AMUSEMENT PARKS Dark-ride enthusiasts go down a tunnel of love together

This group is daffy about old rides and funhouses.
VIENNA -- Got a hankering for dark, spooky places? Like wobbly mirrors and rotating barrels?
The Darkride and Funhouse Enthusiasts have just the club for you.
"We call ourselves daffy," co-founder Rick Davis of Vienna said.
Get it? DAFE -- daffy?
"Totally tongue-in-cheek," Davis laughed. "Pun intended."
The group, which claims about 200 people from all over the world (one member's from Canada), wants to document the history of a different part of the amusement park industry.
Very few dark rides or funhouses are left in U.S. amusement parks, Davis said. Many that are -- such as the Old Mill at Kennywood Park -- are quite old.
Goals: "We're rapidly losing a lot of this old history," Davis said. To preserve it -- at least a little -- many of the group's members photograph those remaining.
They also want to bring attention to the attractions and try to persuade parks to keep them, said co-founder Joel Styer of Reading, Pa.
"We want to make people know the rides are popular," he said. "They're disappearing, and hopefully we can try to turn that around."
Most funhouses and dark rides can be found in the smaller, more traditional amusement parks.
"The large parks seem to have shunned them for the most part," Styer said, though the dark rides at least seem to be enjoying a comeback.
New twist: A new type of interactive dark ride is becoming popular, Styer said. Instead of the normal "going-through-a-dark-tunnel-with-things-popping-up-at-you" ride, this one offers something more:
"You can 'shoot' at things around the ride -- what pops up," he said.
Davis added, "They've kind of updated the dark-ride idea."
The roots of this group go back to Youngstown's Idora Park and its funhouse.
"It was the worst thing in the world that ever happened when they took it out," Davis said.
He'd never taken any pictures of that funhouse, and regretted it.
Styer, too, had a ride he'd grown up with close before he took any pictures.
Most of DAFE's members learn about the club from its Web site, Davis said.
Event: The club just had its first event, which celebrated the 100th birthday of the Old Mill ride at Kennywood Park. They're hoping to have another get-together in August, he said.
"We know people think we're crazy, but this is what we're interested in," Davis said.
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