Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


An intersection of vernacular architecture studies and American studies, "The Dark Ride" defines the standard amusement park attraction both generally within the contexts of horrific iconography and the history of amusement devices and structures, and also specifically within the contexts of five amusement park environments. As a "ride-thru Halloween," the dark ride maintains a popular tradition of deriding and mocking the symbols of hell and death. As a variety of theater, the dark ride shares its technological and structural origins with primitive cinema (whose own century-long development intertwines with that of the dark ride) and the scenic attractions of late 19th and early 20th century expositions and amusement parks. As a commercial shapeshifter, the dark ride responds to the greater changes in its environment with structural alterations made over time; to illustrate this tendency, "The Dark Ride" presents structural histories of eight rides in five traditional amusement parks. Finally, from a constructivist point of view, I examine the attraction as a liminoid space which dark riders variously interpret as an opportune location for romance, storytelling, mischief and vandalism.



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