A Century of Fascination

Photo Courtesy of Seaside Visitors Bureau

Lose track of time at a table and take the chance to win prizes at Seaside, Oregon’s Fascination Parlor. One of just a handful remaining across the entire country, the parlor entertains avid Fascination fans and curious passersby each year. It is located downtown at the intersection of Broadway and Columbia Streets inside the Funland Arcade – which has been a Seaside staple for open for nearly 90 years.

The game of Fascination dates back a century to 1918, when it debuted in Coney Island, NY. The oldest parlor, in Nantasket Beach, MA, reportedly still has one of those original Coney Island machines. Quickly gaining popularity in the 1920s, Fascination parlors became fixtures in amusement parks, boardwalks and arcades for decades. Now, however, the opportunity to play has become rarer and the experience more unique.

In the simplest terms, Fascination is Skeeball meets Bingo played with a ball (or two, depending on the game) that most closely resembles a racquetball. When the ball drops in a hole, the corresponding light on your board illuminates. The goal is to light up five in a line, or the entire board if you are playing blackout, and you can win points towards a plethora of prizes.

Players race against everyone else in the parlor (up to about 40 if all seats are working and occupied), and a typical game lasts between 1 and 2 minutes. Between the speed and friendly competition, it’s tough to play just one! Fortunately, the next match starts almost immediately after a winner is determined, and most matches only cost $0.25. Blackouts cost up to $0.75.

Manufacturers of the tables shut down long ago, but the staff at Seaside’s Funland Arcade work hard to keep the game alive. The heart of the system relies on relays, like those used in telephone systems. When repairs are necessary, staff carefully salvage spare parts from old tables. Between the nostalgia factor and the history behind it, the game is even more exciting now, than it was 100 years ago.

Seaside’s Fascination Parlor is open seven days per week during spring breaks and the summertime, and most weekends throughout the year. To plan a trip to Seaside, visit seasideor.com. For more information on the Fascination Parlor, go to funlandseaside.com.