Return to Funland

June 13, 2016 at 12:00 AM

Please consider reading Funland, by the same author, before proceeding with this story. Thank you!

I live in a small town in Massachusetts where nothing big ever seems to happen. However, a few years ago, my older brother was in a pretty bad car accident that seemed to leave him more mentally damaged, as opposed to physically. Our parents ended up putting him into the local psychiatric facility, Tewksbury State Hospital. My family has never really talked about it much. I was too young to understand what exactly was going on at the time. All I knew was one day my brother was perfectly fine and then the next day, he was up at that creepy, rundown place they call a hospital. I didn’t even know it existed until then, and I’ve lived here my whole life.
The incident happened when I was a freshman. It had been raining out and my brother was driving on Main Street. He hit a pole in front of our local Domino’s Pizza. But from what I’ve heard here and there, from whispered conversations between my mom and dad, and stories from upperclassmen, the accident had something to do with this abandoned park right next to the Domino’s, across the street from the Country Club. It used to be a mini-golf course called Funland. I never even glanced at the place more than once or twice. All I ever saw were trees and a fence. But recently I noticed some of the trees had been cut down and I could actually see into the park for the first time. What could be in there that did so much damage to my brother? I needed to find out.
My friend Matt knows more about the park than anyone else I know. He’s really into creepy, abandoned places. His girlfriend Jenny has been taking pictures since her first art class. She likes going to these random places and taking photos. The old Funland park has been on their list of places to explore for awhile now. They came to me a few weeks ago and asked if I wanted to check it out with them. Matt is the only one of my friends that knows what happened to my brother, or at least all I know about it. My parents have forbidden me to talk about it to anyone. I’m not even allowed to ask them questions. It’s something that’s been gnawing at me for the past few years. I want to know what happened to him. I want to know what’s inside that decrepit old park.
We finally went there about a week ago now. Matt insisted we go about half an hour before sunset, that way Jenny could take some pictures in the daylight and he could scope out the park for safety purposes.
“You can never be too careful in places like these,” he told me. “You never know what could be there.”
According to him, some local kids have been getting over the fence from the back left side, behind what used to be batting cages. It was a good thing we went during the dry season. That whole area is prone to flooding. Heck, the whole town is. Who’s bright idea was it to build on swamp land?
When we got to the fence, we could tell where and how people have been getting into the park. There were several spots where the fence was actually crushed down or raised up, allowing us the option to jump over or crawl under. We picked the first option, using a convenient pile of boards to boost ourselves up. Matt dropped down first, making sure the area was clear before he helped Jenny over.
Once we were all officially in the park, I sort of just stayed back and let Matt and Jenny do their thing while I looked around. Jenny was off taking pictures of the old batting cages. It was a lot bigger than I thought it would be. There were even baseballs left in the automated pitching machines, but they were rotted and brown with decades of exposure. When I looked over at her, she was beaming from ear to ear, her camera snapping away at one of the machines. It’s coat of green paint was faded, but you could still see the number 6 written on the side. Matt was standing in the central area, just outside the cages themselves. It looked like someone had set up a makeshift skate park. There was even a go-kart sitting there, still intact.
“Let’s go around the golf course first. It looks like it’s still going to be hard maneuvering in there, even with most of the trees gone.” Jenny and I nodded in agreement as we followed Matt further into the park.
The course was even more run-down than the batting cages. The fake green turf at each hole was muddy and covered with old leaves. The first structure we saw was what we assumed, at first, was a shed. It turned out to be a doll house that was even taller than me. It even had a balcony. There were bits of glass from the windows that were scattered around, smashed and cracked, either from decay or vandalism. I was actually pretty impressed that there wasn’t more vandalism. It’s one thing if you want to appreciate an old place by just looking at it and taking pictures, but it’s another thing to break stuff or spray paint over everything. That’s just not right.
If there had been anything in the fake house before, it was all gone now. Moving forward, we saw a little wishing well. The roof was red with real slating and the foundation was brick. We found a huge, white rocket ship that sat at the center of the course with the word ‘Funland’ written on either side of it.
“What’s that over there?” Jenny asked, pointing in the direction of a smallish white building at the entrance.
“I think it was an arcade,” Matt replied. “And that little one in front of it looks like where you get the golf balls and putters, you know?”
“Yeah,” I replied, scanning the area. Then something caught my eye. “What’s that thing over there?”
It looked like a weird little wooden shack with a sort of transparent door. The turf area was inclined and went under the door.
“The 18th hole,” said Jenny, snapping another picture. “It says so right there.”
“Yeah, but what’s it supposed to be?” I asked.
“It sort of looks like an outhouse,” Matt pointed out.
“Oh, I see it now. Weird.”
“‘Ring Bell For A Free Game With A Hole In One.'” Jenny read. “Hey, what’s this?” She bent forward, brushing some of the leaves out of the way of what she was seeing.
“What is it?”
“It’s a cell phone,” she said, turning it over in her hand. The thing looked ancient and caked in dirt. “There’s no use trying to get it to work. At least I can get a picture,” she said, placing it back down on the ground to do just that.
“It looks like something should be inside here,” I pointed out, stepping onto the turf mound as I peered through the transparent door.
“We’re losing sun,” said Matt, gesturing for Jenny and I to follow him as he turned back to where we came from. “I want to take a look at this storage shack.” Jenny and I followed after him.
When we reached the rectangular white building, Matt and I both searched for some way to peek in while Jenny took her last few photos in the twilight. There was a large metal door on one side, but it was clearly padlocked. On the opposite side, hidden behind some brush and one of the batting cage nets was a normal size door. It was also metal but it was a bit rusted and it didn’t have a noticeable lock, just a metal bar that read, ‘PUSH’.
“Are we going in?” I asked.
Matt looked around carefully before deciding. “If we can,” he said, pushing down on the metal bar. The slightly rusted door moved about an inch, if that, but with a few good kicks, it slammed open with a echoing thud.
“So much for being quiet.”
“Let’s go,” Matt said, turning his flashlight on as he stepped inside the building. Jenny followed him, her eyes scanning every corner for a photo op. I took my own flashlight and causally looked around.
There was stuff everywhere; clubs, bats, golf balls, baseballs, some go-kart parts, and random pieces of wood and metal. But besides all of that junk, there were plaster and wooden figures, and other pieces from the mini-golf course. A huge gray elephant looked like it had been tossed in a corner, and a giant giraffe with weird, alien-like eyes was shoved on top. They looked so strange just laying there, as if they were dead.
I almost turned back, feeling a little creeped out, to be honest. Then something else caught my eye. To me, it looked like an old mascot costume of some sort, but then I noticed the wires coming out of it, as well as the glint of metal limbs. I stepped close and shined my flashlight right on it. I couldn’t even tell what animal it was supposed to be, the fake fur was just too ratty. The wiring and metal that made the arms and legs were exposed here and there where the fur had ripped away. The head of the thing was sitting oddly on it’s shoulders, somehow making it seem more alert than the figures around it. I still couldn’t tell what the thing was supposed to be, so I knelt down in front of it and shined my flashlight in it’s face. It was a dog; a big, goofy dog in overalls. One of it’s eyes was completely gone, with just wires pouring out of the socket and down it’s face. The other eye was in better condition than I would have guessed; the black dot that was the pupil looked as fresh as the day it was painted. Shining the light around, I could see the entire metal structure of the head. Only the fur on the side with the good eye remained intact.
“Guys, come look at this,” I called out. “I found some kind of animatronic thing.” I reached towards it, wanting to lift the good section of brown material up to see the whole face, I figured Jenny would love to take a picture of it.
Suddenly, the eye moved. I cannot stress this enough, I saw the eye move. I let out a sharp word or two and fell backwards onto the ground, dropping my flashlight in the process. I watched it roll just out of my reach before I turned back to the animatronic. My eyes widened. It was standing up. The weight of it’s head looked like it would fall to it’s chest if it had to look down, but it could see me perfectly with the head cocked like that, I could feel it. I watched it’s jaw creak open as if it were about to speak, but the whole thing snapped down with a clang, dropping a few inches down, barely being held up by the wires in the dog’s face.
Without of any sort of man-made sound from a voice box or anything, the dog spoke. It’s words were chillingly smooth, as if a person were standing before me instead of a hunk of rust and wires. It was angry.
“What do you think you’re doing?” It asked, taking a shaky, clanking step closer.
I was too afraid to move. I was frozen, staring up at the dog in terror.
“Get out,” it whispered, the angry tone still noticeable in it’s voice. “Get out of here. Now.” The ‘now’ was significantly deeper, almost demonic.
“Where are you?” I heard Matt call. “You’re supposed to keep your flashlight on.
I turned my head to call out to him, but no words formed. I heard the animatronic’s eye move in the same direction, before it once again peered down at me, regaining my attention. We stared soundlessly at one another until Matt spoke again.
“I found your flashlight,” he said, having picked it up from the ground just a few feet away, scanning one side of the room with it while passing his back to Jenny. Then I was blinded as one of the beams of light was turned right at the animatronic. It looked even more terrifying standing up.
Then I heard Jenny scream. “Wh-What is that? Why-How did it just move?” I heard the shudder of her camera and watched the flash light up the dog’s face even more. She gasped and the camera fell to the ground with a thud. “Matt! We have to go. Now!”
“C-Come on!” shouted Matt. “Get out! Both of you! Let’s get out of here!”
I clamored to my feet at his voice, only to be stopped just before I turned to leave. One of the arms of the animatronic shot out, the cold metal hand wrapped around my throat in a vice-like grip. I couldn’t breathe. I stared astoundingly into the one good eye of the thing, trying to pry the sharp, metal fingers off. I winced, feeling them pierce into my flesh. Growing weak from the pain and the lack of oxygen, I hung limp in the dog’s clutches. My eyes never left his, until I felt myself fly across the room and smash against the wall, before everything went black.
When I finally gained consciousness, I was lying on my back in the parking lot beside Matt’s car.
“You’re awake!” Jenny said, tearfully. Looking into her face, I could tell she had been crying.
“Get in the car! Get in the car!” I could hear Matt yelling.
Jenny tried to help me up, but she couldn’t muster the strength and I couldn’t manage to move; I’m not sure if it was from the pain or the shock. Matt shooed Jenny away and pulled me into his backseat. He and Jenny got in soon after and we peeled out of there as soon as Matt’s foot hit the peddle.
They took me to the hospital and said that I fell while skateboarding and rolled down a hill. It was totally plausible; I skateboard at the park almost once a week and the hill they were referring to was a man-made rocky hill. Both the hospital and my parents believed the story, so the three of us could at least feel some relief.
After that, the three of us became very withdrawn, at school and at home. I want someone to talk to about this so badly, that’s why I’m writing this. Maybe in some weird way it will actually help. But I have to be quiet about it. I can’t tell anyone what happened in there. None of us can. If we do, our parents will just put us away like they did my brother. Jenny wants to go back so she can find her camera, but Matt keeps telling her to just let it go.
I’ve been having these nightmares every night since. I’m running through the park and the dog is right on my heels. I’ll never forget that clanging sound. I still hear it. If we could get our hands on that camera, maybe people would believe us. Then they’d have to let my brother out. He isn’t crazy. None of us are. I saw it! I saw that dog. …I still see him, standing in the corner of my room. He doesn’t say anything, he just stands there, staring at me with his one good eye. I’ve considered trying to take his picture one more time, but he won’t let me. I can fight him off eventually, I know I can. I’m stronger now. I can get my brother out of that place. I’ll find the proof. I just…I just need to get away from this dog.
I should never have set foot in that old park…

Credit: Daron Silvers


February 11, 2016 at 12:00 AM

I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts during the 90s. It was a great time and place to be a kid. Our Main Street was chock-full of kid-friendly activities. There was an enormous outside go-kart track with a huge arcade full of the best games from the 80s and 90s. I remember spending hours playing the alligator version of whack-a-mole. Then, just down the street, was Tune Town. It wasn’t anything special, just a typical 90s music store, but they had a cute little dog with a bandanna who was in all of their T.V commercials. Though I’ve long forgotten the little guy’s name, he was really cute and whenever I’d go in to buy a new cassette tape, he’d be there to greet me at the door.
Out of all the places I went to as a kid, Funland was by far the greatest. It had its own go-kart track, a small one for little kids and a larger one for bigger kids. It wasn’t as big or fancy as the one down the street, but it was still fun. There were batting cages too, lots of them. It even had a small arcade, mostly filled with Pinball machines, Pac-Man and the always popular Simpsons Arcade Game. But the best thing about Funland was the mini-golf course. It was the only one in the area at the time, and in the eyes of a ten-year-old kid, the place was HUGE. The iconic spaceship with the Funland logo sat in the center of the park. You could see it from the street, along with the giant giraffe statue which stared out into the parking lot, smiling down at you as you entered. There were other memorable statues too, including a pink elephant and a large dollhouse that sat in the back corner. But the greatest part of the entire park was the 18th hole. On the outside, it just looked like a ordinary outhouse. If you got a hole-in-one, not only did you get a free game, but the outhouse door would swing open and you could hear the sound of a toilet flushing, along with the hiss of the hydraulics that moved the animatronic inside. It was a funny looking humanoid dog wearing overalls, with one strap hanging down off his shoulder as if he’d just pulled them up. His eyes would blink, his jaw would move and his arm would rise as he pointed at you, scolding you for disturbing him, “Hey! Whadda think you’re doin’? Get outta here!” he’d yell, in a goofy attempt at a Southern accent. Then the door would close and you and your friends would have a good laugh before you left. Every time I went there, I couldn’t wait to see that dog.
Like all things from childhood, the fun of Main Street slowly faded away. I think the go-kart track and arcade were the first to go, sitting abandoned for years before being turned into a Day Care Center. They still kept the track, having only gutted and rebuilt the arcade to serve their needs, so it just sat there in the back with one or two remaining go-karts frozen in time. Then Tune Town went out of business, unable to keep up with bigger music chains like Newberry Comics and F.Y.E. I imagine that cute little dog has to be dead by now. Last to go, of course, was Funland. It was painful to see it start to rot and decay in its last few years of life. The paint on the animal statues faded, the eyes of the giraffe looking sadly out into the emptying parking lot as less and less visitors came to see it.

When the park officially closed, I was heartbroken. By that time, I was in high school and it had been a long time since I visited the park. I used to drive by on my way to work, watching it slowly deteriorating away. The elephant eventually tipped over onto its side, the chain around its huge stump of a foot that had been keeping it latched the ground was now visible and exposed. The doors and windows of the dollhouse were broken and shattered as if it were a real abandoned house. The outhouse door remained closed, the wood cracking with age. I could only imagine what the poor animatronic dog inside looked like.
Eventually, nature reclaimed the once thriving park and I could no longer see into it. All that remained visible was the head of the giraffe, peeking over the rusted fence. Curiosity got the best of me, so I gathered my two friends Kevin and Zack one night and we decided to break in and check it out. As we walked up to the surrounding gate, I looked up at the giraffe. It was the first time I noticed just how creepy it looked. Its yellow coat of paint had almost completely faded, leaving only its brown spots and huge, almond shaped black eyes. Continuing on, we snuck into the back of the park near the batting cages. Zack brought a pair of garden shears and cut the fence open, just enough for us to squeeze through. As I entered the park for the first time in what must have been over decade, I looked around in complete awe. Everything was just how I remembered it. The go-karts were still on the tracks, the batting cages still had balls in them…but the arcade was all boarded up, and the mini-golf course was covered with trees and was damp with overflow from the nearby swamp. I sighed, saddened by the sight of what was once a happy and magical place from my childhood. The feeling the old abandoned park gave off at night sent a shiver down my spine. I never really noticed how creepy it was until then.
We went through the course in order, starting at the 1st hole. There was nothing special, just the usual challenging mounds of fake grass, now moist with rain; the swamp hadn’t reached that far yet. As we continued, we walked past the pink elephant, now a shade of ghostly white. He lay on his side, eyes staring vacantly out into the park, as if he had just expired. I ran my fingers over his massive head before moving on. The dollhouse was the next memorable thing we came across. It looked like a miniature haunted house. I half expected the broken doors and windows to be boarded up like the arcade was. But you could still see inside, the little pieces of furniture were all toppled over and spilled out on the ground. This is the part of the park where the swamp had touched. The smell wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be; the town was covered with swamps as it was. We couldn’t reach the entire back section, unless we wanted to wade through the disgusting water. Our only choice was to head straight to the 18th hole.
Finally, the part of the park I wanted to see the most. More than anything, I wanted to see that dog again. It was half nostalgia and half an excited sort of fear of what it would look like. Was it even still there? Was it in good condition, preserved by the outhouse? Or was it like everything else in the park, sad and neglected after all this time? I couldn’t wait to find out.
“Did you bring it?” I asked Kevin.
He nodded and handed me one of his dad’s golf balls. I held it in my hand, sighing deeply as I ran my thumb over the grooves. I had stepped up to the outhouse and peered underneath where I knew the hole would be, when there was a sudden flash of light, temporarily blinding me.
“What the fuck, Zack?” I complained, blinking away the white-yellow spots in my eyes.
“I was just trying to help,” he replied, moodily. “Let’s just hurry up and get out of here.”
“Yeah,” added Kevin, “This place is giving me the creeps.”
“Not until I see him,” I snapped.
I’m sure I must have sounded crazy. I was talking about the dog as if it were a person. To me, he was more than just some sideshow attraction to be gawked at, he was a part of my childhood. It was like I was about to meet an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in ages.
My friends didn’t reply. Zack simply kept his flashlight pointed beneath the outhouse and Kevin sighed in annoyance, tapping his foot impatiently. But now we could all see it: the hole; the white tube in the ground that brought the golf balls back into the little hut at the entrance that once contained all of the golf balls and clubs. It was barely visible over the mound created by the fake turf, but it was still there and I had a clear shot. I placed the ball on the ground and, aiming carefully, rolled it towards the hole. We could hear the ball enter the pipe, the sound of it swirling down into the ground echoing in the silent park. Zack and I stepped back beside Kevin, the light now shining on the outhouse itself. I clenched my fist in anticipation, wishing with all my heart that it would somehow still work, that the door would open and the dog would still be there.
It was a stupid wish.
We all jumped at the sudden sound of the once familiar flushing noise, now slightly distorted. Then the doors began to open and the loud hiss of the hydraulics resonated through the night. We stood there breathless and silent. It worked! We actually made it work! After all these years, I’d finally get to see him again. I was so happy that I could feel the sides of my mouth curl up into a magnificent smile, as if I were a child opening a present. …But the present wasn’t what I had been expecting at all. There he stood, my once familiar friend, my reward for getting my hole-in-one…but I could hardly recognize him. The fur that covered his metal frame was matted and wet, and his overalls hung loose around him, like it would if someone had lost a great deal of weight. My breath caught in my throat, which was now suddenly dry. I swallowed softly, eyes widening as they traveled up to the dog’s face. It was a horrible, hideous sight. The fake fur on half of his head had torn away, exposing the wires and joint mechanism in his mechanical jaw. I never remembered him having teeth. On the same side, his plastic eye had sprung from its socket and now remained dangling by his torn cheek. Then he blinked, the mechanism on the broken eye shuddering around the exposed wire, releasing small sparks. More sparks flew as his arm shot up with a clang and the hinge of his jaw creaked as his mouth flopped open. He spoke…
“What do you think you’re doing?”
The funny Southern drawl of his voice was completely gone, replaced by something raspy and angry, and although I could hear the chilling distortion in his voice box, he sounded more human than I ever remembered.
Kevin ran. He didn’t even look back. Zack dropped his phone and slowly backed away, screaming as he stared into the dog’s one good eye, which seemed to turn on him at the disturbance. Then somehow the dog moved forward. He wasn’t programmed to walk. As far as I knew, the hydraulics attached to his back only sat him up. He wasn’t supposed to walk, but by God, I saw that once funny animatronic dog from my childhood step out of that old, withered outhouse towards us. I stood there, frozen in fear, staring at it.
“F-Fuck this!” I heard Zack utter before her too left me.
Now I was alone. With “him”.
I had spent so many years thinking about this very moment. I spent countless hours thinking about this dog and wanting to see him one last time. But I knew then I should never have stepped foot into that old park. My childhood was dead, as broken as the wires and metal rods that barely held the dog together.
He seemed to watch Zack go, his good eye turning with a cracking sound as he watched him disappear into the darkness. Then it turned on me.
“Get. Out,” he commanded, his arm still pointing, now in the direction of the parking lot, where the headlights of Zack’s car had just turned on.
I didn’t move. I could only stare. Was this some sick nightmare? Some bizarre fantasy my brain thought up to get my mind off a time I could no longer return to?
The…the THING stepped closer, its disfigured face near inches from my own. The smell of wet dog seemed to invade my nostrils.
“GET OUT OF HERE!” it boomed, the voice box short circuiting as if it had exploded before slowly fading out. It sounded like multiple voices had spoken, all deep and aggressive, almost demonic.
This time, I listened and ran as fast as I could through the park, which was dimly lit by the headlights of the car. My eyes darted around, the once familiar area now seemed foreign and strange. I couldn’t tell where I was going. I heard the sound of children laughing, the trumpeting call of an elephant…and the clanging and grinding of metal gears.
When I finally reached the fence, I tried sliding through the hole we came through, but I got stuck on something. I looked down to see if my jacket was caught, but it wasn’t. Then I looked back. Staring right into my eyes was one white plastic eyeball with a painted on black pupil. My eyes widened, staring back into that black spot as if it were a hole, ready to swallow me alive. Then I discovered the reason I was stuck…the hand of the animatronic dog was gripping the back of my shirt. I KNOW that hand was supposed to be stuck in a pointing position; it didn’t have any mechanical function to actually open and close. But then again, the dog wasn’t supposed to be walking anyway.
“You shouldn’t have come back,” I heard it whisper, sending a chill up my spine.
Then it released me with a shove and I fell through the opening in the fence. Scrambling to my feet, I ran to Zack’s car, not once looking back as he sped off down Main Street.

It’s been five years since that night. I don’t talk to Kevin and Zack much anymore and we have never once spoken of the incident, not even on the car ride home. I never drove down that stretch of Main Street, either…until today.
It was late and the road I usually take had a detour which led me right to it. What harm would driving by do?
I should have known better…
I tried not to look. I really did. But I just couldn’t help sneaking a peek. I couldn’t see much through all the rain, but I noticed the large ‘For Lease’ sign that now hung on the fence. The giraffe was gone or perhaps it had fallen over and was hidden under the thick brush. With a sigh, I continued on, trying to push the memories of that night out of my mind.
My windshield began to fog up from the indecisive New England weather, so I put my defroster on. Then I noticed something… Instead of clearing from the bottom up like it normally would, my windshield began to clear in patterns. It had formed words. I stared at them, hoping with all hope that it was just a fluke or a fragment of my imagination. But the message was clear.

When the police asked what caused me to crash into the pole just outside the abandoned park, all I could do was wrap the blanket they gave me tightly around myself as I stared back towards the bushes and trees that concealed the location of the 18th hole. “…Dog,” was all I could tell them, “It was that dog…”


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