Hershey Park Attractions: Fun Houses
Fun houses are an old amusement park tradition dating back to the turn of the 20th century. As fun houses developed they followed two design approaches: active and walk-through. In an “active” fun house, guests could experience the different attractions within the fun house repeatedly. Patrons could stay as long as they wanted, moving from one attraction to another, repeating each one as many times as they chose, often leading to crowded conditions. Ultimately, most park owners remodeled their fun houses into a walk-through style of attraction.
Hershey introduced its first fun house in 1930 when the old swimming pool bathhouse was remodeled to be the Park’s first fun house. Hershey didn’t try to create this attraction in house. They hired James A. Fields, of Detroit, Michigan, who had been in the fun house business for more than twenty years.
Simply called the “Funhouse,” the attraction was an active fun house that had four wooden slides, a barrel roll, a spinning disk, and a ride called the cup and saucer. It also contained a tunnel to walk through. The crazy contraptions were pleasing to both the participants and the onlookers. People simply tried to get through the devices without being too embarrassed.
Cy Little, the Park’s picnic manager, described the Funhouse in his 1990 oral history interview:
The Funhouse was a popular place. That had all sorts of little gimmicks in it. The barrel, for example, was a great place to test your equilibrium, and there was a sack ride. You rode down an incline in a burlap sack, and the boys used to stand around the blow holes waiting for the girls to go down, and the operator would turn on the blowing air, and up go the skirts.
It was remodeled in 1938, with new stunts added, and renamed “WHOOPS.” Philadelphia Toboggan Company did the remodeling and provided the stunts. The Funhouse was located along Spring Creek in the future Comet Hollow area. After the 1945 park season, WHOOPS was torn down to make way for the Comet roller coaster.
The popularity of the Hershey Park Funhouse/WHOOPS led to the construction of a second fun house, built in 1938 and first named “Death Valley.” Unlike WHOOPS, Death Valley was a dark walk-through style fun house. It was designed and built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company as a “Magic Carpet” style fun house. In 1940, new stunts were added and it was renamed “Laugh Land.” This fun house was described in press releases as an attraction “where you walk around in the dark and strange things happen.” As a ‘dark’ walk-through attraction, guests couldn’t see where they were going and frequently bumped into the person in front of them or got run into by the person behind.
The website, www.laffinthedark.com offers this description of Laugh Land:
The facade was painted in yellow, with greens and reds mixed in, too. This walk-through was very black and dark with a gradual incline at the beginning that led to a slanted room, which then led to the outside balcony. You would then go back inside to yet another room and here you sat on a large padded cushion which started a conveyor belt. The cushion would drop you onto the conveyor belt and you were then carried down a dim corridor to the exit.
Throughout this walk-through, there were very few tricks or stunts that operated, although I do vividly remember a Caveman holding a knife stunt.
Laffing Sal, a mechanical laughing woman that had been purchased from the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, was added and entertained passersby from her window above Laugh Land’s entrance. She became an icon of Hershey Park. Laugh Land remained a part of Hershey Park until 1971 when the Park began its transition into a themed amusement park.
“Funland” was the Park’s third fun house. It opened in 1946, replacing WHOOPS. Unlike the dark, walk-through experience that Laugh Land offered, Funland was an active fun house. With a single admission ticket you could spend hours in the attraction. In an article written for the Lancaster [PA] Motorist in 1947, the attraction was marketed this way:
In Fun Land you ought to wear jodhpurs regardless of the sex to which you belong for the fun maker will have his innings in the trap that he has laid out for you. Here you can show off to advantage if you know how to spin. If you can dance on a dime and not get dizzy, you are a No. 1 candidate.
The website, www.laffinthedark.com offers this description of Funland stunts:
Funland, had a front that featured a laffing clown. The interior was very big and had two levels with a vast complex of floorboards that shifted back and forth with other floor sections that rattled, as if hit with a rivet from below. It also had classic air holes to blow up the ladies’ skirts and to embarrass the gents, and two large polished revolving barrels, two polished spinning floor discs that held as many as 10 people each and a large bowl-shaped wooden tub. All of this was located on the first floor alone! The second floor contained a bridge that passed through a revolving barrel and around 20 different distortion mirrors. A walkway led to the outdoors onto a patio and a nice view overlooking the Park, between the sculptured devil and the bearded man on the facade, just below the Funland sign. This section had demonic swirling toadstool type pedestals that guests had to maneuver carefully, or risk stepping down into a surrounding pool of water!
Gary Chubb, a life-long resident of Hershey, remembers Funland as one of his favorite attractions in the Park. He spent time inside “walking through the ‘Barrel’ and riding one of the moving disk rides.” His particular favorite disk ride was one they called the ‘Flying Saucer.’
On the ‘Flying Saucer’ a bunch of us would pile onto the thing, the operator would starting spinning it and we would try to push each other off of it and onto a highly polished wooden floor where you would slide off the Saucer to the outside of the ride. Another moving ride we called the ‘Mexican Hat’ or ‘Sugar Bowl.’ This one I didn’t care too much for as I would get motion sickness on it.
Funland was located close to the future Kiss Tower Plaza and the Flying Falcon ride. The fun house remained a staple of the Park through the 1972 season.; it was demolished at the end of the season to make way for the new theme park renovations.