Posted by: Brad Nixon | November 17, 2009

The Recurring Mad Mouse

You’ve had it happen to you. In the middle of an ordinary conversation, someone uses a word or mentions a name you’ve never heard before. Later that day, or very soon, you encounter it again, then again. Some sort of Coincidence Engine is at work in the universe.

Let’s say your neighbor, who’s an acoustic engineer, tells you that he’s going to travel to Trabukistan to install a new anechoic chamber there. Well, you’ve never heard of an anechoic chamber, but that night there’s a new sign at that lot at the corner of Antiphony and Anchovy that says, “Site of the New Community Anechoic Chamber.” You stop at K-Mart for some batteries and motor oil, and the PA announces, “Lou Dobbs, please report to the anechoic chamber.”

(I am not going to attempt here the gag about the Anechoic Chamber Orchestra. You can have that one to try on your own.)

My recurring theme experience in the past few days relates to something The Counselor and I saw on our trip through California Wine Country. We were just outside Guerneville, and I took a photo of it — a remarkable relic from a bygone era: the skeletal remains of an amusement park ride called the Mad Mouse. Why I bothered to stop and photograph it is that it was an image seared into my memory. There was an identical ride named the Wild Mouse at the amusement park of my childhood, outside Cincinnati. The Wild Mouse was nothing by today’s standards, but it seemed to have been engineered to make you believe that the rickety contraption and its rattle-trap little cars were going to collapse or run off the rails at any moment. I was stunned to find another one.

The Counselor reminded me this week that I could write about my memories of the Wild/Mad Mouse. I certainly didn’t want to file a second story in a week about theme park rides. But the Coincidence Engine went to work after her remark.

One of the regular features of the indefatigably productive James Lileks‘ Web site is his matchbook cover of the week. (And if you do not know Mr. Lileks’ site, then do yourself a favor and pay it a visit.) A link from this week’s matchbook takes you to amusement attractions in Guerneville, and from there, well, I HAD to investigate Web links to the Guerneville Mad Mouse and I found only, oh, a hundred or so sites that, probably taken all together, document every carnival ride, roller coaster and tilt-a-whirl that ever operated, including my very own Gurneville Mad Mouse. There are far more sites than I can survey for you or link to here.

From the academic side, a site tells us that the Wild Mouse ride is an actual species of ride all its own: HERE It turns out there were examples of this nefarious kid-killer all over the place.

One of many serious coaster sites: HERE

And, evocative of hair-raising turns, but now no longer operating to inspire terror into the hearts of today’s jaded coaster riders, here’s my photo:

IMG_1736 Brad Nixon

The Mad Mouse, Guerneville, CA

© 2009, 2015 Brad Nixon



  1. We’ve been having a bizarre synchronicity with the traveling carnival ride, “Dizzy Dragon.”


  2. oh lord, the mouse ride! what a bone jarring experience THAT was! those abrupt changes of direction, i think there was one at the world’s fair in seattle too.


  3. Last week I was leafing through a collection of Wordsworth poetry, and was particularly impressed with one of his concerning the village of Yarrow. A few days later there was a post on a golf message board I frequent concerning a Yarrow Golf Club in Michigan. I replied that I believed a William Wordsworth had been there, but had neglected to post a score. Tonight, starting The Magic Mountain at the urging of an acquaintance, I ran across (on page 11) “Joachim had thoughtfully placed a few wildflowers in a small vase on the dresser – some yarrow and a couple of bluebells…”

    That’s just weird.


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