Monday, January 09, 2006

What Happened

Upon request, I would like to retell the unfortunate event that doomed Magic Landing from ever being anything short of a now forgotten joke that this city has quietly let disappear into the desert sands.

For the record, there had only been one death attributed to this park. Several accidents did happen at the park in its tenure, but the one incident that marked the beginning of the end would have to be the unfortunate accident on the Wildcat ride, more infamously known as the parks lone rollercoaster.

Lets rewind a bit before we get to the subject. When Magic Landing opened its doors in 1984, none of their rides made their completion deadline. On July 4th, the gates opened, but only the shops & food stalls were open to the public. There were some rides that were completed, but because the insurance company hadn't signed off on the safety of them and proper insurance policies weren't in place at the time, the ones that were finished and waiting for people were inoperable. People were still awed into the park by the seemingly lavish and frequent fireworks shows. Being outside of the El Paso city limits meant they were exempt from fireworks bans and their shows often eclipsed that of Western Playland.

According to the news articles posted at the time, there had been serious lapses in training & operator safety around the park. The evening in question was a normal operating day at the park, and by all accounts rather mundane. In years previous, the train would frequently spend more time shut down due to the train tracks being washed away durring El Paso's heavy monsoon season. The train this time was operating as normal, the frequent flash floods known to wash parts of the track away didn't hamper rides and the Wildcat was churning with life. No one knows why he did it, but what happened was at best strange. A park patron lost his hat while riding the rollercoaster and when he came to the end of the ride, asked the ride operator if he could retrieve it from high on one of the supports. The ride operator obliged.

It's unknown from the newspaper articles, and people who were on the ride aren't coming forward with what happened but the operator climbed a certain distance up the ride while it was in operation. While he was resting his arm on a part of track still in use, a ride car turned the corner and severed his arm quite cleanly. It's unclear if he fell from the ride, however, he was on an ambulance rushing away from the park to save his life. Newspapers report that the operator died halfway to the hospital due to loss of blood, his veins collapsed. Investigators later determined that the ride operators failed to stop the ride completely and before attempting to climb its structure or wait till the end of the parks operating hours before retrieving the hat.

This accident along with several seemingly minor accidents through the park raised insurance rates higher than normal. Couple this with the publics lack of trust within the parks safety record and you get a recipe for failure. It's also noted that around this time the park received its most infamous nicknames: Tragic Landing. The once whimsical aura of the park forever mired in the publics eye as an unsafe and ill-managed for letting such obvious safety rules and regulations go without practice. The lack of trust also meant lack of paying customers.

Soon, as the years dredged on and the combined low attendance & insurance became a factor, coverage for the rides became lapse and many times the rides would fall silent for weeks at a time. Several times in 1988 the park closed for weeks, reopening when more funding was sought (usually from concerts & corporate sponsors) but when a major fight broke out in late spring of '88, the park closed for good. Pending lawsuits from the minor accidents & the large cash settlement doled out from the Wildcat accident sealed the parks fate.

It's strange, being present at the park when the unfortunate accident with the rollercoaster, I still remember going back to the park with my family and seeing people idly walk by. Somewhat enjoying themselves, I remember the people who paid for admission walked the park peering around corners at every turn and watched the park start its death throes. The whispers were in the air, and the once light whimsical music that filled the main drag was gone. An eerie silence was cut with the hushed tones of parents grasping the hands of their children tightly, not knowing what might happen.

The park stood quiet in the desert for a total of two and a half years. All of its rides stood right where they were, ready at a moments notice to resume operation. A few attempts were made to re-open the park, some efforts even called for people to go to the park for job applications. All efforts were futile. The park was locked down tight and all of its rides were unceremoniously dismantled & sold to other amusement parks around the world. As seen in previous postings, the only standing structures are the buildings & snack shops. All current attempts to purchase the park go upon deaf ears.

Its sad to say that if someone were to really purchase the park, it would be completely demolished and rebuilt brand new. As it stands right now many of the buildings are falling apart, their usefulness to the park is limited, their need is none. While researching information about the park and realizing what I have been writing about, I am sickened and saddened that no matter how much information is given back to the public, the park is far from being saved. My efforts to give El Paso one last look at a park that disappeared before its time is probably just that.

It's unclear whether or not my efforts might prompt park owners to demolish what stands of the park or let Mother Nature take care of that. Whether it be time or human intervention, Magic Landing will never exist the way it did some 22 years ago.


Blogger fescobej said...

I drive by there occasionally and noticed that the parking lot is full of trailers. Did the owners sell the property or are they renting space out? I visit your site regularly for updates and it brings a tear to my eyes when I look at the pictures. It is a sad story of once promising jewel for El Paso.

1/10/2006 1:10 PM  
Blogger fescobej said...

I forgot to mention. One of the many accidents that happened at the park happened to the daughter of my 7th grade math teacher. I remember our teacher coming in to the classroom on a Monday and telling the class not to go to the park because it was very dangerous. She told us how her daughter had been in an accident at the park over the weekend. Acorrding to the teacher, her daughter's ear had been cut-off in half on the ferris wheel. Something about her sticking her head out of the carriage she was riding in. Let's see, in the 7th grade I was 12 going on 13 so it must have been sometime in 1984 or 1985 that this happened. She was pretty shaken up when she told the class so I'm sure she was honest about what happened. I don't remember ever seeing anything in the news about this particular accident. I don't remember my teachers last name so I don't know if this can be researched. Do you know of any way we can confirm this?

1/10/2006 1:22 PM  
Blogger The Archivist said...

The owners of the park/ land have leased the use of the property to CFI Trucking to keep their truck trailers. The park hasn't sold anything to anyone, they refuse to sell for unknown reasons. Several theories do float around, but are unsubstantiated.

Having worked at Western Playland, I can tell you that the amusement park doesn't keep records of any accidents for verry long. They are reported, but seldom make headlines. Fights, major accidents that require longer-than-overnight hospital stays usually make news, so finding proof (other than your former teacher's daughter) will be next to impossible.

I researched some information, and short of finding the parks records for that year, you can get in contact with the Texas Dept. of Insurance and speak with Richard Baker. He is in charge of Loss Control Regulation. The online database I found his information on only goes as far back as 1998, but if they have anything archived, he would be the person of contact to steer you in the direction you need to go.

1/10/2006 5:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember going to Magic Landing a couple of weeks after it had opened. It was the talk of the town.I remember the logride and the railway and of course the sound of the Wildcat. It was a cool place, it was brand new and it was a mustdo for all El Pasoans. I saw FOGHAT there, when their whole right side sound system went out and the concert I'll never forget there was ROBIN TROWER. I recall going there about a month after I had gone the first time and most all the big rides weren't working. I rtemember that it seemed that from then on all I ever heard was negative things. We never went back (other than those 2 concerts) and then the tragic news was all over the TV. We knew this place was doomed. No one was going there anymore.
It saddened me to see those pictures. I showed my two daughters 16,17 and they had never heard of this place.
Thanx for the pix and the little part of El Paso History. Keep up the good work and hope El Pasoans might have pix of itz heyday.
Thanks Alot!! Rick

1/10/2006 9:15 PM  
Anonymous The Kid said...

Is the foundation of the park all full of big cracks?

1/11/2006 8:55 AM  
Blogger The Archivist said...

The foundations to the buildings seem to be holding, without going inside to them its hard to tell. The buildings themselves are the ones suffering. The combined decades of rain & harsh desert sun have warped wooden buildings and are compromised.

There are several pictures I have yet to show of the paths in the park that are damaged by water. Certain areas of the back & left side of the park have asphalt that is cracked, and in large chunks. One small area of the park actually still has the crushed red gravel pathway.

1/11/2006 11:07 AM  
Anonymous The Kid said...

I would love to see more pics of Magic Landing. I would probably pay 50 dollars to enter the park as the way it is now.

1/12/2006 3:24 PM  
Blogger Cube said...

I only got to go to Magic Landing once. I pass by it often on my way to Horizon, Clint or Fabens. I have a memory of a Yo-Yo ride being there as well. Later there was a Yo-Yo at Western Playland. Am I misremembering? There was a rumor that a mother was on the Yo-Yo with a child and the child slipped out from under her and fell. The child did not die, however. Any truth to this? Very good pictures and story, by the way. I currently work for KLAQ/KSII/KROD and the old event posters framed and hung inside the station list Magic Landing and Mountain Shadow Lakes (another wasted El Paso venue) often. I even remember the television commercials and the "Magic Landing" jingle on them.

I had no idea that the Castle Park/Malibu Castle characters wound up there. There's one missing though. There was the dragon, the fox lady, the rattlesnake and also a wolf. The wolf would sing the song "Back in the Saddle Again" and say he sang it as a cub riding on his mother's back.

1/13/2006 6:01 PM  
Blogger The Archivist said...

Well, you are correct. However, in researching the animatronic charachters found at the park, there were a few variations of the charachters. Foxy Roxie & Tex Critter were both staples, however Skeeter the Rattlesnake was often times sidelined for a different charachter, who was a cougar.

I have some old VHS tapes of Magic Landings commercials, and every once in a while, when I remember which tape it is, I replay it and am haunted by the sound of the jingle.

I have also been to the old Mountain Shadow Lakes. I visited that park back in 2004 and took some photos. Magic Landing has always been my labor of love, but I think I might start a new site devoted to the old lake (currently known as Lake El Paso).

Look for that within the next year.

PS, cube, please email me @ I would love to see the posters you have hanging inside the office.

1/14/2006 1:09 PM  
Anonymous The Kid said...

Is there anything stored in the boarded up buildings?

1/15/2006 3:47 PM  
Anonymous The Girl said...

Frank Guzman Jr.
He was suppose to graduate with my father and mother in 1986 he attended Bel Air High School.
My parents keep the '83 and '86 yearbook with the memory of him.
It's honestly sad that he died so young and the worst way. I would do anything to just drive by or walk-in into Magic Landing! Just to see or imagine how it looked 26 years ago. Please if some on has some good information or photos or videos of Magic Landing please send me some at

8/03/2010 12:20 AM  
Anonymous bere said...

my grandmother lives around the corner of the magic wash and dry,I remember it being open when I was a little girl then just closing this was when I was like 4 so back in 95. I now live further down the road from magic wash on the other side ofmoon rd. I always wondered what was of magic landing since I live practically in back of it, thank you for all the info.

12/28/2010 6:58 AM  

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