Dino Drac Visits Keansburg, NJ!

I made a vow to return to my old Jersey shore haunts this year. It’s been way too long. First on my list was the Keansburg Amusement Park, a fairly small beachside attraction filled with rides, games and fried clams.

Last year’s hurricane hit Keansburg hard, and several “relic attractions” bit the dust in its wake. Between that and the fact that the 2013 season has only barely begun, Keansburg wasn’t exactly in full swing. Still, there was more than enough for a good trip report. Below are the highlights!

I’ve seen rides exactly like “Moby Dick” under many other names. Everyone sits in a row of well-buckled chairs, and then that whole row moves up and around in a vaguely circular motion. It’s more exciting than it sounds, but you could still classify this as a “thrill ride for the uninitiated.”

What really got me was the theme. I don’t think I need Google’s confirmation to say that this is a really old ride. The white whale looks so awesome and menacing. I’m guessing the row of chairs is supposed to represent a boat being rocked by Moby’s thrashing?

The Gravitron! Oh yes! In this one, you sit in a dark, enclosed space. When all of the weird spinning shit starts going down, you’ll feel like you’re taking off in a spaceship.

Or something.

Ehh, can I be honest? I’m not sure I’ve even ever been on a Gravitron. I sure love looking at them, though!

My favorite thing about Gravitrons is how easily they can be “redressed.” They all have an identical shape and ride style, but the colors and “code names” can vary wildly. Most adhere to the starship motif, but if you search far enough, you’ll find Gravitrons based on everything from alien invasions to satanic torture devices.

This version is probably the most common, but it’s still very cool. Like a 1960s UFO toy mixed with the universe’s most enormous popcorn bowl.

The Haunted Manor was unfortunately closed, but a nearby sign said that it’d be reopening soon. It was halfway disassembled and surrounded by an unsightly fence, but brother, when I see a dark ride, I photograph it. No matter what the condition. That is MY THING.

If I have the story right, this is actually the Hollowgraves Haunted Manor, which resided in Seaside Heights, but is now returning to Keansburg after more than ten years. (Its Seaside location was rocked hard by Hurricane Sandy.) Looking at photos of it from happier times, I am SO PISSED that I missed out, and can only pray that the revised version is even half as cool.

Just another of those silly funhouses with the bouncy bridges and tunnel slides. What makes this one so special is its Raiders of the Lost Ark theme.

I’m not sure what I like better: That Indiana Jones appears to be drinking from his gun, or that his horse is tremendously appalled by those three rocks.

I skipped all but one of the carnival games, simply because so few the prizes interested me. (In total, the breakdown included 40% Smurfs and 40% anthropomorphic bananas. ENOUGH ALREADY WITH THE BANANAS. THERE ARE OTHER FRUITS.)

Then, like a shining beacon, there was Pikachu. Pokemon’s monopoly on carnival prizes ended ages ago, and I can barely remember the last time I had a shot at a decent Pikachu. I had to take it, even if I knew I’d lose.

And lose I did! In this game, you toss a ball and try to knock over three big blocks. Sounds easy, and that part is, but you also have to knock all three blocks clear off their platform. As I learned, that last bit is IMPOSSIBLE.

It was five bucks for three shots. Here’s how they went down:

Shot #1: I completely whiffed. Two feet away from three enormous blocks, and I still managed to miss every one of them.

Shot #2: With all the force of a cat pawing dirt off its face, I did hit the blocks, but I didn’t actually knock them over.

Shot #3: I got serious. I nailed those fuckers as perfectly as anyone could. Two of them went flying, but the bottom block stayed neatly in place.

I’m still proud of myself. Any game that involves “pitching” is not for me. I’m usually too embarrassed to stand within twenty feet of these games. So yeah, no Pikachu, but there was a moral victory at play.

Feeling like we’d inspected enough rides, it was time to get down to business. It was time to hit THE CASINO ARCADE.

Keansburg has a few of them. I picked this one because it had a big carousel inside. Since I had no intention of riding said carousel, I guess my criteria was pretty stupid.

As always, the cranes were my primary focus.

They kicked my ass. They weren’t as ridiculous as others I’ve played, where the claw doesn’t even close upon dropping, but they still kicked my ass.

We’ve all been through that thing where the claw grabs a prize and almost makes it to the slot before dropping it prematurely. But the cranes at this place did that to me at least a dozen times in one visit. Frustrating as Hell.

(The capitalization is no mistake. I assume Hell to be a frustrating place.)

A smarter Matt may have walked away, but I desperately wanted one of those white tigers. Look at that sign! “SAD TIGER NEEDS A HOME.” That’s just cruel. Exploitative, cruel, but also very effective, because I must’ve run through twenty bucks’ worth of tokens before admitting that the only way I’d get a tiger was by breaking the glass with a sneaker and hoping nobody noticed.

I tried to avoid the ticket-dispensing games, as we were not planning to play long enough to score enough points for anything good.

But then I saw this. It’s hard enough to resist regular skeeball, but this version threw a yapping space alien in the mix!

“Dunk N’ Alien” works like regular skeeball, but with the added bonus of a sarcastic alien who falls off his perch if you hit a moving target. In three games, I managed to hit that target exactly once. (I used to be so good at this stuff! I suppose you really do need practice to maintain the skill.)

Of course, once the “ticket game” seal was broken, I couldn’t stop. I hopped all around that arcade, sampling every game they had, amassing one sorry ass amount of tickets. Luck was just not on my side. Even the famously loose Betty Boop slots gave me nothing but grief.

When we waltzed up to the prize counter, it was a foregone conclusion that we’d get nothing good. Our grand total of 166 points wasn’t even enough for pack of Pop Rocks.

Still, all prize counters have their “cheapies,” and I was about to make the most of them. Because you see, as it turned out, this arcade made an enormous tactical error.

Most of their cheap prizes were what you’d expect. Ten points for a plastic centipede; twenty points for a crappy whistle. Shit like that.

But then I noticed a huge container filled with fingernail-sized army men. FOR TWO POINTS EACH.

Oh, that poor girl working the counter. She HATED me!

Me: Gimme one of those twenty-point blue fish things.

Her: Sure.

Me: And you know, let’s just use the rest on the two-point army men.

Her: Are you kidding me?

Me: Nope. You see that woman over there? The one carrying a box of cigars for some reason?

Her: Yeah.

Me: Well what’s written over her ass on those sweatpants?

Her: Uh, “yolo?”


God, she was pissed. On a super hot day, dealing with a customer with so few points that he should’ve been a cakewalk, and I make her count out SEVENTY-THREE fingernail-sized army men.


She’s probably still cursing me, even now.

It was worth it!!!