The Destruction of a Miracle

by September 17, 2009 • 6 comments

As I approach the gate at the under-demolition Miracle Strip Amusement Park, I’m greeted by a rough-looking-shirtless dude with his underwear showing asking me what I wanted.  “I just want to take some pictures for a local web site,” I said.  He replied that he had to ask his boss.  I didn’t mean to make much of a to-do about it.

Minutes later, amid steel tracks crunching and clanging across concrete, Mr. Dickens himself creeps my way.  “Take a picture of my truck, or bring a 6 pack of beer,” he said, “I gotta get somethen outa the deal.”  I’m not sure OSHA would like them drinking on the job.  But does OSHA even care about a demo site anyway?

They let me in and I got some great shots.

As I made my way around the park, I strained to recollect the one time I had visited Miracle Strip several years ago.  I don’t even remember who I went with, but coming from Dallas, TX, I was used to parks of much more grandeur than this.  I remember not being impressed.  But, that has nothing to do with the Miracle that was Miracle Strip.  Tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands over the years grew memories here.  Talking to my wife last night about my experience, she said she probably went there almost every day for summers (s as in plural).  Locals and tourists alike enjoyed the park atmosphere for just shy of 30 years (or longer??).

“I own everything in this fence,” Mr. Dickens said, “from the moment I got this contract, I own everything here; I can do anything I want.”  I asked about a banner that I found draped over some of the Red Barron planes.  Greedily he replied, “I’m selling everything to make as much money as I can, nobody gave me nuthin, I work for all I got, and people come in here and steal MY stuff.”  I was just asking about the banner, not thinking I was going to get a lecture.  I told him it might be nice to hang in my garage, he said, “I have 80 acres to hang $#@% on.”  Wow.  Needless to say, I didn’t get the banner.  Wasn’t sure if he was actually wanting to sell some of that stuff, or just keep it all himself for his 80 acres.

The day started off nasty and rainy, but by the time I got there, the sun was out, and it was hot.  I made my way over to the Devil ride pondering our fascination with scary stuff.  With attractions such as The Dungeon, The Abominable Snowman, The Devil Ride, The Haunted House (sorry I’m sure I’m getting all the names wrong) I got this creepy feeling and yearned for big fluffy bears and the Wiggles.

The whole place was sad, though.  So much dilapidation, but a welcome change.  The one ride I do remember with quite a bit of distinction was the tower that shot you 90 feet in thee air.  I remember the exhilaration and fear crumpling up together in my stomach as I realized I could see all up and down Panama City Beach.  That was the kind of ride that I was used to.

I know this place was home to many memories, but the tear down is long overdue.  This place has been an eyesore for years, literally and it is time to move on.  Talking to a member of the controlling company for the land I was told that no definite plans for the property have been defined.  At one point, the property was to be a sprawling resort development, but the market won’t allow that right now.  So, who knows, but at least vacant land is a better looker than old dilapidated buildings that attract vandals, homeless, and criminals.

I know we’ve talked about this already, but it’s definitely worth mention again.

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1 Chris September 17, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Mr. Dickens sounds like a friendly man. Haha!


2 stuckinlouisiana September 17, 2009 at 4:35 pm

The “Devil Ride” was called “Dante’s Inferno” and the haunted house was actually called the “Haunted Castle.” Just wanted to clear that up. Jason, there is a cult of MSAP alumni on the internet who are certain to find their way over here. You may catch heat for “dissing” the park (though objectively, I agree, it was certainly no Six Flags). Just thought I’d give you the heads up.


3 TM September 19, 2009 at 6:07 am


Great article and photos. Can’t believe you didn’t show a pic of Mr. Dickins with his Mr. T Gold Chain starter kit (scarcasm intended).


4 jobeibi September 19, 2009 at 7:02 am

I have fond memories of Miracle Strip, stuckinlousiana, but most of the rides were just traveling fair rides that were permanently mounted in place. The Starliner was fun, but Petticoat Junction’s Tornado was better.

I can imagine that it might be fun to live near Six Flags, or Disney, but the great thing about our local parks in their heyday was that you could pay a low entry fee and just hang out in the park with your friends. I don’t think the teens in Orlando can say the same thing about Disney World.


5 Jason Koertge September 19, 2009 at 8:34 am

Totally agree with you jobeibi. That and there probably were crazy lines there like there is at the bigger parks.

I have a very fond appreciation for Shipwreck Island now because of a recent experience at a “larger” park. Two summers ago, we went back to Dallas to see my folks and took the kids to Hurricane Harbour. We spent around $200 that day and the lines only gave us time to ride 4 rides. You read that right, I could count the number of rides we rode on one hand.

I’ll take shipwreck over that ANY day. Plus you don’t have to pay for parking!

TM, haha. I actually didn’t take a picture of him because I was scared to. Did you see the neck on that guy? That gold chain was hilarious though!


6 stuckinlouisiana September 19, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Jason, as a real estate person, do you think the Miracles Resort project that lead to MSAP’s demise was feasible? Obviously, it was a good deal for the former MSAP owners, but as I understand it, the Miracles Resort pre-sales were starting at about a quarter-mill. Maybe I’m a cheapskate, or maybe I’m oversimplifying things, but for that kind of jack, even in a good market, I would expect to be on the gulf side of HWY 98. It also seems like the rent that a secondary purchaser would have to charge to get a decent ROI would be outrageous for a non-beachside unit. I sort of remember back in the day, when the motels dominated the strip (ie. Fiesta, Port of Call, Casa Loma), that those on the north side of 98 seldom, if ever, had their “NO VACANCY” signs lit up, and the nightly rates were often less than half as those on the beach side. It just seems like the Miracles Resort developers were quite delusional, and the old school PCB’ers suffered as a result.