15. The Wesley Lake Section, Part 6
The Palace Amusements, Part 2
I remember the day a new attraction opened at the Palace Amusements. It was called "Mai-Kai, The Mystery Ride." My memory proves to be bit vague on its precise location. However, Palace artist and designer Ralph Lopez Jr. tells us it was nestled in a kind of hallway or room on the east side of the Palace (south of the Rock-O-Plane) just before you entered the "carousel house" section.
From outside the mystery ride it was hard to tell what it was all about. Basically, it was a thatched hut with a pitched roof. Twice longer than it was wide, it resembled something you might see in parts of Africa or in the South Pacific. I seem to recall that primitive Polynesian masks, animal skins and collections of bones decorated the exterior. The haunting, exotic beat of jungle drums poured from the place. The thatched ticket stand was directly in front. The entrance was just behind the stand, to the right.
A friend and I bought our tickets and ventured forth with some curiosity. The inside resembled the outside - thatched walls and scary facemasks with bones through the noses. The place was dimly lighted. A long double bench, one side facing the other, ran the length of the room. The bench was elevated slightly, so we had to climb a couple of steps to sit down on it. It could seat, perhaps, six or seven people on each side. I recall that a few other patrons, older people, were present. They faced us on the opposite bench. They too expressed puzzlement over what was going to happen. I looked around. I wondered if a wall was going to open, with the bench sliding though a spooky tunnel or something. But there were no seat belts. Then I noticed that the bench was attached to the ceiling by inverted V-bars on each side. It soon became clear that we were seated on some kind of swing!
At this point, I'm not sure whether the jungle drums stopped or the lights dimmed further or what. I recall, however, that something suggested that the ride was about to start. All of a sudden, the bench began to move. With a strained creaking sound, it swung slowly, slowly, a few inches back then slowly, slowly a few inches forward. With each back-and-forth, the bench swung further. Of course, the further it rocked the more momentum it gained. After a few moments, the bench had swung so far that we were almost facing the floor! Wait a minute! What's going on here? Why aren't we sliding off our seats? Then, finally, the benches did a complete revolution - everybody seemed to go upside down! Now it continued to revolve and revolve. Each time the floor of the bench passed across the ceiling it would cover the central light up there and make everything dark. Rather spooky indeed, but are we really going upside down? Maybe it's ...
Aha! The only logical answer was that the bench is not moving. It's the room that's rocking and revolving! Some trick! Who invents this stuff? Actually, I have since learned that this "revolving room" idea is not new. Atlantic City offered a very similar attraction in the 1890s. It was called "The Haunted Swing."
On wobbly knees we leave the Mai-Kai. We're not sure whether we want to try it again. Some years later, the attraction was removed. I guess once you figured it out the mystery wore off.
Another ride, the Orient Express, seems (in my mind) to have replaced the Rock-O-Plane. This attraction was a Chinese-temple-like affair. It was not quite a roller coaster, not quite a tunnel-of-love or a spook-house. Rather, if I recall correctly, your car zipped up and down through dark rooms of mysterious and exotic sights, some of them animated. Maybe they should have called it "the Marco Polo Ride." H'mmmm, that's a good idea for a ride. Just add Venice and we might have something to go on.
Image 1.15.1 The "Orient Express."
I think I went on the ride only once. My guess is that this attraction began operation around the time that I lost the taste for such entertainment, perhaps even later.
Our knees still wobbly from the damn Mai-Kai ride, we now proceed to the Carousel section of the Palace Amusements. Grab a caramel (carmel?) apple and continue on with me! (Try not to throw up.)