The Man Behind The Madhouse?

The Madhouse is perhaps the least documented of all the former Scarborough attractions included in the Stories From Scarborough archive project.

Above: A sketch of the Madhouse by the author (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

This obscure little attraction sat next to the Princess Cafe on Scarborough Sandside, and the building it occupied is now part of the Penny Arcade Amusements – see far left on the illustration below.

Above: A sketch of the current day amusements on the site, by the author (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Dates of operation are sketchy, but references are made to its existence from as early as the 1970s until the first few years of the 1990s. The front sign was bright yellow with red text, and visible from the outside was a ticket booth and an escalator, ascending into darkness. According to some, this escalator (deliberately) ran backwards, making entry somewhat complicated. This detail has yet to be verified, however.

Above: A rough copy of the sign in the author’s studio (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

There is some speculation as to what was inside – some recall wobbly floors and comedic obstacles, designed to make navigation difficult. However, this may be a case of mistaken identity – similarly named Funhouse rides boast such features, and are often found at fairgrounds and amusement sites. Coincidentally the first one, which operated in 1900, opened at the real life Coney Island in New York, USA – the site that gave Scarborough’s former Turkish Baths (now amusements) its current name.

Above: An example of the Funhouse ride (image credit below)

Others make the case for a dark, maze-like interior in which terrifying figures (attraction staff) emerged from the gloom. These varying accounts make the Madhouse all the more intriguing. In the absence of official accounts or documents, the only clues left are memories – often flawed and mixed up with other recollections.

Do you remember the Madhouse? What do your recollections tell you? What was really inside?

Even the proprietor’s name has been difficult to verify. A number of sources suggest that the Madhouse was the brainchild of amusements owner Charles Enoch Doubtfire. Like other local seafront entrepreneurs, such as Jimmy Corrigan and Henry Marshall, Doubtfire had a fairground background, and operated arcades on the South Bay. In the late 1970s, according to telephone directories, he owned or at least rented the building in which the Madhouse once stood, and a nearby arcade bore his name.

Sometimes referred to by his middle name, Enoch, Doubtfire married the daughter of another fairground supremo – Enoch Farrar, and later inherited at least one of his father-in-law’s rides.

You can view images of some of Doubtfire’s rides at the National Fairground Archive.

He caused controversy in 1981 for putting up a waxwork version of the Yorkshire Ripper at the Madhouse entrance. Considering that Peter Sutcliffe, the aforementioned murderer, had only just been arrested in January of the same year – the waxwork was considered in poor taste.

In a further twist, whilst memories of the Madhouse may or may not be mixed up with memories of the similarly named Funhouse fairground staple, there was also, apparently a Funhouse in Scarborough – it stood on the Foreshore, possibly during either the 1960s or 1970s. Once again, like the Madhouse, it has so far proved virtually impossible to trace.

This is where you, the readers come in. Tell Stories From Scarborough about these places. A sentence, a rumour, even a guess. Anything and everything provides valuable clues and helps with the research. Many of you have got in touch with little pieces of information which have opened up entire new research directions – please keep these clues coming! If you’ve been to either the Funhouse or the Madhouse, please share what you know – otherwise these places will vanish into obscurity.

Sources & Image Credit

Funhouse image © Copyright Colin Grice and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

National Fairground Archive

Scarborough News


18 thoughts on “The Man Behind The Madhouse?

  1. I remember the funhouse on Scarborough foreshore. It had weird things in there, dark corridors and a big spinning wheel in the centre that threw you off as it went faster. I used to go there with my sister when we were both about 11 or 12.

    • Thanks for commenting Valerie! Can you remember roughly what year that might have been? I’m trying to find out more about both the Madhouse and Funhouse attractions, so welcome any details, dates etc.

  2. Hi, I’ve been slowly exploring this site to try and rekindle some great memories of childhood Scarborough holidays through the 70s. I remember the madhouse well; like all attractions I was only ever allowed to visit a few times as we were not well off (some I never got to visit, like the outdoor pool at Peaseholme). Remember the spinning top in the Madhouse which threw you off as it got faster. Doubt it would be allowed now as there seemed to be no upper limit to speed, it only stopped when the last one to fly was off ! (usually a strong teenager). By this time it was spinning so fast you hit the outer wall with an almighty thump, and not before skinning your elbows on the cocoa matting which I suppose was there to slow you down by pure friction! Also if you came off first you were bombarded by the boddies of older, heavier children! Also liked the wobbly walkways, and a kind of revolving tube you walked through – if you fell you got tumbled around much to the amusement of other kids. Oh yes I just remembered there was a kind of slide “wall of death” thing; it was completely vertical but rounded out at the bottom to catch you as you fell, a bit like a large BMX ramp nowadays. It took a bit of nerve to sit on the edge and launch into freefall, but once you knew there was no thump at the bottom it was addictive. At the end of it all I was drenched with sweat and totally hyper – I remember my dad ordering me a pint of dilute orange and I sank it in one go like some TV darts players. He still mentions it to my kids 40 years later.

    • Thanks for sharing your memories Mark – it’s brilliant to finally have some more details about the Madhouse. If you remember anything else about this or any of the other attractions, please do leave further comments!

    • Sorry for taking so long to respond Kevin – I’ve been away for six weeks, so only just catching up on messages. I’ll add the waxworks museum to the list and see if I can uncover anything about it.

      Sarah (Stories From Scarborough)

  3. I lived in Scarborough from 68 to 75 and remember all the attractions. I use to go to the funhouse a lot. I got injured when I jumped on to the spinning wheel when it was going fast. Everyone used to do it as a dare. The waxworks was located near the castle end of the road close to the Luna Park. It was quite scary as a kid as the scenes depicted were of murderers. I remember one of a poisoner standing over her victim as she was dying after drinking a poisoned cup of tea and one of someone being buried alive. Quite gruesome. I also remember going down a small alley to the side of the waxworks to the Old smugglers Inn. It was reported to be haunted and had a lot of smugglers hidey holes. The counter was covered in old pennies that had been stuck down and the lady who ran it said every morning she came in to find sand all over the counter top even though nobody had been in overnight.

    • Thanks for your comment Geoff! It’s good to hear more about the Funhouse and the waxworks, as it’s been quite tricky trying to find anything out about these two. If you remember anything else, please do comment again – all these memories are much appreciated.

  4. was it called crackpot cottage, and had an ‘anti gravity room’?or was there something in the rock that year…be early 1980’s I think,very young and memories are surreal but clear.searched for it since,or anyone else who remembers it and starting to think the vivid pink rock was to blame so great to read your history!

    • It was definitely called The Madhouse – I have a picture of the sign outside (but can’t use on my site due to copyright), but Crackpot Cottage sounds intriguing!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting Clare.

      Sarah (Stories From Scarborough)

  5. Hi there.

    I worked at the Madhouse in the early 80’s for Enoch, it was amongst the most fun filled days of my life. I own what are possibly the only surviving photos of the place (taken in Summer 83) and I have recently posted it on Facebook. The Madhouse was basically a very dark Maze, you went in through a small arcade, behind the “Pay-Box, up the stairs, past two windows and had to work your way through the dark and rather smelly passages!

    It was a very popular place for us young guys to chat to the girls (I lost count to be honest) although it wasn’t without controversy. The place was used as a toilet (literally) and often utterly STANK!!

    All in all, I loved my time working for Enoch, he was a proper character that I got on very well with and have wonderful happy memories of!!

    Take care!

    • Thanks for getting in touch Jeff! It’s great to have a bit more concrete information about the Madhouse.

      If you don’t mind me asking, where on Facebook can I see your photographs of the Madhouse? Might you be willing to share one or two with this website? Fully credited of course, if you agree. It’d be nice to record some more details of the attraction – people keep emailing to ask me about it and it’s a shame to have so few sources.

      Thanks again

      Sarah (Stories From Scarborough)

    • I also worked there in 1983. Hi Geoff!! My first ever job (aged 15), and my first ever pint in a pub (cheers Geoff!!). Geoffs account is 100% accurate, except he used to send me to clear up the toilet “mishaps”!.

      Great times though… where is Enoch nowadays?

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