Like most of my Halloween-addled chums, who live for the season and already have plans for almost every day leading up until Samhain on the 31st, I’ve been a fan of this ghost train from its inception. The family-based train ride held at the Los Angeles Live Steamers Club has grown into a detailed, 20-minute excursion of spooky eye candy designed to enthrall, but not scare the bejeezus out of tiny tots. The train also provides amusement and appreciation for the adults who waited in line for nearly two hours listening to, “When are we going to get in?”
Most of my information about the loss of the Ghost Train comes from the invaluable site for “Haunts,” Theme Park Adventure. A little over a week ago, it was announced that the event was over and to please remove any previous content advertising the ride. Some members of the Live Steamers got a bit testy about the petitions and public outcry, particularly from Angelino parents and plainly said, “We’ve had it. Leave us be.” While the event was extremely successful with funding the railroad club for the majority of its run during the course of the year, it seems that enough was enough.
Reasons for the closure included stress on the trains, members getting overtaxed physically and emotionally, and the potential tax problems and liability omens that were a result of too many people, especially children, overcrowding a not-so-well-lit part of the park. Not to mention people carelessly damaging the establishment and park lands. There was also concern that these trains are scaled-down models built by hobbyists, which are not the same thing as amusement park trains. But the trains could possibly have to start following the rules that are imposed upon profit-making theme parks. The Live Steamers are strictly non-profit.
If you never got a chance to ride on the train, be aware that the vids on Youtube of The Ghost Train do not do it justice. It was detailed and comical from the get go and it was never exactly the same from year to year. It was somewhat more edgy and current than Disney’s Haunted Mansion, but still fairly innocent.
Gone are the skeleton pirates riding on cannons, and the ghost ship appearing on a curtain of fog. Hopefully some other park will pick up the mantle and imagine rabid raccoons hopping out of garbage cans, or the three little pigs serving up some unsettling BBQ. Each train was guaranteed to give the customer a twenty minute ride no matter how long the line to get inside was. The place was swimming in as much integrity as it was creativity. Two years ago, as the train passed the skeleton in the outhouse doing his business to the strains of Henry Mancini’s “Moon River,” it crept very slowly past an ornate graveyard with ghosts riding bicycles in the sky. It took a moment to notice, but amidst the tombstone decorations was a family of deer peacefully grazing in the dark. We got almost completely around them as the track went into a bend when they sprang into the air and scattered, leaving us gleefully thinking that we probably got the best train of the night.
The shame of it is that there is not as much stuff to do for youngsters anymore. The Halloween industry now targets a more adult audience wanting to test their limits in a shock treatment haunt. Fortunately, Knotts Camp Spooky in the daylight hours (prior to the Halloween Haunt) is pretty decent and the yard display in NOHO titled Boney Island is still going strong. Boney Island is free, with glow in the dark dancing waters included.
I respect the LALS judgement, so I’ll button up my maw, but really, a great piece of Halloween whimsy has made like the ghost of Elvis and left the building forever.