There’s a thin strip of land in the Jersey City Heights wedged between the street and the edge of the baseball field near the reservoir.  A few times a year, a carnival, of sorts, will encamp in that one-block-long urban landscape, transforming the area into the saddest little carnival in the world — filled with emptiness and longing and no joy to be had anywhere for any ticket price.  Even the Fire Ball circle roller coaster has no flame.

I rarely see anyone around on the rides or in the Wacky Shack.

It’s a carnival ghost town.

The Super Slide is faded and rickety.

The Raiders of the Lost Ark experience appears to be more jungle gym than electrified ride.

The ubiquitous Ferris Wheel stands alone, in the middle of the action, cold and confused and not knowing which way to turn.

The Pharaoh’s Fury has no swing left beyond the surface rust and the pebbles in the street.

The Dragon Wagon is a roller coaster that moves in a 10-foot wide circle.

Strangely, above it all — and stuck right in the middle of the carnival block — is this behemoth of ugliness:  A Jersey City Police Department Panopticon looking down at you as the unintended Main Attraction recording all the non-believers below its steel-frame and smoked glass bird’s nest.

Overseeing nothing.

Watching everything.

The saddest little carnival block in the world.


  1. I am not sure there is anything as sad in entertainment terms than an abandoned ca\rnival – you can almost hear echos of childrens laughter and shadows of the lights – even in bright daylight. I guess simple pleasures are not so simple anymore.

    1. What’s funny is that it looks totally abandoned, but it isn’t permanent. Somebody — or some company — comes in and sets up that ghost town three times a year or so! It’s all an on-purpose ghosting that doesn’t make any sense.

      Every time I walk by, and I’m always in the area, it’s either totally shut down or there are a few people on the rides. The Fire Ball circle ride looks like it would do a full upside-down loop — but I’ve never seen it go that far. It just sort of sadly goes halfway up the curve and then back down.

      The carnival never stays long — maybe a weekend or two and then it gets torn down and disappears somewhere.

  2. Does anyone own this carnival? The land on which it stands? It looks so very very sad.

    1. It’s in a public park and most of the carnival sort of takes over a running track that circles the baseball field. It’s pretty tight fit, though. Narrow strip of stuff on a the short side of the block. I think it’s city property, but there’s a huge Church right across the street, so this could be a religious sponsorship, or a “Jersey City Heights” business celebration or something.

  3. sad story indeed – I wonder if it exists due to some government carnival subsidy we aren’t aware of… just a thought. (Chuckle)

    1. Ha! Could be! It’s funny how the whole setup keeps appearing and disappearing — so there must be some success somewhere for it to keep coming back. The only time I’m not around the area is late at night. Maybe that’s when it all gets alive and busy?

  4. Something has to keep it coming around.
    It appears the themes of said attractions would have appealed to my generation (1980’s) as a tween and teen, not the Angry Birds generation of iPhones that we have today.
    It’s an interesting conundrum to say the least.

    1. Hi Lillian!

      I’ve walked by the carnival at least six times at different times of the day since I wrote this article, and I’ve never seen more than five people milling about or more than one ride turned on and active. It’s a Ghost Carnival even with people in the area!

      I agree there’s money being made somewhere — I just wish I knew where so I could investigate the history a bit more.

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