Saturday, April 8, 2017


Back in the day, when I was knee-high to The Incredible Shrinking Man, my family enjoyed many weekend trips to the various local Southern California amusement parks. Disneyland was one of them. It opened in 1955 and it was one of the places that cost a little bit of money for admission. You also purchased a "ticket book" at the window that could be used on the various rides and attractions. My favorites were always the train ride through the incredible diorama of the Grand Canyon and the Indian Village.

The other park that we visited more frequently because it was free to get in (and things were a little less expensive), was Knott's Berry Farm and Ghost Town in Buena Park. I was thrilled every time the announcement was made at home that we were going there. I was into Cowboys and Indians in a big way at that time, and walking through the Ghost Town was like walking on the set of a TV show -- or, better yet -- stepping into the past of the Wild West. I would don my cowboy hat and six-guns and wonder at the many sights and sounds that abounded.

One of the most curious items that will forever remain in my memory was a coin-operated machine that I never failed to play at least once during our visits called "Voodoo Dance". Once you dropped your coin in the slot, the scene jumped into action with a sorcerer bringing back to life a skeleton while a native band (presumably Haitian) played the accompanying music. This was one weird scene and it both attracted and repelled me. In fact, it kinda gave me the creeps. Nevertheless, I stood there in rapt attention, watching the bizarre scene unfold to a crazy musical accompaniment.

I haven't been back to Knott's Berry Farm for years and the Ghost Town has been given mostly away to more modern entertainment. I had heard that the Voodoo Dance machine had disappeared. Until, that is, when I spied this auction lot being offered by Dallas' Heritage Auctions.

The description leads to disappointment as it is in pretty bad shape and in non-working condition. Hopefully, a skilled tinkerer will pick this up and make it whole again. In the meantime, the photos of this bizarre little box of entertainment rekindle my shivery memories of a time gone by.

"Voodoo Dance" Coin-Op Arcade Machine (c. 1930s). This antique "Voodoo Dance" musical machine was one of the most well-known coin-operated machines displayed in Ghost Town. (It can be seen in use on YouTube.) Inside the glass-topped cabinet there is a Merlin-like mystical character, a skeleton in a casket, two African-Americans playing banjo and drum, and a third dancing. The game has great "voodoo" graphics, and a very strange black and white photo of an ox in a bamboo field serves as a backdrop. This is one of the most talked-about lots in this auction. Measurements are 40" x 21" x 22". Sold "as is" with no implied warranty as to condition. The machine is in non-working condition, with no keys included. It's a stand-alone piece of beautiful folk art. Fair to Good condition. 


Dr. Theda said...

This is Awesome...!!!
(we will Bookmark this post to view and to show to Friends... )
This is something that we would love to watch... Great post, good Sir !!
...and we posted a "Thank you" (90th of London after Midnight) wishing you and yours a great weekend, good Sir...
... as a kid the "Zuni Hunting Fetish) Doll (from TV movie was what scared us)

John said...

Thank you, Good Doctor. The description tells of a YouTube video showing this in operation, but so far I haven't been able to find it. And for the historical factoid of the day: the Zuni's were the culture that gave the name "Apache" to the raiding bands terrorizing everyone in from Mexico to Arizona in the 1800's. The name means, "The enemy".

Dr. Theda said...

Never knew that Zuni meant "the Enemy", cool ... this little doll was from a short story, "the Prey" (by Richard Matheson)...


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