Monday, August 2, 2010

Prehistoric Forest

If you've ever spent any time out by Marblehead, then you've probably driven by Prehistoric Forest on Route 163. You can't miss it, with its large smoking volcano out front facing the highway.

At left is a vintage postcard showing one of the denizens of the Forest.

My parents took my siblings and me to Prehistoric Forest when we were kids back in the 1960's. I have a fond memory of it, although I don't remember much about it. I remember taking a tram ride around the forest and every so often a dinosaur or other prehistoric creature would lurch into view. I also remember coming home with little plastic dinosaurs like the type you would get in a cereal box back then.

Since that first visit, I've been back once, with my sister about 15 years ago. By then, the tram was gone and you had to hoof it around the forest. There was also another attraction as part of the price, Mystery Hill, where there is a creepy shack in which all the laws of gravity are basically thrown out the window. Mysterious things happen like balls rolling uphill. Actually, Mystery Hill was pretty good!

One of my favorite books, The New Roadside America gave a hilarious description of Prehistoric Forest. Apparently there were two sister Prehistoric Forests, one in Marblehead and one in Irish Hills, Michigan. While the one in Michigan was semi-educational, the one in Ohio was... well, here is the book's description:

At the Prehistoric Forest in Marblehead all pretense of history and education are abandoned. Tram riders are issued miniature M-16 rifles and are instructed to "kill the monsters." A prerecorded tour guide panics repeatedly and screams, "To the left! To the right! Shoot! Shoot!!!" whenever one of the feebly nodding dinosaurs comes into view. The forest echoes with the chatter of toy M-16 fire spraying in all directions. The tram driver remains unaffected by the mayhem, smoking cigarettes and sipping coffee as the tram slowly chugs along.

The book's description makes me wish they still had the tram ride!


If you're going to pay a visit to Prehistoric Forest and Mystery Hill, then you'd better hurry. They are closing for good after this season. I'm going in a few weeks.

Click here for a nice article about the history of the park that ran in the Chronicle Telegram, and here for Neil Zurcher's take on the topic.


-Alan D Hopewell said...

I never heard of Prehistoric Forest...sounds like a blast!

Dan Brady said...

Hi Alan,

It played a cameo (of sorts) in the movie "Tommy Boy" which was set in Sandusky. During a road trip fight scene in which David Spade wallops Chris Farley in the face with a 2x4, there is a sign for Prehistoric Forest in the background. But it's just a movie prop, though.

I'm heading out there one more time in two weeks and will take some pictures for posterity (and this blog).