Vacation Day 5: Let Me Ride on the Wall of Death

 The Devil’s Hole, aka The Wall of Death.

Before we started our l-o-o-o-o-n-g drive as far as Wooster, Ohio, we decided to try a small amusement park on Grand Island, New York, called Martin’s Fantasy Island. According to the calendar in their brochure, they were scheduled to be open today. Diamondqueen gambled on buying discount tickets at the Holiday Inn desk, and we approached nervously on I190 wondering if we’d actually find everything shut up until tomorrow.

You can see part of Fantasy Island from the expressway, so we discovered quickly that rides were in operation. When we arrived at the park, we also discovered it was a day on which many school kids were visiting in their yellow buses. It turned out things weren’t really all that crowded, and it prevented us from having to roam a deserted park, something else we wondered about.

I was hoping for a park reminiscent of our old Coney Island in Cincinnati, both physically and in spirit. It wasn’t up to the standards of our beloved Coney, maybe more along the lines of the Fantasy Farms park that used to operate between Cincinnati and Dayton. However, they had a number of interesting rides, including a classic old-school roller coaster complete with that clack-clack-clack chain-pulling sound as the car climbed the first hill.

Diamondqueen and J.Hooligan rode the coaster. However, before that I convinced J. to go on a ride called The Devil’s Hole.

I love the song “Wall of Death,” about a type of ride I’d known as The Rotor at Coney. Taking your place inside a huge revolving drum, you stand with your back against the wall as the drum spins. Centrifugal force plasters you against the wall, at which point the floor drops several inches, leaving you suspended.

When I first heard “Wall of Death,” and I didn’t become familiar with it until 2002, I wasn’t sure what kind of amusement park ride it was supposed to be. However, after some online research, I knew The Wall of Death was similar to The Rotor. I’ve wanted to ride it again ever since. (The song is about more than a ride; it’s about taking chances and choosing the riskier options in life. In the summer of 2002, with the first anniversary of 9/11 looming ahead, it was a message I needed to hear. I’ve listened to that song every year since then when I’ve been about to go on a trip, especially when I was taking my first air trips after September 11. That summer, Diamondqueen and three-year-old J.Hooligan were tearing it up at King’s Island and every carnival and fair; I closely associate the song with J.’s first adventures on rides and how much he and his mother enjoyed them.)

As soon as we arrived this morning in the main section of the amusement park, I spotted a ride called The Devil’s Hole and wondered about it. The more I peered in, the more I was convinced it was a version of The Rotor. J.Hooligan and I were the last riders inside the flying saucer-shaped contraption.

Things were a little different from The Rotor. Each person backed against a separate compartment, and the floor appeared to be concrete, so I wasn’t sure about it being lowered. As soon as we began to spin, though, I knew I was riding the Wall of Death at last. Naturally, nausea rose up in me quickly the faster we spun, but I was somewhat distracted by how my fellow passengers were behaving. Several hoisted themselves up their plastic compartment wall. Suddenly several of the compartments shot up to hit the ceiling with a clap, then the rest followed in staggered order. This is how it’s done now, the wall rises instead of the floor sinking. The kids who had scooted themselves upward were stuck high up in their apartments. Everyone else simply endured suspension in various conditions of excitement.

Just when I feared my hour-ago breakfast was going to revisit me, the compartments whammed  back down and the ride slowed its spin until finally it stopped. I was pretty wasted when I got off, but I was immensely happy. Let me take my chances on The Wall of Death!

I took it easy on rides the rest of the day, although I managed two trips on the antique cars (much like the ones they recently got rid of at King’s Island) and a tall covered Ferris wheel; not as tall as the SkyWheel or the wheel at Navy Pier in Chicago, but we had a nice view of the towers around Niagara Falls in one direction and the skyline of Buffalo in another.

Finally we had to set off on the remainder of our auto journey back to Ohio for our overnight in Wooster. Diamondqueen won the endurance medal for that driving marathon. We had dinner at a Bob Evans when we took our exit off I71, and we have a very nice room in a Hampton Inn in Wooster. Tomorrow, our final adventure—a visit to the haunted penitentiary in Mansfield—then on home.

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2 Responses to Vacation Day 5: Let Me Ride on the Wall of Death

  1. Haley Bolton says:

    I used to go to Fantasy Island as a kid and “The Rotor” as you called it was the original Devil’s Hole (same company even made it). Once I was finally big enough to go on it, you couldn’t get me off it. I just took my 4 year old son on the “new” Devil’s Hole and he too couldn’t get enough! They removed the original Devil’s Hole ride in 1993 (I believe); seems the insurance got a little high after there was one or two deaths on it *shiver! Anyway, I wish I could ride the original just one more time!

    • NancyB says:

      Thanks for sharing your memories, Haley. The original ride must still exist in some areas–I believe the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus, OH, still has one, although it wasn’t running the one time I was up there. My nephew, the same one who rode Devil’s Hole with me, said he’d ridden the one at COSI. I really think I prefer the original version; it just seemed simpler, although I doubt I could handle the nauseating effect on that ride, either.

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