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Category: Local Interest

Peak Fall Foliage Tool

Peak Fall Foliage Tool

My favorite season is fall. The air turns cool, there are hay rides and pumpkin patches, one curls up with a good book in front of a fire, reading scary tales, and, of course, watching the leaves change.

Japan has some very good, live updating of fall colors on a few websites.

The folks over at this website have a nifty little tool that predicts when fall colors will change this year. How do they predict the trends this year? With a little bit of data (and possibly a touch of pretentiousness):

The company uses a model that ingests a multitude of data sources including historical precipitation, NOAA precipitation forecasts, elevation, actual temperatures, temperature forecasts, and average daylight exposure to develop a baseline fall date for each county in the continental United States. Next, the model consumes hundreds-of-thousands of additional data points from a variety of government and non-government sources and layers this data over its own historical data from past years and, finally, with a high degree of accuracy, the algorithm produces nearly 50,000 date outputs indicating the progression of fall for every county in a graphical presentation that is easy to digest.

In a Landscape

In a Landscape

Founded in 2016 by classical pianist Hunter Noack, IN A LANDSCAPE: Classical Music in the Wild is an outdoor concert series where America’s most stunning landscapes replace the traditional concert hall. He takes a 9-foot Steinway grand piano on a flatbed trailer to National Parks, urban greenspaces, working ranches, farms, and historical sites for classical music concerts that connect people with each landscape of Oregon.

To meet the acoustical challenges of performing in the wild, music is transmitted to concert-goers via wireless headphones. No longer confined to seats, you can explore the landscape, wander through secret glens, lie in sunny meadows, and roam old growth forests.

It’s a fantastic experience – so give it a shot if you have an opportunity to catch one of the remaining shows of the year.

Haunted Mansion Cocktail Lounge

Haunted Mansion Cocktail Lounge

I love spooky things and Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Imagine my joy when Raven’s Manor, a cocktail lounge designed to look like a haunted mansion, just opened this last month in downtown Portland. I gave it a visit and really enjoyed it.

The partners, Vega and Jared Bradley, have concocted a backstory for the Manor. As the tale goes, namesake Dr. Raven was a prominent elite known for his lavish parties, which were actually a ruse. “All the while,” Vega explains, “he was secretly kidnapping victims and taking them down to his laboratory for human experimentation.”

While the bartenders at Raven’s won’t be in the business of abducting humans, there will be an opportunity to take part in some experiments if you so choose. In a month or two, the bar is scheduled to start accepting reservations for an “Elixir Experience,” where guests are asked to solve clues throughout the property and then use everything from chemistry equipment to cauldrons to create custom drinks.

Indiana Beach Mystery Mansion

Indiana Beach Mystery Mansion

I have fond memories of Indiana Beach, and especially of this classic pretzel dark ride: Mystery Mansion. There is very little footage or images of this ride, but I managed to put this together from the only known video from the ride.

So far, this is the only known online footage of Mystery Mansion at Indiana Beach (thanks to foch41). Skip along to 1:57 for footage of the ride.


Tom Spackman, Chief Executive Officer of Indiana Beach, designed and developed the Mystery Mansion ride in 1969, and it ran until 1998 when it was re-themed into the Den of Lost Thieves by Sally Rides.

You can also read a lot about pretzel dark rides here.

General Layout and Ride Elements

The ride was completely contained inside a 2 story building – except for a small covered loading area in the front on the first floor and a covered balcony on the second floor.

The waiting area was made to resemble the front of a classic haunted house with white, vertical weatherboard siding, dirty windows, a red gnarled tree, and barn-like entrance and exit doors. The waiting line was a series of Victorian style area railings common to haunted house attractions. Visitors would load into the carts at the front of the building on the ground floor and then be sent on their way by the ride operator. Carts progressed individually through the ride separated from the next cart by enough distance and time that riders could not see nor hear each other. The ride progressed through 2 different floors of the building. Slightly more than halfway through the ride, visitors would exit the interior of the building to travel along a covered upper deck before re-entering the building for the rest of the ride.

Like many dark rides, the interiors were painted complete black, utilized a winding Pretzel like track, double-doors, and partition walls to block off light from the outside and between different ride sections. The ride made extensive use of black lit paintings and painted sets. Frantic, classical pipe organ music played constantly during the ride to heighten the experience.

A notable feature that was advertised on the side of the building was its use of air conditioning. Being one of the very few rides at Indiana Beach with air conditioning, it was a popular way to cool off during hot, humid Indiana summers.


As the track layout and space was not modified during it’s redesign, the information from the original redesign is still accurate:[3]

  • Facility size: 4,500 sq. ft., 418 sq. m.
  • Track length: 295 ft., 90 m.
  • Ride Cars: 8, two-four passenger 24VDC electric drive
  • Capacity: 2 passenger/360 pph
  • Capacity: 4 passenger/720 pph


The ride carts were similar to many other Pretzel ride carts. Made of molded fiberglass that could hold 2-4 persons, the wheels were configured in a tricycle-like configuration with the front point of contact on a metal rail that powered and guided the cart. The rear of the cart had two small rubber drive wheels that pushed the cart. The carts had rubber bumpers that surrounded the cart and were instrumental in softening the impact with doors used to separate different areas within the ride. These carts are visible today as the Den of Lost Thieves re-design simply re-used the original carts and adding the light gun feature.


Like many dark rides, carts move through a number of different major scenes in the dark. A frantic organ music track played during the entire ride from speakers scattered around the ride’s path.

  • Black lit spooky characters and eyes – the ride would enter the building on the first floor through 2 sets of double doors that cut outside light off completely. After entering the darkness and traveling a short way to ensure complete darkness, the cart would turn round a corner to the left, turn right, and then ascend a long ramp to the second floor. Riders would travel below a large, orange, black lit skeletal face that was in a recessed alcove so it was only visible for a short time. Riders would then proceed further with similar black lit faces, glowing eyes, and paintings appearing to the left and right while the cart weaved through the darkness. Most of the faces were only visible for a short time due to being placing in recessed alcoves or using partitions to quickly block the rider’s view as their car passed them.
  • Rotating Tunnel Illusion – Carts would enter a rotating tunnel illusion in complete darkness – making the riders completely unaware of entering the illusion. Around 1/3 of the way through the tunnel, black lights under the track would illuminate the rotating walls. The illusion was enhanced by the fact there were rotating caps at both ends of the tunnel that matched the rotation of the main barrel. This made it look as if you were completely trapped in the rotating tunnel. As you reached the 3/4 point through the tunnel, the lights would go out so you could not see the exit point between the end of the tunnel and the rotating end cap. You would make a sharp left turn as you left the rotating barrel portion in darkness. This prevented riders from realizing how the illusion was accomplished.
  • Graveyard/Ghoul Mural – Before exiting to the second floor upper balcony, the ride would progress by a long black lit mural to the left with various ghouls and spirits painted on them. The mural was protected by a barrier of chicken wire.
  • Upper Outdoor Balcony – Common to many pretzel rides, there was a brief outdoor section on the second floor. The cart would turn left and push through 2 sets of double doors to exit the building and travel along an overhanging upper balcony outside. The balcony traversed the entire length of the building’s front – right above the loading area and overlooked the main promenade. This section provided a little break from the darkness and scares of the ride before re-entering the darkness. The effect was often (likely intentionally) disorienting due to the transition from a pitch black environment to bright daylight – as well as exiting the very cool air conditioned interior to the hot summer exterior. This effect is also use in Dr. Frankenstein’s Haunted Castle when visitors exit the dark portions of the experience onto an outside 2nd floor balcony where they get a break from the scares and darkness before returning inside.
  • Underwater Themed Area – After re-entering the building from the upper balcony, the cart would quickly descend back to the first floor and make a few sharp turns before passing by an underwater themed black lit scene. There were various large painted coral set pieces and spooky underwater elements to make riders feel as if they were at the bottom of the sea.
  • Honking Truck – One of the most memorable parts of the ride occurred next at the very end of the ride. During the final tight turns of the ride, your cart would push through a set of double doors that warned of extreme danger ahead in giant lettering. As your cart turned to the right in complete darkness, the front of a very large delivery truck would be brightly illuminated just a foot or two away on your left while a deafening air horn would blare. The cart would immediately exit the building into the loading area where waiting patrons would see the shocked reactions of the riders. It was not uncommon for carts to appear to be empty, only to see scared passengers rise up from the floor of the cart where they had hid. The honking vehicle trick was later used by the creators of the Haunted Mansion ride at Knoebel’s Amusement Resort[4]


Running for 29 years and having elements that were used by dark rides in other parks, Mystery Mansion was generally considered very well executed, innovative, and popular. There have been recent calls by fans to revert the theming of Den of Lost Thieves back to it’s original Mystery Manion dark ride origins[5]


If you have memories, pictures, or video, PLEASE link them or upload them somewhere and drop a link in the comments. If you were a ride operator, maintenance, remember any of the scenes or interior, please comment on those too!


  1.  “Den of Lost Thieves Dark Ride | Sally Dark Rides” Retrieved 2021-04-11.
  2. ^ “Thomas Spackman Obituary (2013) – Monticello, IN – Journal & Courier” Retrieved 2021-04-11.
  3. ^ “Den of Lost Thieves Dark Ride | Sally Dark Rides” Retrieved 2021-04-17.
  4. ^ “Knoebel’s Haunted Mansion” Retrieved 2021-04-11.
  5. ^ We look at den of the Lost Thieves and how it could covert back to a dark ride, retrieved 2021-04-11
Christmas Valley Oregon

Christmas Valley Oregon

For people who enjoy deserts and sage – Oregon’s Christmas Valley has some really cool adventures.

  • Fort RockFort Rock is on the western side of Christmas Valley and is a naturally occurring tuff ring, a kind of volcanic crater that forms when hot magma meets cold groundwater. It’s also the site of a cave where archaeologists unearthed several pairs of sagebrush sandals confirmed to be about 10,000 years old – providing some of the earliest evidence for human occupation in North America.
  • Crack-In-The-Ground – An ancient volcanic fissure, Crack-in-the-Ground offers one of the most fascinating slot-canyon like hikes in Oregon. A dirt trail leaves the sagebrush behind and descends into the fissure, which measures two miles long, 15 feet wide and up to 70 feet deep.
  • Hole-In-The-Ground – Another volcanic landmark with a literal name, Hole-in-the-Ground is a big explosion crater (known as a maar) in the middle of nowhere, measuring nearly a mile across
  • Christmas Valley Sand Dunes – When thinking of sand dunes, Oregonians tend to think of the Oregon coast. Way out in the desert of central Oregon is another set of dunes, covering 11,000 acres of land and reaching up to 60 feet high
  • Fossil LakeFossil Lake is dry lakebed on the southeast side of the Christmas Valley Sand Dunes, well known among paleontologists as a site for fossils. The ancient lake that once filled the area is thought to have been 200 feet deep, but over time it slowly dried up, leaving behind the remains of many prehistoric animals that visited its shores.
  • Lost Forest – Lost Forest is what remains of an ancient forest of ponderosa pines, which once covered much of the region
  • Glass ButtesGlass Buttes is one of Oregon’s best places to find and (legally) gather shards of obsidian
Portland Winter Light Festvial 2021

Portland Winter Light Festvial 2021

The Portland Winter Light Festival has been growing every year. What started as a very humble collection of eccentric artists has become a ever growing event.

Unfortunately, half of this year’s event occurred during our big snowstorm – the very weekend I was hoping to go out so I missed most of it. Bummer. However a few folks posted some video of this year’s event:

Also, here’s some collected photos from the event over the last few years to enjoy


Oregon 1986

Oregon 1986

Set in the fictional city of Providence Oaks, Oregon in 1986, Lake is an upcoming, chill-looking game where you deliver mail and get to know the town’s quirky locals.