Ghost Train

My friend Peter, over at Naked Blog, has emerged, blinking, into the January sunlight, likening his holidays to a "ghost train", meaning the kind of fairground ride called in the U.S. a "horror house" or a "spook house". A well-known example is the actually pretty unscary Haunted Mansion at Disney World.

The horror house at the Central Florida Fair of my childhood was scary as hell. The painted facade showed helpless, distressed victims gruesomely tormented by demons. The Throes of the Damned. Terrifying screams issued from within. Horror was promised. My sister Carol and I went on the ride. I don't remember much, except that Carol got bonked on the head by something and started to cry. At supper, my father told me not to call it a horror house, (it sounded too much like whore house, I figured out).

I never heard it called a ghost train until I read Anthony Powell's exquisite description at the end of Casanova's Chinese Restaurant:

The question reminded me that Moreland, at least in a negative manner, had taken another decisive step. I thought of his recent remark about the Ghost Railway. He loved these almost as much as he loved mechanical pianos. Once, at least, we had been on a Ghost Railway together at some fun fair or on a seaside pier; slowly climbing sheer gradients, sweeping with frenzied speed into inky depths, turning blind corners from which black, gibbering bogeys leapt to attack, rushing headlong towards iron-studded doors, threatened by imminent collision, fingered by spectral hands, moving at last with dreadful, ever increasing momentum towards a shape that lay across the line.


frog said...

mind-altering substances make disney's haunted mansion much more effective, i found.

Brett said...

After further thought, I think the Haunted Mansion is a very English production, like the Ghost Train. It evokes an English country house as the setting for the seance, for example. Not so much horrifying as weird.

The American horror house I described is no visit to a table-rapping spirit world. It is more like an evocation of the Fires of Hell at a backwoods revival.