Friday, August 10, 2012

Midway Memories and Associations

Does anyone else feel like there's a dark underbelly to carnival midways? If I feel that way, I certainly have some good reasons. Actually, three reasons are coming to mind right now! I'll explain what's going through my head when I visit a midway, while showing you some photos I took at The Wisconsin State Fair's midway a few days ago.

This clown was part of a fun house I walked past at the midway. Looking at him, my mind instantly went to something scary from my childhood. That "something scary" was this guy:

As any faithful reader of this blog knows, I loved the show Are You Afraid of the Dark? when I was young. A very memorable episode of the show involved a spooky fun house and the legend of a ghost clown. That episode still spooks me even though I'm now an adult, and I've never had a fear of clowns!

If you're in my relative age group, you probably know about Zeebo the clown. If you aren't familiar with him, here's a trailer for the episode "The Tale of Laughing in the Dark"

When I was in high school, I first read what was to become my favorite book: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. I've never read any other book that painted such clear images in my mind. There's a definite darkness behind the carnival in that story! If you've read that book, you know why I think of it every time I see a carousel. I won't spoil it for you if you haven't read the book, since the carousel is central to the plot.

I also first watched one of my favorite movies as a teenager: The Lost Boys. I'm sure most of you have seen that movie, so I won't be spoiling anything by saying that I also think of it when I see a carousel. When watching kids circle around on bright, colorful horses, my mind is filled with images of young, 80s vampires!

Why are carousels never this cool in real life?

I may not have seen Kiefer Sutherland on the midway, but I did run into a few other interesting characters...

I found Cousin IT airbrushed onto the side of a fun house. Another cool find were the pirates painted on the side of The Ghost Ship ride.

This guy was standing in front of the ride.

I have no idea what this next creature was supposed to be. Maybe he was an evil gargoyle. Whatever he was, I thought he was cool! This creature's eyes shifted back and forth as he made low, grumbling noises. He was sitting outside the midway's haunted house.

Nice hairy belly, hey? Here's a close up of his face:

This hairy gremlin had a little friend who was sitting on top of the haunted house.

Does he remind you of anyone? He reminds me of...

Do any of you have some childhood associations with carnival midways? I mean, are there any movies, books, or TV shows you've come to think of every time you're at a midway? Maybe some of you even have my same associations.

Well, tomorrow I'm going to our local Renaissance Faire. You might remember my Ren Faire blog post from last year. I hope to get many more pictures to share with you this year!


  1. GREAT post! I'm not sure if I mentioned this before, but for my birthday last year my mom gave me the entire collection of Are You Afraid of the Dark on DVD. It continues to be one of my most prized possessions. :) Oh yeah, and that amusement park episode really freaked me out!

    I read a book in high school (I think it was by Dean Koontz?) called The Funhouse. It was a pretty dark story about some of the people who worked at the amusement park, as well as another family who was tied to the whole story. Granted, it wasn't a particularly well-written book, but obviously it affected me enough to the point where I can remember it 15 years later!

  2. Marisa ~ Thanks. :) Yeah, you did mention that a while back! Isn't it fun to watch these old episodes over again? It brings back childhood memories, and I think they still hold up. Plus, it's fun to look back at the clothing from back in the day. All those flannel shirts and high top sneakers. :)

    I remember reading a few Dean Koontz books, but The Funhouse wasn't one of them. I was neither here nor there on his writing, either. Three must have been something of interest in the book, if it's stuck with you this long!

    I'm sure that a lot of interesting true stories could be written about what happens behind the scenes of amusement parks. I think that someone should make a reality show with some of that behind the scenes action! I bet it would be a lot more interesting than some other reality shows.

  3. Well Justine you've officially won the blogging game! In post you singlehandedly managed to hit upon 5 of my favorite things of all time; Are you Afraid of the Dark?, Funhouses, Something Wicked this way comes, The Lost Boys, and Ghostbusters. Congrats on an absolutely amazing post and great pictures as well! Another great funhouse book to read is one called "Funhouse" from the infamou Pointe Horror Series from our youth. The author is DIane Hoh and the book is a quick, fun, little read that will brink you back to the days haha. The book also has quite the twist at the end!

  4. Halloween Man ~ No way! Obviously, I knew about our shared love for Are You Afraid of the Dark? but I had no idea about the other topics. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one. :)

    I don't know about "Funhouse" but I'll try to find it. I love spooky old things that transport me back to my childhood! Watch me remember having read the book once I find it. :) Quite a twist at the end, eh?

    By the way, did you think that "The Tale of Laughing in the Dark" was one of the scarier ones? It was maybe the second scariest episode for me.

  5. Ugh, you kind of touched on a nerve for me Justine! Hahah I am deathly afraid of clowns! One of my earliest memories was being in a funfair with my mam, and at some point coming across an animatronic clown in a glass case thing- Apparently I just turned around and ran in the other direction! They just make them so horrible looking! The one you took a picture of looks as if he'd come to life at any minute! I don't like it! I never watched AYAOTD? when I was little, I think I was more from the Goosebumps generation, both the books and the tv series, oh, and the Point Horror books were my favourite! I watched the Are You Afraid of the Dark? episode you posted up there, Zeebo's laugh really freaked me out, though it's good to freak yourself out sometimes isn't it?! I do love that gargoyle though, there's something about him I just love.. I think it's his grumpy little face! Great post Justine! I really cannot wait for Autumn and October now! I don't know if you're familiar with Alton Towers in England? It's this great amusement park I used to live about 30 minutes drive from when I lived in England, and I want to go back this year for my birthday as they have a Hallowe'en Scarefest every year, and I really want to experience the park and the rides around Hallowe'en! I am so excited, I also want to try out their (relatively) new ride, Th13rteen, it's billed as the world's first 'Psychoaster'! I think you'd like it, I loved the advert they showed on tv for it, check it out here- Ooo I am so excited now, I may put some of this energy to good use and do some cleaning! Hahah ♥

  6. I recorded Something Wicked from cable waaay back when and watched it quite a bit.

    I know we tweeted about all this recently but I feel the same way about carnivals and to a lesser degree amusement parks. There's always something niggling the back of my brain thinking there's more going on behind the scenes.

    Have you seen the Tobe Hooper movie Funhouse? It's about a group of kids that break into a funhouse after hours. There aren't nearly enough good movies based around carnivals/amusement parks. Then of course, there's the original Freaks which I love.

  7. The only thing that scared me as a kid when at our local fare was the guy in the skeleton suit who popped out half way through the ghost train ride, he had a maniacal laugh and would tug at your hair in the pitch black. One year I went on with my brother, I was about 8 and he would have been about 10, the guy jumped out and made me scream and my brother punched him hahaha! It couldn't have hurt the guy but I just find it so funny that he thought he could fend off this skeleton with a punch!

    I absolutely loved this one ride called the Thriller - it had plenty of horror classics painted on it like Freddie Krueger and Michael Jackson from Thriller obviously. It looked so creepy when it was lit up at night, I would go on it again and again and again!

    It doesn't run any more but here is an old poor quality picture I found taken around 1993..

    I too have a great love for 'Are you Afraid of the Dark', one of my favourite childhood memories!!! I don't recall that clown episode though so I'll give it a watch! xxx

  8. Great post and creep factor. I love that Gargoyle he is a work of art!

  9. Aoife ~ Haha! Uh oh. Well, you're not alone with your fear of clowns. In fact, I was told the other day that clowns make the top 10 list of fears for people. I agree that the clown I photographed looked real. He was life size, and his hands were flesh colored. To make matters worse, his legs were slowly marching in place.

    I'm surprised that you had the nerve to watch that Are You Afraid of the Dark? video with a clown fear! That was brave of you. I wonder if I'd be so afraid if I watched it for the first time as an adult. When you get it in your head that something is scary when you're little, it always remains a bit scary.

    I thought I was part of The Goosebumps Generation! Actually, growing up in America, I was. I'm guessing from your comment, that the Goosebumps books hit Europe a little later. Or perhaps, R. L. Stine kept writing for some time. Why not? Heck, there might be 20 years worth of kids who think they're a part of The Goosebumps Generation! :)

    I like the grumpy gargoyle as well! He was actually mildly spooky in person. I think that's because of the movement and noises. It was all pretty subtle.

    Nope, I don't know about Alton Towers. I watched the advertisement, which was a little like a miniature horror movie! Speaking of cool ads, I'm reminded of a commercial for a water park years back. It was for a ride called The Black Anaconda. I ended up going on the ride, and it actually was pretty cool. Here's the ad:

    Dex ~ I thought of you when I started writing this post, because of our previous conversation. I meant to tell you I posted this, and probably forgot out of tiredness. Anyway, I'm glad you checked in and saw this post on your own. :)

    I haven't seen "Funhouse" yet. Wow, I'm getting a bunch of cool sounding recommendations in these comments! That sounds good and spooky. I bet there's something/someone weird lurking around after hours in real life too.

    I strangely enough, have never seen "Freaks"! I say strangely, because it was often shown at midnight for "The Friday Night Freak Show" at the Downer. Have you been to the Downer movie theater? I ask, because I know you've been around Milwaukee off and on. I get the sense that "Freaks" is fairly controversial nowadays, but it looks fascinating.

  10. Bella Morte ~ Wow! He'd actually tug your hair? I bet that would scare a kid! Or an adult... Your brother punched him? Nice to know he's there to protect you. :) I hope that skeleton man wasn't hurt, though!

    That Thriller ride looks like it would make me sick! Anything that goes fast in a circle makes me sick. Was the Thriller song playing in the background of the ride?

    I remember your love for Are You Afraid of the Dark? :) Really, you don't remember the clown episode? That one was pretty memorable for me, so you must have never seen it. You'd remember it if you had. I actually rewatched it in the dark right after writing this post. Even though I have these shows on DVD, I still watched that episode online. It adds a lot to watch these old things at night. Let me know what you think of it!

    Magikalseasons ~ Thanks! He is a sculpture in my eyes. His wings moved up and down as his eyes shifted back and forth. I saw him in the early evening, but I'm sure he was even more creepy in the dark! I could hear one of the carnival workers talking about how he scared her while I was taking that picture. :)

  11. Yep, circus and fair midways have the most interesting and creepy characters. Also, I love "Lost Boys". It is definitely a favorite of mine.

  12. I noticed you mentioned "midway" on Twitter recently, and I actually had to look up what it meant. I know you're a history buff, but I was assuming you weren't referring to the Battle of Midway in World War 2. Haha. I had no idea the term referred to the sideshow area of a fairground, so yet again, I've learnt something new. I'll have to find out if that term is used here. I've never heard it, but then again, I haven't been to that many fairs. (By the way, Australia does have fairs. Every state has an annual "Show", as they're called here.)

    I always associate creepy carnivals with Ray Bradbury too, although it's because I have his book of short stories, called 'Dark Carnival'. I've never read 'Something Wicked This Way Comes'. I'll have to put it on my "To Read" list.

    I'm sure you already know that I'm a fan of 'The Lost Boys'! ;) Keifer is looking particularly cute in that gif!

    I remember an old show I used to watch with my dad, when I was little, called 'Ghost Story/Circle of Fear'. It was hosted by Sebastian Cabot and there was a different spooky tale each week. I have a memory of a creepy carousel episode. I'll see it I can track it down.

    Loved this post and all your photos! This comment is getting too long already, but I just had to point out that the pirate statue looks like Vincent Price to me! :)

  13. Adsila ~ "The Lost Boys" will always be a classic for me! It's hands down my favorite vampire movie. It has the perfect combination of scary moments, funny moments, and heartwarming moments. I'd love to visit the midway from that movie, without being bitten anyway. :)

    Little Gothic Horrors ~ Haha! "The Battle of Midway in World War 2." :) Nope, and you probably won't be seeing a lot of war stories on this blog any time soon!

    Isn't it fun learning about the way things are referred to differently in different countries? The "Show" way of referring to a State Fair is totally new to me. So, have you been to your state's show lately? I'd be curious to know about the spooky parts of your country's carnivals. I'm sure you guys have some spooky things going on at your shows too!

    I've oddly never picked up "Dark Carnival" but it sounds like I should! I definitely recommend "Something Wicked This Way Comes". It might be fun for you to read in October. It's a pretty quick read, and will put you in an Autumn frame of mind.

    Oh, yes. I know you're a "Lost Boys" fan too! I think we have a pretty similar sense of humor with movies. :) Yeah, Kiefer is looking good there! I thought he was adorable through that entire movie, even if he was supposed to be evil.

    Yeah, please try to find me that episode of "Ghost Story/Circle of Fear" because I'd love to see it!

    I can see the Vincent Price connection! There are similarities between their facial structures, noses, and eyes. Hey, maybe the pirate was even modeled from a photo of Vincent!

  14. I just purchased 'Something Wicked This Way Comes' from Amazon. Couldn't resist. :)

    Here's part one of the 'Ghost Story' episode with the carousel:

    I haven't had a chance to rewatch it through yet. I was very young when I saw this show on TV and I can barely remember the stories, but certain scenes stayed with me. The series is quite expensive to buy on DVD, but it looks like all the episodes are on YouTube. :)

  15. Never even heard of the Downer. When we were there we were mostly fixated on the convention center and the Safe House. And of course Ed Debevik's when that was around...might give you an idea just how long ago I went there lol

    LGH - Ghost Story/Circle of Fear 1st season was just recently released on DVD. Haven't seen any but it's on my wish list now!

  16. Little Gothic Horrors ~

    Cool! I can't wait to discuss the book with you. I hope you got a good deal on it!

    I just watched the episode of 'Ghost Story' you linked to. That was REALLY GOOD! It was very thought provoking too. I guess we were left to make our own interpretation of the ending. In some ways, it was a positive ending. I guess that would depend on which character you ask, though. :) I won't write any more here, since I don't want to spill the beans for anyone else who might watch it. Anyway, thanks for sending that along. I think I see more episodes of 'Ghost Story' in my future!

    You might want to rewatch this episode, because I think you'll see a few parts differently. I can see why you might remember this, since there was a young girl in the story named Emily. I mean they call her 'Em so that's a lot like your name. I can definitely see why the mention of a carousel reminded you of this!

    Dex ~ Oh, The Downer is an older theater on the east side of Milwaukee. You know what? I must have flaked and typed the wrong theater name. What I meant to write was The Times Cinema. That's over on Vilet. Where was my brain at? Anyway, The Times is a really cool old place with a life size statue of Alfred Hitchcock at the door. I've seen a lot of "Friday Night Freak Shows" there. The Downer plays mostly artistic/foreign films. The Times plays a lot of old black and white B-Movies and cult classics.

    Oh, Ed Debevik's! That's going back in the day. I went there for Halloween once during my high school years. All the waiters and waitresses were dressed up. I should hunt down some of those old photos. That was a crazy place. Everyone was so intentionally rude and late with the food! I still can't believe they went out of business.

    As I just said to Emma, I really liked that episode of Ghost Story, and I can't wait to watch more of them!

  17. Loved your post! I fully agree about carnivals..I love Something Wicked This Way Comes. I remember seeing the movie when I was young kid. As a matter of fact I just put that on my netflix list yesterday again. I love old favorites especially around the fall time.

  18. Pumpkin Cottage ~ Thank you! :) I should watch the movie version of Something Wicked This Way Comes again. I've only seen that once, and it was years ago.

    Yeah, I am really getting geared up for more spooky reading and movie watching. Some of that may happen today, since we're finally getting a cloudy/rainy day. That puts me even more in the mood for this stuff!


  19. Carnival clowns are some of the creepiest creatures in existence! But my sense of midway forboding comes from my jr. high school years when we would walk down in the morning on a school break period to see the carnies setting up the midway just after arriving in town. Some of those guys were creepier than any clown. <:O

  20. Halloween Spirit ~ Ah, sounds like someone has a clown fear! That's a cool memory you have, even if it's also a creepy one. There's something so magical about watching people set up carnival rides. It's fun to just watch the process. It's also sometimes scary, if the workers appear a little unsavory.

    Looking back, I can't even believe that I got on some of those rides! As an adult, I see some of the people putting them together, and I figure I'd be getting on a death trap! That and there have been some severe carnival ride injuries, and even fatalities around here. I won't gross you out by going into detail. :)

    Back to watching people set up. I think some of the mystery and fascination comes in with having strangers come into your town. Especially if you find them weird looking or acting. I'm sure that back in the day, before modern entertainment, it was even more fascinating! Then you add in the whole sideshow aspect... If we could talk to people who witnessed these things in the 1800s, I bet we'd hear some stories!

  21. If you like watching people setup, track down the movie She Freak...but only after you've watched Freaks!
    She Freak is a less interesting, white-trashy remake but it's got plenty of footage of carnival workers.

  22. Dex ~ I've never even heard of She Freak! I wonder if it will be hard to find. I'll look around for that after I get a chance to watch Freaks. I'm waiting to watch Freaks, until I'm in the right mood for it. I have a feeling that there will be a lot of visual intensity in that movie!