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Friday, August 24, 2007
The top 10 reasons why Enchanted Forest will make you wet your pants - part 1
He waves from a sign perched beside I-5, beckoning travelers into his kingdom. He's Humpty Dumpty, the mascot of Enchanted Forest, the family-owned theme park outside of Salem that my sister and I visited a few Sundays back. As a kid, trips to the park always conjured up a feeling that was equal parts eagerness and terror. On on hand, I was excited to ride the bobsleds and run around Western Town. On the other, there was always the chance that an older cousin would coax me down the rabbit hole or into the Haunted House.
There's no denying that, both then and now, the park has a high creepiness factor. Here's the first of three installments covering the top 10 reasons why Enchanted Forest is freaky enough to cause thousands of wet pants a year.
# 10 - The crocodile and the castle
After passing through the main entrance, the first thing visitors come across is Enchanted Forest's castle. It looks innocent enough, with its pastel bricks but what's that waiting in the moat below? A bloodthirsty, albeit weather-worn, crocodile covered in...pocket change! What did the ol' croc have to do to earn all that misbegotten scratch? Come alive and trick passing children out of their hard-earned pennies? Or eat random stranglers that made the mistake of losing track of their parents? The old saying goes, "never smile at a crocodile" but letting him know you're carrying cash is an even worse idea.
The interior of the castle is dark and two tiny staircases lead into an even darker dungeon with displays featuring robotic dolls acting out scenes from Sleeping Beauty. Listening to a robotic witch prattling on about her plans to torture a knight with a hundred years of solitary confinement? Cree-py.
# 9 - Humpty Dumpty
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall that left his brittle body broken and shattered, leaving him with thousands of of dollars worth of medical bills after the king's best doctors couldn't "put him back together again." An innocent bedtime story or a grim parable warning children of the pitfalls of the modern healthcare industry? Either way, that's pretty grim stuff to lay on a family trying to kill a summer afternoon. Plus, isn't that statue just plain freaky?
# 8 - Doogie Dork
Who is Doogie Dork? A window display near the park's front entrance offers little context. It's filled with storybooks and memorabilia devoted to what may or may not be a beloved, yet misogynistic, cartoon character. Based on the cover pictured here, for Doogie "trouble" is clearly equated with females...and purple dragons (or is that a kangaroo?) that are also, possibly, female. Maybe the author was/is a bitter divorcee stuck with heavy alimony and child support payments. If there's anything that scares kids, it's the letters d, i, v, o, r, c and e all strung together in a row. Could Sara, the book's antagonist, be the name of a former wife? Well, now I'm depressed.
# 7 - The hole
Ok, admittedly, those first three were pretty weak but now that we're at number 7, we're getting to the truly creepy elements of Enchanted Forest. As a kid, the park's Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole was a challenge- a gauntlet worthy of the cave that Luke jumps into while training with Yoda on Dagobah. I never made it more than a few feet in before getting scared and crawling back to the entrance, much to the dismay of other kids that had entered behind me. This always caused a traffic jam resulting in bumped heads and angry glares from random parents.
I was probably 12 before I made it all the way to the end. The hole is at least 20 yards long and, once you're past a certain point, it's pitch black in there. The floor is rough concrete and hard on the knees, especially if you're wearing shorts. It's a lawsuit waiting to happen and there's probably a drain in the floor to help wash all the urine that comes out of terrified kids in a given day. I'm sure one of the least pleasant jobs in the Enchanted Forest is the cleaning and disinfecting of the rabbit hole. They probably get the newbies to do it.