The Creature Returns

Missing for decades, the Creature from the Black Lagoon returns to Rocky Point

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This creature isn’t from the depths of the Amazon jungle, but from a place that was once far more sinister and scary - the Rocky Point House of Horrors. But thanks to a local teenager, the creature will continue to spook people for generations to come.

For decades, the House of Horrors thrilled riders at the former amusement park. While Rocky Point had several haunted house type attractions throughout its history, the House of Horrors was installed during the 1960s by park carpenters and builders. The two-story Dark Ride, with props created by renowned artist and engineer Bill Tracy, had fiberglass cars constructed at the park that took riders throughout the haunted castle-themed attraction.

During the 1990s, most of the ride’s original sets and props had been removed because of age and deterioration, and the cars had been repainted and refurbished multiple times because of wear and tear. The cars were then decorated with scenes from popular horror movies and scary stories, with the likeness of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy and others prominently featured on the front of each.

When the park closed in 1995, the ride was shut down for good. The park’s assets were auctioned off, and the ride was reportedly sold for $1,000 to an unnamed buyer. However, adding a riddle to the already mysterious ride, the owner never took the cars or track from the park. By 2008, demolition of the former amusement’s park structures was well underway, and some of the cars were taken by the City of Warwick and the Department of Environmental Management for future use. Other cars went missing as all other traces of the ride were scrapped.

Three years ago, our newspaper was introduced to then 15 year-old Sean McCarthy of Warwick, who although never got to see Rocky Point in its heyday became an avid fan of all things associated with the park. He learned about Rocky Point from his fifth-grade teacher, Ms. Corley at Wyman, after she gave him a Rocky Point comic book. Since then, he’s been a collector of Rocky Point memorabilia, which has grown from an original Corkscrew wax paper cup to one that includes unused tickets, park brochures, keychains, old advertisements, water bottles, bottle toss rings, bumper stickers, postcards, gemstone pendants, models, ride wristbands and much more. He even built a life size replica of a House of Horrors car, his favorite ride, which he kept in his room.

McCarthy, now 18, dreamed of obtaining a House of Horrors car of his own, but knew the odds were long. However that dream recently came true after years of research and investigating finally paid off.

“I was in school, and I was going to class and I got a text from park historian George LaCross that someone had a car on Craigslist. I clicked on the link and saw the House of Horror’s car and I told my teacher it was an emergency,” said McCarthy. “I left the room, made a phone call to the seller, and he said it was the exact car in the picture. I was so excited.”

It was the missing Creature from the Black Lagoon car, and it was for sale along with other park mementos. After a week of conversations and some negotiations, McCarthy eventually purchased the car from the seller back in January. With the help of his dad he brought it back to his parent’s garage to immediately begin restoration efforts as the car was in deplorable shape.

“I always told my grandfather that I wanted to get a car so bad, since I was nine, and I’m 18 now and it finally came together and I got the car like a week before he passed away, and he got to see it. He was so proud,” said McCarthy. “That was one of the things I wanted him to see.”

During the next four months, McCarthy put in countless hours working to restore the car. His first step was to protect what artwork was salvageable on the car, such as the main picture of the Creature on the front. He sanded through about five layers of thick paint to get to the base. As he sanded, he found and photographed previous artwork such as a dragon scene and skulls.

“It took weeks to sand it down, so many hours,” he said, adding it was the most time consuming part of project. “I still have paint chips in our grass from all the sanding we did outside.”

With the help of his dad, David, who has experience with body work, and George LaCross on the historical side, McCarthy, kept as close to original specifications as he could. Holes in the car’s body were repaired with new fiberglass epoxy and strips, new hardware installed where original parts could not be saved, and huge cracks were repaired. He even went as far as scraping the old bubblegum that riders had stuck throughout the car. Doing all the work himself, he spent about $300 at Home Depot.

“I wanted to use the best materials to make it last as long as possible,” he said. Artwork that was not salvageable, such as the decal on the back, he photographed, photoshopped and reproduced it exactly where it was originally positioned on the car.

With restoration work completed a few weeks ago, McCarthy debuted the car along with the rest of his collection at Rocky Point on June 29 during this year’s premier of Movies in the Park night. The car was a resounding hit with spectators.

“I never saw the House of Horrors cars fresh off their new look paint job in the early 1980s, but I did see them a short time after they were painted and I can honestly say that Sean’s restored car would have been the sharpest in the fleet,” said Rocky Point historian George LaCross. “He met the challenge of restoring a park-built, circa 1963 ride car head on with resourcefulness and determination.”

McCarthy plans to exhibit the car at any events at Rocky Point for the public to enjoy. He knows that the other cars in possession of the city and state were in similar deplorable condition, and would be willing to offer his help to ensure they are restored to their former glory.

“My goal was to make that car brand new again, because I think that pieces of the park’s history should be restored back to their original condition,” said McCarthy. “If I could take all of those other cars and make them all brand new again, that would be awesome. I’d enjoy that a lot.”

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