Bell's amusement park was served eviction papers from the city of Tulsa in November of 2006. The park was given until June 2007 to clear the entire property of all structures. Thus the gradual disassembly of the Phantasmagoria began in January '07 and the building was finally demolished on June 19, 2007.

Naturally, the deconstruction of the iconic ride was a saddening experience to park employees who had a special fondness for it and years worth of memories surrounding the Tulsa landmark. As the structure was dismantled trick by trick and wall by wall, park employee Kyle J. Wood unearthed several discoveries related to the original design of the attraction. These little revelations served as a slight consolation to Kyle and the crew. The first of which might be considered a bombshell by most Phantasmagoria enthusiasts. Kyle happened upon elements of a long lost trick known as "Singing Skulls."

These hand made, papier-mache skulls each contain a small electric motor that enabled its mouth to open and close. The "Phantom Bus Driver" skull (located late in the ride) contained the same technology and may have been a "singer" as well. DAFE founder Rick Davis speculates that this was a Funni-Frite gag which are known for their unreliability. These bony crooners were situated across from the buzzard's nest in a slot that was eventually occupied by the grim reaper (after he left his perch above the first dip.) One can only wonder what these colorful spooks were singing about.

Another find was a handwritten wiring guide in the original circuit box room...

It referenced the singing skulls as well as a trick called "Demishing [sic] Squares." This was the original version of the more familiar series of ascending bang doors with circular cutouts which made up the very first trick of the ride. The original batch of doors had to be replaced because the square-cut versions were too heavy and slammed too hard.

An early photo of the Diminishing Squares
The standing individual is Robert Bell Sr. -- Robbie's grandfather.

Frequent riders will recall a sign early in the journey which warned "Danger: Professionally Trained Guard Dogs..." Originally the message was followed by a prerecorded blast of vicious dog noises, although the audio was discontinued relatively early in the ride's history. Over time the very existence of the dog recording turned into a debate which was ultimately settled during the demolition process. The removal of the walls revealed a massive loudspeaker immediately following the danger sign which can be seen in the bottom left corner of the following photo...

Also excavated from within the depths of the dark ride were pieces of an area called "the tilt room" in which water appeared to run uphill...

The hearts on the cockeyed window shutters recall imagery from Alice in Wonderland. This room was soon replaced with the infamous oncoming bus trick.

Kyle J. Wood documented the systematic deconstruction of the dark ride with the following collection of photos...

A view of the former "tilt room" which eventually housed the bus trick. Before the demolition the bus was slated to be extracted by crane but at the last minute workers were able to maneuver it onto the ascent ramp and drag it out by hand.

Former home of the Skull Pond

Pieces of the cave walls await trash pickup

The curved black thing behind the studs is the "spinning barrel," a large rotating tube that the cars passed through.

A look at the bridge that ran through the spinning barrel (after the barrels removal). The steel grating on the floor in the distance was part of the water curtain trick.

The floor of the psychedelic room is one of the last things to go.

Here's a close-up of the floor. No telling who's DNA might be embedded in this piece.

One of the decorative barrels is emptied to reveal a time capsule of trash. All the vintage Pepsi logos indicate that there really was a Pepsi party going on, just like the sign on the Zingo promised.

The rat on its way to storage. The truck toured through the center of town to give Tulsans a last look until he reappears at the new Bell's location.

The Phantasmagoria (center) on demolition day

Additional buildings followed.

A lone car awaits transport to storage.

After demolition the spinning barrel sits in pieces alongside the graveyard skeleton (in the coffin on the left) in a storage building awaiting a new haunted home.

(all photos on this page courtesy Kyle J. Wood)


Anthony said...

What a SAD day, this was! I hate to see such awesome things, like this ride, get destroyed... What a loss!

Anonymous said...

I had many memories riding Phantasmagoria. That ride was the only reason why I went to Bells in the first place. I wish they would re-open the ride at a new Oklahoma theme park location, but it would never be the same. I hope to see something like it in long Phantasmagoria!!

Michael Bates said...

Thanks for posting these photos and memories.

One correction: It was the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority, controlled by the Tulsa County Commission, that had been Bell's landlord and ultimately evicted them. More about what happened to Bell's here: