Location: Central Midway
Originally Designed By: Bill Tracy
Displays By: Amusement Display Associates, Inc. – Cape May Court House, New Jersey
Ride Capacity: 3 per car
Designed By: Joseph Wartnerchaney
Sets By: Utah Opera
Figure Restoration & Creation: Todd Debreceni
Terroride is the continuation of a long tradition of haunted dark rides and walk-throughs at Lagoon. Early in the 20th century, The Ghost Train opened just south of the Roller Coaster station. A large fire broke out in November 1953 which burned down the ride and most of the western half of the park’s Midway. After the flames were extinguished, it was speculated that the starting point of the fire was either the chain house of the Roller Coaster or the back room of The Ghost Train.
The damaged rides and buildings were quickly replaced in time for the 1954 season including a new haunted attraction north of the Roller Coaster called the Spook House. By some point in the ’60s, the sign above the ride called it the “Temple Of Terror” while a smaller sign below still said “Spook House”. After a little more than a decade, the Spook House / Temple Of Terror was succeeded by Terroride.
The new scenes, ride system and exterior were designed and manufactured by Bill Tracy and his company Amusement Display Associates, Inc. who also designed Dracula’s Castle seven years later in 1974.
The Deseret News reported on the new ride with the following description:
“The ride looks like an old haunted castle into which the patron rides in an old car through the hall of horrors, the torture chamber of corpses, the quicksand corner, and more than 20 other spectacular and frightening scenes.”
Many changes have been made to the ride since it opened in the late ’60s. The original cars – designed to look like wooden coffins – were replaced around the 1970s or early ’80s by fiberglass vehicles with speakers in each one. Various creepy noises were played through them, but they have not worked since some time in the 1990s.
Over time, different figures and scenes have stopped working or have been replaced completely. Several new updates were made to both dark rides in 2007. At the beginning of Terroride, a giant rat on wheels that rolled toward passing riders was replaced by an animatronic based on Captain Barbosa from the film Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl.
For many years, the mechanical gorilla¹ from the second floor of the Haunted Shack was used in Terroride as a King Kong figure with a city skyline painted on the wall behind it. The gorilla was removed some time after the regular 2007 season. For a few years until 2011, it appeared in Psycho Dave’s Junkyard, a Frightmares spook alley that was in the space now occupied by Air Race. It reappeared again in 2014 as part of the Pioneer Village Scare Zone. The fur is a little faded and his jaw is broken, but he still operates. The giant rat was also brought back for the Pioneer Village Scare Zone. The gorilla and rat figures were added to Dracula’s Castle in 2017.
For decades there was a mysterious mural on the wall in the loading area featuring a strange collection of things like spiders, an octopus, a dragon and others. It actually predates Terroride (as seen in the 1960s photo above). It was removed in 2009 and in its place were trees painted on the wall with dead tree branches sticking up in front of the wall. A comedic vulture was added as well, telling jokes to guests waiting in the queue. The mural was placed in the park’s Annex Building to preserve it from the elements.
Terroride turned 50 in 2017, but the ride remained closed until mid-June. It didn’t look like much was happening from the outside, but inside a major refurbishment was underway to repair and enhance the ride with updated scenes, new and restored wax figures and more.
Joseph Wartnerchaney, a film director who has produced a long list of shows for Lagoon such as Cirque Innosta, Strawberry Fields and Any Way You Want It, was enlisted to oversee the project and give the ride a story line. The Utah Opera helped with new sets and a well-known makeup effects artist, Todd Debreceni, worked on the wax figures.
The weird mural is still in Lagoon’s Annex, but a reproduction (with a slight alteration) was placed in the loading area in 2017.
Dark rides have been a fundamental part of the amusement park experience for several decades. Many parks have lost their classic dark rides over the years and Lagoon is lucky to have two of them still in operation.
MORE FROM LHP
Lagoon Opens This Weekend. Deseret News, 23 March 1967.
Wharton, Tom. What’s new at Lagoon? It’s a scream. The Salt Lake Tribune, 23 May 2017.
Bahur, Wayne R. & Brandon M. Seidl. The Bill Tracy Project, BillTracyProject.com. Accessed 13 Oct 2011.
Whirlwind update and more. Email message to author, 20 Oct 2005.