Freaked Out By Laffing Sal!

by on Mar.18, 2011, under Rides

A shot (of adrenaline) in the dark!

Every summer, my father’s company held their annual employee picnic at Crystal Beach Amusement Park ( in Ontario, Canada, just across the US border from our home in Niagara Falls. It was an event we looked forward to a great deal – a chance to see friends and cut loose with families, eat barbecued goodies, and – of course – exhaust ourselves on the rides!

Our favorite was Laff in the Dark – the funhouse! All day we’d approach, with every intention of entering, only to back out when we heard the screams and cries inside (not to mention the incessant maniacal wailing of Laffing Sal, caged outside like some deranged psychotic!). Eventually the goading of friends and siblings would deliver us the entrance, where we’d board our car and prepare to be amazed…

As a kid, it all seemed very serious and nerve racking. I imagine that by today’s standards it would appear rather harmless and trite, but at the time it was overwhelmingly shocking, as garishly painted characters leered from out of the stygian blackness and a new surprise lurked around every corner. With fingers clenched tightly on the car’s handle as we held our breath, we darted through the darkened chambers, anxiously awaiting that crack of daylight ahead that would herald our safe escape from our jaunty nightmare journey! After dodging this menacing bullet all day, we would jump out of car after exiting and race back to the beginning to try it again.

Crystal Beach closed in 1989 after over forty years of providing good old-fashioned family fun. Like many things from the past, I would have loved one last opportunity to board that rickety car and plunge headlong into the dark. The closest I can come now is through photos or memories, neither of which does it the least bit of justice.

A nice little DVD tour of the park and its history is available through the link above – if you’re a fan of those glorious amusement rides of yesterday this may be required viewing!

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