Did You Know about the Dark Ride Project?

Did You Know about the Dark Ride Project?
The haunted house at State Fair of Texas in Dallas, Photo Credit: Alissala / Shutterstock.com

This unique project is using virtual reality to document the fast-disappearing haunted rides of America

OT Staff
July 27 , 2020
07 Min Read

The spooky rides in America's amusement parks have influenced everything from films to TV shows and video games. Think Disney's adaptation of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes or the grand finale of the Woody Harrelson starrer, Zombieland. These haunted rides have been around for more than a century, but they are disappearing, one by one. The advent of cinema halls, TV shows, gaming, and streaming platforms have gradually weakened the ghoulish attraction people had for them. 

A 'dark ride' has cars along zig-zag winding tracks (somtmes known as pretzel tracks) inside an open room, with several spooky stuff jumping out at you in pitch darkness. They have a cult following all over the world with websites and Reddit threads dedicated to favourites. These fans will be happy to hear about a rather unique project that is documenting the rides (and trying to resurrect some) before they are gone.

The Dark Ride Project was started by Joel Zika, a professor of design who travels around the world with his 3-D camera rig capturing the rides. Zika's project doesn't just track these rides but also points out pretty interesting pop culture links such as their early influence on horror effects in movies. 

 
 
 
View this post on Instagram

Happy Halloween! I’m very proud to present: American Dark Ride, telling the story of America’s haunted history and the people and parks who keep the nightmares alive!. InHD and #virtualreality https://youtu.be/cjClAzC0gGc @santacruzbeachboardwalk @knoebels @funlandrehoboth @trimpersrides @waldameerwaterworld @camdenparkwv @denoswonderwheelpark @htcvive #Amusementpark #ghosttrain@oculusstorystudio #haunt#horror#haunted #attraction #halloween#funpark#themepart #gothic#amusement#abandoned #dark #vr#fisheye#VirtualReality #Rides#rollercoasters#history #Darkride#darkrideproject #billtracy#lunapark#lakewinnie #spook #spooky

A post shared by Dark Ride Project (@darkrideproject) on Oct 31, 2017 at 9:10pm PDT

 

 
 
 
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Check out our amazing 360 Video Capture from @knoebels amusement park, PA this incredible park is in its 91st season! We captured the iconic Haunted Mansion ride. Thanks to the Knoebels family, Drew Kanaskie, David Wynn and Stacy Ososkie#Amusementpark #ghosttrain @samsungusa @htcvive #attraction #halloween#funpark#themepart #gothic#amusement#abandoned #dark #vr#fisheye#VirtualReality #Rides#rollercoasters#history #Darkride#darkrideproject #billtracy#lunapark#lakewinnie #spook #spooky

A post shared by Dark Ride Project (@darkrideproject) on Aug 15, 2017 at 1:51am PDT

 

 
 
 
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Check out our amazing 360 Video Capture from @beachboardwalk@samsung @oculusstorystudio boardwalk has been home to dark rides since the 1930s, this incredible update of the Haunted Castle was built by @sallycorp who've been at it for 40 years! Special thanks to Tom Canfield and @nlaschkewitsch who we interviewed. @jauntvr @vrworldnyc @vrforgood @usatoday #horror#haunted #attraction #halloween #funpark#themepart #gothic #amusement#abandoned #dark #vr #fisheye#VirtualReality #Rides #rollercoasters#history #Darkride #darkrideproject #billtracy#lunapark #lakewinnie #spook #spooky

A post shared by Dark Ride Project (@darkrideproject) on Jul 26, 2017 at 7:02am PDT

You can get a rough feel of the rides around the world through the videos using VR. Along with shooting using VR tech, accelerometer data is used for the visuals to figure out a cars’ twists and hiccups to get as close to the actual experience. Yes, you won't get the same feel as you would  if you were actually experiencing the ride, but the Dark Ride Project is also like a documenting/conservation project for this ephemera that was once a part of popular culture, some of which date back to a hundred years.   

 
 
 
View this post on Instagram

The main reason for doing this project is because of how many great rides we've lost. Help me continue to bring great vr experiences to people http://igg.me/at/darkrideproject #darkrideproject #darkride #vr#virtualreality #360 #360VR#amusementparks #funparks #themeparks#attraction #themedrides #sideshow#ghosttrains #darkrides #millrides#hauntedhouses #darkparks #horror#fairground

A post shared by Dark Ride Project (@darkrideproject) on Sep 18, 2016 at 8:00am PDT 

The project is also documenting rides outside the US. For instance, Blackpool Pleasure Beach in England where the team shot at one of the oldest dark rides in the world.

Check out more about the project here. A crowdfunding platform on Indiegogo lets people donate to the project.


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