Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Daring New Business: Dickens World


OK, this is officially the weirdest theme-park ride I've ever been on. A woman who can only be described as a wench, dressed in a small white apron over a black dress that drapes to the floor, leads me onto a boat in a stinking sewer.

"Mind your step, darlin'," she says, flashing a toothy grin as I lower myself into my seat, wondering if the filthy, shadowy water that surrounds me will stain my new pinstripe suit.
Animatronic rats splash about in the sludge. The boat starts forward, suddenly and slowly, carried along by the gentle movements of the murky river, colored to look like movements of a different kind. We pass through the sewer, and then, courtesy of a conveyor belt, we're lifted above the rooftops of London as they would have looked 150 years ago. We fly over tightly packed houses, church steeples, and tall shop walls bearing slogans such as "Mrs. Beaton's Whooping Cough Tincture: Made from Syrup of Squills."

Then, whoosh, the boat plunges down a hill and splashes back into the murky stream (yes, water gets all over my suit; no, thankfully, it doesn't stain). We enter a dark, gray tunnel – "eerie" doesn't begin to describe it – and then a graveyard. Ominous creatures, including a crazed and wide-eyed undertaker and a pale, petrified woman wrapped in a shawl, lurk behind the wonky gravestones, seeming to plead with we boat-riders to reach out and help them.

Read the rest of The Christian Science Monitor article here.

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