December 2, 2012

Best Non-Disney Dark Ride Ever: Lost Dutchman Mine

Disney's Fantasyland dark rides invented a new language of storytelling, where the motions of the ride vehicle became as important to the story as the sights and sounds. Of all the non-Disney dark rides I experienced growing up, only one told a story as creatively as Disneyland's adventures.
Frontier Village Lost Dutchman Mine Dark Ride San Jose
Back before Sally Corporation started creating quality dark rides (such as their popluar Ghost-Blaster series), most indoor adventures off Disney property didn't seek to go beyond random collections of haunted house "scare" gags. But, back in the 60's and 70's, a wonderful park near San Jose, California, operated the finest non-Disney dark ride on the planet.

Frontier Village Amusement Park San Jose Ferris Wheel
The park was Frontier Village, a charming western-themed family park in a beautiful woodsy setting. Along with live stunt shows and a collection of cleverly-themed classic thrill rides, the park featured a Stagecoach, a mule excursion, canoes and an electric "runaway" train.
Frontier VIllage Whirlwind Runaway Train electric ride San Jose
But the very best ride at Frontier Village was the Lost Dutchman Mine, a wonderfully scary (but not too scary) journey into a cursed gold mine guarded by the ghost of a doomed miner.
Frontier Village Lost Dutchman Mine Entrance Dark Ride
The little mine cars wound their way into the darkness, ignoring ghostly warning voices. Beams holding up the mine tunnels cracked and swayed over riders' heads. Rats threatened to jump aboard. And, among the glowing stalactites and subterranean pools, the ghost of the old miner would pop up to threaten all trespassers. After encountering a giant psychedelic snake, falling rocks and a deadly underground whirlpool, riders faced the miner one last time as he pressed down on a dynamite plunger, triggering the ride's explosive crash-door finale.
Frontier Village Lost Dutchman Mine Dark Ride Exit Doors
The Lost Dutchman Mine was a perfect dark ride. Well-paced and full of imaginative low-tech effects, it provided a true sense of adventure far beyond any standard non-Disney indoor attraction.

My creepiest ride through the mine happened on one visit when -- just as the vehicle entered the building -- a large and very real garden spider dropped onto my upper arm. I had just enough time to see it before being engulfed by the ride's darkness. I spend the next two minutes frantically brushing myself off and flailing my arms around like a lunatic.

The Lost Dutchman Mine, along with the rest of Frontier Village, closed in 1980. It is greatly missed.


  1. Memories, a tear in my eye, and a smile. Where did all the time go? Most cherished memories with my Parents. Thank you so dearly for posting these photos and taking me back once more to a beautifful time in my life, god bless.

  2. It sounds like an awesome ride, wished I had ridden it.

  3. I absolutely LOVED Frontier Village and The Lost Dutchman Mine was my favorite ride. I would give anything to ride that again. I wish there was a film of it or something. Thank you for the cool memory!

  4. It's been over 40 years since I last entered the Dutchman's ride as a young child, but I still remember the words that he says as you are about to enter his mine:

    GO BACK!
    GO BACK!

    Oh how I loved that ride. Four decades later, it still brings a smile to my face.

  5. I miss FRONTIER VILLAGE and, especially, the LOST DUTCHMAN MINE RIDE. Thanks for posting these photos. As another responder said, I WISH someone had filmed the ride and posted it somewhere. Alas, I have never seen any footage if any exists. There is a postcard of part of the inside of the mine I found online. You could perhaps borrow the image to add to your post. It is here:,%20San%20Jose,%20California.jpg

    Golly, I miss that park. I remember the little cars you could drive. As I got older, I experienced the Roundup ride and the Octopus (I don't recall what it was called there) for the first time--and felt so big and brave for surviving them. To me, as a kid, the thing that was far more horrifying that the Lost Dutchman Mine Ride was the fishing pond next door to it. Why? As a little kid, you'd drop your baited fishing line into the small lake and get a bite. Great, huh? Then a park employee would come over, yank the hook out with a pair of pliers, and then beat the fish over the head with them until it was dead. YIKES! No wonder I don't like eating fish. (And what the heck did we do with the dead fish carcasses we caught that day the rest of the time we were there?) Wow--it would be wonderful to step back in time and revisit the place.
    Frontier Village--that's where the action is. The fastest fun in the West. For thrills and excitement, for things to do, you'll find everything from A to Zoo at Frontier Village. The fastest fun in the West.

    Thanks for posting.

  6. Wow! We were all trying to remember the name of the ‘Scary Mine’ ride at Frontier Village. I finally searched for it and found this…. What a treat to find your post and see the pictures! Such wonderful memories. I, like others, truly wish there was a video. Regardless, your post is a true treasure now. Thank you!


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