New Orleans History -- Lake Pontchartrain
Monday, June 17, 2024
Search this site.View the site map.

Despite its popularity as an amusement park, Pontchartrain Beach’s history remains sketchy at best...

Dear Julia,

For years, Pontchartrain Beach was a favorite outing for my family. We went there on a regular basis and had a blast on all the rides. Throughout the years, I remember hearing horror stories describing fatalities associated with two rides at the beach – the Zephyr and the Wild Maus. Are these stories true? Did people actually die due to car derailment or some other type of malfunction? I still remember the rumors, but I cannot seem to recall any factual evidence or news reports backing up the stories.

Gregory Braquet

P.S. Is it true that Poydras’ favorite movie is “Bye Bye Birdie”?

Gregory, Poydras does not like musicals. He is a big Kevin Costner fan and has made movie history himself by being the only known viewer to have actually liked “Waterworld” and to have thought that “JFK” was totally accurate.

Despite its popularity as an amusement park, Pontchartrain Beach’s history remains sketchy at best. Although there were a number of drownings at the beach before pollution forced its closure to swimmers, stories of

tragic deaths on the rides seem to be mostly urban legends. I have come across no evidence of fatalities. There was, however, at least one death of a performer working at the beach. In 1949, an aerialist named Paul Perry was killed in a fall during a performance at Pontchartrain Beach.

Pontchartrain Beach originally opened in 1928, at the site of the old Spanish Fort Park. It moved to Milneburg, near the present-day University of New Orleans, in 1939. It closed in 1983.

The Zephyr, designed by Ed Vettel for the National Amusement Device Co., did not entirely disappear from the local scene after the park’s closure. Part of one of its peaks now decorates a small park across from Kenner City Hall.

The Wild Maus is a roller coaster that appears throughout the country with slightly differing names. Busch Gardens Williamsburg still runs one, which has the same German-style name as the one that used to run at Pontchartrain Beach. Other coasters, bearing the name Wild Mouse, run in a number of amusement parks throughout the country. Lakeside Park in Denver even has a version named the Wild Chipmunk!•

May 2000 - Vol. 34 - Issue 8 - Page - #348