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Resolve Replaces Heartbreak On Coney Island


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

We have an update now to a story we heard in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. A few days after the storm hit, NPR's Zoe Chace went to an amusement park at Coney Island. It's right by the water and features the Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone roller coaster. Well, this week, she went back.

ZOE CHACE, BYLINE: The storm surge from Sandy washed over the Coney Island boardwalk, crashed around the base of the Wonder Wheel and poured right into the haunted house, the Spook-a-Rama.

Deno Vourderis' family owns a bunch of these rides. And I found him inside the haunted house a couple of days after the storm, slipping around on wet sand and checking on the ghouls.

DENO VOURDERIS: A lot of them are missing heads that, you know, as scary as this is without a head, they were there before.


CHACE: This week, the sun is out and Deno is smiling.

VOURDERIS: A little better than it was the last time when it was slippery, right?

CHACE: It was so slippery. Remember, this was us last time.

VOURDERIS: We were surfing, I know.

CHACE: The lights are on. It's dry. The mud is gone. But now Deno can see clearly what they have to do. They have to tear the whole place apart and start over.

VOURDERIS: I mean, if you look down you can see all the corrosion with the salt, so that's all got to be redone.

CHACE: When I last saw Deno he was heartbroken over what was lost. They built this ride in the 1950s. Some of these spooks had been here that long. There's a skeleton smoking a cigarette from back when cigarettes were cool. There's a devil who's been stabbing the air for decades.

But this week, he was different, excited to build a new haunted house.

VOURDERIS: Starting over, clean slate.

CHACE: It's been a busy three weeks. They've had repair guys climbing all over the Wonder Wheel. Deno flew to Orlando to buy brand new bumper cars. There's a zombie-manufacturer here from Ohio, David Fachman, and he's running around with a tape measure and imagining a whole new line of spooks.

DAVID FACHMAN: 'Cause this whole room comes to life, so this is a little seance scene where there's a seance is bringing the spooks back to the Spook-a-Rama.

CHACE: No insurance is paying for this. It's all on the credit card - the bumper cars, the new goblins and ghosts - just applied for a half million dollar loan. And no one in the family has taken a day off since the storm, until today, Thanksgiving.

VOURDERIS: We're going to have some wine. We're going to eat, then we're going to pass out. Then we're going to eat again.

CHACE: What are you going to cook?

VOURDERIS: We're doing a turkey. We're doing spanakopita because we're Greek, sweet potatoes.

CHACE: Tomorrow its back to work on the Spook-a-Rama, the Wonder Wheel, the merry-go-round. And they're going to open back up in the spring, Palm Sunday, like they do every year.

Zoe Chace, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Zoe Chace explains the mysteries of the global economy for NPR's Planet Money. As a reporter for the team, Chace knows how to find compelling stories in unlikely places, including a lollipop factory in Ohio struggling to stay open, a pasta plant in Italy where everyone calls in sick, and a recording studio in New York mixing Rihanna's next hit.