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. I remember riding it when I was only 7 or 8 and being absolutely thrilled. There is very little footage or images of this ride, but I managed to put this together from all the online resources I could find, my own fuzzy memories, the revamped pirate version, and the only known video. If you have memories, videos, or pictures, PLEASE share them!

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.

History:

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. They used double-doors and partition walls to block off light from the outside and between different ride sections. The ride made 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. The interior was kept very cold to the point of needing to rub ones arms after being in it for some time.

Statistics

From what I can tell examining videos online, the track layout and space does not appear to have been modified during its redesign to the pirate themed ride. So the information from the original redesign should still be fairly, or exactly, 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

Carts

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 set of metal rails 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.

Scenes

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 an underwater themed black lit scene. This was my most fuzzy memory – maybe it was before the balcony? 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.
  • Egyptian themed items – a reader reminded me that there was one room with some egyptian mummies in a room. I remember one mummy in a stand-up sarcophagus with the top half open so you could see the mummy with its hands crossed over its chest.
  • Honking Truck – One of the most memorable parts of the ride occurred 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]

Reception

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]

Media:

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!

References

  1.  “Den of Lost Thieves Dark Ride | Sally Dark Rides”www.sallydarkrides.com. Retrieved 2021-04-11.
  2. ^ “Thomas Spackman Obituary (2013) – Monticello, IN – Journal & Courier”www.legacy.com. Retrieved 2021-04-11.
  3. ^ “Den of Lost Thieves Dark Ride | Sally Dark Rides”www.sallydarkrides.com. Retrieved 2021-04-17.
  4. ^ “Knoebel’s Haunted Mansion”www.dafe.org. 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

7 thoughts on “Indiana Beach Mystery Mansion

  1. Hey, thanks for this article. I would have been 7 years old the last time I rode this, and I remember it quite well. For the first section, I remember passing under the glowing eyes as soon as you entered the building, and I also remember passing a shelf with floating skulls, as well as a circle of mummy’s tombs, but I don’t remember anything else. For the last part after exiting from the balcony, I seem to remember a second spinning tunnel with an illusion of passing through a giant spider and its web. I seem to remember this happening twice in the second half of the ride, the second time being through a blue tunnel. I don’t remember any underwater theme, but it makes sense considering the blue-lit tunnel I remember going through. Do you happen to know if my memories are correct?

    1. Passing under the glowing eyes was right at the beginning as your climbed to the second floor. That I’m sure of.
      I had forgotten about the mummies tombs but you are right! I can’t remember if that was before or after the balcony. Maybe that is what you went into after coming down from the balcony? The first thing you did off the balcony was go down and circle a small room.
      I don’t remember the second spinning tunnel, but I do think you’re right about the giant spider + web. Maybe I’m mixing up themes on the underwater part? I’m not sure.

  2. I’m the small blonde haired boy. This video was taken off of my fathers home video collection filmed back in 1996. I’m glad the video is still here. YouTube took it down due to its small number of views. I don’t recall mummies, but there was a “mummy” face above the car as it made its decline after the balcony. The underwater scene you speak of was actually a cave. You can still see the painted stalactites at the end of the ride, after the balcony and before the Mac truck. The spider was indeed in this cave. It dropped down from behind a window. The window is also still there. Now home to the pirate captain saying “you’re a great crew”.
    There was one tunnel, still in the ride and seen on the video. You may be confusing mummies with three large colorful black light painted tiki statues that the car would swiftly pass by. This would have been where the ship now sails by and the chickens spin. Shortly before the tunnel, there was a black lit room of different colored walls and windows. Later, the windows would be covered by aluminum foil and a strobe light would be added. Tom Spackman Sr. the original imagination behind the ride, often joked, “The Mansion requires little maintenance. There isn’t much in there that can go wrong or break!”

    Thanks for making this page.

  3. I remember the ride like it was yesterday. Did they push the wall back in the que area for the Den? It seems like they did. You can still see some stalag types from the cave.

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