[Dark in the Park Writing Contest]




A Haunting to Remember by Robert Kimble


            The year was 1996 and my brother Brian and I were spending a week in Wildwood with our mother.  Wildwood was our favorite New Jersey beach resort for many reasons, but mainly for its abundance of dark rides.   For those not in the know, a dark ride is a walk-through or ride-through haunted attraction located primarily at amusement parks or tourist traps.  In 1996, Wildwood had no fewer than nine dark rides in operation on the boardwalk.  This was a pretty good statistic, considering many beach resorts razed all their dark rides following the deadly Great Adventure Haunted House fire of 1984.

            This summer, we convinced our mom to get a room at the Bolero Motel on Atlantic Avenue.  Not only was the Bolero a classic doo wop style motel, but it was also only a few blocks from our favorite dark ride of all time, Castle Dracula.  Castle Dracula was a classic haunted attraction built in the mid-seventies on Nickels’ Midway Pier.  It was actually two rides in one; a walk-through of the castle, and a spooky boat ride through the castle’s dungeon.  Although we loved looking at the castle, my brother and I had only been on it once before, in 1992.  My brother Brian is the primary reason that we never went through the castle in the 1980s.  I wanted to, but Brian was too scared and our mother refused to go on dark rides.  If our father was still around, he would have taken us, but he died in 1984.

            It was the first night of our vacation and I was itching to go through the castle, but Brian was having second thoughts.  “Come on Brian, it’s not that scary!” I yelled. 

            “I’m not going on it again, Robert.  I still have nightmares from 1992,” he replied. 

            “If your brother doesn’t want to go in, don’t make him.  You can ride it by yourself,” shouted mom.  Mom was always defending Brian because he is younger than me and gets scared very easily.  Although I’m pretty brave, I didn’t want to go through the castle alone.  It’s just not as fun not having someone to share the adventure with.

            I finally came up with a ploy to entice my brother.  “Brian, if you go through it with me, I will let you have my collection of Garbage Pail Kids.”  My brother and I had been collecting Garbage Pail Kids since the 80s, and Brian has wanted my Barfin’ Bart for eight years. 

            “You will even give me your Barfin’ Bart?” Brian asked. 

            “Yes, Barfin’ Bart and even Trish Squish,” I responded.  I knew I had him in the palm of my hand now. 

            “Ok, but you better not let anyone jump out at me.” 

            “I won’t, I’ll make sure of it.”

            So after eating a couple slices of Sam’s pizza and a vanilla cone with rainbow jimmies at Kohr’s, it was off to Castle Dracula.  As we got closer to Midway Pier, we could hear the ominous sounds of Bach’s Toccata of Fuge blaring from the castle.  I could see fear in Brian’s face, but he was determined to get my Barfin’ Bart so he continued on.  Our first stop was the ticket booth outside the castle.  Our mom gave us enough money for both the castle and the dungeon boat ride, so I purchased the combo ticket book and we walked over to the entrance.  “Let’s do the boat ride first because it’s not as scary, Robert.”

            “OK, but remember, you have to go in both the boat ride and the castle to get my Garbage Pail Kids.”

            “I know, I know.  Let’s go,” Brian muttered.

            The worker collecting the tickets had on a black cloak and white face paint.  He was also wearing a pair of white K-Swiss sneakers which didn’t fit with his costume.  Brian and I prefer black LA Gear sneakers, but we never worked at a haunted attraction so it really doesn’t matter.

            “Get in the boat!  No rocking or getting out of the boat in the ride, or you will die!” yelled the worker.

            “Don’t let him scare you Brian,” I whispered.  “I’ll take the front seat, you get in the back.”  I decided this would be the best arrangement since the workers would jump out at me first and my brother wouldn’t get as scared.

            Off we went into the dark catacombs of the dungeon.  The boat traveled excruciatingly slow and we kept thinking someone would be jumping out around every corner.  Occasionally, a person did jump out, but I was prepared for it and I didn’t jump too bad.  Brian, on the other hand, would sound out a girlish scream every time a ghoul emerged.  I felt like I was going through the ride with my mom.

            “I don’t remember this ride taking so long,” Brian stammered.

            “Don’t have a hissy, it’s almost over.”

            The live actors in the ride didn’t really scare me.  It was all the bloody scenes of torture that gave me the creeps.  Guys with swords in their face, people impaled on stakes, coffins and bodies.  It was enough to give you nightmares for a year.  I sure wouldn’t want to be trapped down there by myself.

            After seeing a huge demon in a tunnel, we came to the exit of the ride.  Brian was relieved when we finally saw the loading station and he nearly knocked me over trying to get out of the boat.  “Maybe we should go into the castle tomorrow, Robert.”

            “No Brian!  We are going in tonight.  I want to go to Hunt’s Pier tomorrow.”  Hunt’s Pier was another place with amusement rides on the Wildwood boardwalk.  It also had some great ride-through dark rides.  Brian doesn’t mind the Hunt’s Pier dark rides because they are not as scary as Castle Dracula. 

            “Ok, we’ll go in the castle tonight, but let’s get a funnel cake first,” Brian suggested.

            “Ok, one funnel cake, and then we’re going in the castle,” I replied.

Brian sure does love eating funnel cake.  Since we’re from Allentown , Pennsylvania , Brian and I grew up eating funnel cake.  Every year at the Allentown Fair, Brian would eat five funnel cakes.

            After indulging in our funnel cake from the Castle Waffle Shop, we walked over to the entrance of the castle.  Brian was happy because there was a pretty good crowd waiting to get in.  This meant that we wouldn’t have to walk through the castle alone.  After waiting outside for ten minutes, the double doors to the castle flung open and a ghoul demanded for everyone to walk into the main room. 

            Once we walked into the castle, we were hit with the weirdest smell.  I mean, the place smelled like lime and decomposing bodies.  The room was also very cold, which added to the scariness of the place.  About fifteen visitors piled into the main room with us and we all gathered around the fireplace.  Since Brian and I were in the castle before, we knew that someone was going to jump out of the picture frame when the lights went out.  This bit of information didn’t stop Brian from hiding behind me like a terrified child. 

            “My god Brian, you’re nineteen years old.  When are you going to grow up?”

            “Shut up!  You know this place gives me the creeps,” he replied.

            I think the actors sensed Brian’s fear because just as the guy jumped out of the picture frame, a ghoul also jumped in front of Brian’s face and nearly gave him a heart attack.  He pushed me over and ran to the other side of the room screaming like a sissy again.  I was really embarrassed for both of us.  Brian was the closest thing to having a sister.

            The rest of our tour through the castle was much the same, ghouls jumping out at Brian and him running around like a little girl.  Going into the execution room, a guy jumped out and scared Brian so badly that he nearly ran back to the first room.  If not for me dragging him the other way, I think he would have made his way back to the entrance of the ride.

            The final room in the castle was painted in black and white squares.  When we walked into the room, we were confused because there was no exit door.  The last time we went into the castle in 1992, we walked through this room and nothing happened.  Now, it appeared like we were in for something big and I could see Brian’s face turning white.

            Once all fifteen of the visitors got into the room, the entrance door slammed shut and all the lights went out.  Then we heard a loud grumbling noise and a strobe light started flashing.  In the flashes of the light, I could see that the walls of the room were closing in on us and people were starting to freak out.  This was more than Brian could handle, because when I looked over at him, I could see that he was puking all over the floor of the room!  Pizza, ice cream, jimmies, and funnel cake were coming out of his mouth at full force, and I wasn’t the only one who noticed.  Now the people in the room were really screaming.  The workers just thought that the people were scared like normal and kept making the walls close in more and more.  People were now standing in Brian’s puke and this started a chain reaction.  At least five other people, including myself, began to vomit in that horrible room.  When the workers finally realized what was happening, it was too late.  The floor was completely covered in vomit and so were many of the people.  One small kid even slipped and fell face first into the puke.  This caused another girl to vomit.  The smell was so bad that I couldn’t forget it for the rest of our vacation.  They even had to close the castle for the rest of the night to properly clean and sanitize the room.

            That was our last trip through Castle Dracula.  In fact, after that vacation, our family never returned to Wildwood.  In 2002, I heard that the castle burnt down so there really is no reason for us to return to the island.  We now spend our summer vacations in Niagara Falls , where there are still several operating dark rides for us to enjoy.  Brian no longer gets that scared in haunted attractions, and he has not thrown up since that trip, although I do make him wait till after the ride before he eats funnel cake.  Brian did let me keep my collection of Garbage Pail Kids, and every time I look at Barfin’ Bart, I think of Castle Dracula and our haunting to remember.










© 2004 Dark in the Park.  This site was created by Bill and Seph Cherkasky.