Day 3 -- Pancakes, Magic, and Martians

Trip Start Jun 13, 2004
Trip End Jun 19, 2004

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Flag of United States  , New York
Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Last evening we decided that we could wait no longer. We would have to go to the REAL attractions (the ones that made us come to Lake George) the night of Day 3 (Tuesday). No more fooling around! But first, some fooling around.

The day started out with Tristan and I rousting Chris out of bed so we could all go to the Lake George House of Pancakes. Yay!!! This turned out to be a brilliant choice, I wish it was here in Portland so we could go all the time. Great food, good service, and the coolest atmosphere I've ever found in a breakfast nook.

Not only was there a really bizarre eclectic decor going on, but also there was an amazing collection of STUFF hiding around any given corner to entertain oneself with. Robots, the Great Green Garloo (holding a Little Green Garloo), trolls lurking in the artificial greenery over our heads, weird lamps and... well, you'll just have to go there yourself.

Fortified by yummy food, we made our way down Route 9 to one of Lake George's weirdest attractions of all: The Magic Forest. This is a huge compound filled with amusement rides and some of the most wonderfully bizarre walk-through attractions I have ever seen. From the moment we parked in the parking lot below the huge presence of their 4-story tall Uncle Sam (but far enough away so if he fell over our car wouldn't get squashed), we knew that we were in for it.

When we entered the admission house, a confection of storybook architecture, the attendant was stupefied momentarily by our presence sans children. Luckily, after his first reaction of "Umm... can I help you?" (said in very confused tones) he immediately snapped into a state of denial (or maybe it was apathy) and allowed himself to be pleasantly distracted by the coconutty smell of our sunscreen, and sold us the tickets.

This place was amazing. First we went into Santa's house, where we were greeted by a plethora of amazing dioramas of bizarre animal antics. Not to mention the giant Frosty the Snowman! No, actually the animals were much more interesting. The first thing that caught my eye was a group of young beavers rotating and perpetually airborne over their fourposter bed. One had apparently fallen off during their antics and looked like it might be squealing about it. The most inexplicable thing I found was the frog in the oven. Why was he in the oven? Why was nobody trying to get him out? Did he live in the oven? Were the other animals going to eat him for dinner? The whole affair boggled my mind.

And then, as my synapses misfired in confusion, caught off-guard, my camera flashed that fatal message: "CARD FULL". Bah! I practically had a tantrum. The prime photo opportunity of the trip, and I was stranded. Luckily Chris still had her camera, and I had a regular analog film camera, so pictures were taken (my film ones have been developed, who knows, maybe I'll have time to scan them someday!) but it was just not the same. However, there was enough crazy stuff to distract me in the Magic Forest... for instance...

I was boggled further by the weird phenomenon of the crazy house. Set a-tilt and built in the most bizarre angles, this little storybook-style house seemed innocent enough. Wacky, perhaps. Deranged, yes, probably. But I still thought I could walk through it unscathed, simply by using my excellent human reasoning and powers of persuasion. *I* could clearly see how the floor and walls were slanting, and could also see the true "up" position. I thought if I walked through keeping all these objective facts in my mind, I could make my body behave. HA! I staggered through the house like a novice drunk, barely avoiding falling right over many a time. Holy cow! What is this devil's house?! Madness. It was MADNESS!!! I left the house humbled and ready to kick the devil in the butt if I saw him.

Another attraction of the Magic Forest is its stable of live animals. Various small deer, reindeer, and horses, goats, poultry, etc live in pens and houses along the walkways in back of the crazy house. As a vegetarian and activist it can be hard to set aside my ideals and simply deal with the fact that this type of thing exists in the world. I wandered around and looked, and picked up stray corn off the ground to feed to the deer here and there. The reindeer made funny noises at us through their nostrils, seeming to know that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. While the pens could often have been cleaner, in general the animals seemed reasonably happy and well-cared for as they could be while stuck in tiny pens (and the more enjoyable large enclosures).

Then we wandered off to look at all the crazy fiberglass and plaster creations the park had to offer. And boy... there were a lot. Chris was very excited about all the Muffler Men that we had read so much about on Roadside America's website. We started taking alot of weird photo shots of ourselves standing below or in front of the various fairytale figures in the park, occasionally interacting with them in ways that Mother Nature had never intended. There was a great display of prudence in avoidance of doing things that might possibly get us kicked out because we really wanted to get as much as we could out of the park, but things got weird nonetheless!

One thing that we noticed was that a whole gamut of the figural pieces must have been done by the same person, as a whole series of the characters looked, quite frankly, like zombies. There was no getting around it. The park must get REALLY spooky at night. In fact, looking back, I rather wish we had ventured back at night and snuck in and took lots of pictures by spooky moonlight! But I guess that will have to wait.

While looking around at all the oddities, we started seeing some rather... strange... things IN THE WOODS. Taking our chances by the neck we jumped the train!!! Our conductor, like the ticket-taker, seemed confused by our lack of juvenile accompaniment. We quietly slipped into one of the rear cars and readied ourselves for untold depths of magical forest bizarreness. Whoo-whoo, and we were off. It's a pretty substantial train ride. Just when you think you've seen the last panda head stuck in the middle of nowhere, a group of giant hobo dogs rears up out of the woods, or you spot a wrecked ark deep in a gully below the track. Or there is a giant chicken looming ahead. I can't imagine what it would be like to go on the ride inebriated in any sort of way. Holy cow!

The giftshop was almost interesting. I should have gotten one of the little red felt hats with "Magic Forest" embroidered on it in green. Darn it!!! The food counter features lots of meat. We should have been tipped off by the very happy suicidal giant pink pig dancing around outside in all its fiberglass glory, brandishing his spatula in delight. We ran out screaming "Auuuggghh!!! Too much sausage!!!" There was also a giant hotdog licking his lips and hairy cotton candy, but you'll need to look at Chris' travelogue for more accounts of that.

Eventually we had wandered around enough and were sun-dazed enough that we thought perhaps we ought to protect what was left of our sanity and leave, especially after we found out the safari portion of the trip (which goes through a jungle-type terrain undoubtedly as weird as the trainride route) didn't appear to be running. Too bad! We'll have to come back some day. (Insert hilarious mental picture of our trio twenty years from now, in our fifties, coming up to the ticket counter and giggling as the attendant looks confusedly behind us for the expected grandchildren, etc)

As if we weren't giddy enough after wrestling with bizarre storybook characters all day, we headed to the A&W for lunch. I had never been to one, I don't know about the other two. But this A&W has carhop service!! Holy throwback to the fifties, Batman!!! Our friendly waitress took our order. Tristan and I got rootbeer floats in big souvenir mugs and fries, and Chris got her customary mocha shake with her fries. We waited unsuspectingly for our order to arrive, giggling about the tray the waitress had planted over our car door which held napkins and condiments. The only thing missing was rollerskates on her feet.

Suddenly the floats arrived! The waitress handed the monolithic concoctions over to us and said "Good luck!" with a big grin on her face. Consuming the floats without making a huge mess took a feat of miraculous proportions. Don't ask how we did it because I'm not sure. Chris surveyed our predicament and immediately produced her camera to document our impending doom. The floats are constructed so that there is a huge dollop of icecream that rests half in and half out of the float. It being hot that day, it was melting all over the place immediately. Then of course as soon as it hit the rootbeer that began foaming up. Yow! Let's just say it was an entertaining lunch. The fries and floats were both awesome. We all highly recommend the Rt. 9 A&W for your dining pleasure.

We went back to our cabin and sat comatose as the sugar and grease worked their way into our systems. Then we sprang out the door in the direction of Lumberjack Pass Minigolf! Also on Route 9, and set into the side of a steep hill, this is a much more serious minigolf course than the novelty ones that populate most of the Lake George area. The grounds were immaculate and there were plenty of cooling fountains and pools scattered around the course that helped keep the heat down with mist and splashing. We had fun but it was a really difficult course for us. Next door was a strange doll shop. Its sloping front lawn was simply COVERED with a wide assortment of dolls propped up in rows, all staring at us as we drove past. I wanted to go take pictures but was overruled as we fled the dolls' unnerving glares. Rats!

We cooled off in the cabin for a while before venturing out on perhaps the most-awaited portion of our trip -- the haunt attractions of the Lake George main drag!!! These were the items that had lured us there in the first place, above all: Dr. Morbid's Haunted House, the Alien Research Encounter, and Frankenstein's House of Wax.

We started at the Alien Research Lab, thinking that perhaps since it was less horror-related it might be the least interesting. WRONG on both counts!!! The entryway is flanked by fog-filled clear tubes within which lurk crazy aliens from Mars Attacks. A video loop plays on a monitor, explaining that you shouldn't be too scared to come in [insert evil laugh here]. When we finally went in, the receptionist was very official. We waited for a moment and a technician in a lab coat came out to get us. He escorted us through a crazy airlock-type entryway, and introduced us to their memorabilia and model collection of alien-related stuff. We got to poke around in there for a while. The collection is pretty good. Neat old clippings about the Roswell crash for history buffs, and film props for pop culture buffs. It is not without its hazards, however. A Borg almost got Chris, and Tristan nearly succumbed to an alien from ID4. *shiver*

The technician came back in to fetch us. He announces that we will be allowed into the facility proper, but at our own risk! Some of their specimens escaped the night before and not all of them were recovered. Very solemnly he let us in, and we made our way into what seemed like a maze of facility set-ups -- labs, containment tanks, locker equipment rooms -- it was GREAT!!! It was a haunt attraction itself, which we hadn't realized on entering. The crew is enthusiastic and loves to scare the HECK out of you!!! Go check it out if you're in town. I couldn't resist buying a "I Survived Alien Encounter" shirt and mug when I left.

Next we moved down the street to Frankenstein's House of Wax. This attraction is set in a large glass-fronted two-story building to great effect when approaching. We paid our admission and went in. This too was very different from what we expected! You walk down atmospheric hallways and peer into shadowy rooms through viewing windows. Inside lurk strange wax and sculptural concoctions that are based on various famous horror narratives. Some are obviously vintage and still maintain their wax visages, while others feature animatronics and mannequin-like figures. There are some really cool ones, such as the Dracula piece which features a nifty mirror illusion. Some have sound clips or music that set the scene. It is ALL weird. Some of it is lurid and ghastly, some of it is kind of funny, and most of it is definitely creepy. We loved it.

The funniest part was a very dramatic guillotine scene set up towards the end, which we watched in rapt attention, waiting for the nasty blade to fall and decapitate its poor victim! Unfortunately, we were left in suspense as the blade creeeeeeeped up to its starting point, and then.... it STUCK. Yup! It never came down. VERY sad.

One thing we were confused by at Frankenstein's was the lack of merchandising. There were some token Universal Monster postcards for sale and I think a few monster models. But NOWHERE were there t-shirts with the name of the attraction on them, no cheezy old postcards, no bumperstickers -- nothing for the hordes of friends (not to mention ourselves) that had been promised by us a souvenir from such a cool place that we had traveled so far to see. Bother!!! Someone needs to talk to them about that. What a wasted opportunity!!! T-shirts are great because A) you can tell curious people about the attraction when they ask you about it and drum up business for them and interest in their cool attraction, and B) if you run into someone who's been there you can compare notes. Either way it is a neat point of connection with folk.

Next we ambled on, happy and haunted, to Dr. Morbid's Haunted House. As soon as we entered, Tristan and I were swept with a wave of nostalgia for Spooky World (in Foxborough, MA through October every year -- he works there as a make-up artist). Ahhhhh! The desk attendant was attired in cape and casket-chic make-up. The tour guide arrived and took us through the chambers of Dr. Morbid's and we loved every minute of it. Fog, cobwebs, vats of acid, creepy libraries and portraits on the wall -- you name it! All the best Scooby-Dooish tricks of the trade had made their way to this place.

We don't know how scary the tour is normally, because we went through in the same party as a family with small boys. We suspect they toned it down for them and that normally it is a little more scary. We suspect and HOPE. Chris, who has never gotten up the gumption to go to Spooky World with us, wanted me to keep her expensive camera in my shoulder bag in case SOMETHING happened. There was a bit of discussion about who should go first. But it didn't wind up being an issue. Not half as scary as the Alien Encounter, but then again as mentioned there were extenuating circumstances. Again, as at Frankenstein's, there was no merchandising. Bah! Fooey.

On exiting we admired the lovely clock tower which goes to Thirteen O'Clock (as any good haunted house clock should). We also recommended the Alien Encounter haunt to the family with children that had gone through Dr. Morbid's with us. They went off down the street excited and happy. We headed over to S. J. Garcia's to try their "Mexican" food. Very Americanized. But they carry some yummy locally brewed rootbeer! While we were eating the family knocked on the window beside our table and gave us the thumbs-up -- they LOVED Alien Encounter! Cool.

When we got home I made Chris take pictures of me jumping around under a well-lit tree outside our cabin. She though I was barmy.

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