Trimper's Haunted House Begins Its 50th Year In Operation
January 1, 2014

Wednesday, January 1, 2014 marks a historic day for Trimper's Haunted House as it begins its 50th calendar year in operation. Trimper's Haunted House, located at Trimper's Rides and Amusements in Ocean City, Maryland, is one of the last remaining Bill Tracy attractions left in the world. Originally built in 1964 and expanded in 1988 to two stories, this five-minute-long attraction offers ride-goers a glimpse into the mind of Tracy as they creep through his virtual catalog of vintage dark ride stunts from the 1960s, as well as several modern-day effects.

As visitors venture through the attraction in a vessel designed to resemble a combination of a four-poster bed and coffin complete with "Rest In Peace" stamped on the back, they will find themselves disoriented in crooked passageways, turned inside-out as they are forced through a spinning vortex, suddenly upside-down in one of the mansion's bedrooms, frightened as they come face-to-face with an oncoming locomotive, and terrified, or amused, by Bill Tracy's unforgettable stunts. Such classic Tracy stunts as the Knit Wit, Old Mill, Swamp Ghost, Falling Barrels, Last Drop, and Cuckoo Clock can be seen in this one-of-a-kind seaside treasure. In all, there are over 20 original stunts remaining in the attraction making it one of the most "True to Tracy" dark rides left in existence. For those who enjoy modernized horror effects, the ride includes nearly 15 stunts and props from industry leaders such as Scarefactory and Distortions Unlimited.

Ocean City boardwalk visitors of all ages have had the pleasure of enjoying Trimper's Haunted House for five decades, and thanks to the dedication of the late Granville Trimper and the Trimper family, who recently gave the ride a facelift for the 2012 season, they will be able to enjoy it for decades to come, and continue to celebrate the attraction's true value and historical significance. But, a ride being in operation for five decades comes with a great story, one of great transformation.

As a third-generation businessman becoming more and more immersed in the family amusement enterprise, Granville Trimper was constantly thinking ahead and closely following trends in the amusement industry, being certain to jump on any innovative opportunities that would further advance the business. In 1964, at the age of 35, Granville decided it was time to expand upon the attraction lineup at the park by adding its first dark ride, and that fall, he met with up-and-coming dark ride designer, Bill Tracy, president of Outdoor Dimensional Display Co., Inc. out of Secaucus, New Jersey.

Tracy visited Granville in Ocean City in late January of 1964 to inspect the building that would eventually house Trimper's Haunted House, which was previously used as the Windsor Theater, and to discuss the possibility of a dark ride installation on-site. After a few months of negotiations, Granville met with Tracy at his New Jersey office to seal the deal, and soon after, Tracy's artists would begin development of the iconic stunts and massive facade of Trimper's Haunted House. Tracy was on-site for two weeks during the ride's installation. The ride opened to the public in late spring of 1964 and was an instant success. The ride continued operating during the summers and grew in popularity through the 60's and 70's, until an opportunity in 1981 would change the ride's future and stature forever.

Shown right, a unique advertisement published in the March 24, 1962 issue of Amusement Business Magazine featuring Bill Tracy of Outdoor Dimensional Display Co., Inc., standing with some of his famous Bats as seen on the facade of Trimper's Haunted House.

In 1981, another Tracy dark ride called "Ghost Ship" became available after Ocean Playland Amusement Park on 65th street in Ocean City closed its gates for good. Granville Trimper jumped at the opportunity to acquire the defunct attraction, and after winning a high bid for the remnants of the ride, he ventured to the abandoned ride with his crew to disassemble the interior of the attraction and bring the stunts back to his warehouse where they would be stored for seven years.

Shown above, the facade of Ghost Ship as it looked in 1981 on the day Granville Trimper dismantled it and took possession of the stunts. The trailer used to transport the stunts can be seen parked in front. Learn more about the Ghost Ship acquisition >

During the winter of 1988, Granville made the decision to expand his popular dark ride to two stories by incorporating the Tracy stunts he had acquired from Ghost Ship into the ride. After a long winter of construction, a brand new Trimper's Haunted House would open its doors to the public in the spring of 1989. The new attraction had a ride time of five minutes and increased its stunt count to exceed 30.

From the ride's expansion in 1988 to present, the Trimper family has added effects nearly every year to keep the ride fresh and exciting. Most of the effects added have been newer and more technologically-advanced, while others have been more vintage. In 2011, several additional Tracy stunts from "Phantasmagoria", a defunct dark ride at Bell's Amusement Park in Tulsa, OK, became available and were transported to Ocean City that fall to be incorporated into Trimper's Haunted House over the winter. That same year, a complete renovation took place in which many new stunts were installed, lighting was updated, and paint was freshened up. With the incorporation of the Phantasmagoria stunts, as well as the newer effects, Trimper's Haunted House became one of the longest dark rides in the country, featuring the largest display of original Tracy creations in existence.

Through Granville Trimper's career, he followed Bill Tracy's work closely and invited him back in 1971 to construct "Pirates Cove", a walk-through style fun house attraction. Pirates Cove was developed to follow a nautical theme, complete with skeleton pirates, sharks, forced-perspective hallways, a maze, and obstacles that offer patrons the feeling of getting seasick on the boat deck.

Bill Tracy died in August of 1974, but his attractions live on at Trimper's Rides, thrilling and chilling new generations each year. Granville Trimper and his family have always understood the value of their priceless Tracy rides, and continue to take pride in keeping them exciting for generations to come.

Shown left, Granville Trimper stands outside of his family's Inlet Lodge establishment during a snowy winter day as a young man, only a few years before hiring Bill Tracy to build "The Haunted House".

Written by Brandon M. Seidl
Dark Ride enthusiast and Ocean City, Maryland chronicler with a distinct focus on the city's unique amusement business history.

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