Back to Life
Some spooky pieces of Rocky Point’s past that were recently unearthed will soon come to life once again.
Last Wednesday, crews from Warwick’s Department of Public Works removed three derelict Rocky Point House of Horrors cars from storage. For the weathered and deteriorated cars, it was the first stop on a ride to total restoration.
Generations of House of Horrors riders were thrilled by the attraction at the former amusement park. The two-story Dark Ride, with props created by renowned artist and engineer Bill Tracy, was installed at Rocky Point Park in the 1960s. The ride’s cars, constructed of fiberglass and built onsite at the park, took passengers thought a labyrinth of terror inside the castle-themed attraction.
While most of the ride’s original sets and props were removed in the 1990s because of age and deterioration, the cars continued to be repainted and refurbished multiple times. The cars were decorated with monsters and villains, with the likeness of Darth Vader, Frankenstein, and the Wolf Man featured on the front of each.
The ride was shut down for good when the park closed in 1995. During an auction of the park’s assets, the House of Horrors was reportedly sold for $1,000 to an unnamed buyer. Mysteriously, the ride’s new owner never claimed the cars or track from the park, and they were left to the elements. By 2008, demolition of the amusement’s park structures began, and some of the cars were taken by the City of Warwick. Others were taken by the Department of Environmental Management, some went missing, and the ride was eventually demolished.
The cars taken by the city were wrapped in plastic and sheathing, stored outside, and only occasionally brought out for the pubic to view.
Enter eighteen year-old Sean McCarthy and Mayor Joseph Solomon. Thanks to a recent meeting between the two, the decades of neglect the three cars suffered through will soon be reversed.
“Can you put a value on history? I think not,” said Mayor Solomon. “It has more than a monetary value, it’s about preservation for future generations to enjoy.”
Mayor Solomon recently sat down with Sean and took a look at his restoration work. Sean is an avid fan of all things associated with the history of the park. His dream of obtaining a House of Horrors car of his own recently came true. Sean purchased the long lost Creature from the Black Lagoon car from the House of Horrors ride back in January from an unnamed seller. In deplorable condition, Sean put in countless hours working to restore the car, which now looks brand new. He’s showcased his work and collection of Rocky Point memorabilia at recent Movies in the Park nights at the park.
“Sean and I really appreciate the arts and the significance of Rocky Point, not just relative to the local community but to the state community, even nationally and internationally. Everyone remembers Rocky Point,” said Solomon. “They’re a significant part of the City of Warwick, and we’re going to restore them to be enjoyed by anyone who has a fondness for Rocky Point, it’s historical significance, ore even fond memories. How many couples have gone through the House of Horrors in one of these cars? Each one of these cars are unique in nature relative to the memories and the production of the cars. This is a very important part of Warwick.”
One at a time, the cars will be taken to Sean’s Warwick home where they will be inventoried, taken apart, stripped down and then repaired, repainted, and recreated.
For Sean, it was another Rocky Point dream come true.
“You can’t even put in the paper what I was thinking when I saw these cars today,” said Sean. “I thought this was crazy because I’ve been looking forward to seeing these cars for so long. Now that I’ve seen them in full, it really had me shaking. I was stunned.”
Once Sean met with Mayor Solomon and showed him all of the work he’d put into his own House of Horrors car, the project’s wheels were really put into motion.
“My main goal was to show him what I did with my car and what I could do with theirs,” said Sean. “I’m working on these cars for free. I’m asking for no money for the project for myself, only money for the parts and material needed to do the work. I’m spending my own time doing this to be sure that the history can be preserved.”
Sean said he’d wanted to work on the cars for a long time, adding that it was an “honor” to have the project move forward. He believes that he can restore all three cars for around $600 in parts and material.
“I wanted it to be cost efficient, I didn’t want the costs to be outrageous. If they had them sent out to a company to be restored it would be much more expensive,” he said.
There’s a lot of work ahead for Sean. He’ll need to do fiberglass work, sanding, grinding, restoring the leather seats, making sure the car’s wheel’s spin, and more. He’ll begin by using a lot of WD-40 to remove the bolts and start to get dirty. The project is expected to take several months to finish all three cars.
Once the project is completed, the cars will be put on display for all to enjoy.
“One of them, I’m thinking could probably be publically displayed in the foyer at City Hall. Another may be placed somewhere else, like the library,” said Solomon. “All of them will be mobile in one way or another to bring to any type of function or historical display about Rocky Point or promoting tourism or historical significance of our city outside of the city. Tourism is a big part of our industry, and this history is a big part of our history, everything compliments each other.”
The restoration project is now another step in the long history of the park, a history that will continue to develop.
“I think it’s a work in progress, we’re moving slowly and methodically when it comes to Rocky Point. Next year I think you’ll see a beautiful dock where boats will be able to come in,” said Solomon. “Possibly, eventually there will be a stop for the ferry from Providence, or maybe a tie in with Colt State Park.”
For Rocky Point fans, does the possibility exist for a return of rides in the form of a carnival or fair?
“Rocky Point is a partnership between the state and the city through the Department of Environmental Management. Anything that we have there is a concerted effort between DEM and participation with the city of Warwick,” said Solomon, who added that the affect on the community both positively and negatively would be weighed. “It would be vetted, but I never close the door.”