visit someday!

    Here in Houston we had a coaster called the Texas Cyclone in our Six Flags Astroworld park. The ENTIRE park was torn down October 30, 2005. Now it’s just a huge field. It is so sad to drive by there and see what is basically the gravesite of my childhood playground.

    Here’s a great tribute to the coaster with footage from a rider’s POV:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_cJjQIxexs

    PS: I love Slam-A-Winner! We have them here at Dave & Busters.

  10. Starscream77

    that really sucks tearing down all the cool fun things that help attract us to places like Coney , to suit some rich snobs water front dictatorship . They are doing the same thing to Ocean City Maryland . We used to have this huge 5 story haunted mansion with real actors to scare the crap out of you , alas it was torn down in 2002 for a new fishing pier for all the red neck belly button pickers in Maryland. We do still have 2 dark rides Dracula’s tunnel or some shit like that and some other dark ride with ghosts…. any how im going next week for 4 days and if you like i can send you some pics of Maryland’s soon to be destroyed Board Walk land marks

  11. Johnny Goo Ninja

    I SAW THAT FERRET DOCUMENTARY!

    I don’t think one person that they interviewed was mentally healthy. Or, perhaps as you stated, that’s just the idea that the production team wanted to point across. Maybe chinchilla people.

    Anyway, do you remember that eerie song the one lady sings about her ferrets? That was hands down scarier than the Freddy Krueger rhyme (One, two, Freddy’s coming for you).

  12. Mike83

    It’s sad to see parks (even partially) go. I live maybe an hour’s drive from Panama City, Florida; there used to be a sweet little amusement park known as Miracle Strip. It had a roller coaster, a cool indoor devil-themed centrifuge, an awesome indoor scrambler, a haunted house, and many more neat-o things. Sadly, the park was shut down completely to make way for some new shopping center or something.

    It was a shame to lose that little park…it was so weird and wonderful; now it’s no more….

  13. Teddy Ray

    Mike83, I’ve been to Miracle Strip! I don’t remember much about it…I hate PCB myself (I’m a mountains person), but I remember going to Miracle Strip. Is Alvin’s Island still around? I also remember a haunted house place, Castle Dracula, somewhere in Florida that scared the crap out of me, but I always wanted to go back.

  14. Ladyjaye

    I’ve been to Coney Island once, in 2005. It is a pretty surreal place to go — too bad that most of it will be gone. :(

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