Preserving endangered dark rides with VR

Crystal writes, "'Dark rides' like the Spookarama at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, those single-cart rides that take you through a haunted house full of ghosts and scares. They're prime for teenage making out, have been around for 100 years — and they're disappearing. Joel Zika, a 36-year-old art and design university professor in Melbourne, Australia, has been fascinated with the dark rides for years, reveling their connection to early horror effects in movies. So he decided to document them in the only way that would truly do them justice: virtual reality."

Donors to the project at the $30 level get a custom Google Cardboard VR headset; for $35 you get access to the VR videos Zika has produced so far. Aside from capturing the rides for the ages, he hopes the project will help people across the world recognize the similar art and craftsmanship that went into the rides.

"If you saw the bat on this one, it's similar to the bat on this other one because this guy made them," he said. "We've all got these shared experiences but we've prob never showed each other pictures."

When he's not doing this project or teaching, Zika enjoys eating spicy food and doing artwork for heavy metal bands. He's been to Coney Island three times but this upcoming trip will be his first since Hurricane Sandy. He said he would have assumed kitschy dark rides like the Spookarama would have had a bigger hipster appeal; instead, sneaking into the ruins of abandoned amusement parks and broken down rides seems more popular. There's no imminent threat to Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, but it's not hard to see how another major storm could wipe it out.

Dark Ride Project: Historic Haunts in VR
[Joel Zika/Indiegogo]

Coney Island's famous Spookarama is now in VR
[Tim Donnelly/Brokelyn]