When we were in the Adirondacks we stopped in a town called Lake George, which is apparently a popular tourist destination among extras from The Sopranos and Croc-shod Hasidim. Just south of town is an old-timey kiddie attraction called "The Magic Forest" where I shelled out $55 so my family could watch a mildly-depressed horse leap into a pool of water:

Apparently Lightning is the last of his kind, a wild heart broken long, long ago. Diving horses were a popular attraction in the 1880s, and concerns over their treatment largely ended the practice early in the last century. I'm sure the animal activist in San Francisco who leaves nasty comments every time I share photos of feral dogs is frothing at the mouth over this.

In its Halcyon days, The Magic Forest had many more animals, but over time those PETA-types must have really put up a stink, because aside from a few old goats all the old cages are now filled with creepy taxidermied chimps dressed like Nellie and Willie Olsen.

In some of the old cages they just threw in a bunch of decapitated lions' heads:

One of the best parts of the Magic Forest is the train ride through the Garden of Random Life-Size Anthropomorphs. It's like Rick Moranis blew up the shelf of ceramic tsotchkes at the back of a thrift store and dumped them in a forest.

Hey, there's Joe Camel in a fez!

And over here is Hobo Bloodhound Hollow. Don't blink or you'll miss the Hobo Bloodhound Slumgullion:

Why has Buddha turned his back on that bipedal polar bear?

Just when your child's cache of new nightmares gets depleted, this shoddily-built fiberglass colossus stares down at them from a hilltop to ensure that you'll spend the next two months reassuring your tot that "The Snow Clown" isn't anywhere near their bed.

When the train ride ended, I asked Vlad the Engineer (a wiry Kazakh teen with a blond mullet) whether anyone has ever taken acid and freaked out on that train ride and he gave me a look that said, Please don't get me fired. The Magic Forest has about 25 old-fashioned kiddie rides (some look like they have been around since the 1930s) and they all share the common theme of riding around on something in a circle until the chainsmoking old man in the green shirt turns it off.

Some of the rides even have guns!

This statue represents the friendly Magic Forest employees in their green shirts. Notice his freshly-pressed trousers, bow-tie and permanent wave that seems to say, I swear I am not a pedophile.

Sadly, some of his real-life counterparts lack that sort of tidy reassurance.

Most of the employees seemed to either be refugees who've lived in the Magic Forest since before the fall of the Iron Curtain or retired grandfatherly types extremely concerned about safety. We went on every ride, including the "roller coaster."

The proprietors of the Magic Forest have amassed the greatest collection of giant fiberglass lumberjacks, animals, Chinamen, card sharks, anthropomorphic bloodhounds reenacting Shakespeare, cavemen, and characters from fairy tales and nursery rhymes that the world has ever seen. I got the impression that every time a smaller kiddie theme park went belly up over the last 50 years, the Magic Forest swallowed its rides and characters to create a haphazard and varied landscape of unfamiliar, unlicensed, uncorrupted awe. It's the anti-Disneyworld. It's wonderful.

The most terrifying part of the park was actually this florescent-lit gallery of faddish Nickelodeon characters from the mid 1990s, with several Rugrats reaching out mournfully to Squarebob Spongepants: As you are now, so once were we.

A lot of the fiberglass characters seem to have been made in-house by a single anonymous artist, who used the same kind of glass eyes your Uncle Mort popped out of his socket to terrify you when you were a kid.

I think the following two figures are supposed to represent the story of the Farmer's Daughter from the Party Jokes section of Playboy:

The P.A. narrating the story about this one was a little garbled, but I think it said something about Freddie Mercury's First Night at the Bathhouse.

Jeez, little Dutch boy, you're about to save Amsterdam from the raging torrents of the Zuiderzee with a single finger. Can we not be a little more fired up about it?

The little old woman who nearly made me piss in my shoe.

It took me a minute to remember that obscure tale from the second volume of the Brothers Grimm about the two pederast gnomes who forced the little Dutch boy to bend over so they could watch him stick his finger in the glory hole. Here's the over-the-shoulder view:

Then there's the hidden path with life-size nursery rhyme dioramas of torture and disfigurement that feel sort of like Dante's Inferno meets Mother Goose. Hansel and Gretal guard the entrance, warning in a Teutonic script: Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

Oops, how did Marilyn Manson's senior portrait end up in there? Speaking of Marilyn Manson, something about this hot dog near the snack bar reminded me of the kid on my high school ice hockey team who claimed to be adept at autofellatio:

When we left the Magic Forest I gushed to the lady taking the money at the front gate, "To be honest, at first I thought it wasn't going to be worth it, but we had such a great time." And you know, I was totally telling the truth.