The Fatal Wedding, Under the Sea, and Pilgrim’s Progress

The Fatal Wedding

The above is a painting of the Fatal Wedding building from a postcard — but the building itself doesn’t appear so brightly colored in other photographs and postcards. The stars and moon appear to have been there, but not so prominent

The Fatal Wedding illusion could have been achieved in several ways, but it was probably the one called “Pepper’s Ghost”, after its putative inventor (others are said to have created it earlier), who took out a patent on it in 1879:

This is a top-down view. The bars at the bottom represent the audience seats. The dashed line d’ is a partially-silvered mirror. With the lights on behind the mirror, it isn’t visible at all, and a person placed in a coffin there will be seen as if there was no glass in front of them. The lights would then be turned down on the person and turned up at the same time on an object placed on the other side of the glass, which now acts like a mirror.

A better idea can be gotten from this drawing:

The illusion is that the person in the coffin appears to “dissolve” into the skeleton in the identical coffin. The illusion is an excellent one, provided the two-way mirror is kept scrupulously clean, and the lighting change is properly done. The only difference is that, in this case, there are two subjects in two coffins.

The Fatal Wedding attraction was brought from Coney Island, where it had been exhibited the year before. It only lasted a year at Wonderland, and was replaced in 1907 by

Under the Sea

They constructed a water tank with one wall made of thick glass facing the audience, so that they could show underwater acts.

One of the acts was “Captain” Fred A. Wallace, who was president of Frederick A. Wallace Submarine Diving and Wrecking Crew. Wallace didn’t have a submarine — he used a “hard hat” rubber diving suit for underwater salvage work.

Wonderland hired him to demonstrate his suits at Wonderland for the summer. They apparently livened up what could have been a straighforward demonstration with some made-up knife play:

They also had Eugene Fielding “The Human Fish”, who could hold his breath for several minutes, and demonstrated eating and “smoking” underwater.

They also had an escape artist escaping from handcuffs underwater, a la Harry Houdini, and a group of male and female swimmers.

Pilgrim’s Progress

For the 1908 season the attraction was rebuilt again, although the exterior was mostly the same. Now it became The Pilgrim’s Progress

Notice the banner that reads “Banish Dull Care All Who Enter Here”. That tells you that the inspiration for this was not John Bunyan’s metaphoric story of the Human Soul Searching for Salvation, but was instead a cartoon strip by the incredibly creative Winsor McKay. His cartoon strip featured a “Mr. Bunion” (spoofing “Bunyan”) whose metaphorical journey was to abandon Dull Care, represented by a suitcase with that label on it:

The elongated figures along the frieze of the building even somewhat resemble McKay’s characters (although not close enough for legal action).

Like many of the attractions, Pilgrim’s Progress was a franchised attraction, purchased through advertisements in the trade publications

It was a funhouse that featured, according to one account, moving chairs, tilted rooms, ghosts, dissolving mirages, falling stairways, mysterious passages, and something called the Cantsitonit (“Can’t sit on it” — presumably a tilting or collapsing chair).

It’s not clear what became of the building in the 1909-1910 post-bankruptcy phase. It might have been used as a theater for one of the many inexpensive vaudeville acts they promoted then.

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