In 1970, the Laff-in-the-Dark ride was dark, literally.
Cliff Johnson, a local 17-year-old from Bristol Eastern High School, convinced the Nortons to commission ten monsters,
which he would make for $1,000.

Here in Cliff’s own words, is what transpired:

“As a kid, it always bothered me that our Laff In The Dark was increasingly becoming all dark with no laffs. After I visited Disneyland for the first time, I fancied myself a young Walt Disney and got it into my head that I would turn our Laff into the Haunted Mansion. Ah, youth.

“I received permission to go into the Laff and my high school sweetie and I measured the dimensions, position of the cages, and the track layout. I went home and built a cardboard scale model of the ride. She drew some illustrations. The next thing I know this 16-year-old kid is proposing to build ten monsters for $1,000 at a board meeting of the Norton family. Mysteriously, they agreed to let me loose inside the ride.

“The ‘we’ was the cast and crew of my Super 8 feature film in progress, ‘The Return of the Freshman.’ We used wood, wire from coat hangers, and steel mesh to form the body shapes and then layered them with “plaster tape.” similar to that used for making a cast for a broken leg except this was designed for the hobbyist at a bargain price. We spray painted the monsters with oil paints and mounted them inside the existing ten empty cages. I believe with two or three more original monsters only left.

“I didn’t want to use the ugly steel grills over the monsters originally installed in the 50’s and I thought of plexiglass, but discovered that it could shatter. Then I came across something called polycarbonate that the hardware guy demonstrated by taking a hammer to it and battering it. It did not shatter. So all the monsters were sealed with polycarbonate, and I used the $1,000 to fund the completion of my film. ‘Stretch’ Norton became Mayor of Bristol and had a cameo in the film, gawking up at a flying saucer over City Hall.”