Guest Blogger Author of Facials Can Be Fatal Nancy Cohen Talks Abandoned Theme Parks

Theme Parks - Fun or Fearsome? 

Theme parks like Disney World and Universal Studios attract guests of all ages. Tiny tots might be frightened by costumed characters, but they’ll soon outgrow it and stand in line for a photo op with the very same character.

Abandoned theme parks, on the other hand, can be quite scary. Imagine strolling through a carnival without any people present and with banners flapping in the breeze by derelict rides. You’d hear wood creaking and perhaps smell the lingering scent of stale popcorn.

When researching Facials Can Be Fatal, I read about a defunct tourist attraction in Dania, Florida named Pirates World. This would be perfect for a scene in my story. Elements of my book harken to the days of shipwrecks along the Florida coast and tales of pirate treasure. What spookier place could there be than a former theme park?

My fictional attraction is called Pirate’s Playground. Marla, my hairstylist sleuth, joins her husband—Detective Dalton Vail—to track down a suspect there. Here’s an excerpt:

Inside the gate, they paused to survey the territory. A full moon came out from behind a cloud, providing enough illumination to discern shadowy forms looming in the dark. A huge replica of a pirate ship rose on their left, its ropes clanging in the wind. Cannons were aimed at the walkway. Marla guessed they had been loaded with water to shoot passersby.

“There’s another ship somewhere on a fake waterway,” she said. “Pirates fired at the vessel while it sailed on the so-called river. The crew shot back to protect their passengers. I imagine it was like a variation of the jungle cruise at Disney World.”

Marla’s scalp prickled. Where could their quarry have gone? An observation tower drew her attention. It had cages suspended in the air. From what she’d read, people considered this a thrill ride back in the day.

Up ahead to their left rose a twisting rollercoaster. A cool breeze lifted the hairs on her arms and brought with it the aroma of dry dirt. She shut off her flashlight to conserve power, letting Dalton lead with his turned on when the moon slipped behind a cloud.

They passed the remains of a log flume and a water slide, skirted a funhouse called Pirate’s Den, and ended up beside an arcade. Marla studied the ring toss game. She’d never been good at that sort of thing.

“It’s too quiet here,” Dalton said in a hushed tone. “I don’t like it.”

“Of course it’s quiet. What did you expect?” Marla paused in front of a shooting gallery. She figured that was one game where Dalton would excel.

Hey, was that man-sized target moving?

The real Pirates World was built in 1967 and lasted until its doors closed in the 1970s. The land was rezoned for residential use, and today condominiums inhabit the site. But not so in my story, where the derelict rides still stand. It’s always better in a story when you can base a scene on a real place.

What is your favorite theme park?


Facials Can Be Fatal by Nancy J. Cohen

During the frenzy of the December holidays, the last thing salon owner Marla Vail needs is a dead body slathered in a green facial mask at her new day spa. The victim, Valerie Weston, was a major donor for Friends of Old Florida, a historic building preservation society. Marla’s stylists are scheduled to work backstage at their upcoming gala fashion show, but Val’s demise might put a crimp in their plans. Hoping to salvage her reputation, Marla determines to track down the suspects. As she learns more about Val, she realizes the benefactress might have stumbled onto secrets others would kill to keep. She’d better prepare for a body count that has nothing to do with hot stone massages and everything to do with murder.

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 Nancy J. Cohen writes the Bad Hair Day Mysteries featuring South Florida hairstylist Marla Vail. Titles in this series have made the IMBA bestseller list, been selected by Suspense Magazine as best cozy mystery, and won third place in the Arizona Literary Awards. Nancy has also written the instructional guide, Writing the Cozy Mystery. A featured speaker at libraries, conferences, and community events, she is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who's Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets. When not busy writing, Nancy enjoys fine dining, cruising, visiting Disney World, and shopping. 

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Author Rachael Stapleton lives in a Second Empire Victorian home with her husband and two children in Ontario, Canada and enjoys writing in the comforts of aged wood and arched dormers. To learn more about Rachael Stapleton, visit her online at:

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  1. I like theme parks somewhat. I have been to two in my area (Six Flags Great Adventure and Rye Playland on the east coast of the U.S.). I like the parks mostly for the ground events; bumper cars, go karts, food, concerts, etc. I did once go on a roller coaster (to impress my then-girlfriend), but never again! I'm afraid of heights and have severe vertigo and motion sickness. I don't want to describe what happened after I got off of Rolling Thunder, the roller coaster at Six Flags!

    1. I don't like roller coasters or simulator rides either. But strolling the grounds, admiring the landscaping, eating at the various restaurants is fun. We are Disney fans.

  2. I am a huge fan of rollarcoasters! My favorite Theme Park is Cedar Point in Ohio! I love it there! Yoir books are fantastic and can't wait to also read this one! :-)

    1. Thanks, Tara. Wish you fun on the rollercoasters. You have more courage than I do.

  3. I love roller coasters, unfortunately I have only been to 2 amusement parks. I LOVE Busch Gardens in Va. It's so beautiful there and they do have some awesome coasters.

    1. We have a Busch Gardens in Tampa, FL. There's a lot to do there besides the rides.


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