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What is a Funhouse?

A funhouse is an amusement park attraction filled with mirrors, mazes, and obstacles designed to surprise and entertain. It's a place where reality is playfully distorted, challenging your perceptions and tickling your sense of adventure. Ever wondered what secrets lie within its twisting corridors? Join us as we explore the whimsical world of the funhouse. What will you discover?
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

A funhouse is an amusement park and carnival staple, full of attractions meant to distort reality and occasionally scare the visitor. Unlike rides that provide train cars or other vehicles as a means of getting through the attraction, a funhouse visitor travels under their own power. Today, there are two main varieties of funhouse, building-housed versions that allow patrons to run around and stay as long as they wish, and compact carnival versions that follow a specific path.

Building-style funhouses are considerably older than the compact versions, although their exact history is unknown. Steeplechase Park in Coney Island is one of the first well-documented funhouses, and is believed to be based on a European model. It is possible that the indoor environment originally allowed for an all-weather attraction that would not depend on warm weather to attract guests to the amusement park.

Young boy eating an apple
Young boy eating an apple

Originally, the funhouse featured several common attractions, including enormous wooden slides, usually two or three stories high. Riders would sit on sacks or mats to avoid friction burns caused by the high speed slide. Another popular attraction was the record player or spinning disc ride. This ride, considered highly dangerous by modern standards, would take place in a padded room. Riders would sit on a large disk that was operated by an attendant, who would spin it faster and faster until the riders were flung off against the padded walls.

The traditional funhouse also frequently featured a variety of mechanical devices to impede movement. Floors would tilt from side to side, or suddenly drop. Ladders featured moving steps that required mastery of their rhythms to climb successfully. Many a broken arm has been attributed to the spinning barrel, a rotating cylinder that turned quickly as you walked through it.

Problems with building-style funhouses were their need of constant supervision and need for many attendants to operate the various attractions. As theme parks grew in popularity, park managers wanted to streamline the procedure and eliminate jobs in the process. The development of compact funhouses for traveling carnivals became commercially successful, as the rides were easy to set up and required only one or two attendants.

Truck-based funhouses contain many of the original attractions as the older funhouses, but are more compact and follow a clear path. Most begin with a confusing mirror maze to distort the senses. Mechanical floor-moving devices, spinning barrels, distorted mirrors and suspension bridges are all popular features. Some feature a ball pit for patrons to play in, although this can be costly, as patrons have been known to steal the balls. Carnival fun houses usually end with a twisting slide that is considerably more compact than their giant predecessors, though large slides can often be found as a separate attraction.

Funhouses are of varying difficulty to maneuver, and may present problems for young children or those with movement-related disabilities. Often, parks will feature kiddy-versions of a funhouse, but adults may wish to accompany children on these as well. The funhouse remains a classic and exciting attraction, made more enjoyable by the active participation of the visitor.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is a funhouse and where did the concept originate?

A funhouse, also known as a fun house or fun-house, is an amusement facility found at fairs, carnivals, and amusement parks. It's designed to provide a whimsical experience with its variety of attractions such as mirror mazes, obstacle courses, and slides. The concept of the funhouse has its roots in the pleasure gardens of the 19th century, evolving from simple mazes and walk-throughs to the more elaborate and interactive experiences we see today.

What are some typical features you might find inside a funhouse?

Inside a funhouse, visitors can expect to encounter a range of attractions designed to surprise and entertain. Common features include distorted mirrors that alter reflections, uneven floors that challenge balance, rotating barrels, and moving walkways. Additionally, there may be optical illusions, sound effects, and lighting tricks to enhance the sensory experience, as well as classic elements like the "punching bag gauntlet" and air jets that unexpectedly blow gusts of air.

Is a funhouse suitable for all ages?

Funhouses are generally designed to be family-friendly and suitable for a wide range of ages. However, some features within a funhouse might be intimidating or challenging for very young children or individuals with certain sensitivities. It's always best to check with the operator for any age or height restrictions and to use discretion based on an individual's comfort level with enclosed spaces, disorienting effects, and unexpected surprises.

How long does it typically take to go through a funhouse?

The time it takes to go through a funhouse can vary widely depending on its size and complexity. On average, a walkthrough might take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. However, some larger and more interactive funhouses could take longer to explore fully. Visitors should also consider potential wait times during peak hours, which can add to the overall experience time.

Are there any safety tips to keep in mind when visiting a funhouse?

When visiting a funhouse, safety should be a priority. It's important to follow all posted rules and instructions. Wear comfortable, closed-toe shoes to navigate the uneven surfaces safely, and be cautious of moving parts and obstacles. Keep a close eye on children, and hold their hands if necessary. If you feel disoriented or need assistance, funhouse staff are typically on hand to help guide you safely through the experience.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a WiseTour writer.

Learn more...
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a WiseTour writer.

Learn more...

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      Young boy eating an apple