We wanted an American Style Amusement Park, the fundamental principle of which is to make adults feel like children again and to inspire gaiety of a primarily innocent character.
W.G. Bean – Founder of Blackpool Pleasure Beach®
For over 100 years,the Pleasure Beach at Blackpool has thrilled millions of visitors with its unique combinations of white knuckle rides and traditional attractions. But behind all the fun of this fair, once the lights go off and the rides settle down for the night, troubled spirits are said to wander…..
How many other Fairgrounds can boast of a Ghost train where some of the ghosts are actually real…..?
The History of the Pleasure Beach, Blackpool
Founded in 1896 by Alderman William George Bean, in 1903 he and John Outhwaite bought the 30 acre site known as the Watson estate and rented it out to various companies to operate rides and run stalls. In June 1904, at a cost of £7000 the Sir Hiram Maxim Flying Machines were opened, and are still there and popular to this day.
In 1905 it officially became advertised as `The Pleasure Beach`, and rides such as The Rives Caves and The Helter Skelter Lighthouse opened. The Little miniature Railway was also installed . In 1907 The Scenic Railway was opened along with The Water Chute, the latter to the cost of £12,000. Both were removed in 1939.
1908 saw the opening of The Canadian Toboggan Slide , followed in 1909 by The Roller Skating Rink and the Velvet Coaster, the latter to the cost of £8000.
In 1910 The Joy Wheel opened and Blackpool Pleasure Beach Ltd. was formed by Bean and Outhwaite. Sadly in 1911 John Outhwaite died. Between 1912 and 1928 lots more rides were introduced, many of which are still standing now. These include The Casino building, The Whip, The Dodgems and Noahs Ark. After 1921 it became possible to import rides over from America.
In 1923 land was reclaimed from the sea and The Pleasure Beach was no longer on the sea front. The Big Dipper was also opened in this year, at a cost of £12`000. When the Dodgems opened in 1928 a boating lake was constructed between The Big Dipper and the Promenade.Sadly in 1929 William Bean, aged 60 ,died of pneumonia. His daughter Doris, aged 25 took over and her husband Leonard Thompson became Managing Director of the Company.
1930 saw the opening of The Ghost Train , and the Thirties heralded the arrival of many new rides at The Pleasure Beach, including The Roller Coaster, The Little Dipper (now the Zipper Dipper), The Ferris Wheel, The Octopus, The Funhouse and The Grand National. In 1936 The Big Dipper was reprofiled to include 2 new dips and a new station, and The Ghost Train was redesigned and relocated to its present site.
Surprisingly during The Second War The Pleasure beach remained open all year round, with Tom Leonard declaring “Entertainment to be the only thing that was not rationed“.
After the War the company prospered and many rides were introduced over the next 30 years, including The Wild Mouse, The Derby Racer and Alice in Wonderland (£50`000). In 1967 The Monorail and Log Flume both opened, costing £100`000 and £180`000 respectively, and in 1971 The Gold Mine opened costing £150`000.
Sadly in 1976 Leonard died, and his son Geoffrey Thompson became managing Director, whilst Mrs L D Thompson MBE JP became Chairman. From this time onwards many new and exciting rides were added, including, in 1977 The Steeplechase, at a cost of £813`000. In 1979 the 360 degree looping Revolution opened to the cost of 1 million pounds. In 1984 Space Invader opened also costing 1 million pounds, and in 1988 Avalanche opened at a cost of 2.5 million pounds.
The Pleasure Beach had been consistently profitable and this profit has always been constantly put back into it, going towards new rides and site upgrades. In 1990 the whole of the exterior was completely redesigned with Ocean Boulevard, a shopping complex being created along the promenade.
In 1994 The Pepsi Max Big One opened, Europe`s tallest, fastest rollercoaster, costing 12 million pounds. The following year another 2 million was invested in the creation of a new cabaret and hospitality venue. 1997 saw another UK first, the 2 million, 210 foot high Ice Blast – The Ride, which was opened in June of that year by Boyzone…..and 94 year old Mrs L D Thompson MBE!
In the year 2000 Pleasure Beach, Blackpool invested its largest amount yet, 15 million pounds, on Valhalla, the worlds biggest `dark` ride. In 2002 Spin Doctor terrified the crowds and in Spring 2003 The Big Blue Hotel was opened at the South end of the park. In 2004 Bling was unleashed on the public and 2007 saw the arrival of Infusion, the parks first inverted coaster.
Sadly, in 2004 Geoffrey Leonard died, and his daughter Amanda Thompson became Managing Director. Not long after this the park faced its saddest loss to date, the passing of Pleasure Beach Chairman Mrs L D Leonard MBE, aged 101.
Rides have come and gone over the years but many remain, including the first ever ride……The Sir Hiram Maxim Flying Machines!
Fire destroyed the Funhouse completely in the eighties ,and over the years several other rides, including The Grand National and The Alice Ride have been damaged by smaller fires, yet they have been lovingly repaired and continue to excite millions!
There have been a few ride related and ride unrelated deaths at the park throughout its history.
Pleasure Beach, Blackpool, continues to thrive, and remains Britains number 1 tourist attraction!
The Haunted History of the Pleasure Beach, Blackpool
There are several ghosts linked with the park, but the most famous of all has to be the `ghost` of The Ghost Train.
`Cloggy` is said to be the spirit of a former ride operator who died about 20 years ago. Named `Cloggy` because he used to wear clogs, he is often heard by staff walking along the tracks when the ride has shut down for the night, his clogs echoing throughout the empty ride. Some staff claim to have seen his faint apparition. He seems to have a fascination with the electrics, with several tv`s turning themselves on despite not having any power running through them. One night a worker was walking towards the ride when the skulls eyes flashed at him several times. Slightly disturbed by this, he went to turn the power off only to find out what he thought in the first place….that the power was not and had not been on for a while….
The Ice Rink is said to be haunted, with performers reporting all manner of strange, unnerving things taking place there.
A female ghost is said to haunt The Arena.
The spirit of a man bearing an uncanny resemblance to Karl Marx has been seen in the Star Pub, always in the cellar or living quarters. Shadows are often seen there and 5 years ago, at 3am an apparition was seen walking though the bar, before vanishing.
The ghost of a little girl, believed to be aged 9 is said to haunt Sir Hiram Maxims Flying Machines Gift Shop. About 4 years ago an item from there was said to have been mysteriously moved to another spot.
It seems, that Pleasure Beach, Blackpool continues to attract people, even in death.